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Title: Oral History Interview with David Burgess, August 12, 1983. Interview F-0006. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Burgess, David, interviewee
Interview conducted by Blanchard, Dallas A.
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: 96 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.
2007-03-14, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with David Burgess, August 12, 1983. Interview F-0006. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series F. Fellowship of Southern Churchmen, 1983-1985. Southern Oral History Program Collection (F-0006)
Author: Dallas A. Blanchard
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with David Burgess, August 12, 1983. Interview F-0006. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series F. Fellowship of Southern Churchmen, 1983-1985. Southern Oral History Program Collection (F-0006)
Author: David Burgess
Description: 130 Mb
Description: 22 p.
Note: Interview conducted on August 12, 1983, by Dallas A. Blanchard; recorded in Unknown.
Note: Transcribed by Unknown.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series F. Fellowship of Southern Churchmen, 1983-1985., 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 David Burgess, August 12, 1983.
Interview F-0006. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Burgess, David, interviewee


Interview Participants

    DAVID BURGESS, interviewee
    DALLAS A. BLANCHARD, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
DAVID BURGESS:
Sally Jones and Nell, I wouldn't put myself on that level. It is sort of a second teer in my opinion. But those are the chief people I would say. They had a lot to do with the policy, profetic religion and the writing, and I never conflicted with them. But I was so engaged in my own activities that this is a side line that I persued.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
What was the dominant attitude of these people towards the new south, industrialization and urbanization?
DAVID BURGESS:
I think there is something of Jefferson in Buck Kester, and Jean Smathers. But I think that the rest of them knew that it was coming. But they also knew that the industrialization meant going from Florwar, Massachusetts to Rockville, South Carolina, from New Bedford to Greenville, South Carolina. Running away from the union and running away from union conditions of making all sorts of activating fields with local municipalities with the local sheriff's office, with the state and so forth. And that was where the production and the trend was. I think that they had an illusion that this could be stopped. I don't think that I was there during the part of the south which you could change and homogenize, say like Atlanta or it could be Los Angeles. It is more than just the south, it is the metropolitan area with all sorts of folks. I lived in Atlanta for four years, but it hadn't quite come into that stage yet. But I would say that there was nothing anti-industrial. It is just that we knew that the industrialization of the south was coming because the company wanted it. And because the local municipality wanted it. And they were running away from the union conditions in other places. That can get more jobs, but how do you get workers conscience that they also can join the union. Ironically I was in the textile workers union in 1947 and 1948 when numerically there was height of their membership. But because of the pull out in the north and the inability to organize the south, the gross membership went steadily down.

Page 2
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
What role did women play in the fellowship other than Nell?
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, I don't think that they appeared in the masthead. But all of the married people that I knew of this group, it was a one to one equal relationship in the marriage. And the women's rights in the modern sence of the feminist movement had not come into bloom yet. But there was nothing paternalistic about the fellowship conferences. This leadership was there but the women participated. They brought their kids, and I brought my kids. And you didn't have the feeling that this was a paternalistic outfit at all. I am trying to think of other women, but don't come to mind. Maybe. But, Alice was very powerful in relation to Buck. I know this. Nell was never married. Mrs. Cowan was a very lovely person. Jean Smathers wife was also. So you are dealing with a good marriage situation therefore. But in fairness, there were very few women that did much of the writing at least in my day in the Profetic Religion.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Was Martin Luther King in the fellowship while you were there?
DAVID BURGESS:
No. I met him in India in 1957 or 1958, when he came over to study what Gandhi was all about. But I knew his father very well in Atlanta when I was the head of the Georgia C.I.O. But I didn't know his son. But I was all involved. I was the executive secretary of the Georgia C.I.O. counsel. Which means the political organizations, which means the coalition of womens groups, blacks, credit union. So I would say no, not in my day.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Are you familiar with the Committee of Souther Churchmen?
DAVID BURGESS:
Kalagete. Yes Will Campbell has written me and I regularly subscribe. But I am not familiar. I might read it regularly, and make comments and write letters, but I would say no. In fact I didn't function after July of 1955. in the summer.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Do you perceive any differences between the committee and the fellowship?
DAVID BURGESS:
Well I think that events have overtaken us in a sense that I think many

