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Title: Oral History Interview with David Burgess, September 25, 1974. Interview E-0001. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Burgess, David, interviewee
Interview conducted by Hall, Jacquelyn Finger, William
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Mike Millner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2006
Size of electronic edition: 160 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2006.
© 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:
2006-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2006-08-31, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of sound recording: Oral History Interview with David Burgess, September 25, 1974. Interview E-0001. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series E. Labor. Southern Oral History Program Collection (E-0001)
Author: Jacquelyn Hall and William Finger
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with David Burgess, September 25, 1974. Interview E-0001. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series E. Labor. Southern Oral History Program Collection (E-0001)
Author: David Burgess
Description: 169 Mb
Description: 42 p.
Note: Interview conducted on September 25, 1974, by Jacquelyn Hall and William Finger; recorded in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Sandra Betts.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series A. Southern Politics, 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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The text has been entered using double-keying and verified against the original.
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
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Interview with David Burgess, September 25, 1974.
Interview E-0001. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Burgess, David, interviewee


Interview Participants

    DAVID BURGESS, interviewee
    JACQUELYN HALL, interviewer
    WILLIAM FINGER , interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
WILLIAM FINGER:
David . . . is it O.K. if I call you David?
DAVID BURGESS:
Sure.
WILLIAM FINGER:
David, we've been conducting interviews the last six months with labor leaders and with various churchmen involved in the thirties and forties in the South, and we'd like to talk with you about that portion of your career. For us to get a feel for how you even began with your work with migrants and so forth, why don't you tell us a little bit about your background, and if you had any roots in the South with your parents, where you grew up . . .
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, I grew up in China. My father was a college professor, first for fifteen years in China then in California, and finally in Philadelphia. My first exposure to the labor movement I think partly was through my own parents, who were involved with the textile workers union and other unions in the Philadelphia area. My mother was a W.P.A. staff member. My father was very active in the civil rights movement in Philadelphia in the thirties and forties, until his death in 1949. So I had the liberal atmosphere at the home to start with.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you happen to go to China?
DAVID BURGESS:
My mother grew up in China. My parents lived in China from 1909 to 1926 where my father was a professor of Sociology at Yenching University. My two older brothers died in China. Because my younger brother was sick, we had to return from China to America in 1926.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But your father was with the Y.M.C.A.?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes, before he became a college professor in America. He and former Congressman Jerry Voorhis were both more or less kicked out of Pomona College in California in 1933. My father was accused of having too close

Page 2
an association with the unemployed in southern California.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Unemployed counsels?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes. These groups, for example, helped orange growers who were burning their oranges, and dairymen who were throwing out their milk, to stop such practices and exchange their commodities with mutual gain to both groups. Then my father went to Philadelphia and became active in the civil rights and the black movements. We lived actually in what was soon to be the black section of Philadelphia on the border of Temple University, most of the time. My second experience with labor came in the summer of 1937. My folks had become Quakers. I was participating in one of the first Quaker work camps. In Republic, in western Pennsylvania, the coal mining areas, I became acquainted with John L. Lewis' union, and was offered next summer, although I didn't take it, a job to be camp counselor with the newly formed steel workers summer camp. I then went to Oberlin College in 1939, and worked for a year in Washington, first with the Wage and Hour Division.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Let's start asking about a few things.
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes.
WILLIAM FINGER:
The steel workers had a summer camp in 1937?
DAVID BURGESS:
'38. But I was acquainted with members of the steel organizing committee. It was called S.W.O.C. at that time. I took another summer job in the summer of '38, went to Europe in '39, and then worked in Washington for a year, first with the Wage and Hour Division, and then I was sort of research assistant for Jerry Voorhis who was in Congress at that time.
WILLIAM FINGER:
When you went to Oberlin, did you have anything to make you think you didn't want to go straight to college. Did you want to sort of jump

Page 3
right into the labor movement in the 1930's?
DAVID BURGESS:
No, but I think the '37 experience between my sophomore and junior year of college had a really tremendous effect, seeing poor Italian coal miners in western Pennsylvania, their culture, how they were deprived, and the role of the mine workers in financing the steel workers union and organizing committees for various CIO unions.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What about the Y.M. and Y.W.C.A.?
DAVID BURGESS:
I was president of the YM in Oberlin the '38-39 academic year. My wife, whom I met a year and a half later, was national chairman of the Student Christian Movement in the United States. She was from a very poor family from Western Massachusetts. She was one of the 10% "out of mountain" students allowed into Berea College. She had much more of a proletarian background than I had. We were married in Thanksgiving of '41.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Y'all met at a Y.M.C.A. conference or something?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes, I met her first at a planning meeting for the National Student Assembly which took place in the Christmas season of 1941 in Miami, Ohio. We met in February, saw each other two or three weekends, were engaged, and married soon thereafter. I had quite a dilemma because in 1940 I was going through rather stormy times. I almost went to jail because I was one of 20 students at Union Theological Seminary who said they weren't going to register for the draft for a number of reasons. I'm glad I finally registered.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You didn't register?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes, I did. I finally registered as a CO. A lot of my friends went to jail and that was quite a stormy experience. I stayed out of seminary. My father had had a near-fatal heart attack; I wasn't sure enough of my position. I was a first year student at Union. My pacifism and my religious

Page 4
faith were all confused together, if I may use those words. I am glad that in 1940 I decided to enter Union Seminary.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What were the things that got you to Union then? You were interested in religious questions?
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, Reinhold Niebuhr. I would say I was a violent pacifist, if you can use those words together.
JACQUELYN HALL:
At Oberlin?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes, and I was also at Union Seminary. I fought Reiny all the way through seminary, and eventually agreed with him, reversed my position, volunteered as a chaplain, but was turned down because of health reasons.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did he influence you in your changing?
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, I felt that I could not deny the use of violence in the labor movement. This being the case, I couldn't deny it in war. Having been in picket lines and seeing what happens on picket lines in fights, scab conflicts and so forth in the mine areas, I couldn't take an absolutist position on this. I took it more or less on an individual basis, but I couldn't take it on a collective basis. And also I think, secondly, Reiny's making me look much more deeply at my own action, in the labor movement and of course in my life.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What exactly was Niebuhr's position on pacifism, the labor movement?
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, he was very opposed to pacifism as a form of acquiescence to the Nazi threat, and he was a violent prophet against it, though we kept a very close personal relationship throughout, and until his death. In '42, I had had enough of seminary after two years. My wife and I decided we were going to take a job with agricultural migrants, and therefore we went to a place known as Whitesbog, New Jersey to work among cranberry and blueberry pickers, Italian Americans from the slums of Philadelphia,

Page 5
as well as poor blacks and whites of that area.
WILLIAM FINGER:
They would just come out from Philadelphia to pick berries?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes, for the summer.
WILLIAM FINGER:
It wasn't part of the stream up north?
DAVID BURGESS:
No, it was sort of a summer job.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did you want to do something?
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, I think I was influenced by Harry Ward, by Jack McMichael, by a growing feeling of the irrelevance of much of my education at Union to labor struggles. After working in Whitesbog and later going to southern Florida to be among the black and white migrants there, I think I lost my pacifism when we were working among migrants in the South. I saw some of the terrible situations of Jamaicans and Bahamans who were imported from abroad, and among poor whites mostly who had come from southern Georgia. We started in New Jersey and then we wound up in Lake Pahokee, Florida, in the migrant camp.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You were living in a migrant camp?
DAVID BURGESS:
We were living in a migrant camp. We really got acquainted with southern culture, both black . . . mostly white . . . but some black because they were separated by race in various migrant camps in the area.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Neither one of you had felt that you had been acquainted with southern culture before?
DAVID BURGESS:
Alice, my wife, definitely had had some contact with this culture. She was four years at Berea and was prominent there. She was very much absorbed in what you call Appalachian poor culture, and therefore I think this had a lot to do with our marriage in terms of her interests and mine. Then the summer of '43, I came north and worked again with

