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Title: Oral History Interview with Wilbur Hobby, March 13, 1975. Interview E-0006. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Hobby, Wilbur, interviewee
Interview conducted by Finger, William
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 136 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
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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:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-02-20, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Wilbur Hobby, March 13, 1975. Interview E-0006. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series E. Labor. Southern Oral History Program Collection (E-0006)
Author: William Finger
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Wilbur Hobby, March 13, 1975. Interview E-0006. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series E. Labor. Southern Oral History Program Collection (E-0006)
Author: Wilbur Hobby
Description: 162 Mb
Description: 55 p.
Note: Interview conducted on March 13, 1975, by William Finger; recorded in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Joe Jaros.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series E. Labor, 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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Interview with Wilbur Hobby, March 13, 1975.
Interview E-0006. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Hobby, Wilbur, interviewee


Interview Participants

    WILBUR HOBBY, interviewee
    WILLIAM FINGER, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
WILLIAM FINGER:
Wilbur, why don't we start from the beginning. You were born in Durham?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Right.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What year was that?
WILBUR HOBBY:
On November 8, 1925.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Where?
WILBUR HOBBY:
At Watts Hospital.
WILLIAM FINGER:
How many brothers and sisters did you have?
WILBUR HOBBY:
I have four brothers and no sisters. There were five boys in the family.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Are you the first?
WILBUR HOBBY:
No, I was the second child. My oldest brother was killed in France during World War II. There are four brothers left. Two of them are active in the union movement. All three of my brothers are union members. One of them is an international representative with the Tobacco Workers International Union, working on the R.J. Reynolds plant in Winston-Salem and he is a former

Page 2
vice-president of the international union. My other brother is Charles Hobby, who was the former president of the Central Labor Union in Durham for about ten years and editor of the labor paper over there for about ten years and recording secretary and legislative chairman of Local 183 of the Tobacco Workers, which is the American Tobacco Company employees in Durham. Mervin is a member of the Operating Engingeers, but he just joined a few months ago and is not active in the union politically as of this time.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What do you remember about your early years in Durham? Did you live in the town, or out in the country?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Yeah … I guess that I remember growing up in the Edgemont section of town, which back in the early 30's, which the center of the textile situation there. I remember rather vividly the general textile strike that applied to Durham and to North Carolina, in that area which we used to call The Lawn. I lived on Elm Street and the front porch of my house faced The Lawn and it was a sort of a playground there. It's where Operation Breakthrough was until a few weeks ago. There was nothing there but a lawn and swings and a bandstand and

Page 3
a little wading pool and just a ball field. It was a recreation area. During the 1934 general textile strike, it became a tent city. There were hundreds of tents all over it and soup kitchens all over. As a kid of seven or eight, I played all over The Lawn during that strike, never realizing really what the strike was all about or what was happening. Then, it was over and part of the mill never started back up again.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Was your father a textile worker?
WILBUR HOBBY:
No, my father was a bricklayer. He left my mother about the time that I was … well, about that time, I guess, when I was about six or seven years old. And although he came back for intermittent periods, I guess that after I was six or seven, he never did stay home very much. Just the five boys were there.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Your mother raised you boys? She didn't work in the mill herself?
WILBUR HOBBY:
No …well, Mother didn't work in the mill. Back during those Depression years, she really cleaned chickens for a little store on the corner of Angier Avenue and Elm Street that was run by Paul Talley. I worked around the store and that was about all the money that we had. My

Page 4
father would just take off out of town and we wouldn't see him for eight or nine months at a time. He was supposed to pay twelve and a half dollars a week for alimony for the five kids, but I guess that my mother probably received it less than half the time or about a fourth of the time. We were on welfare, you know, and when I became nine or ten years old, I began shining shoes. I shined shoes and made a little money during that period.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Were young boys still going into the textile mills that late? I know that in the 20's they were.
WILBUR HOBBY:
Yeah, there were some young boys, but there weren't many real young boys going in. I guess that the child labor laws had been passed. This was '33, '34. I guess that by that time, probably the child labor laws had passed and most of us were going to school. We would stay out of school one day a week and pull a little wagon over to get commodities, which was food given out during the Depression. I remember pulling it home with bags of grits and cabbage, half of which was rotted … you would throw that half away and eat the other half …and sweet potatoes and Irish potatoes and occasionally, some canned

Page 5
meat, not very much meat back then.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Do you remember thinking that you were poor?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Oh, I knew that we were poor. I thought that everybody was poor. Everybody I knew was poor. It was an extremely poor section of the city, still is. There was a little clinic, which they don't have now. The one thing that I remember now, though, and I guess that this was because of the mill. It was a mill village type of thing in Edgemont at that time, because all of the Golden Belt was there and what they called Durham Hosiery Mill was down there. And then they had another hosiery mill and textile mill up on Henderson Street and Walker Street. The houses were close together, most of the people worked in the mill. They even had a big area over there where Few Gardens is now, that was a garden where the mill owned the land and allowed people to grow gardens. As they built East Durham Junior High School, as we got a little older, we used to walk through that area going to junior high school over there. The first year that it was built, we would walk right through the middle of the gardens which are now where Few Gardens is. I don't know if that's where they got the name, "gardens" from or not. I never thought

Page 6
about it until just then, but there were gardens right where that area of town is public housing, where Few Gardens is now. Another thing that I remember about it, is that there was a WPA sewing room which my mother worked at for part of the time.
That WPA sewing room was on Liberty Street, right at the railroad and that old place is still there and it has been an army surplus type of thing run by old man Herndon, I guess, for the last twenty or twenty-five years. But during that time, it was a WPA sewing room, which my mother worked at.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What do you remember about that textile environment, either of the tent city or … were your friends' fathers and mothers in the mill?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Most of the people who worked there, all of the mill help really ran more back from Main Street to Holloway Street, all of that was company houses down there in what runs from Main Street to Liberty Street now.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You didn't live in a company house yourself?
WILBUR HOBBY:
No, we didn't live in a company house because my father never worked in the plant and my mother, like I say, worked at the WPA sewing room. I can remember, she did work in that little hosiery mill down on Maple Street,

Page 7
which is down toward East Durham about a block and a half away. I think there is a furniture place there now, from the Lions Club workshop for the Blind, there on Maple Street. I guess that we didn't really ever live in a company house as such. We lived in practically every house between Main Street and Angier Avenue.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You moved around?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Yeah. I can remember at least twenty-five houses that we lived in in that part of town.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Always renting?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Always renting. I can remember in one area there where we lived in five different houses which sat side by side. I don't know why we would move so often, maybe because the rent would come due. I would almost think, however, that probably all the houses were owned by the same people. Then, we lived all up and down what is known as Dell Avenue and Lilac Avenue and Lion Street, which is now Stoke Street. In fact, I lived on Stoke Street when I first got married when I came back after the war. We still lived on Stoke Street. I didn't get out of Edgemont until the war was over and I was out