Page 3
of the individuals were like and I can give you a chapter and a verse which pormpted the civil rights movement of the south later. And we gave inspiration both to the blacks and the whites. But we had no idea what was coming in the sixties. Then Martin Luther Kings' organization, the NAACP, the Purple league, some of the blacks nationalist movement came later. And I would say that the committee is probably one of the many now. We were sort of a lonely beginning group. But now there are many organizations.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Would you react to some names for me? J.C. Herrin?
DAVID BURGESS:
No.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Charles Jones?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes. Charles and I were very close. I saw the method by which they ousted him in the Presbyterian church there, and the terrible unfairness of it, the split in the church, terrible agony that he went through. And eventually, organizing his own congregation. A great guy with a sense of humor. Dorcas was lovely. He was never bitter when hiding. The indications are that he was not the case later. Partly, maybe because Nell had gone, and many other people were gone. I never was with him on his spiritual journey, ber much after the time that he started the other rival church. But I was very bitter about the way that he was treated. And I was very close to Dr. Graham and worked very hard for his unsuccessful election in 1949. Always remember that night. It was June 21st 1950, the beginning of the Korean War was the same night that he was defeated. He was at Raleight, I was at another place. But at headquarters everyone was weeping and he went around and was a comforter. And I met him again later when he was working at the U.N. in India. But I was very close, not I wasn't close but just friends. But he was the one that I knew much about and worked for.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
James McBride Dabs?

Page 4
DAVID BURGESS:
I knew him superficially. We corresponded some. I never knew him well.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Howard Odom?
DAVID BURGESS:
Sociologist, only by reputation and meeting him a couple of times. But not personally.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
What kind of person was Jean Smathers?
DAVID BURGESS:
Oh he was a great guy. He had the view of the rural cooperative, and the farm. Very practical everyday sort of a person. He died almost prematurely. But what is your answer on that? Very down to earth. And Willie had the rural what the south might be in his vision. He was a great guy.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Did you know that his son is now the pastor of Big Rick? Mike. I just found that out myself.
DAVID BURGESS:
No, I didn't.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Scotty Cowan? What was Scotty like?
DAVID BURGESS:
Oh Scott's since of humor, he always had a good joke. He mixed humor and condemnation, very quick, excellent debator, life of the party.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Warren Ashby?
DAVID BURGESS:
I knew Warren very well. He was very quiet, professionally. I think that we are about the same age. I visited him in the seventies and I have his book Prank Range. It is part of his biography upstairs. Orderly, folk storial, weak in that sense of the work understanding, and sort of quietly persistant.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Will Campbell?
DAVID BURGESS:
I never knew him well. I am trying to think of where he was during my soul journey.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
In the later forties he was at University of Mississippi.
DAVID BURGESS:
Well he came to some of the conferences, and I remember in one of the letters he wrote "I know you" or something like that. But I was trying to pull out of my memory where he was at that time.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Well in the fifties he was in Nashville with the National Council of Churches,

Page 5
Religion and race department.
DAVID BURGESS:
Oh I see. I didn't know him very well, but he came to conferences and we were good friends.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
What was Alice Kester like?
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, I think that she would be sometimes more bitter than Buck was about the way that he was treated.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Treated by whom?
DAVID BURGESS:
The world. Not recognized, and I don't mean recognized in the terms of big shot, but persecuted. Throughout Buck's life he lost this job and lost that job and went somewhere else. There was something bitter about her. This was true about my own mother about my own father. My father didn't give a damn about what people thought about him. And she was the one who took offense. So I think that there is a parallel here. I never knew her very well, but I thought that there was a resentment against the way the world treated Buck.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Somebody said that she did not herself receive as much recognition for her contribution to the fellowship.
DAVID BURGESS:
I think that is probably very true. Because Buck was inclined to come out in front. Then Nell later. I wouldn't be surprised. I wouldn't dispute that.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
What kind of role did she play?
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, she was supportive. I was there during mostly, I went to visit them up in the Smokies. I am trying to remember the name.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Black mountain?
DAVID BURGESS:
Black mountain. Maybe I was too involved in talking with Buck though. I am not trying to dodge the question, I am trying to say that I saw the bitterness without knowing exactly what I am talking about.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Benjamin Mays?
DAVID BURGESS:
Oh he is great. He is a real power. And he had the strength and

