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Title: Oral History Interview with Elizabeth and Courtney Siceloff, July 8, 1985. Interview F-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Siceloff, Elizabeth, interviewee
Author: Siceloff, Courtney, 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 Mike Millner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2006
Size of electronic edition: 128 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2006.
© 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:
2006-00-00, Celine Noel and Wanda Gunther revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2006-12-18, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Elizabeth and Courtney Siceloff, July 8, 1985. Interview F-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series F. Fellowship of Southern Churchmen, 1983-1985. Southern Oral History Program Collection (F-0039)
Author: Dallas A. Blanchard
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Elizabeth and Courtney Siceloff, July 8, 1985. Interview F-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series F. Fellowship of Southern Churchmen, 1983-1985. Southern Oral History Program Collection (F-0039)
Author: Elizabeth and Courtney Siceloff
Description: 148 Mb
Description: 45 p.
Note: Interview conducted on July 8, 1985, 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 Elizabeth and Courtney Siceloff, July 8, 1985.
Interview F-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Siceloff, Elizabeth, interviewee
Siceloff, Courtney, interviewee


Interview Participants

    ELIZABETH SICELOFF, interviewee
    COURTNEY SICELOFF, interviewee
    DALLAS A. BLANCHARD, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
In Alabama, when they announced, it was July 5th and he said . . . he is so quiet and modest. It was one of those experiences you don't have very often. "Oh they were so elated."
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
You said Alabama, but where in Alabama?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
At the trial, Mobile.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Really?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Yeah, and he was so excited and I was telling you he had put a picture up on the bulletin board in our mail room of a color picture. I guess it was from the Montgomery paper. All of them rejoicing, Albert Turner and all these people and couple of kids. It was a marvelous picture up there. I said, "Al, I love that picture." Alan said, "I hope some of my pictures turn out." He turned into quite a photographer. Right now though he's going to go back home and take a nap. He's writing an article for the Nation on this. He said, "I want to see if they're still interested." He said, "They called me last week, and I was just too busy." He was so caught up in this wonderful surprise. He has stuff all over the library up there . . . piles of clippings. I hope it will be a good one.

Page 2
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
A sociologist in our department named Bernadette Grant is from Mobile. Her husband teaches at the University of South Alabama. She was used, or was waiting to be used by the defense in the jury selection as a consultant for them. But then, whoever the outside attorneys were from outside of Alabama, they brought in their own high powered consultants and so she didn't get involved. But she sat with them while they went through the process. I was amazed at the verdict. It seemed . . .
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Oh yeah, Alan . . . Well the only other thing I would say before you turn on the machine . . .
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Well, I've already turned it on. I hope that's all right with you, unless it's something you don't want revealed.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Oh, no, I was just going to say that, well my memory is sketchy. So it will be just be memories and images and anotations.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Well, that's expected. For the record, recapping, you were the secretary for the Fellowship in '45?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Perhaps. It was '45 or '46 until toward the end of probably '46. I was in Chapel Hill from February of '45 through December of '45, so in the middle of that period was . . . although I was associated with Nelle and we were friends from the time that I arrived.

Page 3
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
You remained members from that time on?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Yes.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
But you were actually the secretary in the office then.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
I really don't have those dates down.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Do you remember the name Leslie Leal?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Could that have been a local Chapel Hill person?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
There was someone who wrote, a minister, who wrote articles for each issue of Prophetic Religion under the pseudonym of Leslie Leal. Mostly the late 30's and the early 40's.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
No, I don't remember him.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
I suspect with the name Leal, which is the Scottish word for loyality that it was Scotty Cowan, but I haven't been able to . . . His wife's sisters got all of his papers and they won't release them.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Will Campbell?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Will came along much later.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Ask Charles Jones for them. I don't know if he would

Page 4
have them. But Charles was very active at the time I was working for the Fellowship.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Looking back on it, what do you think were the primary goals of the Fellowship? What was it really about?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
I remember one time when Charles Jones characterized it as a bunch of lunatics and heretics. I think to me it was sort of bringing to action the social gospel which had become newly revealed to me at Chapel Hill. Coming out of a very traditional Presbyterian Church into a whole new setting.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Where was your home church?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Charlotte.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
What did your father do?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
My father worked in a cotton mill.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
And your mother?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
My mother worked there for a short period. Actually, my parents were separated when I was four.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Did you live with your mother?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Yes, I was the youngest of seven children.