Page 8
and working.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What do you remember about the schools there? I understand that you went to school with Clayburn Ellis?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Yeah, at East Durham Junior High School, I went to school with Clayburn Ellis.
WILLIAM FINGER:
He turned out to be active in the Klan for a good many years.
WILBUR HOBBY:
Yeah. Clayburn came from about the same background as I did, he probably didn't have quite as hard a time as I did because I guess that his mother and father probably lived together and maybe both worked. Most parents did. The fact that we only had one parent from the time that I was eight years old, well, after I was seven or eight years old, we never had a father. He was there occasionally, but there was never a man around the house and to my knowledge, my mother never looked at another man. She was in love with my father and stayed that way and is that way, I guess, today, although he is dead now. He would go off and find a common law wife and he finally married another woman, but my mother never looked at another man.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did that make you bitter toward your father?

Page 9
WILBUR HOBBY:
Not really, Bill. I guess that I shouldhave been a couple of times, because I know how he treated her, but I just don't really have too much bitterness in me against anybody, you know. I get mad and I feel a little bad about some things, but I don't know if I have the capacity to hate, really. I don't even hate some of the bosses that I think are extremely bad. I can get along with them but I resent what they doing and yet, I don't really hate. I don't know if I got this from my background or what, because you know, there are a lot of people who come out of that section down there, like Claybourn, who I think hated blacks, were actually bitterly opposed to blacks. I never did feel hatred towards blacks. One thing I can say about my father, probably the only good thing I could say about him, was that he didn't … well, I could say two or three things, I guess. [laughter] He was a hard worker, like myself, he worked all the damn time. He was looking for that easy dollar a lot of times and bootleg or whatever it took to get it, he did. But he never taught me any hatred against blacks and I can remember that before he left home, he worked with black brick masons. That is one field that the blacks moved into that was good for them early,

Page 10
this plaster and masonary work. I guess that most every plasterer in Durham was a black guy and over half of your brick masons in the union in Durham are blacks. The business agent there now is a black. They were in the trowel trades, so to speak, in an early day and my father used to be extremly with a black man that lived about a block from where we did when we lived on Main Street there. There was this little alley where blacks lived and we used to go over there all the time and play and my father and mother never said anything of racial hatred. It was prevalent there in many areas.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You never ate with black families, things like that, though?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Well, I don't remember too much eating. I was telling someone today that I could remember when racial hatred was so bad, I remember that after the Frank Graham campaign, I had to go to New Orleans to catch a ship because I was in the naval reserve and when I got my tray, I had been in the navy in World War II, but the blacks who were on ship had to eat at separate tables, even during the war. Well, when I got down there after that racial campaign which had been so bitter against Frank Graham, and although I had worked so closely with the black

Page 11
community, it wasn't on a social type of thing where I would got and eat with them, you know. So, when I got my tray that day and I saw these two black guys sitting by themselves, I made myself go over there and sit down with them, and fully expecting to feel some physical pain because I was sitting beside a black and eating.
WILLIAM FINGER:
That was the first time?
WILBUR HOBBY:
That was the first time, I guess and a lot of this was because of the kind of racial campaign that they threw at Doctor Frank. But I was visibly surprised when I didn't feel any physical pain. I was twenty-five years old, Bill. Twenty-five years old and expecting physical pain just because I sat down and ate with them. Things have changed a lot in the South. I was talking to somebody today that brought that up … well, I was talking to one of the senators and he was asking why doctors and lawyers were so opposed to unions. I said, "Well, they don't know union people. They think that everybody is a crook because they think that everybody is like what they read what Jimmy Hoffa was. They haven't had your experience." This is a senator from the west part of the state where they know Weaver Chapman and they

Page 12
know Harold Long, who came out of a plant and is now the chairman of the board of county commissioners and Doris Bishop. They don't know union people on this kind of a level. If they know union people, they probably don't think of them as union people. Well, you know them because they are leaders in their community, but the average doctor or lawyer may treat them and never know that they are union members. So, they have an entirely different conception of the thing and that is why you have these people oppose labor legislation.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you have any kind of orientation in your family toward the union?
WILBUR HOBBY:
No, I grew up and except for that strike, and I didn't know what the strike was about or anything, it was just a lot of fun to me out there eating with them, walking and singing with them, I didn't really know what a strike was. My family as such, was not involved in it. I never did know anything. In fact, Bill, I guess that I was anti-labor to start with, when I grew up a little bit. The first thing that I remember about the union is an anti-union feeling that I had during World War II when I was in the South Pacific and the coal miners struck. You know, I was one of these patriotic fellows, I joined the Navy on Monday after I was seventeen on Sunday and went off to fight for

Page 13
my country and I just felt that if I could be out there fighting for my country, then those coal miners could be mining that coal back here. And I said that on my ship and my ship happened to have a lot of West Virginia and Pennsylvania coal mining people on it. I very damn quickly got put in my place by sons and daughters of coal miners who were on that shop. I guess that at least I learned to keep my mouth shut about the damn thing, I don't know that they changed my mind. But when I came back and got active in the local unions, there was a woman who was the head of the Southern School for Workers named Brownie Lee Jones…
WILLIAM FINGER:
The Southern Summer School out in the mountains?
WILBUR HOBBY:
No, this was a school for workers all over the South and Brownie Lee was headquartered in Richmond. She is now retired and living in San Francisco and is about eighty years old. I guess that Brownie Lee probably had more to do with educating me because as I was active … I met first a young girl in Durham in 1949 named Carla Myerson. She was a young Jewish girl from Baltimore who was working with the Southern School for Workers. I had gotten active in the group known as Voters for Better Government, which was a political coalition of blacks and labor and liberals

Page 14
from Duke, which had been set up in 1948. They had actually taken over the Democratic party in Durham County in 1948, quite by accident. They had found out about what precinct meetings were and I wasn't active then, I didn't get active until 1949, but they had found out what precinct meetings were and they decided that they would send some people out to monitor these precincts so that the next time they had a precinct meeting, they might be able to do something. So, they sent committees out to every precinct and it wound up that when they got out there, nobody showed up for the precinct meeting. The fact was that they were filling out the forms in the law firm of Fuller, Reed, Umstead and Fuller in the Hill Building there in Durham and they didn't really have precinct meetings. So, when these people got out there and nobody showed up, they became the precinct committee and they went and held their elections and elected the county chairman and all and had the Democratic party. They had just gone out to look and when they found out that nothing was going on, they opposition was afraid to contest the thing because it would show that they had been filling out the precinct applications and running the Democratic party from the law offices of Governor Umstead and later, he became Senator. Well, at that time, he was a United