Page 6
character. I was at the World's Student Christian Conference in Amsterdam. I was one of the prayer regades there. But he was sort of the rock of Gibraltar. I mean that he was a perfect gentleman but he could tell off the wedding. I got to know him quite well when I was in Atlanta. Used to go fairly regular over to his house, console him about political questions. And he entertained us sometime at his home. I just felt very much at home at his. I looked to him as my senior. Up to him. But there is a strength that I fed off. Quite different from the loud mouths that came later.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
You have already touched on this a little bit but I just wanted to make sure that you don't have anything else to add to it. Why do you think that the fellowship died?
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, you see I was away when it died. But trying to put two and two together, I felt that is a very loose fellowship, because all of us were involved in very difficult tasks of one type or another. It was a confederation of interested people rather than and organization. Second, there was not a logically successor to Nell. I don't know. I am sure that Nell was up at North Carolina up to the time that I left for India. But I am not certain about that. Maybe she was going through the transition. But there was. And to go back to Buck in a sense he was in the sorority in the thirties. I am using this in a defining way. But he was a national figure with Norman Thomas and one of the great leaders of the early days of the Southern Tennant Farmers Union. And then he went through various jobs of this and that and things didn't seem to work out at Penn Craft and other places. It was in seeds by somebody else I think you would have seen maybe a growth. Also this surmise rather than fact, in the sixties the blacks were beginning to come into their own in the sense polarized sometimes fearful of it they had to have their own act together before intergration meant very much. And in a sense the fellowship was the union of equal

Page 7
but we were not a movement. Nobody was sitting down at Drugstore College. Or nobody was marching on Montgomery. We were sending letters to the editor and raising hell at the nomination convention, or making individual witnesses. But it is like in many ways with the conferences of the Profetic Religion. Plus individual invisitations here and there. Between those and the correspondence and so forth started in the organization. I am saying this out of surmise, because this was not there when the disintergration really took place.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
This is mighty strange. They had this great big conference on race and human relations in Nashville, Martin Luther King spoke…
DAVID BURGESS:
What year?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
1957. And Will Campbell was with the National Council of Churches there and helped fund it and they used his office for it in Nashville, and they had four or five hundred people there apparently from all over the south. Even a letter from Eisenhower, a telegram from him, and then that is it. You don't hear any more.
DAVID BURGESS:
Well I think that you need somebody or say a committee of three or a hard core. And I am not sure of the year that Scotty died. Do you remember that?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
No I don't. I sure don't.
DAVID BURGESS:
I think that it was in the fifties. I am not certain, because I sort of lost track when I was in India of what happened with some of these people. I have to use the excuse of being absent, rather that trying to give you a reasonable answer.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
What do you think was the lasting impact of the fellowship?
DAVID BURGESS:
Lasting impact?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Lasting impact beyond itself.
DAVID BURGESS:
I think the impact first was I think it helped to lay the basis for the christian basis of the civil rights movement in the south. This wasn't just some hot head

Page 8
IWW idea or the early reincarnation of Tom Watson before he became a bigot and a senator. These had biblical roots and that was the great strength physically in Buck. And another person came down to the Americas
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Gerdin?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes, I just went down to visit him later. But I don't think that he was part of the fellowship.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
He was there.
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes, he was there, but he was doing his own thing writing his own book and running his own farm. And our kids went down there in the summer of 55 to their work camp and there were eight tents. And the next year they had the big top tent and so forth. But I think he and Buck and Howard Taylor and Nell sort of gave the vision of the transformation of the south as biblic as the message. I was say in a secondary sense that it helped the new generation as they came on the civil right movements and the various things that they did. Benjamin Mays I think is very important in this regard. You know that he had a big influx in New York City in this and that down in Mississippi. But impression of what the hell happened after they boys leave from 475 and Indianapolis and there full effect. How you live with this problem after the movement leaves. I would say that was probably the most important thing. Now another thing was just helping some of us to hold on, and not to become bitter and disillusioned. Being that is just not terrible but I have my problems and you have yours and they are both the same feeling. I added a little heart.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
You need not be alone.
DAVID BURGESS:
Right. And that was very important, because I don't know later because I wasn't there but I was dealing with churches owned by the textile owner. You were dealing with fundamentalists who were under paid, under the pay of the owner. You are dealing with very convinced and conservative churches who didn't want shock the trustees who are more. And you are dealing with