Page 5
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Did she ever remarry?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Oh, no. She didn't get divorced.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Oh, just separated.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Yes, he was an alcoholic and she just couldn't take it anymore. Some of my older brothers and sisters dropped out of school to help the family.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Courtney . . . your father was a Methodist minister?
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
In Texas. I didn't know about the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen until we were married.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Which was '49. Were there any crises in the Fellowship at the time you were most active in it?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
I'm trying to remember if I was still working for the Fellowship when, I think I must have been during one of the workcamps in eastern North Carolina.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Columbia?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Yes.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Okay. I've got some questions about that one. Was it you who wrote Nelle, the secretary whoever it was, if I had known you were Elizabeth Taylor, I would have made

Page 6
some notes about this.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Oh, well you could have helped me. We have more in your papers than you will be able to [unknown]
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
I could have brought a copy of the letter for you. Anyway, whoever it was wrote, the secretary was in the office alone, Nelle was out of town at some conference or somethins, I don't know, but anyway Columbia hit. Whoever it was had to handle all the crisis calls. The press, the parents, and everything, calling the office.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
I don't think I was the person who did that or I would have remembered. I suppose it could be Cornelia Lively. I think the way I knew about it was through people, I can't remember if Hibbard Thatcher was in that one. I think Jack and Garland Anderson and, anyway I got the feedback through people who were.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Do you know where Cornelia Lively is?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
She has died.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Oh.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Wait a minute, no, she is ill with cancer. Nelle told me when I saw her in the airport about a year ago. She told me Cornelia had cancer and had been and was very,

Page 7
very ill and possibly had died.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
The letter to Nelle mentioned that she had bumped into J.C. Herrin in the post office the morning after it hit the national news. And J.C. ran out of the post office away from her like a scalded cat. He wanted to be disassociated from this. So, I'm trying to get some insight into that.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
I remember him as being someone that was usually a supporter. I believe he was a Baptist student minister.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
The reason I was interested in J.C. Herrin, whom I've talked to but he didn't shed any light on this, when Buck left in 1957 they were trying to get a grant from the Field Foundation and Buck wrote someone that he thought J.C. Herrin had undermined the Foundation grant by going behind their back and telling the Foundation not to give it.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Oh, well that's too bad.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
J.C. admitted that he thought that what they were doing at the time was not that worthwhile an activity.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
Did he have any relationship with the Fellowship?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
J.C.?

Page 8
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
Yes.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
He helped them get other grants. Did you know J.C. Herrin?
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
Later on, because he went down to Penn when they were trying to dispose of that school and how to deal with that and turned it over to the state and so forth, but that was different. It may have been a little earlier than that.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Well, he was pastor of a church in the 50's at Scarsdale, New York and he was making contacts in the New York area with the Foundations. In fact, when the Fellowship printed Frank Graham's article from an historical journal or something, they got a grant from I think it was from Field Foundation. They used that to print 50,000 copies.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
What's the guy's name who was the executive secretary of Field . . .
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Leslie Stonewall?
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
The guy who preceeded him. The guy who down, who I told him it was 1/4 mile and he said it was a mile?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
I've seen his name so many times in all that correspondence.

Page 9
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
I could imagine that anyone if Scarsdale must have known him.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Anyway, J.C. suggested to him that Graham's article ought to be reprinted, and the guy said yes, it should be, now who should we get to do it? And J.C. said well how about the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen? So then J.C. got in touch with the Fellowship and asked them for $2,500 or something like that.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Some magnificent sum.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Yes, at that time it was. They got it and then they needed about that much more and they got that. So J.C. was not . . . I wasn't wanting to imply that he was trying to [unknown] everything.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
But you know, there are so many complications in this thing. People trying to follow the leadings of their conscience and at the same time keep their jobs and everything.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
But there were people who [unknown]. These people you know even much later, that with their Southern contacts where basically they bounced ideas off and suggestions so that I can see a person in that raole, not knowing J.C., but if he had been a confidant and knew people that could say how do you feel about this or about that rather than actually in a sense conniving or something.