Page 15
States Senator. Fuller, Reed, Umstead and Fuller was Bill Umstead who had been appointed to the United States Senate in 1947 and I don't guess that he could have afforded that type of expose. So, they didn't really give them any trouble. We defeated him that year, because he voted for the Taft-Hartley law and the labor movement really went out pretty strong and they defeated Umstead for the United States Senate and J. Mel Broughton was elected to take his place. Then, Broughton died in '49 and in '48, Kerr Scott had been elected governor, so when Broughton died, Kerr Scott appointed Frank Graham to the Senate.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Let me stop you there, there are a couple of things and I don't want to lose the threads. Who orchestrated that takeover of the Voters for Better Government? Was John Wheeler involved?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Yeah, but the key black in my opinion, for the first five years that I worked with them, was a small short fellow by the name of Dan Martin. Dan Martin was the comptroller for North Carolina Mutual and he was chairman of the political committee of the Durham Committee on Negro Affairs. And Dan Martin, I think, was probably the greatest political organizer that I ever met, just a terrific guy who stood about five foot, one inch. He was chairman of the Hillside precinct and I can remember that in the

Page 16
precinct, there were about a dozen white people. In that election, I think that about 2100 people registered in his precinct and Frank Graham got 1807 votes and Willis Smith got eight. I sat over there that day and as I went by, Dan Martin would make a ninety year old woman with her petticoat six inches down feel like she was the most beautiful woman in the world when she came in to vote. He just had a magnificent personality and was a terrific organizer. He really put that thing together and there hasn't been anybody who could do it like he could. It was a really effective organization from 1949 to 1955 or 1956, when Dan Martin died.
WILLIAM FINGER:
It's kept that name, Voters for Better Government?
WILBUR HOBBY:
No, he was the chairman of the Durham Committee. I got active in '49 in the city council elections when we had a black man, Rencher Harris, running for the city council and Sparky Williamson was also running. I got active in that campaign and we elected Sparky Williamson to the city council and we elected Dan Edwards mayor of Durham, beating the old mayor William F. Kerr, who had been mayor for thirty years.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Were either of these ones union members?

Page 17
WILBUR HOBBY:
No. Williamson was head of the postal union, was editor of the labor paper and former post office clerk, part time, secretary of the central labor union. I kind of followed Sparky up, every job that he had, when he gave it up when he moved up, I took it over, right on up through COPE director. Sparky was a tremendous speaker and was a graduate of Duke, post office clerk there in Durham for a long period of time. He ran for Congress in 1950, when Graham ran, and carried Durham County by about 1200 votes in that election against Carl Durham, but lost in the Greensboro area when they completely blacked him out. The newspapers wouldn't even mention his name, you know.
WILLIAM FINGER:
The Greensboro Daily News?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Yeah, we got no publicity. At that time, the Sixth Congressional District was Durham, Orange, Alamance and Guilford. There was only four or five thousand votes difference.
WILLIAM FINGER:
And he was still a member of the postal workers?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Yeah and he was still a member of the Durham city council for a four year term. He ran for Congress and lost but there was a lot of feeling that if the Graham election hadn't brought out so many conservatives, he would have won that Congressional election. There is also the

Page 18
feeling by some people that it brought out a lot of black votes that maybe wouldn't have come out, too. But he ran a good campaign. We hired a man, I forget his name, but he had been a newspaper reporter on the Little Rock Gazette, is that …
WILLIAM FINGER:
Arkansas Gazette?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Yeah, out of Little Rock, and he came up here and ran a good liberal campaign and Sparky was a good speaker and did a good job. He did a creditable job for the labor movement in the campaign.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Before we go on, and I do want to talk about the Graham campaign and that coalition some more, but I'd like to go back. We missed a couple of things. I asked you about union influences and you started talking about the navy and the coal miners. Was your father a union member?
WILBUR HOBBY:
My father became a union member, but he wasn't an active union member, Bill. I think he was a union member because he needed a job and the unions in the building trades were at that time strong, much stronger than they are now. So, to do some of the work, he needed to be in the union. He never influenced me in the union at all.

Page 19
WILLIAM FINGER:
How about his work with black brick masons, was that outside the union mostly? Do you know, or were you too young?
WILBUR HOBBY:
That was a little bit of each. I don't believe that he was in the union when he first worked with black brick masons. I think that blacks had taken up that trade because it was hard work. That's a hard job and my father used to be a hard taskmaster on that. I worked with him some as a kid and like I say, he was one of the hardest working men I ever knew. He wasn't afraid to work, of all his shortcomings, that wasn't one of them. He, in fact, had sort of an assembly line. We talk about the automobiles having an assembly line. My father was an expert brick mason and he hired expert brick masons and he hired a man to help and if my father hired someone and was working and reached back for that second brick, there better be a damn brick waiting to be stuck in his hand by a helper. If it wasn't, he would holler to them as he did to me as a kid, "Dollar waiting on a dime." Because you paid a brick mason a good wage and a helper made just a little wage and if a brick mason who was making what he called a dollar and the other guy was making a dime and didn't put the brick in his damn hand, he got

Page 20
one there quick. He kept enough helpers. I guess that it would take three or four people to keep my daddy working at laying bricks. You know, you had to have one making mortar all the time and one carry bricks and one to hand him bricks. So, it took at least three people to keep my daddy on. He was good and he built fine buildings. He could have made millions of damn dollars in brick contracting if he hadn't tried to make money the easy way by running cafes and bootleg joints and whatever, but he made a lot of money and lost a lot of money.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you ever work in cafes and stuff like that too?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Not much, no. He made money during the war by running a lot of cafes, while I was in the navy. I came back and was going to put all I had saved in the navy, ?1500, into what was going to be a dinner club. He was living with this woman and during an argument, she shot him right through the knee and they put her in jail. I stayed at his house and he was doing a little brick work and I put my whole ?1500 into the thing and we were going to be partners and I told him, "If you ever see that woman again, we are through." Money gave out and we had to have

Page 21
money. So, he contracted some brick work and while he contracted the brick work, I ran the job for him with a couple of masons and we had some real good jobs where we made about ?400 a week and I wasn't taking anything but what I was getting fed. I had an old car and had this guy driving him around, he could prop himself up in the back seat of the car and have his leg extended and I came to find out that while he would drive off occasionally, he was going to see the woman that shot him. He later married her. So, he and I had a big argument over it and I just left and I won't ever forget it, I guess.
I went and got Dan Edwards, who had been elected mayor … when I was shining shoes, I used to do it up in the Hill Building and I was one of the few people who could shine shoes in the building up there …
WILLIAM FINGER:
How come?
WILBUR HOBBY:
I don't know. I just started doing it and the people liked me and they would let me come in but they wouldn't let others. After I started shining "the big boys" shoes to get more money, I met Dan Edwards when he was just a young lawyer getting started and he went overseas and became a war hero. They wrote a book about him getting

