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Title: Oral History Interview with Lacy Wright, March 10, 1975. Interview E-0017. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Wright, Lacy, interviewee
Interview conducted by Finger, William Hughes, Chip
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: 188 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© 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:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-02-22, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Lacy Wright, March 10, 1975. Interview E-0017. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series E. Labor. Southern Oral History Program Collection (E-0017)
Author: William Finger and Chip Hughes
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Lacy Wright, March 10, 1975. Interview E-0017. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series E. Labor. Southern Oral History Program Collection (E-0017)
Author: Lacy Wright
Description: 173 Mb
Description: 46 p.
Note: Interview conducted on March 10, 1975, by William Finger and Chip Hughes; recorded in Greensboro, North Carolina..
Note: Transcribed by Patricia Crowley.
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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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.
All quotation marks, em dashes and ampersand have been transcribed as entity references.
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Interview with Lacy Wright, March 10, 1975.
Interview E-0017. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Wright, Lacy, interviewee


Interview Participants

    LACY WRIGHT, interviewee
    MRS. WRIGHT, interviewee
    WILLIAM FINGER, interviewer
    CHIP HUGHES, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
WILLIAM FINGER:
Lacy, let me ask you first: when did you start working in the textile mills?
LACY WRIGHT:
I started working in the textile mill in
WILLIAM FINGER:
1917. Here in Greensboro?
LACY WRIGHT:
I started work at twelve years old. And with the exception of seven years I worked 'til I was sixty-two.
WILLIAM FINGER:
From age twelve to age sixty-two, that's fifty years.
LACY WRIGHT:
In other words, I worked for the company forty-four years.
WILLIAM FINGER:
The Cone Company? The same company?
LACY WRIGHT:
Cone Mill Company, forty-four years.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What did you do when you were twelve years old?
LACY WRIGHT:
Well, I did about everything that was to be done in the carding room from sweeping the floor to being a slub attender, everything with the exception of being a boss man or a fixer. I never did [laughter] warrant either one of those, and I wouldn't have had one of them.
WILLIAM FINGER:
How much did you make when you were twelve years old? Do you know?
LACY WRIGHT:
When I started to work I made seventy-five cents a day, ten hours a day.
WILLIAM FINGER:
So you weren't going to school?
LACY WRIGHT:
I had to quit school. My dad had to take me out of school. I only went five and a half years to school.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You were in sixth grade when you left?
LACY WRIGHT:
I was in the sixth grade. I went 'til Christmas in the sixth grade. And my dad had to take me out of school.
WILLIAM FINGER:
This is 1920? What year did you say it was?
LACY WRIGHT:
No, it was 1917. And I went to work in the card room.

Page 2
And I worked in the card room until 1926.
And I got a job with the Post Office department for seven years.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did your brothers and sisters work in the mill too?
LACY WRIGHT:
I had two sisters and one brother. I got one brother still working in the mill.
WILLIAM FINGER:
When they were little?
LACY WRIGHT:
You bet your life. He works in the spinning department. He's worked in the spinning department all his life.
WILLIAM FINGER:
But all of you dropped out of school?
LACY WRIGHT:
Well, yes. Now we came here in 1912, and my sisters went to work immediately. All the schooling they got was in a country school. So when they came here my uncle was spinning room boss. My dad was a farmer in the country, and he talked my uncle into moving and bringing all of us up here and putting us to work. My two sisters went to work immediately. Well, now, the reason my dad took me out of school was my two sisters married, and it left him and nobody but himself to work. I believe at that time he was making $1.25 a day.
WILLIAM FINGER:
In the spinning room?
LACY WRIGHT:
In the card room. Now my dad, when he come to the mill he was already up between his forties and fifty years old, and he never did learn how to operate no machinery. He was just a handy-man, you might call him. And so I went to work in the mill. And I did, of course, one little thing like sweeping the floor and pushing out rolling from the spaders and one thing and another, until I think I was about sixteen years old and I begin operating drawing frames. Well, I operated drawing frames up until I got

Page 3
the idea I was going to get married, you know. And I married my wife. So I decided I'd better try to get a little bit more money. So I went from my drawing tenders to at that time what was called a speeder frame.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Speeder?
LACY WRIGHT:
Speeder: s-p-double e-d-e-r-s, speeders. So I ran speeders until 1924, and I worked for the Post Office department about seven years.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Why did you quit working in the mill?
LACY WRIGHT:
Well, I had a brother-in-law (my wife's brother) that got a job with the Post Office department and under civil service. Now the job I had with the Post Office department at that time wasn't a civil service, it was just Special Delivery messages. And the Depression came along, and it got so bad I had to operate my own automobile and furnish everything for it, and deliver the letters for so much a letter, you see. So when times begin to get bad people quit spending so much to mail a letter and went back to three cent letter. So then it got so bad I came back, then, to the textile mill; in 1933, right after Roosevelt was elected and taking his seat in '33, in May.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Then you left the Post Office?
LACY WRIGHT:
I left the Post Office and came back. So I wouldn't have gotten back in the mill at that time if it hadn't of been for the fact of the Revolution Plant. I came back to work at the Revolution Plant then.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Revolution Plant?
LACY WRIGHT:
Revolution Plant; it's a Cone Mills plant. So I came to work there; they started up a second shift. Now at that time we went to work at six o'clock in the evening and worked all night long until five o'clock the next morning.

Page 4
WILLIAM FINGER:
You worked eleven hours?
LACY WRIGHT:
Eleven hours. And boy that's a long drag, I'll tell you that!
WILLIAM FINGER:
Were there still young kids working there too?
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes. Now during this time, right after I went to work, I don't remember what year it was, but child labor laws come into effect. So what they did to us kids that was in the mills and wasn't sixteen years old, they let us work eight hours a day. See, a kid could work eight hours a day when he wasfourteen years old. They couldn't hire one after the child labor laws come in; you couldn't hire a child that wasn't fourteen years old. So I worked about a year and a half on eight hours a day. We'd come in at nine o'clock and work 'til noon, and they give you an hour for dinner. You go home for lunch and come back at one, and then work 'til six. So I worked about a year and a half at that, on eight hours a day.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What year was that, now? This is '33, right after you've come back to work?
LACY WRIGHT:
Let's see. I went to work in '17, when I was twelve years old. That must have been somewhere along about 1918-1919.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Oh, in the early days.
LACY WRIGHT:
During the war.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Lacy, how many kids were there in the plant? How many young boys like yourself, and young girls? Do you remember?
LACY WRIGHT:
Oh, my goodness. That company didn't raise their help, they grew their help. In other words, if you'd of lived in, like, Madison or Mayodan or High Point, Winston-Salem or anything like that and come here wanting a job, they'd tell you: "No, we don't need no help." Because everybody that had children, they gave them the jobs, don't you see, because they

Page 5
would stay with them then.
WILLIAM FINGER:
It was a real family thing, the whole family worked.
LACY WRIGHT:
As to how many, it's hard to tell, because they had families over there then that's unbelievable. They had families over there that had twelve to fourteen children in one family. So actually it's hard to tell how many
WILLIAM FINGER:
In the plant you worked in when you were little, do you remember, were half the people that worked there children? Or a quarter?
LACY WRIGHT:
Well, I would say it would run around 20-25 percent, at least that much. Because every kid over there went to work at an early age. Then back in those days, you know, it was quite different than it is now. There wasn't no recreation for kids, you know. They always kind of had a problem. Actually, I would have liked to went on to school. I loved school, and I got along in school good. And I would have liked to have went on. But there was numbers and numbers of children fourteen years or something; they get the idea they want to go to making them some money, so they put in to work.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you live in a house that the Cone Mills owned?
LACY WRIGHT:
We lived in a house that the company owned all my life, with the exception of the time that I worked at the Post Office. Now that was one thing: if you quit the mill you had to leave their house. They wouldn't let you live in their house and work somewhere else.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You were in a regular mill town, weren't you?
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes. If your father worked there they wouldn't allow you to live with your father and get a job somewhere else, you see. That was against the rules. In other words, your dad either had to put you in the mill or leave, one or the other.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did the foreman tell him that? Who told him he had to do that?

