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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Joseph D. Pedigo, April 2, 1975. Interview E-0011-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Impact of father's liberal views while growing up

Pedigo discusses the impact of his upbringing on his own radicalization during the 1930s. Pedigo's mother died when he was quite young and he was raised primarily by his father and older siblings. Here, he explains how his father was a Republican and a fundamentalist Methodist—two distinctions that made him stand out from the majority of working people in the community. Pedigo recalls being inculcated with very liberal ideas regarding race and labor as a child, but also asserts his understanding that such views went against the grain of social expectations.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Joseph D. Pedigo, April 2, 1975. Interview E-0011-1. 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

WILLIAM FINGER:
Had your parents been Republicans?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
Yeah, my father was.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did he have old Republican lines into … had they been in the mountains for a long time?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
We came originally from Patrick County in Virginia, which is way back in the mountains where you walk as far as you can walk and swing in on a grapevine, just way back in the hills. My father was a Republican and he was quite liberal and there were two things that he didn't mess with. One was his religion, he was a fundamentalist Methodist and a Republican and nothing was going to change him. He never tried to dictate to us, either. The result was that there were six of us kids and we grew up in all directions politically.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Were you the only Socialist?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
Yeah. My oldest sister was quite liberal, my oldest brother was Republican for all of his life up until the last five years or so when he up and quit the Republican party and turned Democrat. He said that he did it because the Republicans left him, that the Republicans were the liberals to start with at the beginning and …
WILLIAM FINGER:
I was getting ready to ask you if your father was a Harry Byrd Republican?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
No, my father didn't think much of Harry Byrd.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Harry Byrd was a Democrat at first, but now his sons are Republican.
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
Well, my brother said that the reason he changed was over the Kennedys. He had a lot of admiration for Jack Kennedy and felt that the position he took on civil rights took a lot of courage and he decided that it was a better party for him. My father was always very good on the race question and all the kids, as a result, that's one thing that all six of us had in common.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did he talk to you about this?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
No more than what he got in in his quiet way at home. We had some Negroes that lived in the neighborhood and they were good neighbors and if any one of us kids had used the term "nigger" at home, we would really have had the riot act read to us. My father just thought that was the worst kind of language at all to use and that in an area where that was about the only thing that you heard.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Were there any other families like your own that you knew of? When you went to school, what was it like?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
We were sort of a unique family back there in the mountains. My Dad was one of the few Republicans in the area and we were the only family in the neighborhood that took an outright position as far as civil rights were concerned. We were scared to death in World War I, the older kids were, that my Dad was going to get in jail because he was just as outspoken as could be in opposition to the war. He thought that it was a foolish and suicidal thing and the trouble was that he didn't care who he said it to.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did he make it public?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
Oh yes, that was what had some of the older kids worried. He didn't go around on a soapbox, he wasn't that kind of a person, but he didn't hesitate to make known what he thought.