Page 22
shot. He jumped in front of General Eichelberger and took a sniper's bullet and came back a war hero. He's a brigadier general now in the thing and is making plenty of money. He's in Durham, his wife has died. He was going to be a Congressman, but he got into a little trouble and got beaten up by some woman's husband. He was assistant secretary of defense in Paris with NATO and his wife started drinking pretty bad over there and she later died. But Dan was the guy that ran for mayor and we elected him. Then, another on of my shoeshine customers was a guynamed Lesley Atkins and when I first went to this first political meeting where they were talking about electing a union man, Sparky Williamson, to the city council, I saw Lesley Atkins and Dan Edwards there, who were close friends. Lesley had been a student at Duke and Dan's father had been a professor there and both of them were Duke people.
WILLIAM FINGER:
They remembered you?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Yeah and Lesley had been the chairman of the Democratic party that was elected in '48. He is now on the city council and has turned awfully conservative. But at that time, he was in with the liberal group in the

Page 23
state and is still to a degree in with them. I think that he has really got a foot planted in each camp right now. He and Terry Sanford are close friends, he worked for Terry for governor and he was very friendly and close to Kerr Scott and is very close now to Bert Bennett. But in Durham now he has his foot in the conservative camp. When they tried to run me out of the building one time, I remember very well that Lesley went down and raising hell with the president of the bank about them not letting me shine shoes in that building. He threatened to move his office and the guy rescinded the order. I was later promised that if I went on to school, they would send me. There was a CPA there who was going to send me to college. Of course, I went school in the ninth grade and went off to Ohio and came back and went into the navy.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You went into the navy with a ninth grade education?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Yeah, I left the ninth grade to … I quit school when I was sixteen and went to work in Ohio and came back and started to school again, after spending a summer in Ohio working with a baseball club up there. I was the batboy …
WILLIAM FINGER:
With the Durham Bulls?

Page 24
WILBUR HOBBY:
Yeah, I was the first batboy with the Durham Bulls that had a uniform. In fact, they had a special night for me.
WILLIAM FINGER:
In Ohio?
WILBUR HOBBY:
No, in Durham. My number was 0 and I became known as "Zero Hobby." I traveled with the ball club and sort of worked as the assistant trainer. I went to Ohio as the assistant trainer for the Dayton Ducks. When I came back, I started back to school, I was still sixteen. The war was going on and November rolled around and I became seventeen and so I threatened to kill myself if my mother didn't sign for me to get into the navy. So, she signed.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Why did you want to go into the navy so badly?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Most of the boys that I grew up with had gone into the navy. I knew one boy over there who was actually only fifteen years old and had already been in the South Pacific and had had two ships blown out from under him and he had come back a big hero, you know.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Were you still an adolescent and wanted to impress the girls or was it more …
WILBUR HOBBY:
Well, the way I think of it… people talked and you talked very patriotically at that time. It was a little bit of both. After going to Ohio, you know and

Page 25
working up there in the summer where I had gotten exposed to a lot of things, school was kind of dull for me when I came back. I quit and went into the navy and then when I got out of the navy, I came back and went to work down at American.
WILLIAM FINGER:
How long were you in the navy?
WILBUR HOBBY:
I was in the navy three years and four months.
WILLIAM FINGER:
'41 to '44?
WILBUR HOBBY:
I went into the navy on November 7, 1942 and I got out on February 15, 1946 and I went down to work at American … well, I worked with my father as a brick-layer and all and then when I broke up with my relationship with him, I went down to the American Tobacco Company and went to work on August 5, 1946.
WILLIAM FINGER:
How did you happen to pick the tobacco company? That turned out to be important later.
WILBUR HOBBY:
Yeah. Well, I guess just because they were hiring, Bill, and I knew they had a pretty good record of having one of the best jobs around Durham. So, I went down there and went to work for 75¢ an hour on the night shift.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Were you married?

Page 26
WILBUR HOBBY:
No, not at that time. I met my wife within four or five months. I got married about five months later. In fact, I got married on New Year's Eve of '46. My wife came to work down there about two months after I did.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You met her in the plant?
WILBUR HOBBY:
In the plant, yeah. I went out on a double-date with her, but I was with the other girl. [laughter] So, I met her and she and I hit it off pretty good. This other boy was really married and I wasn't married, so somehow or the other we got to talking and some of her people were friends and knew my father and all. In fact, I guess that the real reason I got married was because her daddy thought that she was too good for me. After we had a few dates, her daddy knew what my father was, which was a bootlegger and a roustabout, and although her daddy had grown up poor, he had made something out of himself and saved his money, had some land. In fact, she had just finished school before christmas that year and he had promised to give her a new car to go to Louisburg College and had her enrolled. Then, we got married on New Year's Eve. He really pitched a fit. He came down

Page 27
to Stoke Street and Edgemont, which is the slums, and he was so mad. This was on New Year's Day, I guess. We had spent the night in South Carolina where we had gotten married. He was a hard, tough man, but he was a good man. The house had about forty steps up there, going up to the house on a big high hill and he sent her first cousin up there, one of the girls about her age, and wanted to see the marriage license. We sent it down … [laughter]
WILLIAM FINGER:
You sent it down?
WILBUR HOBBY:
He looked at it, sent it back up and drove off and said that if he wanted to see her he would send for her. He wouldn't speak to her. We were both working in the night shift at the tobacco plant and she loved her mother very much, so I used to take her out to see her mother … they lived about six miles out of town … and I would sit out in the car on the road while she would visit with her mother in the afternoon before we went to work. At that time, we would go to work at 4:25 and work until two o'clock in the morning. So, after about two weeks, her mother just insisted that I come in and I wouldn't go in for several trips and then finally, I did go in. I was sitting there and her old man walked in. [laughter]

Page 28
WILLIAM FINGER:
That must have shocked you both. [laughter]
WILBUR HOBBY:
It did. He didn't say anything to me and I didn't say anything to him. He had been an OP meat grader during the war and was a butcher and at that time, was buying cows and butchering them. She had a brother who was about two years older and they had been off to a sale and there was nothing there and they came home early that day. So, he walked out of the house and down to the slaughter pen and after he got out, I got out. I guess that I really didn't have much to say to him. At that time, I … I drank a little bit when I first got out of the navy, but I quit drinking then and I guess that it was a couple or three months later … I didn't go back into the house … so, it was a couple of months later and I was going down one Saturday night to her aunts who lived down at Zebulon, and we were going down the old Wake Forest Road, 298, and just before I got into Zebulon, a guy walked out into front of me. I cut left and he cut on infront of me. He was in a dark suit and I couldn't see anything of his face, I was right up on him. So, I threw on the brakes and went into the ditch on the other side, but just as I crossed the white line, I hit him with my right front fender. So, we called the police and he