Page 6
another series of agricultural migrants in southern Jersey, some of whom had migrated from southern Florida up to work Seabrook Farms in southern Jersey. I was employed then by the Home Missions Council of the then Federal Council of Churches at that time.
WILLIAM FINGER:
That's the same as the National Council?
DAVID BURGESS:
National Council now. Then I went back to seminary to finish. Dr. John Bennett became my chief professor. He was my social ethics professor, along with Reiny, and I wrote a thesis on the influence of the Holiness sects in American religion, which was a couple of hundred pages long. And this was on the basis of experience with the Holiness sects in Florida, and Georgia, and some parts of New Jersey, and I found that there was 236 separate denominations in America, if you include them all, that year. Then we finished seminary and I got a job with, then, Congregational Church's Board of Home Missions. That's where we definitely became tied in with H.L. Mitchell, and became acquainted with Buck Kester and other leaders and members of the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Let me go back from there.
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes, go ahead.
WILLIAM FINGER:
We looked at a couple of letters in Buck Kester's papers and saw that you had written, I think to Mitchell, in about 1938.
JACQUELYN HALL:
No, to Kester.
WILLIAM FINGER:
To Kester, in 1938 when you were still at Oberlin, about summer employment.
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Had you met him?
DAVID BURGESS:
No. I met Butler in Washington in the summer of '40, but I had never met Buck before 1944 when I went South again. The STFU offered me a job in 1940, but I thought I would go to seminary for the time being.

Page 7
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you perceive the conflict between Harry Ward and other professors at Union?
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, I think I was influenced by Jack McMichael, the assistant to Ward at Union. Jack came out of the Student Christian Movement.
WILLIAM FINGER:
The what movement?
DAVID BURGESS:
Student Christian Movement. He was in China in '37, and he was sort of the darling of Mrs. F.D.R. at that time. I had fought the Communists at Oberlin, very hard, partly because I couldn't make up my mind about Spain, later because I was shocked by the German-Russian pact — nonaggression pact — in 1939. I saw what they did to students. I had some friends killed in Spain, and I just didn't like their absolutism, and I could not stomach the noncritical attitude towards Russia that was represented in Harry Ward at that time. And Jack was almost an apologist for Russian power as such. In addition to the question of war, I saw the Communists switch after June 20, 1941 when Russia was invaded from a "phoney war" position, to a position against all strikes in American industry during World War II. I said, "Things don't change that quickly." So I think it's that background, both in college and after college, that made me very skeptical of Communists and the absolutism of Harry Ward. I think Harry Ward was at that time almost a spent force in Union. He didn't pull much weight. This was during the war years. However, I think that I was influenced by Jack McMichael in terms of the realization that I was from a middle class family, and that I had to expose myself to southern culture. Therefore I didn't want to go in the conventional labor movement in the East and the cities of the North. The South was a more challenging situation.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did you view the South as . . . ?
DAVID BURGESS:
I think I read W. J. Cash's book, The Mind of the South. I was very influenced by that. Later I read Southern Politics by V.O. Key and

Page 8
I read some other things. I was a friend of Alexander Heard (now Chaneellor of Vanderbilt University) in Washington together in '39 and '40. I liked the South. I liked southern people. I found a naturalness, frankness, even in bigots that I didn't find, say in somebody from cities of the North. Also I think that the fact that I went to prep school for one year before I went to Oberlin really turned me off with what we call the establishment," Wall Street types, Long Island types . . .
WILLIAM FINGER:
Where'd you go to prep school?
DAVID BURGESS:
Blair Academy in New Jersey, which is one of the sort of Ivy League types. Getting back, in '44 I went South, and I worked in Arkansas with the sharecroppers and I traveled for the Southern Tenant Farmers Union, and we got hooked right into that whole movement.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You and your wife were traveling together?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes, and we had a trailer, starting in New Jersey, and we lived in a trailer court opposite the Methodist hospital in Memphis. Our first child was born in '45, two days after Roosevelt died. Then traveling around, I spoke at churches, I was . . . during '44 and '45, I wasn't quite sure which direction I was going in. I went out and saw how loose the Southern Tenant Farmers Union really was in terms of real organization. They were still talking about people who had served the cause ten years before, many of them had died off and some had become old and cynical and had joined other groups.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Many of them recruited new people?
DAVID BURGESS:
Hadn't recruited many new people then. There was no definite relationship with the A.F. of L. or C.I.O. However, at that time Mitchell got into the relationship with the A.F. of L. and during the summer of 1944

Page 9
previous to going to Memphis, I worked with a group of, I would say, Arkansas-southeast Missouri-Tennessee-Mississippi black and white members all working as temporary summer migrants for the Campbell Soup Company, living in a rather ramshackle dormitory in Camden, New Jersey. And I was their labor representative, what have you . . .
WILLIAM FINGER:
In Camden, New Jersey?
DAVID BURGESS:
Camden, New Jersey.
WILLIAM FINGER:
I missed the connection . . .
DAVID BURGESS:
I had graduated from Union in the summer of '44, and then I immediately became associated with the Congregational Church and was called a missionary to agricultural migrants. I got acquainted with H.L. Mitchell. It was a tough but interesting experience in Camden. I also got acquainted with the Amalgamated Meatcutter and Butcher Workmen Union, led in the Camden-Philadelphia area by Leon Schachter. His membership was made up of meat-cutters in grocery stores and industrial workers in food processing and meat packing plants. Leon Schachter really educated me about the labor movement. He and Mitchell had a definite connection. He is now one of the vice-presidents of the Amalgamated Meat Cutter and Butcher Workmen. So I wrote for the union newspaper that summer. I became acquainted with a legitimate labor movement. I became convinced that migrant workers had a future if the STFU and the Amalgamated worked together.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But you were very skeptical about the conventional labor movement up to that time?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes. I thought that the growing edge had to be in the South. There were plenty of people like Walter Reuther and Phil Murray and Sidney Hillman that were doing the job in the East and the Midwest, but very few

Page 10
people were involved in the South. The next big thing in my life was just before the end of the war. In 1939, if you remember, there was a group of sharecroppers thrown off the land in the middle of winter in southeast Missouri. They were thrown off on the highway, and instead of just meekly putting up with their fate, they put up tents, for black and white. Mrs. Roosevelt heard about their plight and as a result through the Farm Security Administration led by Dr. Will Alexander, ten farm labor communities were built in southeast, or popularly called "swampeast" Missouri. In the spring of 1945 these migrant homes came up for sale because FSA Administrator Frank Hancock, an ex-congressman from North Carolina, Oxford, under congressional pressure and landlord pressure decided to take such action. Fortunately Pete Hudgins was the deputy Administrator, a good Alabama southerner, a marvelous person really who ran the show in the FSA. Soon I learned that these houses which represented the family residence of almost 500, or rather 600, were up for sale to the highest bidder. And so some of us got together and organized the resident families. Mitchell and Bell Johnson, the STFU organizer in southeast Missouri worked with me. It took from March 'til December to win the fight. Bishop William Scarlett of the Episcopal Church was involved. So were H.L. Mitchell, Jim Patton, the President of the Farmers Union. Gardner Jackson was one of the lobbyists for them. During the campaign I got acquainted with Franz Daniel and Myles Horton, Marshall Field, Mrs. Emmons Blaine McCormick of Chicago. We raised $82,000 from outside contributions and formed a corporation. For the next year and a half I lived at one of the housing communities at East Prairie, Missouri and travelled to the eight other communities. The FSA finally sold the nine housing communities to the newly formed Delmo Housing Corporation for $280,000.