Page 6
LACY WRIGHT:
Well, that was a company rule.
WILLIAM FINGER:
How did you know the rule?
LACY WRIGHT:
They tell you that!
WILLIAM FINGER:
They tell you that.
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes.
WILLIAM FINGER:
They come around to your house and tell you, or they tell you on the phone.
LACY WRIGHT:
No, they tell you in the plant. In other words, if I'd of went somewhere else and got a job, they'd of told my dad right quick: "That boy can't stay with you; or you've got to quit and leave work." See. That was set rules in all the plants at that time.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did that ever upset your daddy?
LACY WRIGHT:
Oh no, because, you see, after I'd quit I'd already married. I was my own man then, you see. After I got married I worked on about three and a half more years 'til I went to the Post Office. And I came back to the mill in '33 at that Revolution Plant. Well, I worked the Revolution Plant about two years and they started tearing out the speeders and putting in an improved slubber that would take the place of the speeder. Well, there wasn't enough jobs for all of us, because they already had slubbers and speeders, and they were going to do away with the old slubber and speeder and put in a new type slubber that would make more production than we had been making before, you see.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Tell me what a slubber is, Lacy.
LACY WRIGHT:
Well, a slubber puts it on a bobbin—at that time I'd say about ten to twelve inches in length when it was full.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Puts the yarn on bobbins.
LACY WRIGHT:
That's right, puts the yarn on slubber on what we called a

Page 7
wooden bobbin. And it went down over a spindle and then there was a flyer on that. And it came out of the roller and run down through the flyer and it would wind it on that bobbin and put a twist in it. In other words, the flyer puts the twist in it to make it stronger, you see. Then it went to the spinning frame. Well, they tore those out over there and they laid me off.
WILLIAM FINGER:
This is about '35, something like that?
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes, in '35.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Do you remember Franklin Roosevelt coming into office?
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes sir.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What do you remember about him? First, in 1933, you were a young married man going back to work in the mill.
LACY WRIGHT:
Well, the times were so bad when Franklin Roosevelt was elected and the country was in such shape… Now before I left the Post Office this Depression came on, see, and that was one of the reasons I had to leave the Post Office. So when Franklin Roosevelt was elected they started in what people called then pump priming.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Pump priming.
LACY WRIGHT:
Pump priming. Now what they meant by pump priming was that he began to take government money and create jobs to put all these people that was out of work… Now when you was out of work back in them days you didn't get a dime from nowhere, see. If you got out of a job, if you couldn't pick up a day's work there and then, why you just didn't get nothing. So when he was elected, why he began spending money. Now I don't reckon you all ever know anything about it, but they actually put men out and paid them—I don't remember now just exactly what the wages were, it wasn't a whole lot—

Page 8
and let them make dirt sidewalks for the schoolchildren, to keep the schoolchildren from walking in the road, see.
WILLIAM FINGER:
The W.P.A. jobs.
LACY WRIGHT:
That's right, the W.P.A. work, that's what it was. And they began to get people to work, see.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you think about applying for a W.P.A. job yourself?
LACY WRIGHT:
No, I had a job…
WILLIAM FINGER:
At the Revolution Mill.
LACY WRIGHT:
At the revolution mill, and the Post Office together. Now when I left the Post Office I didn't even lose one day's work. In other words, I left the Post Office… Well, I actually worked on the Post Office one week, worked there in the daytime, and slept what little I could and then go to work in the mill. I saw I couldn't hold that a day longer.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You're a pretty hardy man, Lacey.
LACY WRIGHT:
Well, I wasn't nothing but skin and bones. You know, when you get down to skin and bones there ain't but one thing you can get off, and that's either the bones or the skin, one, you know! [laughter]
WILLIAM FINGER:
Were a lot of your friends out of work?
LACY WRIGHT:
You know, that was an outstanding thing here in Greensboro, when I began to think back about it. The mills was running, three or four days a week, every week.
CHIP HUGHES:
Even during the Depression?
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes.
CHIP HUGHES:
Yes, all the time.
LACY WRIGHT:
You see, they were running three or four days a week in place of shutting down and laying off like a lot of mills did. They managed some

Page 9
way or another. Now I give the company credit for it. They've got a big bunch of warehouses over there, and they made a lot of cloth and stored it in that warehouse that they didn't have no sales for, you see. I give them credit for that. And they kept operating three days a week. In other words, you could eat. Back in them days—I don't know whether you ever saw any of them or not—they had pink beans. They were a little different from what we have, pinto beans now. If you could get a piece of fatback, some pinto beans and a little corn meal or flour, you could make it.
MRS. WRIGHT:
You were OK, eh?
LACY WRIGHT:
You could eat. And, of course, we all grew a garden. Most every house had a garden. They laid me off at Revolution.
WILLIAM FINGER:
When was that? '35, you said?
LACY WRIGHT:
'35. They laid me off in '35, the spring of '35. Now incidently, in the fifty years from the time I went to work until I retired, there were six days that I was out of a job, in that period of time. And that was when they laid me off at Revolution. So I came home. My dad was still living in the mill village at White Oak, and he let me have half of his house when I had to leave the Post Office—he had a six room house, and there wasn't nobody but him and Mom in it—three rooms of it.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you have some kids by then? Did you have some children yourself?
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes, we had two children at that time. That's all I got now. So Dad let me have half the house, and I lived there while I worked for Revolution, most of the time. So when they laid me off at Revolution the old man that was my supervisor when I first went to work had got to be mill superintendent at White Oak. So I went to see him (he was named Mr. Armfield).

Page 10
I said: "Mr. Armfield, I need a job." He said: "What've you been doing, Lacy?" I said: "Well, I've been working down at Revolution." I said: "They laid me off down there when they tore those speeders out." He said: "Yes, I know about that." He told me, he said: "Well, I don't know of anything. I'll tell you what you can do, though. You can go down there and see Mr. Gibson, the card room supervisor; if he can put you to work, it's all right by me. I know your work." So I went to see Gibson. He said no, he didn't have nothing; they had more men than they knowd what to do with. So I went on back and I waited 'til they were running four days a week. I went on back to the house, and I laid around there 'til Thursday morning, the last day they was going to run that week. And my dad started to work that morning (when the work then was only eight hours a day, they worked at seven o'clock). I said: "Dad, I believe I'll just walk down yonder and see Mr. Armfield again." He said: "Well, it won't hurt none." I walked on down there with him and I went up to the main office. I saw Mr. Armfield. He told me, he said: "You go on see Mr. Beal. Wait here and see Mr. Beal when he comes out to go to breakfast." [unknown] would go in there and then come out and go to breakfast at seven o'clock. He said: "You wait and see Mr. Beal." He said: "I understand he's got a job in there he'll be needing somebody for, and you tell him that I told you to tell him that if he needed a man on that job to put you on. I know your work." So Mr. Beal come out; I told him what Mr. Armfield said. He said: "Yes, I've got a job." He said: "What have you been doing?" And I told him I'd been working Revolution. He said: "Well, let me give you a slip. You have to have a slip to go back down there and go through the employment office, see, when you got a job." They told me at Revolution, they said: "Now if you can get

Page 11
a job at one of the other plants within a week, why, we won't take your name off the payroll." So I told Mr. Beal that, and he said: "Well," he said, "maybe you better go back down to the payroll office and take this paper and ask them about it, to be sure, because I want you to go to work Monday evening." I said: "All right." So I went on down the street down there, and I got about halfway down to the payroll office and I met a man coming from Revolution. I worked for a man by the name … oh, I guess old man Leonard was overseer in the carding room at Revolution, and I'd been a working under him. So he sent a man after me. And I met the man about halfway down there, and he said: "Mr. Leonard wants you to come back to work." I said: "Well, Mr. Armfield just gave me a job a few minutes ago with Mr. Beal." And I said: "I don't know what to do about it." "Well, I'll tell you," he said. "Why don't you go talk to Mr. Leonard about it." Well, Leonard lived just a few doors from where he was talking to me. I went by there and talked to old man Leonard. He said: "Well, I want you to come back and work for us." I'd run this new slubber some for them, you see.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Let me be sure I understand. You're saying you didn't have any job, and now you had two jobs.
LACY WRIGHT:
That's right.
WILLIAM FINGER:
OK.
LACY WRIGHT:
That's exactly right. In other words, already I had one job and the offer of another going back.
WILLIAM FINGER:
So what happened? Did you end up taking them both?
LACY WRIGHT:
No. [laughter] I went on back down and talked to Mr. Leonard. Now what he wanted me to do then was to help him install these slubbers, see, as a help hand; not a mechanic, but a help hand. And I asked him, I said:

Page 12
"How long a job was this, Leonard?" He said: "Well, I don't think it'd be more than six months. But," he said, "at the end of that six months I might be able to place you back in the mill." I said: "Well, Mr. Leonard, I tell you. The way times is I don't want to take that risk. I've already got a job, I know I've got a job. And I don't want to take that risk of being out of work again in six months."
He said: "Well, I'd like to have you back." I said: "Well, Mr. Leonard, why didn't you keep me while you had me?"
WILLIAM FINGER:
What did he say?
LACY WRIGHT:
He kind of grinned. He said: "Well, I reckon I should have." I said: "Well, I tell you. It's got to where I'm going down here like Mr. Beal told me, down to payroll office. I'm going to work Monday morning in White Oak." So then I worked at White Oak, and I retired when I was sixty-two. Well, in fact, I got so sick that I had to stay out of work in February before I was sixty-two, in September.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What year was that, then? (1966)
LACY WRIGHT:
Why, at White Oak. You know, I had emphysema. I went to see a doctor; he told me I had emphysema. And I just got to where I couldn't stay down there, that's all there was to it. I couldn't work.
WILLIAM FINGER:
So in 1935 you moved to White Oak? Is that the year they laid you off?
LACY WRIGHT:
That's right.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You moved over to White Oak in 1935 and you stayed on at White Oak until…
LACY WRIGHT:
I was sixty-two. Let's see; that was… This is September… Next May it will be—count nine years back, now what is that? This is '74.
WILLIAM FINGER:
About '66?
LACY WRIGHT:
'66 when I retired.

Page 13
WILLIAM FINGER:
So you were at White Oak thirty years?
LACY WRIGHT:
The last time.
WILLIAM FINGER:
The last time.
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Not that first time when you were a kid.
LACY WRIGHT:
That's right.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You worked at Revolution for two years, '33 and '35. You worked at White Oak from '35 to '66.
LACY WRIGHT:
That's right.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Let me ask you, Lacy. When was the first time you ever heard of a union?
LACY WRIGHT:
When I was a kid.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Who told you about it?
LACY WRIGHT:
Well, they was all over all the mill villages over there because they got a labor movement started—now that was a peculiar thing—in Revolution Plant.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Is that right?
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes.
WILLIAM FINGER:
When you were a kid?
LACY WRIGHT:
Well, when I was young, yes. I don't remember now just what year it was. And the company got on them people so bad about trying to organize down there that they fired I don't know how many of them, take their furniture and set it out in the streets, out of the mill houses and out in the streets. Wouldn't even let the people have time to find them another house and move into it. They had their own constables.
WILLIAM FINGER:
This was in the mill villages.

Page 14
LACY WRIGHT:
That's right.
WILLIAM FINGER:
In the twenties?
LACY WRIGHT:
No, that must have been about the time I went to work. Yes, right about World War I.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Late teens; '17.
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes.
MRS. WRIGHT:
[unknown]
WILLIAM FINGER:
No, he's not slowing down.
LACY WRIGHT:
They fired and moved out I don't know how many people.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What did you think about the union then, yourself? Did you have any feelings one way or another?
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes, I did. [laughter] The feeling, as I think back—you know, that's been a long time ago—I had then was that that was about as bad a wrong as I ever saw done when they moved them people's furniture out in the streets. Fact was, if there'd have come a rain… They maybe didn't have much, but what they did have would have gone to the bad on them. It would have been a tremendous job to replace it, don't you see? And me being young, that was one thing that's always stuck out to me. There's an old saying: that went against my grain, to see them put them people out of work out on the streets. There was always a little bit of a labor movement and a small segment of the people that had to have the labor movement in their mind. They felt like that was a thing that the people ought to do, was to organize. But, now if they had any kind of meeting—I never did go to one of them, but I've been told—that they'd go way back over in the woods somewhere and meet. Maybe not be any more than five, maybe ten, twelve, something like that, see. And they never did get it completely knocked out, you see. There was always a certain

Page 15
sentiment of the union. So it went on until… Let's see, we got certification in '55, I believe it was, at White Oak. Now they had a strong union in the C.I.O. at the Propsemity Plant for about four or five years before we got certification.
WILLIAM FINGER:
In the forties.
LACY WRIGHT:
Now that was under the C.I.O. before they both came together.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Let's go back. Did you ever hear of a flying squadron?
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes. I mean, a lot of things happened while I was at Revolution.
CHIP HUGHES:
That's right.
WILLIAM FINGER:
1934; September 1934.
LACY WRIGHT:
You know what I told my boss down there one night? We went in down there. I don't know whether you ever saw a picker stick on a loom or not.
WILLIAM FINGER:
A what stick?
LACY WRIGHT:
A picker stick, they call it.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What's that?
LACY WRIGHT:
It's on a loom; it makes a shuttle go through the warp. And it's a hickory stick about that wide and about that thick, and it's about four feet long—three and a half, four feet long. And it was hickory, solid hickory. Now they'd taken a bunch of them and piled them at the mill door when they begin to hear about these flying squadrons, you know. And I went to work one night down there and my sister's overseer, a fellow by the name of Roy Lynch, he come to me. He said: "Wright," he said. "Now we got pretty good evidence that they're going to shut us down tonight. We've got picker sticks at all these outside doors." He said: "If they come, what we want you to do, we want you to go out the door and get you a picker stick, and go to

Page 16
the mill factories fence."
WILLIAM FINGER:
Your foreman told you that, Lacey?
LACY WRIGHT:
The assistant foreman.
WILLIAM FINGER:
The assistant foreman. Did he tell everybody that, or particularly you.
LACY WRIGHT:
Told everybody. Went around there and cornered them and told everybody.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you like him?
LACY WRIGHT:
Well, I'll tell you what I told him, now.
WILLIAM FINGER:
OK.
LACY WRIGHT:
I said: "Roy, you just let me know when them fellows get here, that flying squadron. And," I said, "in place of going out on that side of the building and getting me a picker stick, I'm going back on this side and find me a hole. I'm going out of here."
WILLIAM FINGER:
You were going to get out of there.
LACY WRIGHT:
I'm going to get out of there. And he looked at me. He said: "Well, you think that's the best thing for you?" I said: "I tell you. I like my job, but I don't like it well enough for somebody to kill me for it." And I said: "I figure them fellows come here, and they come here with ideas that they are going to stop this mill."
WILLIAM FINGER:
You knew what they were coming for.
LACY WRIGHT:
Absolutely. And I said: "To my thinking, they going to come here for pay. That's my opinion of it." I said: "Now I may be wrong, but I ain't going to test to see whether they come here for pay or not. I'm going over there to find me a hole on the back side, and I'm going out of here."
WILLIAM FINGER:
How'd you hear about them, the first time?