Page 29
lay there as they called the ambulance which came in about twenty or twenty-five minutes. They finally got the highway patrol, they had been playing cards somewhere and they didn't get there for about fifty minutes …
WILLIAM FINGER:
Fifty minutes?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Yeah. So, they carried me down and talked to me and asked me if I had been drinking. I said, "No, and if there is any doubt in your mind, I demand that you take me to a hospital right now and have a blood test." This was on Saturday night, so the next day, they turned me loose and I went on down to her aunt's about nine or ten miles the other side of Zebulon at a little town called Samaria. So, the next day, I went back through Raleigh over here at Rex Hospital and saw the old man. He had never regained consciousness. He had just been let out of Dix Hill for alcoholism and had just been at a little service station drinking and asked his daughter to carry him home and she refused to carry him home. So, he had started to walk home. In fact, one of the daughters came by while he was laying in the room and didn't come in. I guess that the old man had given them trouble all the time. So, I went to work on Monday and

Page 30
I called over here to see how he was and learned that he had never regained consciousness. I got up early Tuesday morning and called the hospital to see how he was and he had died the night before. So, her daddy had come from a family who were pretty big people in that section of the county…
WILLIAM FINGER:
Were there any charges against you?
WILBUR HOBBY:
No, they turned me loose at the coroner's hearing. But we went out to tell her daddy about it then, after this happened, I guess that this was the first time that I had talked to him. It had been three or four months. He went to the funeral with us. He didn't have much of an education, but he was a smart man and a hard working man. His only vice was gambling. He was pretty good at it and had made quite a bit of money from it. He was quite a card player. So, they made a real bad scene at the funeral, you know. It surprised me because of a couple of things that had happened. Like I said, one of the daughters came by and didn't even get out of the car …
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
WILBUR HOBBY:
… if I had any money, any insurance and

Page 31
I told them, "No." At that time, you didn't have to have any liability and I didn't. And so, we didn't have anything to give them, I wish that I had had some insurance. I never have heard anything else about it, the coroner's jury cleared me. So, after that, her father was right friendly and in fact, started building us a house a few months later. We moved out there. He built his son one on one side of them and us one on the other side. We did the work on it. I did the work during the day before I went to work at night, but he paid for all the material and the land. He kept it in his name, but I lived there as long as I lived there as long as I lived with my wife. We lived together nineteen years, eleven months and two weeks.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Well, Wilbur, when you started in the American Tobacco Company, what did you know about the union?
WILBUR HOBBY:
I didn't know anything about the union, Bill, at all.
WILLIAM FINGER:
They had a union, though?
WILBUR HOBBY:
They had a union there and after I worked there for sixty days, there was a provision in the union contract that said that management would call the new employees together and explain to them what the union was and that they would like

Page 32
for them to join the union. So, after sixty days, they called us together and told us about the union and said that they would like for us to join. The union representative was there and handed out cards and everybody joined. So, I just followed the crowd.
WILLIAM FINGER:
They said that they would like for you to join the union?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Yeah. In the little group that I was in, there were about twelve of us and they called us into the stairwell of the steps out there. This is still, I think, a provision in the contract with the American Tobacco Company. So, we joined the union and I guess that I paid my dues and that was all there was to it for about two months. Then, I was oiling cigarette machines and as I oiled it, if you hurried you could get through in two or three hours.
WILLIAM FINGER:
For an eight hour shift?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Yeah. Or you could let things go that didn't have to be done. So, I would do my work and go into the washroom and just go around and talk to people. I came in one day and they told me that I had to oil the fourth floor. I was on the third floor. They said, "You have to oil the third and the fourth floors." I grumbled a little bit to myself about it and went into the washroom on the third floor

Page 33
there a little later and it was about ten o'clock that night. Somebody asked me where I had been, saying that they hadn't seen me around in the past few hours. I said, "Well, they doubled my work load, they sent me up to fourth. I have to do third and fourth floors." This guy said, "If they did that to me, I'd see the union." Somebody else said, "Yeah, don't let them treat you like that." So, I went to see the union man and they took up the grievance and he came back to me about half an hour later and said, "Tomorrow night, you will just be on the third floor." So, the night shift had union meetings and they had one that night and I thought that I would be mighty ungrateful if I didn't go down there that night and tell them that I appreciated what they had done. So, I went down there and told them that I appreciated them helping to get my workload cut back. I got interested in it and I went to every union meeting. This was probably in September and I went to every union meeting. The last week in November, they were supposed to elect new officers. We had an old farmer on there that knew the contract and knew Robert's Rules of Order and could double talk, he was just terrific. He refused to run again and nobody would take it. Finally, they asked

Page 34
me to take it and I said that I didn't know anything about it, but they still wanted me to take it. I said, "Well, I'll try if that is what you want." So, I became president of the night shift.
WILLIAM FINGER:
President of …
WILBUR HOBBY:
Of the American Tobacco Company night shift group, which was about three hundred workers. I hadn't been there for about six for five months. My predecessor, who I said was sharp, well, he got out there and he started calling my hands on things and making a fool out of me, really. It was kind of a joke to him to show that I didn't know anything. So, I took it on myself to learn the contract and to learn Robert's Rules of Order and be able to handle him, you know. I was able, when he started to bring up points of order, because he had been bringing up things that were out of line but nobody knew any better, so I called him out of order a few times and called him down and he appealed my decision and people sided with me. I became a pretty good chairman and was doing the work there and was interested in it. While I was chairing one of those meetings there that year, Sparky Williamson came up and he asked Leo Hicks, who was president of the local union and was active in the central labor union and Leo and Sparky were good friends and they came up asking

Page 35
for some help for the council race. Television wasn't quite in then and so on Sunday afternoon they were going to have a meeting and asked anyone to come …
WILLIAM FINGER:
This wasn't a union meeting, this was just a meeting to help their campaign?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Yeah, this was a meeting of the voters for better government, to plan on the participation. When I got to the meeting, there were Dan Edwards and Lesley Atkins. It was the first meeting that I had ever been there. Well, they were claiming that there were almost 15,000 union members in Durham and that included Durham county. But as I sat there that day and they were talking about 15,000 union members and how there would only be about 8,000 votes cast, I had a vision you know, that the labor movement could run this thing and the workers ought to have it. I had this vision and it didn't ever occur to me that half of our people weren't registered, half of them wouldn't go vote. I just got this vision and so, I got active in Voters for Better Government. I got Professor Douglas Magg, a constitutional lawyer at Duke Law School and he and a young college student by the name of Henry Hall Wilson, drew up the by-laws for Voters for Better Government. We got

