Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Julius Fry, August 19, 1974. Interview E-0004. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Political support of the labor movement in North Carolina

Fry describes how North Carolina Senator Robert Reynolds supported the labor movement in the 1930s. After official union elections were held in Lumberton, North Carolina, in 1937, Fry explains that the Mansfield Mill temporarily closed the plant for six months. During this time, Senator Reynolds worked to help the union members find jobs through the Farm Securities Administration. His observations demonstrate important interactions between politicians and workers in the labor movement.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Julius Fry, August 19, 1974. Interview E-0004. 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

JULIUS FRY:
Oh yeah, we had an election in September of 1937 and were certified. A long series of bargaining and finally a contract was signed to be effective January 1, 1938. And immediately the plant announced closing down and they stayed closed down for six months. And that was our introduction to a union, to close the plant down. But ironically, there was a recession in 1938 and there was some economic basis for it. But they also thought that they could starve us out. But what happened, the union arranged. . . well, we already had WPA and they had a profound. . . .
BILL FINGER:
And CCC and. . . .
JULIUS FRY:
Yeah, and they had a FSA, Farm Security Administration, so, I remember this. . . we used. . . I don't know if this ought to go on the record or not, but the union used the influence of Bob Reynolds, who ran then and became a senator on sort of a Populist ticket. He would go around in a T-Model Ford and eat caviar and make fun of the rich.
BILL FINGER:
That's a state senator?
JULIUS FRY:
No, U.S. Senator. And he's the one that married the McLean Diamond, Senator Robert R. Reynolds.
BILL FINGER:
Where was he from?
JULIUS FRY:
From Winston-Salem. He may be one of the black sheep of the family of the Reynoldses over there.
BILL FINGER:
I ought to know about him.
JULIUS FRY:
Yeah, you ought to look into all of this. But anyhow, through him, we arranged some sort of a project, or the union arranged it, to set up a project to take care of the workers who were closed down.
BILL FINGER:
He was running for the Senate?
JULIUS FRY:
He was already a Senator. He had already ran. And so, they set up a program for the workers down at the plant under the Farm Securities Administration. We dug ditches and cleared right of ways up around Pembroke, which is the Indian reservation.
BILL FINGER:
So, you all, while that mill was closed. . . .
JULIUS FRY:
We were on a government program.
BILL FINGER:
You supported yourselves through FSA?
JULIUS FRY:
We did. I never will forget, I believe that Brewer, Seth Brewer, who was the typographical union man and sort of state director of our union at the time. . . .
BILL FINGER:
State director of Textiles?
JULIUS FRY:
TWOC at that time. I believe that he was state director. And anyhow, he introduced me to Robert R. Reynolds down there in the hotel and I never will forget it. He stuck his hand out and grabbed me this way and took his other one behind my back and just pulled me up like this, you know, "brothers". . . .
BILL FINGER:
Reynolds did?
JULIUS FRY:
And I had never had such a high official shake my hand, you know.