Page 11
Each family paid $100 as a downpayment and agreed to pay a monthly rent of $10 over an eight year period. Actually the payments were all completed in only six years.
WILLIAM FINGER:
National Sharecroppers Fund have anything to do with this?
DAVID BURGESS:
Oh, yes. Fund officials were very helpful. I spoke a word of thanks to a group of the Fund supporters in the Spring of 1946. Roger Baldwin of the ACLU was there.
WILLIAM FINGER:
That was the focus of a lot of more than liberals . . .
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You were able to zero in their support on that one particular project.
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes. I remember that Orville Zimmerman, the Congressman from southeast Missouri who fought us all the way through, told me after we had won that — he died about a year later — said that, "The Lord is going to remember you for this act when you go to the Pearly Gates." During this, we were taking whole delegations to Washington, and Congressman Dingle, who was the father of the present Congressman Dingle, Senator Langer of North Dakota, had a bill that was defeated. In the end it was Pete Hudgins, the Deputy FSA Administrator, who did the job . . .
WILLIAM FINGER:
Through F.S.A., then, you got the money . . .
DAVID BURGESS:
No, we got the money from outside, but they sold it to us. We formed a corporation, had a manager set up . . . I think we largely saved through St. Louis and New York and through Chicago connections. If it hadn't been for the STFU we wouldn't have had it. So my wife and I lived with these people from December of 1945 through June of 1947. I worked in all capacities as minister, as a farm worker, as . . . I organized cotton choppers into a union there.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What kind of a union?

Page 12
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, just a striking union. If we didn't get the proper wages for cotton chopping (weeding) or picking we threatened to quit. It was a very desperate situation. In the summer of '47, I was still employed by the Congregational Church, getting a very low wage. Our daughter was almost scalded to death. She sat down in a bucket of scalding water at five o'clock in the morning when we were visiting another family and almost died. This was the summer of '46.
JACQUELYN HALL:
In a migrant camp, or . . .
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes, when we were visiting another migrant camp. I got another couple to come and work with us, and they eventually took our places. I had only occasionally gone to the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen meetings, but we were pretty removed from most FSC members. I decided in the summer of '47, when I had my 30th birthday, that I was closer to the labor movement than I was to the church. It isn't that the church turned their back on me in any way . . . I just felt that basically working with this group of people who were rootless and in a way without much future, you had to concentrate on youth to be effective. I had always preferred to work with adults. And I also thought that the labor movement itself was much more of a viable thing. Then, on the positive side, I was asked by Franz Daniel who was in charge of the CIO Organizing Drive for South Carolina to join. Now Franz, you know, was a Union Seminary graduate. He was part of the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen. He appeared to be the coming labor leader of the CIO in the South.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Where was he located?
DAVID BURGESS:
He was located near Spartanburg, South Carolina.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Working for the CIO?
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, he was in charge of the whole southern drive for all of

Page 13
South Carolina, and he employed me at $50 a week. He was a 1929 Union Seminary graduate, along with Myles Horton. He went in the labor movement and Myles set up the Highlander Folk School. And I think three people, Kester, Franz Daniel, and H.L. Mitchell probably had a very important influence on my life in the South.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What happened to Daniel?
DAVID BURGESS:
He wound up in the various parts of the labor movement. We went from one place to the other, and eventually he went to North Carolina, was deputy director when a merger came of the Industrial Union Department's organizing committee. He is now leader of A.A. in Missouri and a very fine person, just ten years older than myself. I felt very close to him as a person.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did he work under Van Bittner in those days?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes, yes.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you . . . your connection was directly through Franz Daniel . . .
DAVID BURGESS:
Franz Daniel.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Not through the top with Van Bittner . . .
DAVID BURGESS:
I was actually employed officially by the Textile Workers Union in terms of where I got my weekly $50.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You worked as an organizer?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes. We moved to Rock Hill, South Carolina with our two kids, aged two and six months. We were ostracized by the community for a while. We applied for membership in the Presbyterian church there. A fellow by the name of Ken Phifer was the pastor. It was a prestige church. Prominent textile owners were members. They thought I was a Communist. I didn't find this out until ten years later. In 1947, Pastor Phifer was told by the

Page 14
members of the session that I ought not to be allowed to join that church because I was a communist and worked for the CIO. So he put his job on the line and said he would quit the church if my wife and I were not allowed to become members.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You said you had known Ken Phifer?
DAVID BURGESS:
No, we went to his church eventually and we became very close personal friends. He didn't tell me this until ten years later. Anyway, he won the fight.
I eventually became teacher of the young adults class, and I spent more than a year trying to organize J. P. Stevens' Aragon Mill in Rock Hill, S.C. We failed. It was a very bitter defeat, but this was the second attempt since, I think, early '48 and it was a very, very tragic time . . . I worked very hard house to house, day and night.
WILLIAM FINGER:
How long had Stevens owned Aragon Mills?
DAVID BURGESS:
I don't know. He also owned the nearby Industrial Mills where there was a recognized TWUA-CIO union. A few years later by most illegal means such as framing some union members and causing them to be jailed, the textile plant officials were able to smash the union itself.
WILLIAM FINGER:
How many people on the staff?
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, I was leader of the group, and I had, I'd say five or six people working under me. The industrialists had the minister bought. They used all sorts of questionable methods. They depended on a lawyer from Charlotte.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Blakeney?
DAVID BURGESS:
Blakeney, that's right. Blakeney was very much prominent in using his . . .
WILLIAM FINGER:
Isn't that incredible. He still is, right now, today.

Page 15
DAVID BURGESS:
Blakeney was . . . a real character . . .
WILLIAM FINGER:
Before you leave Rock Hill, though, several things happened there besides the Stevens campaign. . .
DAVID BURGESS:
I was one of the minor figures in the Celanese successful drive.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Celanese.
DAVID BURGESS:
We . . . we organized a new plant. I was the one that swung the black vote, if I do say so.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What percentage was the black vote?
DAVID BURGESS:
Small but it was enough to make the difference; one fourth or less, but it was touch and go. . . .
WILLIAM FINGER:
And that was in Rock Hill?
DAVID BURGESS:
Rock Hill, the 24-hour type process of synthetics.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What was the mood in 1947 in a place like Rock Hill when textile workers had really only gotten credibility in the war years, War Labor Board. . . .
DAVID BURGESS:
Actually, in point of fact, in terms of absolute membership, the Textile Workers Union reached its height in '48, nationally speaking. Then the textile magnates started closing down plants in the North. The union drive in the South did not succeed—with few exceptions. I was not involved in the Cannon drive in Kannapolis, North Carolina. I was literally run off from Springs Mills, in the literal sense of the word. I got deeply involved in politics, helped a man by the name of Cobb to run unsuccessfully against Richards, Congressman Richards. We gave him a good race, but they were just too much. The union was almost over-identified with Cobb. . . .