Page 17
LACY WRIGHT:
Oh man, it was all over everywhere around here. Everybody in the mill knew.
WILLIAM FINGER:
How did they know?
LACY WRIGHT:
Oh, it was in the news, in the newspapers.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you think they were bad people? Did the news say they were going to try to stop the mill.
LACY WRIGHT:
No. No, I didn't think they were bad people.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you think they were good people? Did you think they were crazy?
LACY WRIGHT:
Well, I'll tell you what I thought.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you think they were people like yourself?
LACY WRIGHT:
I'll tell you what I thought, at that time. I didn't say much about it, because I couldn't afford to.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Right.
LACY WRIGHT:
I said if them people were that interested in getting them a better situation where they worked, that they were willing to get out of here and go somewheres to try to shut somebody else down, even if they had to fight about it, that they mush have something that we didn't already have. That's exactly what my thoughts was.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Were you working in the mill then too?
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes, sure, weaving over there I did.
MRS. WRIGHT:
I remember that.
LACY WRIGHT:
Now, I don't actually believe in strikes until there's just absolutely no other way. Now I'm a firm believer, and all the time I was in organized labor, I believe if you get the tables between you and you stay there and talk long enough, you can come to some place in there that both sides can kind of work with it at that particular time, or maybe a short period of time. You

Page 18
may have to go back later on.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Think back when you were in the Revolution Mill now, right. It was 1934, and the foreman came to you and wanted you to pick up one of those sticks.
LACY WRIGHT:
That's right.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You didn't know anything about a bargaining table at that point, did you?
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes, to a certain extent. And I'll tell you one reason where I got a little bit of experience in bargaining. Postal carriers and postal clerks have an association. Now, they couldn't strike, at that time the law wouldn't allow them to, strike. But they did. And they would have their meetings, monthly meetings, each one. It was a separate organization, but it was a national organization with both of them; in other words, all over the country. Now then, the way they worked, they worked by putting pressure on the congressmen and senators. They weren't allowed to strike. I learned a little about organization there. And there were some things that they done real well there, and there's some they didn't. And so when I went back to Revolution I had me a little bit better knowledge of what organization could do for you than I did when I first worked in the mill.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Had you ever heard of the National Recovery Act? At the time, did you ever hear of that?
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What did you hear about it?
LACY WRIGHT:
When it was enacted… Now that's one thing I've always kind of tried to do. But due to the fact that I didn't get much education, I tried to pick up here and there, everywhere I could, any kind of knowledge I could. And I knew of it at that time, because, you see, it was enacted under Roosevelt.

Page 19
WILLIAM FINGER:
That's right.
LACY WRIGHT:
So I did know it. I mean, I didn't know all the benefits, all the workings of it, but I knew that it was passed by Congress, and it was passed to protect the working man. And that was just about the general idea of what I knew about it.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Well, tell me. Did the squadrons ever come?
LACY WRIGHT:
Never did.
WILLIAM FINGER:
They never came to White Oak?
LACY WRIGHT:
No.
WILLIAM FINGER:
No, you were at Revoluion. They never came…
LACY WRIGHT:
Never came to any Cone mills.
WILLIAM FINGER:
They didn't. Did they ever come to Greensboro at all?
LACY WRIGHT:
Not that we had any knowledge of, no. If they came here we didn't know it.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Why is that?
LACY WRIGHT:
I don't know. Now, one thing I'll tell you…
WILLIAM FINGER:
Do you not remember, or are you pretty sure they didn't come to any mill.
LACY WRIGHT:
Well, I'm not sure; but, I mean, they never made no attempt anywhere.
WILLIAM FINGER:
That's real odd. That's what I've heard before, but I wondered why that was.
LACY WRIGHT:
Well, I don't know. I can't tell you that. The one thing that I think could have contributed to that: now Cone Mills was always a little bit better to their help, and paid a little better (higher) wages than numbers and numbers of other mill companies. Not a whole lot; there wasn't a great big difference there. But now, when we were living on the villages there was lots of things that they did for us that saved us money.

Page 20
WILLIAM FINGER:
What kind of things?
LACY WRIGHT:
Well, there were numbers of things.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did they have a company store?
LACY WRIGHT:
They had company stores, and they sold a good quality of goods. Now that's one thing: they sold a good quality of goods. And they were in line with the prices. And if you got in bad circumstances they would see that you had something to eat.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did they give you loans? Would they lend money?
LACY WRIGHT:
In other words, you run your grocery bill by the week. And if you got down sick they didn't cut you off the first week. They kept going. Now then, if you built up a record there, and after they'd done it to you and you'd gone back to work, if you didn't try to pay some of that money back, why then if you had a problem again it might be hard for you, see? Now one thing was they gave us all our electric current. You see, it was generated down at the plants, in the mill down at Indian River.
And they sold us coal for six dollars a ton when it was eight and ten dollars if you didn't live on the village. They sold you stove wood for your stove for $3.50 a cord. They kept the streets up pretty well. Now, they even had horses and mules, used back in them days to deliver coal and wood with, and they put men out with ploughs and plowed your garden in the spring of the year. They were much better to us than they were in numbers and numbers of other cotton mills and numbers of other textile mills.
WILLIAM FINGER:
How did you know that they weren't that good in other mills?
LACY WRIGHT:
Well, after 1920 my dad bought—in '22, the latter part of '21 or '22—an old '21 Model T Ford Touring Car. And we'd do a little visiting occasionally, you know. Now we never got too far, maybe Fayetteville or Kannapolis

Page 21
or Rockingham.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Better than Kannapolis, huh?
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes. Things like that that were just for information. And a lot of times maybe in writing; we'd write to one another. We had a pretty fair picture, generally speaking, of what you might say in a two hundred mile radius of Greensboro. Now Dan River was one place that we kept pretty close check on, because back in those days Dan River seemed to be able to operate more work days in a week. And around here people were using the kind of cloth that they were making. They seemed to have a better market. We had a pretty good picture of the textile market. Now up where Thad lived, well we kept up with those mills up there. These Fieldcrest over here, we kept up with all them, you know, because there was always somebody coming in and going, you know.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Why did you want to keep up with them like that? Were you curious?
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What were you curious about?
LACY WRIGHT:
Well, you see, back in those days, you know, back in the teens and the twenties, nobody didn't even have a radio.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You're talking about the thirties now, aren't you?
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes.
WILLIAM FINGER:
When you used to travel around.
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes. Now back in the early part of it there wasn't too many people that was able to even take the newspaper, see. And you just pick up your information any way you could, you know. And it's always right interesting to how much could be put out by the word of mouth back in them days. News traveled by word of mouth faster than any other way around there, you know, in those days,

Page 22
because that's the only way we had, you see. In other words, if something would happen at White Oak this week, you could go over to Denville by weekend and they'd done heard about it. Now how and why it was, it looked like it always worked out that there would be somebody somewhere or another that would carry that information all around.
WILLIAM FINGER:
So you were convinced, from all this information, that y'all were getting a better deal from the Cone Mills than other people were.
LACY WRIGHT:
Now, it was nothing outstanding. But back in them days any little old thing looked pretty big to you, you see. For instance, I worked at White Oak, and I was a speeder or slubber tender; and I found out the man over in Danville was making a cent more an hour, or a cent more a hank than I was getting at White Oak. So that make you stand up and look, don't you see. And they knew that; they knew it. Now after old man Cesar died…
WILLIAM FINGER:
Old man who?
LACY WRIGHT:
Old man Cesar Cone. He died in '18, I believe it was (I believe it was 1918 he died).
MRS. WRIGHT:
That's the year Daddy died.
LACY WRIGHT:
Now he was the original; in other words, he was the head of it. Now back in those days Cone Mills didn't have nothing right in Greensboro.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Didn't have anything what?
LACY WRIGHT:
Didn't have no plants that worked in Greensboro. And after old man Cesar died—why, I don't know; someway or another everybody would talk about it—it seemed like the benefits, or what we term, you know, in our labor as fringes, begin to gradually drop off a little bit. Some this year, and maybe year it'd hold up, maybe next year after that holdup, and then the next year a little bit more of it would drop off.

Page 23
WILLIAM FINGER:
What year are you talking about now?
LACY WRIGHT:
I'm talking about after 1918. Now they didn't go at it in a big way, just a little bit now and then; a little bit now and then, you know. You knew about it, but it didn't hurt you too awful bad. And all the time, when you think about it and begin to look back, they were fighting organized labor, because all the North, you know, at that time was organized. All textiles.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you ever talk about that? Did people ever get together and talk about that? You know, get angry, or…
LACY WRIGHT:
No. You know, that was a funny thing. Until Proximity got organized…
WILLIAM FINGER:
That's a Cone plant, right?
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes. And evidently they must have got their certification somewhere around '50 or '51. Now you know why, about four or five years before we did.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What was the first union in the town? What year?
LACY WRIGHT:
That's Proximity; about '50 or '51.
MRS. WRIGHT:
Well, I believe Proximity
CHIP HUGHES:
Didn't they get organized during the war?
LACY WRIGHT:
No, we got certification, Honey, in '55.
MRS. WRIGHT:
Well, Proximity
LACY WRIGHT:
We got certification and got our first contract in '55.
WILLIAM FINGER:
That's at White Oak?
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes.
WILLIAM FINGER:
I believe Proximity got certified during the war.
MRS. WRIGHT:
Yes, they got it…
LACY WRIGHT:
Well, they might have. They've had it, you know, a good long while.