Page 9
a series of class churches. And the working class churches were just as bad as the upper class churches in terms of their attitudes toward the later movement. And I say that or think that at least now you have a (I don't have any illusions about the transformation of the south) but at least you have a split sort of like the Latin American-Catholic Church. A split in the heirarcy of the church as well as the ministry and lay people of what the christian way is. That was not always true when I was there in the forties and the fifties. You are really dealing with a combinaiton between the difference you have on one extreme and the absolute antagonism you have on the other. That phrase that is always used by the feminist, that phrase (I have forgotten the text) Do not equally yoke with unbelievers. And then the communist doctrine and all of that stuff, line of bull.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Is there anything else that you think I ought to know that would help place the fellowship and the people in context?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes. If you don't mind I am going to go downstairs and look at my files.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
No I don't mind.
DAVID BURGESS:
Because I think this would be of some help to you. Well, there was a lot of, speaking from my own life and this could be doubled by people were active, for instance this movement here of organizing southeastern Missouri. The story is very Brief, but it goes something like this. In the middle or beggining of 1939 the big plantation owners of southeast Missouri, southeast Missouri was a very fertile part of the United States, decided that they would move from share cropping form of farming to day labor. Therefore they threw out thousands and they camped along side of the road. And Roosevelt heard about them and these tin housing projects that would go from one to the other for hundreds of miles around for buildings. Then in 19 and they were filled with just folk, then in 1945 just about the time that Roosevelt died, they were put up at a public auction block for sale. And some of us

Page 10
moved in there in March. And I remember one who purchased and organized a corporation to raise money from Martial Field, McCormick, Sherwood Eddie and I have forgotten the churches, but anyway you got 100,000 dollars involved. You have got 100 put in escrow, and six were black colonies and three were white. One we lost, one commissioned white. Now I knew all my
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]


Page 11
DAVID BURGESS:
In terms of a very good racket with Buck in that phase of activity. Our church was involved of course and Art was my successor.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
This is where I would write for a copy of it?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
I will do that.
DAVID BURGESS:
I will give you the guy's address. It is in Missouri. This is actually where we lived. This house right there.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
There were actually how many homes in Dellmill?
DAVID BURGESS:
Oh about 120. We organized and were able to purchase for $285,000.00 nine of the ten projects which was about 600 homes in all. They paid off in five years at ten dollars a month with one hundred dollars down.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Ten dollars a month.
DAVID BURGESS:
Let me show you this before I forget about it. My difficulty is that I had many reincarnations. I started out an Owens College graduate in 1939, then I worked with Jerry Bouies a congressman from California and Nixon in 1946 for a year, and then two years at the seminary, and then one year working with old folks and migrants in the south Jersey, and then back to seminary, and then three years with the Southern Tennant Farmers Union, two and a half of which were living in Dellmill homes, then the C.I.O. from 1947 to 1955 in Butkis, South Carolina and Greensbourough, North Carolina. And then I became the head of the C.I.O. in Georgia for four years. Then I went to India in 1955.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
As what?
DAVID BURGESS:
Favorite task in the American Embassy, and ours was through the political influence of Walter Luther with the state department. I was in the foreign service for eleven years no change. I resigned on the Vietnam issue in 1966. John Usa became the director in Badcock, China. And then I worked a year at Harvard on the Latin American program American Universities. And then I cmae back here where we lived in 1972 I continued to be the pastor