Page 16
WILLIAM FINGER:
Labor support hurt him then?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes. The charge was that there were alleged communist organizers from the North writing his speeches and financing his campaign. I remember going to a radio station, and helping Cobb fold his pages of his speech text. This was a bad mistake. The radio station got the word back to the newspaper.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was his whole name?
DAVID BURGESS:
I don't remember his first name. Cobb was his last name. He ran a good race. Richards, as you know, was a very powerful person in the House later. But I remember being involved. Then I remember we had a weekly union radio program, that I wrote myself and acted out with my fellow organizers and their wives once a week.
WILLIAM FINGER:
About labor?
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, yes, in terms of an actual sort of soap opera approach.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You weren't still trying to link your work with churches. . . .
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, I was speaking at various churches, I spoke at several colleges. But I was . . . you know, had my nose to the grindstone in South Carolina . . . couldn't travel very much.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Earlier, you had written a letter, like maybe a year or something like that, on Fellowship letterhead to southern churches all over, all across. . . .
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes. I wrote for the average southern preacher. I wrote a pamphlet for the Fellowhip of Southern Churchmen, again using a dramatic sort of a story of a mill town, what happens, and how the workers try to organize. This was circulated all over the South. It was used by other organizers in other places where the local churches were bought, sold,

Page 17
signed, and delivered by the mill owners. They were kept fundamentalists. And I remember their favorite Biblical quote was "Be not equally to the yoke with unbelievers." When you apply this to a union and you're really a gone goose. I remember this very clearly, and I had several debates with some of the ministers in town.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You still maintained a relationship with the Fellowship. . .
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes, I attended some conferences. I got acquainted with Nelle Morton, Buck Kester, Charles Jones, and others. I spoke to church groups in the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Arkansas. The Student Christian Movement asked me to speak to several college groups in Texas.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now you were head of the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen labor commission?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Before you went to Rock Hill. . . .
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes, I think started in '45. I wrote a lot, and in the magazine of the Fellowhship of Southern Churchmen, Prophetic Religion.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did it mean exactly to be head of the labor commission of the Fellowship?
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, we tried to get some managers together, or else we tried to get church people. I think most of what we were trying to do, we were trying to alert ministers to the fact that peace was not necessarily justice. I was really influenced by Claude Williams, and some of his writings, although I thought Claude was crazy as hell, because he was like sort of a latter day Harry Ward. He used Biblical literalism to prove that Jesus was in reality the first communist organizer. But he was involved with Southern Tenant Farmers Union, and broke with them on account of doctrinal difference. Communists tried to infiltrate the STFU, I remember even in the Delmo campaign in southeast Missouri. They sent a Communist spy to try

Page 18
us out. He came and stayed at our house, and I think H. L. Mitchell had almost an obsession on this point, because he had . . . you know, he was sort of a Norman Thomas Socialist. Nothing was as bad as a Communist, and so I . . . I think I was . . . almost of the same opinion, but I did borrow heavily from Claude Williams. He had sort of this pictorial bible. . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
[unknown]
DAVID BURGESS:
Right, and I was . . . I think I was . . . borrowed heavily, I wrote a whole series of . . . I wouldn't say pamphlets, but a whole small book that I lost since, using my own biblical interpretation.
JACQUELYN HALL:
The Bible Speaks to Labor?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I bet there's a copy of that at the Fellowship. . .
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, I'm sure there is, but that was a beginning of something I really never completed because it relied upon questionable proof text arguments and upon the use of the weapons of the fundamentalists.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You were trying to speak also to middle class church people?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes. I wrote for the Christian Century and other magazines. Essentially I was trying to speak to middle class church people in little towns or industrial towns in the South, that were either indifferent to or opposed to the labor movement, and had no understanding of the labor management problem. I also had no respect at all for what we call the liberal Unitarian types. They too often seem to look down on the alleged ignorance of southerners; they debunked the beliefs of the people of the South but they left no positive religious beliefs as suitable substitutes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were people like that involved in the Fellowship of not?
DAVID BURGESS:
No, definitely not. But there was Gene Smathers, people that were living out what they were talking, and Maynard Catchings and Charles

Page 19
Lawrence, Ed King, S.C.M. types, some of the Student Christian Movement was very active in terms of participation.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you have any luck in convincing church people that the labor movement should be supported?
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, it was simpler in those days than today, because you didn't have the establishment of labor in the eyes of the informed public at least. The CIO was making its point. Phil Murray was a prophetic leader and Walter Reuther followed him shortly thereafter and continued in the tradition, and there was a cleanness, though also wholesale defeats.
WILLIAM FINGER:
There was a cleanness to you but you couldn't convince some fellow southerners . . .
DAVID BURGESS:
The educated southerner said we didn't speak good English. The uneducated said we didn't have sufficient southern accent. You have to realize at that time that the TWUA was changing. George Baldanzi, Vice-President of the TWUA, got about 32 recent college graduates into the TWUA and placed them in the campaign to organize the textile mills in the South. There was Joe Glazer, Lou Conn, George Leighton, Pat Knight, Ben Segal, a very remarkable group of very dedicated and concerned young people.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Do you consider Baldanzi as having brought those people in?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes, definitely.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Even though Franz Daniels got you in. . .
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes, but he had to get Baldanzi's approval. President Emil Rieve of the TWUA was cursing about "these goddamned intellectuals you brought in, George."
WILLIAM FINGER:
What kind of guy was Baldanzi? I've heard so many stories . . .
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, I knew Baldanzi in his better days. He eventually joined

Page 20
United Textile Workers-AFL. I had some questions about that, but that was long after I was involved. He was too hot. He struck for power before he really had it.
WILLIAM FINGER:
He made big promises?
DAVID BURGESS:
No, he challenged Rieve before he could produce, and Rieve beginning in '48 and '49 was moving his boys in from Massachusetts to take the key positions in the South in terms of organization.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you consider them a clear ideological split, Rieve was a conservative . . .
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, he had Al Barkan, his hatchet man. [unknown] By and large, I think Larry Rogan, the TWUA Education Director and later AFL-CIO Education Director, was one of the few people in between. I think the fight was fairly ideological. Of course, George had his power objectives. He was eventually defeated by Rieve when he challenged him for the Presidency and forced out. If George had just held his fire following his defeat, he would have become the CIO Southern Drive Director after the death of Van Bittner.
WILLIAM FINGER:
He actually did succeed Van Bittner.
DAVID BURGESS:
No. The succession was John Riffe who was all tied up with [unknown] Movement. The trouble was that Baldanzi moved against Rieve before he could really win. I think the turning point was the '48 convention in Atlantic City, which we all attended, and which Rieve boys won hands down. Later in '50, he challenged again and lost.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did he ask you to run with him in 1948?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yeah. He got some voice support . . .
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did Glazer and Larry Rogan and all the intellectuals kind of