Page 10
He felt they were only [unknown] but this wasn't very productive. He'd have to be honest to say that . . . I don't know, but I do know but there were people, I'm trying to think there were people in Chapel Hill who served in that capacity.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Some of them were faculty who were close to the Doris Duke Foundation.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
We got used to that [unknown]. We heard that, I want to say Maxwell . . .
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Yes, Max, Maxwell (Hahn).
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
But I think they had sometimes, I'm sure Harold was very influential. And Less before him with [unknown] before he even came. He wasn't even a board member I'm sure but maybe say you know this is a good group. And I'm sure that must be the way we got one's through some contact like that, so for Herrin it could have been having that role.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Do you remember the name Wallace Fridy? F-r-i-d-y?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Yes, I remember the name.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Methodist minister in South Carolina.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
We got contacts from him.

Page 11
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
Seems like he helped publish that South Carolina Speak. I'm wondering if he was . . .
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
He probably would be.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
There are four ministers that . . . Morris was the one who sort of . . . He and Morris was [unknown] and there was at least one Methodist.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
There was a Methodist minister named Jack something.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
I think all four of them had to leave. I guess Morris stayed longer. Some of them had to leave very abruptly. Excellent little booklet they put out. Very moderate, all white. We had someone down in Beaufort and a very fine lady up in Gaffney, who was a doctor's wife. But they were all moderate folks. Bookstores wouldn't sell it. The bookstores in Beaufort even though a Beaufort author was on it.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Wallace Fridy wrote a letter to the office a week after the Columbia incident resigning from the Fellowship with no explanation.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
He then had a church in —.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Pastor in South Carolina.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
South Carolina.

Page 12
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
I was just wondering if there was a connection that you would know about.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Well, I remember the name.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Well, maybe he's the same.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
I don't know if he did, you said he did have to leave?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
I thought you said he did.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
Well, I can't tell you these four ministers names. I don't know. I know Morris. This was in the 50's wasn't it?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Yeah, well there was a Wallace Fridy. The name spelled the same way who was a minister in the Kentucky conference in the late 50's, 1956. He was the only minister I could find to marry me. He drove 60 miles to perform the wedding. Because I was marrying a woman who had been married previously.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Extremely dangerous.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Yes. I was just wondering if it were the same Wallace Fridy.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Well, the name is unusual enough, but . . .

Page 13
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
Why don't I tell you about [unknown]. You lived there in Alabama which probably even more difficult to try to express one's self, how one really felt. Just some examples. The guys had a very moderate publication and had to leave town. But this happened with Commission on Civil Rights. I think on three occasions they had a committee put together and it would be leaked to the press and the white members all had to resign. They never even got formed, they had only agreed to serve with these black people. There was one who was an insurance salesman in Georgetown that had to leave his business, and he finally was able to get started in something else, a laborer. But the pressures, I know the conference I was going to be attending in Highlander one Christmastime, the Courier sent a reporter up there and reported everyone who was in attendance there. And I can . . . the smear that the News Courier put on the Southern Regional Council about all of these connections with the SCEF. So that being a member of an organization which got all of this publicity, pressure . . . you'd have to make your decision. But you must have seen that obviously all around. This isn't anything new to you. If you're going to stay in your profession . . . the pressures from such.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
We had 21 Methodist ministers in Mississippi at one time.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
So this Fridy could likely not have been one of those four. I thought you were thinking some liberal minister

Page 14
there in the state, and it just occurred that it might have been one of those.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Well, for him to be a member of the Fellowship to start with, he had to be a liberal. What I'm trying to find out is, did any of the controversial things that hit the press, like Columbia, or like the Journey of Reconciliation and the incident in Chapel Hill with Charles Jones, did those things have any effect on the membership? Did you lose members? Do you recall?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
I really don't. I don't recall an incident like that that caused a large number of people resigning or even one or two.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
Did you have annual membership dues?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Yes. A dollar a year.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Was that what it was? It was never enough.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
The membership funds just wouldn't support it. Neither would the donations. Do you recall any internal dissentions in the leadership of the Fellowship?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
I don't remember anything I can put my finger on. I can remember very lively and spirited meetings of the executive committee and so forth. As a matter of fact, I was probably not present at a lot of those meetings, but I