Page 12
working class churches of downtown Europe which is seven and five miles away from here. So I have had sort of a bounce around career. And I have hardly been back to the south since 1955 except for occasional trips. I have to sort of reorient myself and remember back. One prominent member of the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen named Maynard Katchens lives near here. He is down on campus.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Where?
DAVID BURGESS:
He lives a few blocks from here.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Oh really?
DAVID BURGESS:
But he is black and you might if you want to see him you can because he was very much in the south in the student christian movement and the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen during the forties and early fifties.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
I have seen his name on several documents.
DAVID BURGESS:
Well lets see how we go. I will be glad to introduce you to him.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Good.
DAVID BURGESS:
He is dieing of lung cancer and has regular I think sort of a weak condition. He has to have transfusions regularly. So he is wonderful. The only reason he moved to Monte Clare, he and his wife. So I am at your disposal.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
You have given me some of the background information that I was interested in. I would like to know also where you were born.
DAVID BURGESS:
Well I was born in New York City. I was in China when I was two months old. My folks were, my father taught at Union University. And I lived there until I was from 1917 to 1926. And I came back because my two oldest brothers died previous to my birth. My younger brother was having poor health so we came back and eventually settled in White Plains New York along with California, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My father became Newmer college a sociology professor. And then became the head of the department of sociology at Temple University of Southern Cal. in 1949. Then I went to Oberland in 1939. And graduated in, no excuse me, in1945 I entered in 1935 and graduated in 1939.

Page 13
Then I was a year in Washington and then a year in Union Seminary.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Union in New York City?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Did you ever hear of a name Leslie Leal?
DAVID BURGESS:
No.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
It is a sutenym for someone that wrote the Profetic Religion and nobody has been able to tell me who it was. When did you first learn about the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen?
DAVID BURGESS:
In the summer of 1940 I almost went to work for the Southern Tennants Farmers Union. So, 1940. I was negotiating with H.L. Butler and Mitchell, but it didn't work out. And I think in correspondence I became acquainted with Buck Kester. My wife was in Buriah College and graduated 1941. Walter Sikes was her professor. And Walter Sikes's daughter and I and Alice's brother. I think that I went to seminary in 1940, and we got married in 1941. And she knew Walter Sikes and I began corresponding I think I am not quite sure of the dates, the same time in this period with Buck Kester. In 1942 after two years of seminary I decided that I had better get out of the field and know what the world was about before I finish seminary. And I got a job with what was then the Federal Council of Churches Home Mission Board working with agriculture and migrants of southern Jersey and then southern Florida and then southern Jersey in 1942 and 1943. And then I went back to seminary. Then I began correspondence at Clemmons seminary with H.L.Mitchell. I wanted some way to hook up with the FTFU. And eventually we struck a deal in 1944 whereby I was employed by the Board of Home Ministries of the Congregational Christian Churches and for three years I worked in that capacity. 44-47. And then I went to see Buck Kester. I am not quite sure the exact year, but I would say that it was probably 1944. We had a long talk about the Southern Tennants Farmers Union, his break with

Page 14
them in the past and what the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen was. And eventually I became a very close friend of Nell Morton. I am not quite sure, but what year did she take over?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
I think that it was around…I am getting all of my years and days mixed up… I think it was around 1942. That was too early wasn't it.
DAVID BURGESS:
I think it must have been around 1944.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Or 1945 somewhere around there.
DAVID BURGESS:
Well I saw a lot of Nell when I was in the Southern Tennants Farmers Union. And then when I moved to Rock Hill in 1947 and became full time with the southern drive of the C.I.O. It was a very convient run up to Greensbourough, and Charles Jones. Then I began to go to a series of conferences and I was instrumental in purchasing that piece of land in Swananoah. I thought out of the McCormick portion not wanting to but the piece of land. And invariably began to write regularly for Profetic Religion. And I have given my C.I.O. days inparticular 47-55, critiquely 47-51 I travel all over the south. I mean Jean Smathers and a lot of the Scotty Cowan and several ministers who are not prominent in the books but were profetic ministers in say a southern textile town, I would see them and we would share a lot of our mutual experiences.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Before I forget it, why did Buck say he grew up with the STFU?
DAVID BURGESS:
Well Buck was essentially was a perfectionist and he was critical of Mitchell on opposite sex. He was critical of the maybe rightfully he was also he was a profet, and once you go through the initial stage of publicity excuse me.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Sure.
DAVID BURGESS:
I think I learned from the labor unions is that there are people that are very good at the initial campaigning organizing, but when it comes to try to build an organization and conduct an educational program and I