Page 21
stick with Baldanzi?
DAVID BURGESS:
Not Rogan. Rogan was a swinger between the two factions. We stuck with Baldanzi because George had a real feeling for the South. Rieve had none. We thought George's movement would be the growing edge of this textile movement, and you had to have somebody who could speak to these folks in the cotton mill. Unlike Rieve, he didn't have too heavy a foreign accent.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What about Bob Freeman, Julius Fry, people like that who were around, and southerners . . .
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, Julius was part of the movement.
WILLIAM FINGER:
And they were loyal to Baldanzi?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes. We all got purged together. Or some of us resigned before we were fired. But anyway, in '49 I realized that I wasn't long in this world, in terms of staying in the textile union, so Jack Crowl fixed me up to work for CIO Political Action Committee. That was in '49, in preparation for Frank Graham's coming election.
WILLIAM FINGER:
So you actually got pushed out?
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, I got out before I was being pushed.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Was Glazer going to be pushed out too?
DAVID BURGESS:
Oh, yes.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Ben Siegal was going to be pushed out?
DAVID BURGESS:
Ben Siegal got out, and then he eventually wound up with Jim Carey in the IUE. But it was a sort of a tragic thing because I think we had a real contribution to make. Irrespective of my belief, Operation Dixie was not succeeding, and even our good friend, Walter Reuther, had some fundamental questions about whether he would keep feeding money into this

Page 22
campaign. The fact that we were not collectively successful led in part to the downfall of Baldanzi. Moreover, he didn't have any votes, or didn't have enough votes. We did have some modest political success in the election of Hugo Sims to Congress in the district voting in Columbia, South Carolina. There were little things like this all over the South that were happening in terms of. . . it went beyond just organizing mills.
WILLIAM FINGER:
An analogy that's come up lately that, if you want to talk about the times, was the mine workers, you know Miners for Democracy that grew out of Arnold Miller. That movement grew very much from . . . from miners themselves, Black Lung Association, Arnold Miller himself was a miner.
DAVID BURGESS:
Yeah, but the difference was that there was a basis of organization of those who would revolt against the establishment. The difference was that southern workers were outside the perimeters of being part of the organization, or they were at least on the edge as newcomers to the whole labor movement concept.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you have a base among textile workers?
DAVID BURGESS:
No, we didn't have a strong established base. In Rock Hill, we had four mills under contract. This was our industrial base out of which we tried to expand into Aragon and Celanese, then move eventually, we hoped, to Springs Mills. So we had some base, but a rather insecure one.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What about the level of awareness of this whole kind of a labor movement, the organization, with . . . among the workers themselves . . . those places that you did have local unions, as well as where you did not?
DAVID BURGESS:
Oh, yes. It was a semi-religious, a very dedicated bunch of people. And there was real rapport. We weren't considered "those damned intellectuals" at all by the rank and file, and we were very close

Page 23
to the people when we were in Rock Hill. But after a defeat, I remember going back from Charlotte one day later, and at a gas station just happened to run across a fellow by the name of Taylor. He said, "David, I like you like a brother, but I don't want to see you again. You've ruined my life because I took part in that campaign at Aragon Mills. My life's wrecked. My daughter lost her job, I was threatened; I therefore moved here. I will not help in this mill." This was some place between Rock Hill and Charlotte. And I said, "Well, I'm sorry . . . I respect your opinion, you can rest assured that I won't visit your house in this new mill town." And so there were these . . . tragedies, but I would say extreme cases of those who stuck by the movement both in victory and defeat. I remember them very clearly. And I had great respect for him. They liked to complain about things, but they were solid people. But that's what happens to people who suffer this sort of defeat. I was offered a job at that time by the Americans for Democratic Action and I turned it down.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you have any connection with Highlander because you used to go to Myles Horton's labor or education workshops?
DAVID BURGESS:
I went there sometimes, I just stopped to visit . . . participate a little, but nothing very deep. And so I started organizing. I went to . . . traveled all over North Carolina from Rock Hill, and eventually moved to Greensboro until mid-'51, and I was involved very deeply in the 1950 Graham campaign, both in the first primary where he came to within ½ of 1% of getting elected, and also in the defeat in the second primary.
WILLIAM FINGER:
A lot has been written about that campaign. You wrote an article yourself.
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes, in the Progressive.

Page 24
WILLIAM FINGER:
One thing that comes up in the '50 campaign that's . . . I don't think has been as clear, is how much of a coalition between labor and blacks and liberal whites actually was operative and represented any power, places like Durham where the tobacco workers were active.
DAVID BURGESS:
Yeah. Well, I would say the analysis goes something like this, at that time: Since 1901, the Black Codes and, say late 1890's, the . . . you never really had a militant black movement in this state, say the first 50 years of the 20th century. You had a much more virulent and strong movement in South Carolina, in terms of . . . even voter registration or any measurement. Therefore in 1950 we were dealing essentially with little pockets of black power—a very weak black movement. I think it was a coalition, but a coalition of leadership with somewhat a precarious coalition base. Second, we had to fight the usual racial appeals. In the textile industry the blacks were in the picker room, and the less desirable jobs, sweeper jobs, they never really moved up into the spinning or spooling jobs . . . actually the machine job of spinning. Union members were racially divided but they would be classified as red necks and bigots. I was quite unhappy that Frank Graham never attacked Willis Smith, his rival, for the Senate seat. Terry Sanford who later became Governor of North Carolina, of course, was the campaign manager, and I remember going to see him a couple of times, said, "Frank's gotta say something." We in the CIO were putting out pamphlets attacking Smith's anti-labor position.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You were doing this in labor papers?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yeah, and we were working very hard on registration, and of course we had no real hold in eastern North Carolina where the campaign was ultimately decided. Willis Smith was terribly effective in the last few weeks of the second go-around. But I remember I worked that night . . . primary campaign, I was working in Rockingham, taking people to the polls

Page 25
and all that sort of business. I came home to Rock Hill and learned about the defeat. There was weeping and gnashing of teeth. I always remember the story . . well, you've probably heard it from other people . . . about Frank Graham's role in the Raleigh headquarters the night of the defeat. He was going around hugging ladies and encouraging the men and everybody was in tears except him.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Had you known him earlier with the sharecroppers . . .
DAVID BURGESS:
No, I visited . . . I was a good friend of Charlie Jones, and I met him through Charlie here, and he was one of my heroes. I remember when he was appointed to the Senate, I saw grown labor men cry. Like Franz Daniel, I saw him . . . barely speaking, weeping when hearing the news . . . good news, and weeping also when he was defeated. I don't know the full mechanics of that campaign, but I described them in that article in the Progressive, from my perspective. The Harper's magazine wouldn't run it, the Progressive did.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why was that?
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, I worked on it terribly hard, and I thought they were going to take it, but then at the last minute a guy named Larrimer said not . . . going to take it. So the Progressive ran it.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did he give any reason, political reason?
DAVID BURGESS:
No, I thought it was a good article, if I do say so. It was from the inside rather than from the outside. It's one of the few that appeared at that time in that sort of top level magazine.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Specifically, on that, do you remember anything about black voters being in power at all in a place like Durham? Did you work in Durham during that campaign?