Page 36
active in the thing and I worked hard in it. I put all my extra time into Voters for Better Government.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Your house was built by this time?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Yeah.
WILLIAM FINGER:
So you had more time?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Yes. So, I put a lot of time in it both day and night.
WILLIAM FINGER:
This is for that city council election?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Yes. And in early 1950, they had elections for Voters for Better Government and Sparky Williamson and Leo and all pushed me for president of it. By this time, I had learned how to be a chairman and I accepted it. To my knowledge, I didn't have any opposition and I accepted it. So, when Frank Graham, who had been appointed by Kerr Scott to the Senate and the labor movement wanted him re-elected, so …the merger had not been consumated between the AFL-CIO, we had the AFL down here and we had set up in 1947, a group with NFL called Labor League for Political Education. So, they sent a fellow down to work on this thing and they paid my salary and I got a leave of absence and I worked for about four months. I had plenty of money, they hired me about twelve secretaries and we copied the registration list. Every week we had a registration drive and we copied all the union

Page 37
lists and …
WILLIAM FINGER:
You must have worked just with union members then?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Yeah, well, we were the only ones working, really. Outsides of the blacks. There was no Graham headquarters in Durham in 1950. I remember that during that time, a young seventeen year old college student by the name of Al House, who was a freshman at Carolina, came over and said that he wanted to work for Dr. Graham but couldn't find anybody that was working. So, I put him out knocking on doors in the precincts and delivering literature and he worked on election day. Al House later became the national president of the Young Democratic Clubs of America. He was a very brilliant young Democrat and represented his country at Paris at the youth conference of outstanding young political leaders from all over the world. He later killed himself, committed suicide. He was very close to his sister. I almost lost my job over it, but I went on up and became director of COPE in 1960, when John Kennedy was elected. Then in '62, they were gearing up for the election of the president of the Young Democratic Clubs and Al House, who was a liberal, was running from North Carolina and there was a guy by the name of O'Malley, a young personable business agent for

Page 38
a big seven or eight thousand member IBW local, a young kid about twenty-seven years old, a real nice fellow.
WILLIAM FINGER:
And you put House against the union guy?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Well, you see, I talked to Barkin about this and Barkin got to thinking that since Bobby Kennedy had gone in '62 and gotten himself elected Senator … this was in '63 … And Barkin's theory was that people weren't going to buy a young, Irish, Boston Catholic in every damn job and so, he thought that if he got a good liberal from the South, it would be good to expand it. So, I talked with all my fellow COPE directors around the country and they weren't involved in Young Democratic politics, so they didn't know that O'Malley was an IBW guy. I got them all committed with Barkin's knowledge at first. Meanwhile, Barkin was the number two man and the number one man died …
WILLIAM FINGER:
Barkin wasn't the headof COPE?
WILBUR HOBBY:
No, the number one man, Jim McDevitt, died at the COPE conference in Oklahoma City and so they put off the … then John Kennedy got shot and they put off the YDC Convention. I had laid the damn groundwork, you know. I had people like Jim Hunt working with me and Bob Futrell and other people, George Autrey and Tom Gilmore. We were pushing Al House. So, it came down to a knock-down-drag-out

Page 39
fight and I had gotten key young political leaders all over the country, who were looking for labor support, committed through the area COPE directors. So, Al House win and Barkin had been put in as acting director. One of the key guys close to George Meany and was head of the LLPE when it first started, Joe Kenan who is secretary to IBEW and still a political power today in the AFL-CIO, one of the real top guys. Well, evidently O'Malley had told him that the COPE people were working against him and defeated him. Nine o'clock on Monday morning after the election on Saturday, evidently with Joe Kenan sitting on the other side of his desk, Barkin called me and all these other area COPE directors. He knew that he had to give us hell although he was partly responsible for the damn thing. They never called me off about it.
WILLIAM FINGER:
So, Al House was working with you in the Graham campaign, that's where he got his start?
WILBUR HOBBY:
He was sort of a protege. Al worked right on up.
WILLIAM FINGER:
These other women that you mentioned, Brownie Lee Jones and Carla Myerson, were they still around working in the Graham campaign?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Brownie Lee came down from Richmond and lived

Page 40
at my house and Brownie said … I guess that by this time, Brownie was in her upper fifties, and she said to me, "Now, if you've got enough work to keep me busy, I'll stay down here. But if you've got nothing for me to do, I've got plenty of work to do in Richmond." She came down and I would go home dead tired at twelve or eleven o'clock at night because I worked at a terrific pace. I would go to bed and Brownie would be up at my dining room table. I would get up at six o'clock the next morning and Brownie would still be at that dining room table, working on some kind of book work, you know.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Is she still with this …
WILBUR HOBBY:
No, she is sort of retired now.
WILLIAM FINGER:
But she was then, with the … what was it?
WILBUR HOBBY:
The Southern School for Workers.
WILLIAM FINGER:
It was in Richmond?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Headquartered out of Richmond. They had some money left to them by some old rich person.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You don't know anymore about that? It wasn't tied with the Southern Summer School in Asheville?
WILBUR HOBBY:
No.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you know about that school?

Page 41
WILBUR HOBBY:
Well, there are a lot of summer schools that are around Asheville. I don't know which one you are talking about. They used to have them with the YMCA area up there. Of course, a lot of the internationals have summer schools at Black Mountain and at … what is the place where the YMCA is? Do you know what I'm talking about?
WILLIAM FINGER:
Yeah, but I don't know the name of it, though.
WILBUR HOBBY:
I was up there for an alcoholic institute a little while ago. They've built a nice new center up there. It used to be nothing but old cruddy cabins, but it is a terrific meeting place now.
WILLIAM FINGER:
So, was the Voters for Better Government evolving into mostly a labor organization? Because the LL …what is it?
WILBUR HOBBY:
LLPE.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Because the LLPE put money in?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Well, we kept Voters for Better Government until the merger of AFL-CIO, which was in December of '55. By this time, the Brown decision had come down from the Supreme Court and by this time we were having terrific fights. They organized the White Citizens Council in Durham. There was that and there was a group called DUPEC, Durham United Political