Page 24
WILLIAM FINGER:
In the forties.
LACY WRIGHT:
And they were on the C.I.O. Well, now, we had an election at White Oak on the C.I.O., and lost it.
WILLIAM FINGER:
When was that?
LACY WRIGHT:
Before '55; let's see, it must have been about '53, somewhere around there.
WILLIAM FINGER:
It was after the war, huh?
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes.
CHIP HUGHES:
Did you try to organize then? Were you involved in that?
LACY WRIGHT:
Some. You might say, I was still working underneath the cover yet, you know, until I come out and vote for that. Of course we had a secret ballot, you know, and when you'd go vote the company had no way of knowing which way you voted. But we lost the C.I.O. election. And then a fellow by the name of Luke Carroll got in with the A.F. of L. And he come in there and he got started.
WILLIAM FINGER:
When was this, Lacy?
LACY WRIGHT:
Let's see. Luke worked approximately twelve months, maybe a little bit longer, before we got enough cards signed for an election.
WILLIAM FINGER:
I believe that was about '52 or '53.
LACY WRIGHT:
He must have come in here somewhere along then. We had the election, and then applied for certification.
WILLIAM FINGER:
This was in A.F.L.
LACY WRIGHT:
A.F. of L.
WILLIAM FINGER:
United Textile Workers.
LACY WRIGHT:
That's right. They were broke; they didn't have any money. But there's something about Luke Carroll with them people at White Oak. I ain't

Page 25
never saw no man that could talk to a bunch of people and they'd believe anything in the world he said as much as they did him. Now I don't know why, he had that thing that whatever he said they believed.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you believe him too?
LACY WRIGHT:
Well, most of it I did. Now, I've always kind of had in my mind a certain line there that I believe on one side it's right and on the other side wrong. That's always been the way I've looked at things. Now when Luke was on one side and I thought it was the wrong side, and then he moved over to the other side, why, I was against him over there and for him over here. That's always been my idea. But I'll tell you the simple reason why. I always felt like that if you ever do any good in the South to organize textile workers, you aren't going to do it by misinforming them too badly. Now, I don't believe but what in any situation with any cleate but what some of it's going to be propaganda and some of it's going to be the truth. But I believe that if you ever do any good in the South it's got to be when the truth overrides propaganda. These people down here, I've watched them all my life. They are people—I guess I'm right when I say this—that don't want to be bothered. I'll tell you what they want to do. They want to go to work; they want to come home and they don't want nothing to bother them. And they don't want to be bothered, a lot of them, too much with the boss down there, whether they're doing their job right or not. When they get home they don't want to be bothered, they don't want no responsibilities. And why it is, I don't know. I don't understand it, and I fought it for the whole time I was in organized labor, to try to get it across to them "You have got a responsibility." Now, the responsibility to me, and to my family, was to put some food in on their table for them to eat, a house with some furniture in it for them to live. Now then, the only way I

Page 26
can do that is, I got to get enough pay out of what work I do.
Now I can remember, one time we had a strike at White Oak…
CHIP HUGHES:
What year was that?
LACY WRIGHT:
A long time before we were ever organized.
WILLIAM FINGER:
About '51, wasn't it Lacy? A big strike… You mean an earlier one?
LACY WRIGHT:
No, it was farther back than that. We shut them down right now. The card room done it. The speeder hands got it; that's before they tore the speeders out, it was way back before then.
WILLIAM FINGER:
When was that?
LACY WRIGHT:
Oh man, I don't know now.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Well, let's see. You went back in there in '35, and you worked…
LACY WRIGHT:
Now this was when I worked there the first time.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Oh, the first time.
LACY WRIGHT:
That was somewhere long about the early twenties. That liked to have killed old man Bernard and got hold of him, because we shut him down.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Old man who?
LACY WRIGHT:
Bernard Cone. Old man Cesar done died, and he was head knocker.
But what happened: they were changing the style of yarn that they were going to make. They were making coarse yarn and fine yarn. Your fine yarn was really filling And the warp was for the war. They were going to make it all on the speeder the same size. Now they had for years, when they were filling speeders, a two cent difference in the amount you got per hank, because it was fine work. And on the warp you made two cents more per hank. Well, when you run fine work on a speeder in an eight-hour period the speeder wouldn't run as many hanks on fine work as it would coarse work. Well, they made the change, and

Page 27
they was going to make the hank price uniform. Now the filler men wasn't going to be hurt too bad; but the warp men, that was on the warp speeders, we were going to be cut. We was getting about fourteen cents a hank, I believe it was. And it was running ten hours a day in those days, and we run 24, 26, 28 hanks in a day. Well, when they made the change and put it on fine, they were going to drop us to about twenty hanks a day, and cut the price of our hanks two cents too.
WILLIAM FINGER:
To twelve? To twelve cents?
LACY WRIGHT:
So everybody got all worked up about it. And it was a funny thing: I went on vacation—back in them days they didn't give you no vacation pay, they just shut down. On vacation. It was all worked up before vacation. So I come back the morning after vacation; I was already a week behind in my grocery bill, you might say. They said (they were all out on the supply floor, all of them together): "What are we going to do?" And it was right funny, I didn't have too much to say into it. I was always young man then, you know. They said: "We're going to shut it down. We're going to get old man Tom Gardner (he was superintendent then), we're going to get him down here and talk to us, and if he don't raise the price of the hank, we ain't running no speeders." And I just thought to myself: "What am I going to do? I don't feel like I should go against them fellows, and I don't feel like I can afford to be out of work." So he come on down there and talked to us. He said: "No, absolutely not. We're not going to do one thing." Now he said that right to start with, to show you how you can irritate a bunch of men that's already mad. That was the first thing he said when we told him what we wanted: "No, that's all we're going to do. Now you can take it, or you can leave it." And some of the fellows pretty badly cursed, and they said: "Well by God, we're going to leave it in the speeders

Page 28
too." And they walked out, every one of them but one. There were twenty-six speeder hands, and part of somewhere else too.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You walked out with them?
LACY WRIGHT:
I walked out with them.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Had people talked about this during vacation?
LACY WRIGHT:
Oh, a long time before vacation, and during vacation too, you see.
WILLIAM FINGER:
And had they planned it out? Had they planned to walk out together?
LACY WRIGHT:
Well, I can't actually say that… In other words, there absolutely wasn't no organization in what we know of organization.
WILLIAM FINGER:
It wasn't formal.
LACY WRIGHT:
It was each man making up his mind what he was going to do, don't you see.
WILLIAM FINGER:
There was no union.
LACY WRIGHT:
No. Neither was there anybody that even attempted to lead the group or do anything like that. So we walked out, and they wouldn't let us go out the gate that we had come in at. They made us go out up at the office.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Oh.
CHIP HUGHES:
Oh.
LACY WRIGHT:
All went out at the office. [laughter] Had the office way on back over there at where they closed the Holiday Inn on Fifteenth Street—Sixteenth Street, 1100 Sixteenth Street, that's over by the Post Office. And right near that Holiday Inn over there. So I walked on out and we (all of us) stood around and talked a little bit. All of them said: "Well by God, let them fire us. We'll just go somewhere else and get us a job." So I went on home. Before I got home they done sent the constable over and had my wife all tore up, and told her I had to get out of the house. She was crying; she didn't know no better, she was a'crying. I said: "Now wait a minute. [laughter] They ain't going

Page 29
to run me out of this house until I get a place to go somewhere else." She said: "Well, I know." She said: "Do you know what they done at Revolution, don't you?" I said: "Yes, I know what they done at Revolution." I said: "But I'll find a place to stay." So we hadn't been out more than two hours and they shut down. Shut the whole plant down.
CHIP HUGHES:
Oh yes?
LACY WRIGHT:
So we stayed out. And I know me and my dad, boy we went all the way down around Kannapolis, Thomasville and everywhere, to all them little cotton mills to see if I could get a job. Couldn't get no job down there, and I finally decided… I went down here on Deep River below Randleman to Central Falls. [laughter] A man give me a job down there, and give me a house. And when he told me he'd give me a job and give me a house he said: "I don't believe you'll come down here to work, though."
MRS. WRIGHT:
Take somebody out and clean out the house.
LACY WRIGHT:
I said: "Well, I ain't got no job."
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did he know why you didn't have a job?
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes.
WILLIAM FINGER:
That you had walked out?
LACY WRIGHT:
They knew. Oh now, I'll tell you what I bet you. I bet you it wasn't five hours when the constable shut that mill down until every mill everywhere around here knew that we'd shut it down. You see, the officials would call.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Would they tell your names? Do you think they had a list, and all that? Do you think they had a list of who walked out, the names?
LACY WRIGHT:
Well, no. I don't know that maybe they'd give my name or anything.