Page 15
would say the seamingly nickel and diming without the Prophetic overrun of the old and ndew testament. You know am I in the right place at the right time? But I think Mitch who I admire very much he has a different position than I have. But Buck was essentially a dreamer in both the negitive and the positive sense of the word. And you needed somebody like that. And you needed somebody like that, but I felt there was a deep in him. I knew Alice very well. There was a deep, I wouldn't call it a bitterness, because it wasn't bitterness, it is more a sense of the world is really not going to get better, the profetic dreams of 1934 and that time of the share croppers and Norman Thomas was in Arkansas and the seaming of mass movement was beginning. Actually in point of fact, none of the leaders Buckler and Mitchell and the rest of them and Betten they weren't such great organizers themselves. But they could put up with the day to day dealing with that congressman and that congressman making a deal in the best sense of the word compromising, the way that I had to do in the whole Dellmore situation which was a political education to me because I ran it on a national basis. So I would say the difference between the profetic old testament Jeremiah, Amos, Hosea, and the nitty gritty of union organizers is sometimes very unpleasant, and you are dealing with people who are very marginal folks in many ways. And so be it, that is part of life. I never felt estranged myself from these share croppers in any way. But I felt and I tell you this is surmise I was never in the field with Buck, but we had long personal conversations, and this is the reason that I am saying what I am.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
You said sex, did he agree with what H.L. Mitchell said on sex?
DAVID BURGESS:
Well Buck was a puritan, and Mitchell never claimed to be.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
O.K. That's one of the questions that I was going to get to later. The members of the fellowship strike me as a demerol people.
DAVID BURGESS:
They thought that sex was a great thing, but within the family.

Page 16
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
But within the family. In general they were all puritans then?
DAVID BURGESS:
Puritans in that sense, but not you know not piotistic puritans.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Yes. What was the significance of the fellowship for you?
DAVID BURGESS:
Well I was immediately given the assignment. I was organizing as JPC was melt as head I had about a half a dozen people or more working with me. A year and a half we lost, but it was day and night visiting with workers homes. Therefore you needed some for instance in Rock Hill I was organizing Kenneth Fithrith of the Rock Hill Presbyterian church wanted me to come in as a member in 1948- or 1947. His assession told him that they didn't really want me and to go to a labor church in Covent, blaming that I was a communist anyway. And I would be more at home with those textile folks down the way. And I discovered later that Kenneth put his job on the line for me and Alice. And eventually I became the leader of the young adults bible class and was quite respectable in that place where the Maloniers, my opponents during the week. So I think that was one connection. Second, I had a lot of, my wife was the National Chairman of the Student Christian Movement from 40-42 and out of that came a lot of connections like Maynard Ketchins and Herb King. Some of the YM and the YW leaders of the south were involved so that is another door that opened up to us. That was sort of the past into the present situation in the south.
I think the ability to get away to the conference or the way to think through what I was trying to do, seizing up my opposition and generally it was organized church. I wrote that pamphlet it is somewhere in my file which used by social action on I wrote some education material on the whole question of what is the church and what is the relationship. As my writings the Liston Pope's book on No Town of Preachers was almost well I was a close friend of Liston. And he helped me a lot understand. C.J. Cash's book The Mind of the South which I considered a classic it helped me a lot of facing. Then Key's book on Southern Politics gave me some better understanding. But