Page 42
Education Committee, which was set up and run by a lawyer by the name of Horton Poe, along with Jack Woodall. And they took and organized thelabor people who were upset over the racial issue of the Supreme Court decision and they split the labor movement enough that we had a hard row to' hoe in 1956 at the Democratic convention. We elected Atkins. By this time, Williamson had become an LLPE director and he left the labor paper and I took it over.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Were you still working in the tobacco factory?
WILBUR HOBBY:
I was still working in the tobacco factory and going to Duke full time and president of the Voters for Better Government and commander of the damn vets organization.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Commander of what?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Veterans of World War II. And so, Williamson had been named the secretary-treasurer when they took over the Democratic party …
WILLIAM FINGER:
Secretary-treasurer of the county Democratic party?
WILBUR HOBBY:
The county Democratic executive committee. So, he went with LLPE and then later with COPE. So, he resigned in '55. He resigned from the city council because he was working twelve states and he resigned from secretary. Well, I was doing all the work. Williamson was sitting up there with a lot of authority, but I did all the work. So, I became the

Page 43
secretary-treasurer of the Democratic party.
WILLIAM FINGER:
When was this?
WILBUR HOBBY:
That was in '55. Well, they went all out to beat us in the precincts in '56 and they used the union vehicle to organize the conservative whites into the White Citizens Council. They made as the president of it, a guy in my local union who was a pretty strong fellow named Joe Spence. They put out leaflets against me, that I was selling jobs and the people in the American Tobacco Company printed leaflets. So, 1956, I won my precinct again and we won in the election. We had a knock-down-drag-out battle with about 400 people in the Democratic county convention and then Atkins won by one vote.
WILLIAM FINGER:
He beat you?
WILBUR HOBBY:
No, Atkins won the chairmanship by one vote. And after Atkins won, they didn't put up anybody against me. So, in '58, I got beaten in my precinct. They had some 400 people in my precinct that time, most of them my own union members. It was a racial issue by this time and it was real hot on the schools. So, we got beat enough in the precinct so that there was no way that we could win. They bought off some of the people that I had gotten to be precinct chairman. We lost the board of elections. We had a union man on the board and old man Everret was the chairman. They took three guys out of my local union that I had gotten to be precinct chairmen

Page 44
and the supertindent of the plant was there. We had a knock-down-drag-out battle and these three people voted against us and we lost by two votes. The next morning … I went to work that night at midnight and the next morning I was fired for sleeping on the job …
WILLIAM FINGER:
This is what year, now?
WILBUR HOBBY:
This is 1958. I have slept on the job many times and had been caught several times, but the morning I was fired, I was not sleeping. It was because of the argument that we had had in that meeting the night before. So, I went to work for the textile union and worked in the South for them.
WILLIAM FINGER:
TWUA?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Yeah. I didn't run again for the secretary because I knew that we were beaten. Atkins ran and got beaten by about eight votes. You know, I can count. Hell, when there isn't but thirty precinct chairmen, who know who they all are. Atkins just wouldn't give up.
So, I went on and worked for textiles and went to Florida and worked for Claude Pepper …
WILLIAM FINGER:
You were working with their political …
WILBUR HOBBY:
I was their political director in the South.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Oh, you were?

Page 45
WILBUR HOBBY:
Yeah. In 1958. I met a lot of people. So, I went over there and meanwhile, my local union voted to arbitrate my case, my grievance. Six or seven months later, we won the arbitration. Well, I wasn't making but ?85 a week for textiles and I had been working two jobs and everything and I didn't see any future in it. I had really gone on with this because Williamson had begun to drink real badly and he had gotten into trouble in Durham. He had been down to this black cathouse and had gotten rolled and instead of letting it be, he had reported it to the police, that he had lost his wallet and watch. There was a big newspaper spread about it. There had always been some inter-union rivalry between Williamson and the 176 group at Ligget-Myers who were very active politically and who were kind of he aded up by a fellow by the name of Sam Blane, a very shrewd old man. He died here about six months ago. He was either the first or second vice-president of the tobacco workers international union and he had dabbled in politics in Durham there for years and he had gotten a group of right good workers, guys like Millard Barbee and Al Atwater, who went on the city council for a very brief period and Sam Latta, P.R. Latta's brother. They had been in a very bitter fight since 1948, it started before I got into it. I don't

Page 46
know all the details of it. It sort of centered … Williamson was the full time editor of the weekly labor paper and we set up this political group. So, in 1948, the labor movement supported Mayne Albright for governor. We had at that time what was known as the United Labor Political Committee, which was AFL and the CIO together. And at that time, of course, the Teamsters were in the AFL, but Mayne Albright lost out in the first primary. So, during the second primary, a man came to the labor journal, I'm told, and had 15 one hundred dollar bills and he wanted to know who he was supposed to pay for the labor vote in Durham County. This man was representing Kerr Scott. When Sparky was confronted with this, he called Henry Sawyer, who was the business agent for the IBW local and E.M. Taylor who was known as the grandfather of the labor movement in Durham and who was president of the plumbers union and had built the labor temple there. They got together and told the guy that you don't buy the labor movement's vote. "We have been talking and probably, we are going to support Kerr Scott, but your money doesn't buy the labor movement's vote." They say that the money was supposed to go to Sam Blane and his organization and the guy had just gotten

Page 47
in the wrong place, gotten mixed up and brought it to the people who were doing the work. So, anyway, this was the year before I really got active so that all I know is what I heard. But after that, there was always bad blood between those two groups. So, of course, when Sparky got into this problem down at the cathouse and it got into the paper, they sent it to Washington and Sparky was in trouble. So, when I went out for textile, I went to a meeting right after I went on the textile staff, when they had a conference, a COPE conference in Atlanta. I knew Jim Bevins, we were good friends and he knew how hard I had worked locally, so Jim told me, "Since you and Sparky are good friends, I'll tell you, this trouble that Sparky has gotten in, we've gotten a lot of complaints." I know that they sent letter after letter up there trying to get Sparky fired. That was one reason that I took this job with textiles, so I could … I thought that I might have the chance to be the COPE director and so if Sparky was going to lose it, I wasn't going to do anything to make him lose it, but I was going to qualify myself. So, I went out. Somebody heard Sparky was about to get fired and they called around to a couple of people saying this. They asked them if they would support me for the job and I didn't even know anything about it.