Page 30
WILLIAM FINGER:
Yes. They'd know.
LACY WRIGHT:
In other words, to my opinion the communications were that we've got a bunch of men up here that's quit. If they come there for a job don't give them a job. That's my opinion; I don't know that to be true. But anyhow this man said to the boss: "Yes, I'll give you a house." And he showed me where it was at, and I went up there. An old six room house. I went up there and part of the doors was off of it. And whoever'd lived in there didn't care more about keeping it clean than a hog would, didn't look like. I went back down to the office, and I told them; I said: "That house is in bad shape up there." "Yes, I know it is," he said. But he said: "Don't you worry about that. By the time you get ready to move I'll have that house in shape." And I said, "Well, I reckon you just as well send me a load of stove wood up there, because I use a wood stove." He said: "Yes, I'll do that." And I was to go to work on Monday; that was along about two or three days after we walked out. We walked out on Monday morning. And [laughter] I went up there, and I went on back to Greensboro. My daddy was with me—you see, it put my daddy out of work too. He didn't walk out with us, but he worked in the card room. We come on back to Greensboro, and they got to talking around and kind of begin (company did) trying to find out what they thought they could get them to do. And on Friday they made an offer to us. And all of them seemed to think: "Well, we'll take that and try." That's one thing I like about talking out a situation. So I drove back down to Central Falls and told the man, and offered to pay him for the load of wood. He said nah, somebody else had moved in there and he'd just leave it laying there until they moved in. But he said: "I knowd all the time you wasn't coming down here to go to work." He said: "I could have used you, but the thing has got me down now." They had some old speeders in there

Page 31
that were so far out of date that I didn't have no idea whether I could run them or not. Didn't have but one large spindle on them. And I never had saw one before; that was the first time I saw one. I was skeptical that I could run them or not. Now, we went back to work then.
When LukeCarroll was here, now that he was smart about not striking. What he'd do was protest a day at a time in different departments.
WILLIAM FINGER:
When was that? When did Luke Carroll come here?
MRS. WRIGHT:
About fifty.
LACY WRIGHT:
It was about fifty-one, fifty-two, somewhere along in there.
WILLIAM FINGER:
There was a big strike here in fifty-one…
CHIP HUGHES:
A.F.L., right? He was A.F.L.
MRS. WRIGHT:
[unknown]
WILLIAM FINGER:
Now there was a big strike here in fifty-one, right? Do you remember that? All Cone Mills shut down; forty thousand workers went out through the Carolinas.
MRS. WRIGHT:
Not in Greensboro.
LACY WRIGHT:
Where'd you get that up?
WILLIAM FINGER:
That's in a lot of books. May not have been the Cone Mills in Greensboro. Fieldcrest went out. You don't remember that, huh?
MRS. WRIGHT:
No, and I don't either. I was working
LACY WRIGHT:
No sir. I never have knowd more than one… In fact, that time we shut White Oak down was the only time I've ever knowd them to—any plant around there—be completely stopped, except Proximity. Now they shut Proximity down one time.
WILLIAM FINGER:
When was that?
LACY WRIGHT:
It was before fifty-five, because we never had got certification,

Page 32
had never even got organized, and they shut that mill down over there.
MRS. WRIGHT:
Now that was Fieldcrest, or something like that, might have been, but it wasn't…
CHIP HUGHES:
Wasn't Cone?
MRS. WRIGHT:
No, not in Greensboro. Not to my knowledge, and we were working.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Y'all were working. Do you remember anybody going out at all, and the plants kept going?
MRS. WRIGHT:
It was later than that when you went out (with spinners), I don't reckon it was; I reckon it was when you was out with the spinners. But it didn't shut the mill down. No.
LACY WRIGHT:
That was in the sixties. We didn't shut it down. That was in the sixties.
MRS. WRIGHT:
Well it was early sixties, because I didn't work after '63.
LACY WRIGHT:
Well that was another strike. But now what we done one time, we almost shut White Oak down by what we called a protest.
MRS. WRIGHT:
We done that a time or two.
LACY WRIGHT:
Have you ever heard tell of that?
WILLIAM FINGER:
Tell us about that.
LACY WRIGHT:
All right. Now what Luke Carroll done, he was smart, see? I can tell you.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Do you remember when Luke came in here?
MRS. WRIGHT:
It must have been '51 or '52, somewhere. It was in the fifties, and I think early fifties when Luke come in.
LACY WRIGHT:
Now you see, the reason Luke started protesting: they got to a certain point in the contract with Luke and they got locked. And they wouldn't

Page 33
move and Luke wouldn't move. So what he did now, he take a department right in the middle of the mill, see? And he'd have as many as he could get out of that department to stay out one day, on the first and second shift. And we was running third shift then, wasn't it?
MRS. WRIGHT:
Yes.
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes, third shift. Well, he'd hold as many out of that department as he could, and he wanted everybody else to go in back behind it and ahead of it. He wanted them to work. Well what'd happen, back there first thing you know would begin to build up, you see, until there wouldn't be enough work for them to do, and they'd have to send them home. Well, the same thing about these beyond there, see. You see, it was in the law; we weren't on strike. We had a contract with no strike in it, see. A no-strike clause.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You did have a contract?
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes. We had a contract after that. That was after '55, Honey.
MRS. WRIGHT:
[unknown]
LACY WRIGHT:
It was our second contract we were having trouble with.
MRS. WRIGHT:
Oh it was, yes.
WILLIAM FINGER:
I didn't know Luke was still around here that late.
MRS. WRIGHT:
I don't believe he was there in '55, Lacy. I believe Scott Hoyman was here somewhere along that time.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Scott came in about '52.
MRS. WRIGHT:
Well, he was…
WILLIAM FINGER:
Go ahead and tell us how he did this. We'll get the years later on.
CHIP HUGHES:
What were some of the other ways to protest?
LACY WRIGHT:
We were still under the A.F. of L. when that happened. Now I know I worked in the card room, and I'd stay out there at the gate 'til Luke'd got

Page 34
everything lined up, 'til just barely time for me to get to my job. And he'd say to me: "Mr. Wright, you go on in. We want the card room to run." Everything that can run to, because they were working on the spinning room then. And we got them to where—let me think a minute, Honey… No, that's right; we never did get but one contract out of Luke. That was before we got a contract. In other words, after we had the certification they went in and got deadlocked on a contract. And we tried the protest to try to shake them loose.
WILLIAM FINGER:
That was about 1953, something like that.
LACY WRIGHT:
Must have been somewhere along there.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You were negotiating with the United Textile Workers negotiating with Cone.
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Luke was doing the negotiating.
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes.
MRS. WRIGHT:
Bob Freeman was …
LACY WRIGHT:
And we finally shook them loose. Now the biggest mistake that Luke ever made was… At that time we had that company worked to where they were to give us a check-off. And why Luke loosened up on that I don't know, but he did.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You signed a contract without a check-off.
LACY WRIGHT:
Without a check-off. And we never did get one.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Never got it back.
LACY WRIGHT:
We didn't ever have one.
That's the reason it must have been the first contract. Never did have one. Now…