Page 26
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, helped in registration. Durham, High Point, Charlotte, . . . in some places we had to deal with some Uncle Tom black leaders.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who were the black leaders in the state at the time?
DAVID BURGESS:
I don't remember. I remember dealing with a man in Charlotte whom I didn't trust.
WILLIAM FINGER:
How could you get, and this is a problem with labor now, how could you get to a very large group of people when there were so few unions in the state, relative to the size of the industrial work force? I mean, the papers went to very few people actually.
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, yeah, that's right. Well, we . . . I think we had a weak base, but you had to work with what you had, and generally, if I'm not mistaken, the A.F. of L. stuck by Graham with some defections of course on a racial grounds, but Durham, I think . . . I don't know what the vote was, but the tobacco workers here were good. And I was very encouraged on the whole. We expected him to win the first primary. He came within an ace of it. But having been, you know that was the year (1950) that George Smathers beat Claude Pepper, and Helen Gahagan Douglas was whipped by Nixon. 1950 was a bad year all around. But that was on the night . . . I think the same night that Graham was defeated . . . that Korea was invaded, literally speaking. So I remember that period very distinctly. All the time I was in the process of spiritual frustration the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen was a great help to me. I would go to a community and meet with a Fellowship of Southern Churchmen person, like with Frank Graham. So I think, through my connection with the organization which were rather weak, the Fellowship made some impact beyond just strictly labor and black coalition. I engaged in political education work. I remember I had the help of a black leader, Phil Weightman, who came down and helped us from Washington. He went all over the

Page 27
state. So that's, in general, the story of the Graham campaign. His defeat on June 20, 1950 was the saddest day in my life. Most of North Carolina was sad. During the campgain we could not get Frank to speak up, to attack his vicious opponent, Willis Smith.
WILLIAM FINGER:
People spoke forth, like Jonathan Daniels would write stuff in the News and Observer.
DAVID BURGESS:
That's right.
WILLIAM FINGER:
But he wouldn't attack Smith in any way.
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, I don't . . . never understood this, because I think you have to attack if you're going to defend, by defending you're attacking. You also have to have a defense. I remember we put out a pamphlet in Durham . . . picturing striking workers behind barbed wire after a strike was broken. And another pamphlet showing child labor conditions in a textile mill 20 years before. We tried to emphasize the economic issues and warned people that Smith stood for a return to old ways. The economic issues were clear and simple, Smith and all his connections weren't loud enough to swing enough people.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Let me ask you about a couple of things we skipped over that I don't want to miss. In 1947, there was a strike in Winston-Salem, several strikes there. Tobacco workers, food agriculture and tobacco workers had a union in Reynolds Tobacco Company, and at the same time . . .
DAVID BURGESS:
Don Henderson was the leader of the Food and Tobacco Workers Union-CIO. His union was a strong Communist element. Claude Williams was closely connected.
WILLIAM FINGER:
At the same time, about that, '47, there was a big laundry workers strike in Winston-Salem that the Fur and Leather Workers supported, and there was an active branch of the Communist Party in that High Point and Winston-Salem area. Did you . . . the Fellowship, I think, was involved in some kinds

Page 28
of support in that strike . . . do you remember anything about that?
DAVID BURGESS:
I wasn't involved. I didn't move to South Carolina until July, 1947. So Rock Hill kept me busy for two solid years, and I traveled very little outside that area. So I wasn't involved.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you ever know very much about the Food and Tobacco Workers Union?
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, I know . . . the way they tried to cut us on Delmo at first back in 1945. But that changed. I convinced Whitfield to go to his Communist friends in Southeast Missouri and say, "Listen, it's legitimate for you to put up $100 per family." And he was helpful. He also sent spies into our midst. He was Claude Williams' disciple. So I was involved with him, but he didn't sabotage our movement, and he helped blacks to believe in white folks and to cooperate with them.
WILLIAM FINGER:
He helped pave the way?
DAVID BURGESS:
He just didn't allow his ideological prejudice to rule.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did people in southeast Missouri know that Whitfield was involved with the blacks?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Another little story about that year that we're about to skip over if we go on, is the way the money was raised in the Fellowship center around Swannanoa, your connection with Nancy Blaine and then how you went about raising that money.
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, Nancy Blaine which was then her name, is now the wife of the editor-in-chief of the New Republic, Gilbert Harrison. He was an organizer at Industrial cotton mill. Back in 1947 she managed the unsuccessful strike at the Highland Plant almost single-handedly.

Page 29
WILLIAM FINGER:
She was also working under Franz Daniels?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes, this was under Franz Daniel. And she becamse the godmother of our oldest boy. We were very close. And then she, in the latter part of '47, went to Chicago, knowing I think, that she would eventually inherit 32 or more million dollars from Mrs. Emmons Blaine McCormick, her aunt. I don't remember the year, but I think it was probably '49 or '50, and she gave us something, $8,000, to help in the purchase of this land in Swannanoa.
WILLIAM FINGER:
How had she found out about the Fellowship?
DAVID BURGESS:
Through me.
WILLIAM FINGER:
THrough you.
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes, and we had a lot of mutual friends in Franz Daniel and this and that person, but it was purely on the basis of personal friendship, the fact that she had a close connection with our family, that's it . . .
WILLIAM FINGER:
And then you helped raise money for the . . . for construction?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes, yes. My own brother-in-law, who married my wife's twin sister, was architect for whatever structures are there.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Where Howard Kester lives?
DAVID BURGESS:
He lives near there now.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Another question. Did you know Lucy Randolph Mason? Did you work with her any?
DAVID BURGESS:
Oh, yeah. This was . . . but this was later in Atlanta, although I saw her before that.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Well, let's go on down to Atlanta then, 1951, you . . .
DAVID BURGESS:
I was in Hugo Sim's unsuccessful re-election bid in 1950, worked three months for the CIO Political Action Committee in Wisconsin and Iowa

Page 30
and was in several state races in Virginia in the first part of 1951. Then I was asked to be the executive secretary of the Georgia CIO.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What does executive secretary mean? Is that an elective position?
DAVID BURGESS:
It's the top staff position. You're elected yearly, but it's the operative head, and then you have a board..the president and officers.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You're elected by the membership, like Wilbur Hobby was elected?
DAVID BURGESS:
At the annual convention, and . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is it unusual for someone like yourself to be in a position . . .
DAVID BURGESS:
There was a search for a full time staff person. I was persuaded finally by our friend, Jack Kroll and other people to take the position and try to pull the whole council together. So I lived in Atlanta from '51 to the end of July, or beginning of July, of 1955 . . . four years. During that time, we had some defeats and some victories. We defeated Talmadge on this county unit amendment, we worked very closely with the League of Women Voters . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you know Frances Pauley?
DAVID BURGESS:
Oh, very well, know Frances very well.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I interviewed her.
DAVID BURGESS:
Is that right? I haven't seen Frances in a long time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
She's fantastic.
DAVID BURGESS:
I'd love to see her. I was the chief legislative representative and worked on the state legislature, just like the more sophisticated job Wilbur Hobby does. I was the one who began working on workmen's compensation, unemployment benefits, and, you know, the usual things, and then an educational campaign.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did a right-to-work law pass while you were there? And when did they pass it?

Page 31
DAVID BURGESS:
Later.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Later.
DAVID BURGESS:
But, it was a vicious situation. Senator Talmadge, and you had Senator, I mean, you had Governor Talmadge and then Governor Griffin. And, you know, with the county unit system, we hardly had a fighting chance. But I did all the work for the A.F. of L. then too. Lucy Randolph Mason was traveling all over the South. John Ramsey, who is from North Carolina now, was sort of the minister, the representative of the religious community in the South for Operation Dixie.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Is he retired?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes, he lives in Burnsville, North Carolina. And John and I became very close. Those Atlanta years were tremendous in terms of political education. Jones was later killed in the Paris accident of a plane in 1961. He and his wife and sixty other Atlantans were killed.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, yes.
DAVID BURGESS:
We ran Baxter Jones and we actually helped to amass more votes for Jones than the incumbant Congressman James Davis got. Because of the county unit system in three counties, Davis won. And in '54 we ran Mooris Abram. He didn't win a popular majority but he was later the major lawyer arguing successfully against the county unit system before the Supreme Court. Then he moved to New York as a prominent lawyer, was president of Brandeis University later. So we had, I would say, a real coalition in Atlanta, but we were hindered by the county unit system, in terms of political power.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who were the other parties of the coalition?
DAVID BURGESS:
League of Women Voters, the Urban League, N.A.A.C.P . . . . I was very close to Grace Hamilton, and the whole black community. I'm trying to think, what was that elderly Negro leader that was very prominent . . . and then . . .