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I think more than intellectual graphs it was human beings that were going through similar strokes, and had a vision of what the south could be. Scotty Cowan and I were very close. Jean Smathers less so, but Jean and I were good friends. And Cox, and I was very close to Nell in a personal sort of way. And she told me go and see so and so when you go through Hendersonville, South Carolina or go and see so and so in Nevada which I did. So it was more I was sort of a visiting fireman as it were but I got a lot of help from other people. But I think that it was the old testament and the new testament connections trying to transform a racial society. And the whole question, this was an intergrated situation. I was living in a segregated society, segregated churches by and large and I was in peril quite often, physical peril, when I was a laborer. And I was threatened, I mean that I was never beaten up or I was never jailed, but it was a constant harassment. And I rather enjoyed it but I was often tired of it at times. My salary with the C.I.O. was 50 dollars a week with travel money. And that is about what we were living on with the church's sparse fare. So I would say that it is healing connections with people who stood for something, who would share their fustrations and their hopes and vice versa.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
What do you see were the primary goals of the fellowship? What was it trying to do
DAVID BURGESS:
I think that we were the pre-Brown case of 1954. Of pretty christian witness to an intergrated society. Second, I am not putting these in order but I am just trying to Buck shot. Second, the connection between the prints, the connection between personal prayer life and the church, pastoral church activities and the social gospel the fact that these are partial to each other they are not this or that. And the great part of most of these people in the fellowship is that they are very good pastors as well as prophets. They weren't just out in the wilderness like John the Baptist. I say that third was a living fellowship of people who had similar aims, some industrial, some rural, some academic. But these sort of fed on each other.

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DAVID BURGESS:
We were up against had a very keen view of the principalities and powers who made no bones about what they were. Both governmentally and cheifly in the sheriff's office, but also state legislature the senator both congressmen.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Were your ties with the fellowship sort of bridged between Nell Morton's rule and the administration of it and the time that Buck came back?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes when did she leave?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
In the late forties, 47-49 somewhere in there. I went to Drew.
DAVID BURGESS:
That early?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
I think so.
DAVID BURGESS:
I don't think so. I think she left about the mid-fifties, but this I am not certain, because when I was in Georgia from 41-49, excuse me 51-55, and I am sure that I saw her in that period in North Carolina, maybe not all of it. I would say that it was through her regime. And we left in 55, we left in July of that year. We had to go through all of the security check through the state department. It took about eleven months starting the first of the year. I would ride from Delli from Christmas or after Christmas. So I think that I had very little connection with Buck. We used to visit him regularly up in North Carolina as sort of a retreat. I used to go and see him and talk to him regularly. But he was going through a very difficult spiritual crisis that I didn't completely understand. He came back to the fellowship later, but I think I was there through the Nell Morton days.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Who were the major decision makers in the fellowship?
DAVID BURGESS:
Well Nell was very much. Buck, Scotty Cowan and Charley Jones. I sort of lost track of Charley. I send mail to him. Have you seen Charley?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
He is back in Chapel Hill, he and Dorcas. And I tried to schedule an appointment with him, but she responded to the letter and said that he was really not capable right now. He got too upset going back over the past.

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DAVID BURGESS:
Well I was there when he was kicked out of the Presbytarian Church, and went and held his hand. I mean spiritually. It was just. And in a way he started his own church, but then he went into the restraunt business or something but I never felt that he came back to himself. This is all by surmise, because I haven't gotten a letter from his since I left the south. Charley Jones was very influencial. Maynard Kathins was I would say. I am trying to think of some other blacks, people at Fisk and Shaw, Benjamin Mayes. Trying to think of some other people. Well who was the President of Fisk at that time?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Don't know.
DAVID BURGESS:
Well Alva Taylor- he was one of the I would say parallel prophecies over against. And we never were, I knew Miles Horton very well and Jim Dobrowski, but they were sort of in another parallel track. And the split that crowd and the Bronze Daniel and the Buck Kester was on the whole communist question. And Fronz Daniel was the leader of the C.I.O. in South Carolina who got me the job in 1947. But the whole split between, this happened before World War Two but it came out blazingly when the so called communist unions were purged from the C.I.O. in the late forties. Mitchell was finatically, because of the fact the communist threw Hutchinson and the whole agriculture county workers the whole fight was there between the C.I.O. and then part of it. But all of this period there was this and Buck Kester was very much in the.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]