Page 35
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you ever hear of George Baldanzi?
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes. I heard about him; I never met him. And George Rieves; you know, he was president of A.F. of L.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Emil Rieve.
LACY WRIGHT:
I heard of them; never did meet them.
WILLIAM FINGER:
I just wondered if you had.
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes. But we shook them loose on everything except the check-off.
WILLIAM FINGER:
With that little staying out.
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes. Oh, we cut that thing right in the middle. You might say we had them water-logged behind and starving to death on the other side. [laughter] Nobody wasn't losing a whole lot of money, don't you see, because we didn't try to keep everybody out of that department.
WILLIAM FINGER:
So did you keep switching?
LACY WRIGHT:
They would switch days. Some would work a day, and some would stay out. Well tomorrow, them that was out today would come back to work. In other words, they got the department on about a fifty-fifty basis, you see. It was running about a half of what they needed to run. And nobody, the way they worked it, lost more than a day's work in a week, you see. It worked wonderful.
CHIP HUGHES:
That's a good idea.
LACY WRIGHT:
In other words, if you could get it organized and get the people to believe in it, it was much better than striking. 'Cause when you strike everybody loses. I never saw a strike yet but what everybody loses. And we could afford to lose a day's work and keep on going all right, you know. And then, the majority of us in the other departments, we donated the loot to help…
WILLIAM FINGER:
The people who stayed out.
LACY WRIGHT:
To help buy them something to eat and help them when they were

Page 36
beginning to fall a little short. We donated money in to them. I don't know how many times I've given five dollars at a time, you know. And he cut that thing in two.
WILLIAM FINGER:
How long did you do that? What period of time did you do that for? You know, that people stayed out.
LACY WRIGHT:
About two weeks.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Two weeks?
LACY WRIGHT:
And we really had that thing put down. And we wouldn't have taken that long, but it so happened that when Luke started in the spinning room the card room was behind with the spinning room, don't you see. We were having to work extra time to keep the spinning room going. So it was two to three days, you see, before it would even out. And from then on, why it got worse and worse.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you ever hear of Bruno Rantine?
LACY WRIGHT:
Who?
WILLIAM FINGER:
Bruno Rantine? During that time?
CHIP HUGHES:
Did you ever hear of him?
LACY WRIGHT:
No.
MRS. WRIGHT:
I don't think I have.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What other organizers were here besides … you said Bob Freeman?
MRS. WRIGHT:
Bob Freeman; and he …
LACY WRIGHT:
We had Bob Freeman in here.
We had Moon Mullin in here.
MRS. WRIGHT:
Yes, Moon Mullin.

Page 37
WILLIAM FINGER:
Was Joe Pettigo here?
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes, Joe Pettigo. Now that was one when I was president of the local, and I had to fight Joe worse than I did the company.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Tell me, when did you get to be elected president, Lacey?
MRS. WRIGHT:
Have they got that down?
LACY WRIGHT:
The last year before… I served a year before I retired.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Oh, not 'til the end then.
LACY WRIGHT:
They tried to get me to take it from year to year.
MRS. WRIGHT:
They wanted him to take it a long time before he did, but with his eyesight he couldn't do it.
LACY WRIGHT:
My eyesight was so bad I couldn't see to read, you see. A man who's president of the local, that's a big handicap, because he needs to be reading these things of what's going on, you see. In other words, you can read something to me, and I can't keep much of it in my mind afterwards unless I read it myself. And I just wouldn't accept it. But I [unknown] it under Joe. Joe was an old A.F. of L. man. Joe was in here… We one time, right after we got a contract, we had three hundred grievances up for arbitration at one time. [laughter] And they sent Joe here from A.F. of L.
MRS. WRIGHT:
And Marion Norwisky was there too.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Who was that?
LACY WRIGHT:
Marion Norwisky. He was the man that was in here when they sent me to Washington on this brown lung thing.
MRS. WRIGHT:
Yes they sent us to Greenville, S.C.
LACY WRIGHT:
And we had … let's see. We had two or three others; who were they? Had Joe Pettigo, Bob Freeman; and of course, Julius Fry was in here all the time. He was state representative then. Had Moon Mullin. Moon and Joe

Page 38
swapped places. Joe was down in Georgia, and they sent Moon down there to take over where Joe was at, and sent Joe to Greensboro.
WILLIAM FINGER:
So that was in '54, I believe it was, you voted (all the Cone plants, I think all at the same time) to go back to the Textile Workers' Union.
LACY WRIGHT:
That's right, yes. And then we formed the Joint Board. That's when Scott come in with us.
Scott was our Board manager.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Do you remember why you wanted to go back to T.W.U.A., to the C.I.O. union, then, instead of an A.F.L.? Do you remember that?
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes, I remember that well. And now, there was one thing I liked about A.F. of L.; it wasn't so much good to textile workers, but they had craft unions and C.I.O. didn't.
WILLIAM FINGER:
And you liked that?
LACY WRIGHT:
I liked craft unions. Not all together for textile, I don't think there'd be too many things that textile would be any good for. But I still liked it, because when you had the craft union you pick up, like carpenters, brick masons and things like that, all around all over the country. And the more members you got in any union, the more backing you've got. And, you see, the C.I.O. was textile all together, generally speaking, in the state at that time. But I know one of them; Ray Payne was the man that asked me about it, about the time Scott kept meeting with us over there when Luke was still here. He come to our meetings.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Well, Luke … go ahead.
LACY WRIGHT:
So Ray Payne come to me one time over there; he said: "How do you feel about going from A.F.L. to C.I.O.?" Well, as I told you a while ago,

Page 39
the A.F. of L. was broke. They just absolutely could not support us in anything.
WILLIAM FINGER:
The United Textile Workers'?
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes. And they couldn't hardly afford to keep us a man in here. Our membership was low, and they had a lot of members that were members that wouldn't pay a dime. They just created a bad situation. Well, at that time we knew that the C.I.O. was strong.
CHIP HUGHES:
How did you know that?
LACY WRIGHT:
Well, we knew from the workings and getting what news we could here and there, you know.
MRS. WRIGHT:
[unknown]
WILLIAM FINGER:
They had Proximity. They had the contract at Proximity.
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes, had the contract. We learned a lot of it from there.
MRS. WRIGHT:
They had a check-off over there.
LACY WRIGHT:
Now that was another thing that Luke done. He was instrumental, in a way, in tearing up that union in Proximity.
MRS. WRIGHT:
That's exactly right. Luke Carroll…
LACY WRIGHT:
'Cause they had voted and switched from C.I.O. to A.F. of L. when we did, when we ourselves got certified in it, the A.F. of L.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Proximity switched…
LACY WRIGHT:
From C.I.O. to A.F. of L.
WILLIAM FINGER:
When you all got your first contract.
LACY WRIGHT:
When we got our first contract, right. Well, then what stopped them backing them, we switched back…
WILLIAM FINGER:
They switched back.
LACY WRIGHT:
[unknown] switched back, but when they switched over there it

Page 40
just killed that union.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Which switch? Either one of them? The first one?
LACY WRIGHT:
When they switched from C.I.O. the first time to A.F. of L. it killed that union at Proximity.
CHIP HUGHES:
In what way did it kill them?
LACY WRIGHT:
Evidently people just didn't believe in it. In other words, they liked the C.I.O. better.
CHIP HUGHES:
What was the sentiment that moved them to vote for the A.F.L.? Just because of Luke? You said Luke did it. Is that what you said? That it was Luke that did it?
LACY WRIGHT:
Luke was instrumental in it, in getting them to switch. Because what he was wanting to do, he was wanting to get a Joint Board, like it was finally would up with: Reidsville, Haw River, Gibsonville, Salisbury, Greensboro. In other words, at one time we had nine plants on the Joint Board. We got all of that movement started, but we didn't get it consolidated until after we went on the C.I.O., and then Scott come in and got it consolidated. Called Greensboro-Burlington Joint Board, is what it was called. And Scott was the man that really got it all consolidated. Now this was another thing this contract company wouldn't do: they wouldn't talk to us about a master contract. They wanted each separate plant. In other words, you had to negotiate… And they always wanted when a contract run out here, they wanted all the rest of them in force yet. And just about the time another one was going to run out somewhere or other, they'd make a settlement of this one, you see. In other words, their idea was to separate you, to divide. Anybody could see through it, you know. In other words, the White Oak contract set out when the next contract would maybe be two months old. But during that