Page 32
JACQUELYN HALL:
Benjamin Mays?
DAVID BURGESS:
Benjamin Mays was close, and then Dr. Martin Luther King's father, and it was a very wonderful group of people to work with. We had a real coaltion going and I think if it hadn't been for the county unit system, we would have been much more powerful. But I was a bridge between the working groups and other groups.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you get out in the field much at all?
DAVID BURGESS:
Oh, yes.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Were you in touch with the . . . I mean, was most of your contact with these other middle class organizations?
DAVID BURGESS:
Part of the time and also I helped in the Marietta campaign, to organize the Lockheed plant there. Here the UAW and the machinists agreed that the machinists should organize that plant . . . Lockheed . . . I was helpful with the C.W.A. organization campaigns, but mostly it was education in politics as over against organization. That was the major emphasis, and I think we did a very good job, in terms of political education. There was one interesting movement that I ought to mention in '53. President Ralph Helstien of the Packinghouse Workers Union sent down a communist by the name of Tony Stevens. A former Christian minister representing the Headquarters came down to take over the packing house workers regional office. And myself and a man by the name of McKinney, who was the regional director of the Packinghouse Workers Union, stood in the door, plus a steel worker guy named Charles Mathias, prevented them from taking over that regional office.
WILLIAM FINGER:
The local packing house workers gang?

Page 33
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Yourself and the steel workers?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes, and we said, "Look, you're not going to get in here." We were temporarily successful. I then called the CIO headquarters and was told that President Walter Reuther was in Europe. So I called up Bob Oliver, and I said, "What the hell shall I do?" His administrative assistant told me, "Take all the treasuries of the unions in escrow."
WILLIAM FINGER:
Packinghouse workers were still in the CIO in '53?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yeah. And therefore they gave . . . then I . . . with practically all but the predominantly black unions, like packinghouse locals, gave me their money, and I put it in escrow. Then later Walter Reuther retreated from this position when he knew that he couldn't get a non-Communist group of leaders to kick out the head of the packinghouse workers union. Helstien later fired Stevens and other communists and fellow travellers. They amalgamated with Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen. But during the fight I saw how the communists from Chicago were able to convince the blacks that I was a "nigger-hater," I was only for the white man, I was Uncle Charlie type. But we lost because we couldn't get up power to defeat, and Walter Reuther gave in, in this case, because he couldn't muster a strong enough slate to beat Helstien. But it was quite a blow to me, I mean, to return the money to the locals.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did black locals not give the money from their treasuries to you?
DAVID BURGESS:
Because I was white. And, at the same time, you had heat from, of all things, the auto workers who were just strictly white, and sometimes against me. I remember going once with the Urban League representative from Atlanta by the name of Thompson with an Indian—India group through the General Motors Chevrolet plant just to look at it. And those workers raised

Page 34
hell, said, "What do you want to do, put a nigger in each one of our jobs?" . . . and so I was getting heat from that side.
JACQUELYN HALL:
This was the local auto workers . . . Atlanta?
DAVID BURGESS:
Oh, yeah. At that time Walter Reuther was hesitant to discipline anyone in the Atlanta UAW locals, particularly Local 34, then headed by a man named Slim Hensley. He gave Walter a terrible time at those conventions. Then there was a fight in the auto workers. A man by the name of Champa defeated Sparling for the post of Regional Director. As a staff man he had done the unforgivable act of running against his own regional director. And eventually Chanpa was defeated. Eventually I decided to leave Atlanta for two reasons. One, the coming merger. I could have stayed down there a couple more years but the A.F. of L. were dominated by some racists, the carpenters were very strong, the building trades were very strong, and I knew that though I had done most of the legislative work for both the A.F. of L. and CIO, in that combination, that my days were numbered if I stayed.
I went to the convention, I think at the end of '54 in Los Angeles, and had a long talk with Walter and Victor Reuther. I said, "I grew up in China, I tried to get to China during the war, with the Quaker Ambulance corps. I'm interested in international labor work. Do you have any suggestions?" And so they worked it out. I was about to be appointed labor attache to Burma, but then the key guy for India fell out. Then I left Atlanta in July of '55 and went to work for Victor Reuther, I thought, for a couple of weeks. But, strange things happened. The State Department didn't want me.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why?
DAVID BURGESS:
Well . . . CIO, Walter Reuther recommendation, they wanted their own boys. They had another man's name for the post, at least on paper. But a queer thing happened. Jamie Mackey who was later a congressman and very prominent inent

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lawyer, told me to see his cousin Jack Carlton who was the Administrative Assistant to Senator Walter George of Georgia.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Walter George?
DAVID BURGESS:
So I was able to get to Walter George. And Walter George said to the State Department, "You can't do this to a Georgian named Burgess." He called the deputy (Max Bishop) of the State Department under Secretary Herbert Hoover, Jr. to his office on the Hill and gave them hell, said, "This damned Georgian is going to have that position." . . . But it was partly on the supposition that this Georgian was gonna have that position because the Senator thought that was the way of swinging CIO votes to George. The dressing down of Bishop was not here altogether altruistic. George eventually did not run against Herman Talmadge. I think he would have beaten him anyway. But I have to thank Walter Reuther and Walter George for getting me to India as this was the end of the McCarthy era. The Department spent ten months investigating my record. They went back to southeast Missouri and interviewed all the plantation owners. They examined everything about my college . . . peace petitions I'd signed in college, my association with Jack McMichael, my work as head of Student Christian Movement peace committee previous to '41. These were examined and gone over. I just barely squeaked through, and later I remember a CIA fellow in New Delhi said to me later, "Dave, I don't see how in the hell you ever got in this position." I went to New Delhi in December of 1955. Since then I haven't been South of Virginia until my present trip to Chapel Hill.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Well, how do you feel coming back?
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, you've still got the same..the class structure is still

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very much here. But things have changed, I think, very impressively. But you still have conservative Senators and Congressmen. The class structure is still very much here, and I don't know if you have militant Negro groups in the state or not; you sure didn't have in 1950.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You can see the film, if you get a chance, of the Oneita strike in South Carolina . . . black textile workers . . . Lane and Andrews in South Carolina . . . end of last summer . . . not so far from Rock Hill.
DAVID BURGESS:
What happened?
WILLIAM FINGER:
They won a six month strike, and 75 or 80 % of the workers were black . . . but they had a very good rapport between black and white workers in the plant.
DAVID BURGESS:
Do you think they'll lose at Cannon Mills?
WILLIAM FINGER:
Yeah, I think they'll lose this time.
DAVID BURGESS:
I think they will too.
WILLIAM FINGER:
But it's . . .
DAVID BURGESS:
. . . from what I gather . . .
WILLIAM FINGER:
The black percent of the vote has increased very rapidly.
DAVID BURGESS:
You know, they barely won at Roanoke Rapids, a lot . . . big turnover, so things aren't quite as good. Lesson for Wilbur Hobby . . .
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you come back this trip with a goal of taking a look . . . at what things were like in '55 and what they're like now?
DAVID BURGESS:
Oh, yeah, sure. I hope eventually to go down to Atlanta. I'm going to Memphis to speak at the Tri-annual meeting of the Churchwomen United, to be one of the speakers there . . .
WILLIAM FINGER:
You going to write anything about it?
DAVID BURGESS:
I don't know . . . this is sort of . . . you know, I don't know