Page 48
So, Sparky got the idea that I was after his job because one of the guys called him and told him that he had had this call and so, Sparky straightened up and did a good job. Meanwhile, I won my arbitration case and I had to go back to the American Tobacco Company or give up my job. So, I decided that since Sparky had straightened up and was going to do right, I might as well go on back down there and … meanwhile, I had been at Duke for three years and I figured that I should try to finish college. So, I got back down there in the plant and Sparky lost his job and nobody said anything to me about it for around a week and then Leo Hicks let it slip. Sparky hadn't told me. Sparky and I were real close until the day he died. So, he had really been misled into thinking that I was after his job before. Some textile people had started this stuff because they knew what kind of bad shape he was in. I didn't really know it was that bad. So, I applied for the job and I put on a real campaign for it after I found out that Sparky was being fired. Of course, it was hard to get it, at that time, they had six states, it's hard to get a job in the same city. Al Barkin was a good friend of mine, I had worked with textile, which had been his international union, he had been pushing for

Page 49
me. Esther Murray, the woman's activity director, knew that I had the best political program in the South and she was pushing for me. Jim knew that I had been working hard for twelve years and he knew what kind of job I had done for textile, so I mounted a campaign. I called these business agents and asked if they would send a telegram. They said yes, but you know that people will say that and forget it sometimes, like I do. I said, "I will write the telegram and send it and charge it to your phone." I had over a hundred telegrams and I had letters going and I had worked in Florida and Georgia and …
WILLIAM FINGER:
So, you had letters from there?
WILBUR HOBBY:
And the textile people got letters for me from all these people. I finally got the job and two years later, I walked into the Social Securities department to see Nelson Cruikshank and some girl said, "Can I tell him who is calling?" I said, "Yeah, Wilbur Hobby." This girl said, "Are you Wilbur Hobby." I said, "Yeah." She said, "Well, I was working for COPE just before you got that job and I have never seen anybody with so many friends in my life as you had." I really got the mail in there. Hell, I bet that I had four hundred letters and two hundred telegrams in there.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Maybe that's a good place to stop.

Page 50
WILBUR HOBBY:
Yeah, I've got to get out and … we'd need another hour or two, I think, Bill.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Yeah, we will finish later. Let me just be sure that I've got this straight. You worked at American Tobacco, then, from '47 …
WILBUR HOBBY:
'46.
WILLIAM FINGER:
'46 until '58, for twelve years. Then from '58 until '59, you worked for textiles and …
WILBUR HOBBY:
I worked for about nine months for textiles and then I went back after winning the arbitration case. I went back in either September or October of '58. Then, on April 16 or 17 of '59, I went to work for COPE.
WILLIAM FINGER:
And you worked for COPE until …
WILBUR HOBBY:
August 16 of '69.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Then, you were elected president?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Yeah.
WILLIAM FINGER:
During those COPE years, to help me connect the time, what would you say … you were involved in so many elections, what were the most important events of that time for you and for the labor movement?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Well, I worked in Olin Johnston's election in South Carolina against Hollings, which was a very bitter

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campaign and Olin carried 44 out of 45 counties and lost the other one by 78 votes, I believe. I worked in Georgia and worked for Charlie Weltner when we defeated the county unit system down there. I worked in Florida in Sam Gibbons election in the Tampa area and he won the Congressional seat down there. I worked also in Claude Pepper's election. Well, there was one that we lost there in '62 in Buck Vocelle's campaign where Guerney won, beat us in Congress and then later became the Senator. I worked in Virginia in every election of Henry Howell's from the first one through his first campaign for governor.
WILLIAM FINGER:
All of these, you think are important for labor's involvement in the campaign?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Yes. And I worked in Kentucky in the election for Wilson Wyatt. We lost that election, but I did some right good work out there.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Let me ask you a couple of more questions about some things so we won't have to go back. Did you never know David Burgess, during the Frank Graham campaign?
WILBUR HOBBY:
Yes.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Was there close cooperation in that campaign between the AFL and the CIO?

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WILBUR HOBBY:
Yeah. Extremely close. As I said, we had the group known as the UAOPC committee and we met almost every Sunday, Bill. We would meet one Sunday in Durham and the next Sunday in Greensboro or High Point. At that time, the CIO was set up there. I don't remember where … I guess that there was a young fellow by the name of Harry Kahn. Harry was with the PAC group. Harry's brother was Lou Kahn and at that time, he was state CIO director and Harry came down and worked with me in '50 in the Graham campaign. I met Dan Powell in the Graham campaign. He was one of the guys who did a lot to guide me along. He was a PAC director for the South. He is now the COPE director and was one of the people who also helped me get on the COPE staff.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What was the thing about Frank Graham that got people so motivated? He was, in a way, the turning point for you politically.
WILBUR HOBBY:
Well, all I know is what I've read. Frank Graham had been a defender of the textile workers. Not necessarily the union workers, but the textile worker that was being exploited in the mills. He was a great humanitarian and particularly the CIO people had a real fondness for him. By this time, the AFL had gotten into

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politics, too. The CIO got into politics in 1944 when they set up the PAC group and spent a lot of money. And you could spend money in '44 out of the treasury for candidates. It was in '47 when they passed the Taft-Hartley law that outlawed union participation like that. That's why the AFL set up LLPE and when they merged, they became known as COPE in '55.
WILLIAM FINGER:
But everybody felt strongly about Graham because of his history. You didn't meet him personally at the time?
WILBUR HOBBY:
I met him about that time and read a little bit about him, but I didn't really know him or know much about him in 1950, except that he was our Senator and he was good and Willis Smith was the devil. I know a pathetic story. I had about twelve secretaries, as I told you, and I had this guy come into the labor temple up there who donated forty hours a week there and I couldn't ever get him to take anybody to register. He had this old car. I had two calls in one day and nobody was there with a car and he was there and I bawled him out. He was twenty years older than I was but I bawled him out because he wouldn't go to register. It turns out that he was an old labor worker for textiles and his

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car had been dynamited at the Hart Cotton Mill strike down in Tarboro earlier that year and all the doors on his car except the driver's door wouldn't open. The blast had welded them together. He told me about it then, after I had eaten him out good. I really made me feel badly, you know. This old fellow went over to Wake Forest. I'll never forget, they had an ad from somewhere down near Morehead City. It was the most beautiful political ad I ever saw, Smith's motto was after the move, "Mr. Smith is going to Washington." They had an ad, a full page ad for Frank Graham and it said, "Mr. Smith really went to Morehead City." They told how he had taken over a company and driven it into bankruptcy and he had sold the company and it told how much money'his firm got and how he paid his son ?150 an hour in attorney's fees down there. Willis Smith had taken over a cotton mill the same way over in Wake Forest name Aurora Cotton Mill. And during that campaign, this guy who was working for me went over there and organized that cotton mill. I guess they lost it later or the mill went out of business. But that old guy was really proud all during this campaign that he

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had organized that mill. So, they also had a big ad on how he went to Wake Forest.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Well, we'll cover those COPE years and your political involvement in North Carolina next time.
WILBUR HOBBY:
You might want to cover some of my time with textiles, too. I got into Senator Gore's election and worked very hard in his election over there. I worked in Kefauver's last election, although it was not my area, in the last primary election in Tennessee.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What year was that?
WILBUR HOBBY:
That was in '60. I didn't have any important elections, all my primaries were over in the spring in my area, but in Tennessee, the primaries are in August and September and so, I offered to help then. I worked in Kefauver's last election over there.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Well, I don't want to make you late.
END OF INTERVIEW