Page 41
two month period somewhere or another they'd loosen up a little bit and get a contract for White Oak. And they kept us divided.
[Interruption]
Never could…
WILLIAM FINGER:
Get together.
LACY WRIGHT:
Never could get together, I don't know why. In other words, Carroll left here pretty shortly.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Oh, he did.
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes. And another thing Carroll done that nearly killed us, he got the idea around here that by these unions they'd form a company around here selling home heating oil; you know, with each union member putting so much in. They tried to get me to put some money in, and I wouldn't do it. Each one put two hundred dollars in it. I don't know that this is true, it was just talk; they said that Luke got about ten thousand dollars out of that, and he run off with it.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Well Lacy, a little while ago you were saying that you liked Luke.
LACY WRIGHT:
I liked Luke in a way, yes.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Because he was real inspiring to you at meetings, and he helped you organize and stuff.
LACY WRIGHT:
He was. And he had a knack of doing that thing, no question. I don't today exactly dislike Luke. I'm just saying what I feel like in my personal mind was the wrong that Luke done. Luke might not have saw them that way, see.
WILLIAM FINGER:
I understand. I just wanted to be sure.
LACY WRIGHT:
Now you see, the thing about it that made me pretty sure of my feelings, is I stayed on here and saw the after effects of all of it, don't you see.

Page 42
WILLIAM FINGER:
In 1954 you came back in Textile Workers' Union, T.W.U.A. What were the after effects of that? You had a local at White Oak; you had a local in Proximity.
LACY WRIGHT:
That's right.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you have a local in Revolution?
LACY WRIGHT:
No.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Just two locals.
LACY WRIGHT:
They don't have a local in Revolution yet. They lost the election down there about two years ago by about forty-five votes.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You had one in the Print Works too, didn't you?
LACY WRIGHT:
Print Works had a strong union.
CHIP HUGHES:
Yes, that's what I thought.
LACY WRIGHT:
But you see, we had Print Works in the Joint Board. But the printers had a separate union, you see, and really they were the backbone of the union in Print Works. And that's another funny thing. They belonged to the printers union (and I reckon still do), and they had a contract years and years before any of the other Cone workers had one.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Of course theirs was not…
LACY WRIGHT:
And never had one minute's trouble about getting a contract. And those guys, when we was making, oh, $1.25-$1.30 an hour they was making $4 and $5 and hour, you see. And they never had a minute's trouble, and I don't reckon they do yet. Now are they under the same printers' union as the newspapers?
WILLIAM FINGER:
I don't know; we'll have to check it.
CHIP HUGHES:
That's a really complex area.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Let me ask you, Lacy. When you came back in to T.W.U.A. in '54, Scott was there, right? Scott Hoyman?

Page 43
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes. Now was that in '55, before Scott taken charge? But he was meeting me in our meeting. Scott didn't have anything to say at all, he was just more or less… I always figure Scott was there just to gather what information he could.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Who was in charge of it?
LACY WRIGHT:
Luke was still in charge; that was before Luke left.
WILLIAM FINGER:
So Luke was here when you came back over to the C.I.O.
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes.
WILLIAM FINGER:
OK. In 1955 you worked for ten more years in the White Oak plant, right? You left about '65. What things do you remember during those ten years?
LACY WRIGHT:
Now you're talking about the sixties now, when I left?
WILLIAM FINGER:
Right. From '55 to…
LACY WRIGHT:
'55 was our first contract under A.F. of L., and it was for one year.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Without a check-off.
LACY WRIGHT:
Without a check-off. And boy it was rough going, I'll tell you. Now they did give us the privilege to collect dues in the mill; that was in the contract. We got that; that was as far as they would go. But you had to do that at break time, and you couldn't interfere with a worker while he was doing his job, don't you see. So you can imagine what kind of handicap that was.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you ever know Larry Rogin? Did you ever know that name?
LACY WRIGHT:
That name's familiar to me. I can think of two more men that was in here, and I can't think of their names to save my life right now.
WILLIAM FINGER:
He was helping Scott and Luke negotiate that contract in '54 and '55, where you all settled for no check-off. Did you ever participate in any of that bargaining, any of those negotiations?

Page 44
LACY WRIGHT:
Not back in those early days. I didn't get on the committee 'til somewhere in the latter part of the fifties. I got on the negotiating committee in the latter part of the fifties. In other words, we had two or three contracts before I ever got on the committee. I was a steward; I was a department steward. And, of course, I held other offices: vice-president, and different things in the local, you know. I didn't begin to deal directly with them up in the office until some time in the late fifties.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Tell me about that, bargaining those contracts. Did you feel like you had a strong local behind you?
LACY WRIGHT:
No, never did. 'Cause if I had, I'd have done a whole lot more talking, and a whole lot stronger talking than I did.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Was it usually you and Julius, you and Julius Fry?
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Who else? Was Scott ever involved?
LACY WRIGHT:
Moon Mullin, Scott, Joe Pettigo. Now part of the time when Scott was in there I went up there more or less as a lesson. I mean, I didn't have any authority to say anything about what was going on in the contract, unless they opened it up to the ones that was sitting back there, you know. Some boys sitting right around the table… The last contract before Scott left here was the first one that I was on the committee.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Must have been about '58, '59?
LACY WRIGHT:
Somewhere along in there. Well then, it must have been about '59 Moon Mullin come up here from Georgia, you know; and he stayed here a year and then Joe come in. Now the last contract that I sat in on was with Julius Fry, but I didn't stay long enough. I retired before they got that contract. Now I know there was one time there that I knowed a fellow; did you ever hear tell of

Page 45
a fellow by the name of Jack Bagwell? They called him the "union buster." He come from up in Washington down here, and this company hired him. Now boy, he was a union buster from back then.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What did he do?
LACY WRIGHT:
Oh, you'd get around a negotiating table, and nobody could talk but that old man.
WILLIAM FINGER:
He'd just keep talking and talking?
LACY WRIGHT:
He'd just keep talking, just keep talking. And he was always on running his mouth about something, and it didn't pertain to White Oak. In other words, you know, the owners of Cone mill bought a mill down in Gadsden, Alabama. And they bought a well-organized union down there when they bought the plant. And they killed it in two years. What's she trying to tell me there? [referring to Mrs. Wright] But out of twenty-six hundred people (that was a bigger plant than White Oak) they had twenty-one hundred members.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Is that right?
LACY WRIGHT:
Dues-paying members; they had check-off. And Cone killed that union. Now boy, they really give them a struggle over the first contract they had down there. In other words, they threw it up to us.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Lacy, after fifty years in the mill and about … let's see, about fifteen years real active in the union (since about '55), what do you see as the value of a union here in Greensboro?
LACY WRIGHT:
Well the value… In my opinion, if the textile industry doesn't get organized, with the organization of everything else in this country eventually it's going to run into a situation but what they won't have no say-so whatsoever of what they get. They'll just have to take whatever is offered to them.

Page 46
WILLIAM FINGER:
So you think a union's important.
LACY WRIGHT:
Sure!
WILLIAM FINGER:
Well, why do so few people even want to pay dues? Five percent, ten percent, even in these plants that are organized.
LACY WRIGHT:
I don't know. I never have been able to figure that out, because I have tried to show people that even though they were paying… When we first started out, we started out with, I believe it was seventy-five cents a week; and when I left it had got to a dollar and a quarter. OK, now if that union, if the people all of them together would get any strong enough that the International could work through them or with them without them being a dead-head to them, that union could make them many times more than what they're going to pay in dues back in fringe benefits and wages, in working conditions.
WILLIAM FINGER:
But people don't see that.
LACY WRIGHT:
I just never could get them to see it to save my life. I don't know why. It's just something that's beyond my understanding. And living with the people, people that I grew up with, people that I've lived with all my life, and people that I had confidence as friends, people that… They weren't ignorant people; they weren't completely ignorant people. None of us were highly educated, but we weren't completely ignorant.
WILLIAM FINGER:
But you sound like you believe in the union completely.
LACY WRIGHT:
Oh, I'm 100 percent for a union that
END OF INTERVIEW