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how typical Chapel Hill is. I don't feel any . . . very much basic idealism except in the few people that I see. You didn't have Dr. Frank here any more nor are there other Dr. Frank's on the horizon. There's much greater pressure from parents on the students to get on with their professional careers; the job market is tighter . . . blacks here aren't . . . good basketball players and a few other things, but I don't know how well they're integrated in this community, and I'm not judging because I don't know. I don't want to be a 24-hour expert. I hesitate to pontificate about these things. I do feel that after living next to Newark . . . being aware of my daughter's in Boston . . . in a way the integration of the South may take a longer time. Maybe there's a sounder basis there than is on the inner city black communities left . . . New York, Detroit, and Cleveland . . . you could just name a whole series of things.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What about the labor movement down there? Have you tried to, or have you read labor journals through the years, or do you really . . .
DAVID BURGESS:
No, I haven't kept up . . . I . . .
WILLIAM FINGER:
It's odd that you would be so involved in . . . in some of the most critical years for the southern labor movement, and then the merger in '55, and there's this merger, and then . . .

Page 38
DAVID BURGESS:
I feel that the merger between the AFL and the CIO was a mistake on two counts: the basic differences on ideologies affecting the foreign policy of the American labor movement and the foreign policy of the American Government; and the resulting loss of idealism among labor officials after the merger took place.
There is little question in my mind that George Meany shafted me while I was a foreign service officer during the period of 1955 to 1966. I have reason to believe that my confidential reports fell into the hands of members of the International Affairs Department of the AFL-CIO, particularly Jay Lovestone and Harry Goldberg. I remember one report, a confidential report, which I wrote to the State Department from the Embassy in New Delhi sometime late in 1957. In it I outlined the policies of George Meany regarding the role of the American labor movement and those of Walter Reuther. And naturally I came out strongly for the Reuther position. In 1962 I was about to be considered for an important position abroad with the Agency for International Development. Somehow George Meany heard about it. He called in Ralph Dungan from the White House staff and told him in non-equivocal terms that he didn't want me to be appointed to any important position in the American Government. Ralph called me to the White House to give me the bad word. I immediately called Walter Reuther. He officially protested to Dungan, but the damage to my whole career within the State Department had been done. Possibly the knife in my back had been pulled out, but the hole was still there. I talked with my friend Joe Keenan, Secretary Treasurer of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (I had taken Joe on a tour of India in 1958 and 1959). He made an intervention with George Meany and arranged an appointment for me with Meany. Our conference was polite but in no way changed the situation. He must have remembered

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that I had once worked for Victor Reuther, when Victor headed the CIO International Affairs Department. He must have recalled that following Meany's attack on Tito and Nehru at the first AFL-CIO convention in 1955, Walter Reuther came to India in April of 1956 and tried to repair the damage. I was Walter's guide throughout India—and the trip was a phenomenal success.
The weakness of Reuther's position is that he failed to put into the international field men from the labor movement with his own ideology. In contrast George Meany had a whole network of functionaries serving under Jay Lovestone. In July of 1958 I went to Walter's well guarded home in Birmingham, Michigan and had a long talk with him about the necessity of putting more good men from the labor movement into assignments abroad. Walter agreed. May, his wife, agreed, but nothing was done.
The difference between Walter and George stemmed around their view of the CIA. With the exception of receiving some money from this agency in the late 1940's in order to help some struggling democratic labor movements in Western Europe (I think West Germany was the case in point), Walter made it a policy of not receiving money from this agency or cooperating with it. In contrast, as was very evident whenever Harry Goldberg and others of Lovestone's staff visited New Delhi or Djakarta (when I was in the Peace Corps as Director in Indonesia during 1963 and 1964), those international representatives of the AFL-CIO working under Meany and Lovestone had intimate contacts with CIA staff and with the "controlled sources" (paid agents) in the countries of Asia where I worked during the period of 1955 through 1972.
The second reason why I think that the AFL and CIO merger was a mistake—in hindsight—was the fact that the amount of money put directly into organization work within the United States went down after 1955, the date when the

Page 40
merger took place. One striking exception to this rule, however, has been George Meany's constant support of Caesar Chavez after the Teamsters' Union ganged up with the growers to fight the Farm Workers Union and to sign whenever possible "sweetheart contracts." Another encouraging sign is the steady growth, during recent years, of the State County and Municipal Workers Union under the leadership of Jerry Wurf . . . I worked from 1947 through 1949 as a staff member of "Operation Dixie." We were up against great odds. Many of our staff were beaten up or run out of town. But we persisted, despite many defeats in NLRB-run elections and despite constant company harassment in the courts, the communities, the churches and the textile mills. We were encouraged by words of encouragement from "Dr. Frank" of Chapel Hill, and unfortunately we don't see many men of his stature encouraging the labor movement today to organize the unorganized in the South.

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DAVID BURGESS:
. . . The second situation is the whole question of putting money into organization. From what I gather, and I say this with a certain reluctance, because there are certain exceptions to the rule, since the death of Operation Dixie, I haven't been aware of much money going into organizing in the South. I say this with some reservation because I haven't kept track of victories and defeats, but in general, the union armies aren't exactly marching down here, at least this is my impression since '55. I think one of the exceptions to the rule is the rule is the Chavez movement . . . where Meany has given substantial support. I hope it's going to be victorious, though it doesn't look that way at the moment. Another exception is the State-County Municipal Workers, the fastest growing union in America. Jerry Wurf. But that's an exception to the rule.
WILLIAM FINGER:
But that's also not so true in the South.
DAVID BURGESS:
They're really moving fast in the North, and eventually they're coming down here.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Because they're signing up so many white collar workers . . . so many state employees.
DAVID BURGESS:
Right, but the point is . . . I think this has great potential in the South. They're moving very fast . . . their black vice-president is head of the more militant black movement of the AFL-CIO . . .
WILLIAM FINGER:
What do you mean, though, about putting more money into organization. You mean building southern institutions . . . institutions of labor movements in the South?
DAVID BURGESS:
No. In order to have successful organizing drives you have to put a lot of money; you have to lose a lot of money, in terms of salaries and not much dues coming back. And you have to be willing to lose a lot of money to eventually gain anything. Now, there's . . . the limit is the money. There is at least the . . . should we say, the skeletal structure. You have your

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organizing committees and you . . . I'm rather sad returning to the South that there isn't more labor movement here, and I can't say this statistically. I'm just . . . the way our . . . I think I'm much more . . . the change in politics in the South has been more a change in middle class values . . . I would say a rise in the urban, fairly sophisticated middle class person. That is, tied too much to middle class values, but doesn't want a Lester Maddox . . . but will take a decent conservative as an alternative. That's what I mean. And I don't think this is because the proletarians have come into their own . . . these are the proletariat in a very loose sense, industrial workers, farm workers, poor farmers.
END OF INTERVIEW