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DAVID BURGESS:
In other words I played the whole game, the nomination. But this was again I called on the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen to put out the word and to send out the word of organizing a large group in St. Louis and another large group in New York City and so this was a network, a sadie network. Now there are probably other things, but this is my personal experience. That is one.
Second I think that the it gave us some view those of us, and I was sort of a Yankee in a sense though I was able to adopt a southern accent very quickly, and never was accused of being a "God damn Yankee".
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
It probably saved your life.
DAVID BURGESS:
It might have. But it gave us a sense of southern history. I mean that book, C. J. Cashin book of the south was an eye-opener for me, the way Tom Watson is the tragic figure. But I never realized that the black cause really did not come in til late in North Carolina until the 1890's to kill of the whole black/white proletarian relationship, and that he was the Vice-Presidental candidate with Bryant. This gave me a very deep sense of history. I think this helped some of us who came into the south. And the Southern Fellowship sort of strengthened it. In other words since you were a part of history, you weren't just there doing your thing in Rockford, South Carolina or somewhere down in the south. I think that is another. Then third as I mentioned before, the biblical connections, the relevance of the old testiment of the prophecy in particular. And Buck's favorite passage was that serman in Nazarath of Jesus quoting Issiah. That was sort of his text as it were. And I have used it and reused it, which I think was important. But I think finally that this it is hard to put it into words, but the ability of an individual in difficult situations to pull strength from other people, sources, to realize that you had to regularly recycle to be effect. But this defeat is never the final defeat or this victory is never the final victory. This is a double thing. You are thankful for small victories, but it is not the ultimate victory. You are sorryful for small defeats, but it

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is not the pitts. At least in my life this gave me a great sense of power, and recessitation, and renewal. I think it was very important. Another person indirectly related to us although I don't know how prominent is Alex Herd. Whom later became chancellor of Vanderbilt. He was sort of a theoritician, political science over in University of North Carolina when I was around.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
I didn't realize that.
DAVID BURGESS:
But I don't know if he has any connections. But I knew him from we worked for a year in Washington together. I knew the friendship after it went bad. Then I think that the final thing in my own personal life is that you never can put your faith in man or an institution. I discovered, I went to the south with the three heroes in mind. One was Buck Kester, one was H.L. Mitchell, and one was Fronz Daniel. I discovered in the fullness of time that everyone had clay feet. Fronz was a labor leader who in the later thirties was considered the coming labor leader. He suffered one defeat after another. He went through a difficult period with alcohol and next with the divorce later in the sixties. But he came out of Highlander, Union class of 1929. And I remember when he was drunk once in Cordeve he said to me "Dave the trouble with you is that you have a sustaining philosophy." This is just after he lost an arrogant election. And we had to take him home when he was at a convention in Atlanta. And we had to take him up to his room and so forth. He was railing and rioting. He was just a bear. But he was very easily hurt and very easily insulted. Heart of gold. He had the toughness of becoming the organizer of opportunity, he cracked. Buck Kester, I would say that I loved him, I admired him. We were close. But there was a wistfulnesss for bygone days, never feeling that he had reached his culmination for wishing in this life. I din't know him later. I didn't meet him after 1955, so I have no comment. H.L.Mitchell is the one who is sort of a survivalist and he made a real lecturing about

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becoming the former President organizing the Southern Tennant Farmers Union. He now has his own thing going. But it was something he never had a religious point of view, but something very enduring about the guy. Up and down he still persisted, he still had a delegation seeing so and so. He organized the fisherman down in Louisiana and Texas. He helped Cheves start, and other people. And he has been all over the lot and he still has a sense of humor. A secularist. And we're corresponding regularly. He is trying to get me to court Monday. He has come across something. But anyway. But he had feet of clay. He wasn't terribly a good organizer, he wasn't proficient. He did not know how to develop leadership within the common sense of the word. All sorts of factionalism within the union, which I was very much aware of. But you never got into it. I discovered that you can not build your life on three fine guys. You have to find your own. You can still learn something from it. And I did. I have.
Let me go down and find…
You might take a look at this. I will give you the address.
END OF INTERVIEW