Page 15
can remember going to Richmond to a gathering which may have been, it was more than just the executive committee, and I remember going to a conference at Pleasant Hill, Tennessee. That one, I think at the last minute the person who was supposed to have responsibility for the children's program was not able to come and so I was drafted to fill in that and so I was not present at a lot of meetings and discussions. And so . . . I can remember, I think I had my first experiences of very lively and spirited discussions that involved differences. It seems to me that a lot of them were theological or social gospel type . . . I think that the best way to answer that would be that, I probably was not present when a lot of policy matters was discussed.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Did you have the feeling that any of this carried over, that there were any internal hostilities or cliques over issues and such?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Within the membership and executive committee?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Right.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
I don't know that, if you try to think through things that might have caused dissention or that sort of thing, I seem to remember that, there would be times when this was detectable, but Nelle Morton would be trying to establish a somewhat independent course. She would have to deal with these people who had been in the organization.

Page 16
In the founding, the old times. Also, she was a woman secretary and these were all men and they were ministers. We were talking at dinner tonight that these were just headstrong individuals and I think it would be inevitable that there would be differences.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
I know there were differences, but I have not been able to catch a lot of cliques forming or that sort of thing. At that time, not while Nelle was there.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
If it was going on, I was not aware of it.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Okay. Of course, the big growth period was while Nelle was in charge of it.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
I think Nelle was very strong on organization and she was coming in to a different approach. Her type of orientation. She was all for the [unknown], but she wanted to get the thing on a sounder financial basis. I just remembered one of, Charles Jones, his names for the magazine sometimes instead of Prophetic Religion, it was Profitless Religion.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Somebody wrote that it should be Pathetic Religion.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
And there may even be unprintable things that it was called. I just happened to think about that.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
I thought it was pretty good, myself. I've got copies

Page 17
of all the issues.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Have you? Oh my, that would be interesting to see sometime. I thought it was good, too. I couldn't always understand the articles.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Well, I had trouble with that, too.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
It was full of zeal. I just remember, Scotty Cowan, to me, he was like an Old Testament prophet when he spoke. He was a strong prophet.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
He had a way with words.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Oh, he did. He certainly did.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
While we're talking about people, I had the impression that Buck Kester . . . I've seen copies of his sermons. They were the driest things I have ever read. It reminded me of John Wesley's sermons. I've never been so bored in my life as when reading Wesley's sermons.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
You know, that's really interesting, because I don't have any memory of reading anything he wrote.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
Did you hear him preach?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
No, not as such. I remember him speaking eloquently in Fellowship meetings and gatherings which was actually

Page 18
where I met him. I'm pretty sure he came from Penn School to some, if not all, the executive committee meetings and conferences when I was working for the Fellowship. But really, my memory of him is as a charismatic person. To me, he represented being out on the front line working in labor and with tenant farmers and some of the things we were talking about earlier. I've known other people who were eloquent in their ministry, in their presence, and they just weren't lively communicators. That's really a suprise to me because it's not just part of the image I have of him.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Well, everyone else agrees with your image of him.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B] [text missing]
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Where were y'all in 1960?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
We were at Penn School and very much involved.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
'50 to '69.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
That long? That's a long time. Well then you were kind of isolated from the civil rights movement?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
It came there.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
In what way?
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
Well, there was a conference center. That was one of the first things we did. Then, the boarding school. Hiram Read, a sociology professor, headed a group that made a survey of Penn in '47, that in terms of teacher certification, equipment, and everything, it would take a million dollar endowment to make it a feasible operation and suggested closing Penn School and getting into something else. They worked out an agreement with the Board of Education of the county, the northern do-gooders, that (1) the teachers would be hired by the county. They would operate the school on Penn grounds but that Penn would be responsible for the deficit up to $10,000 a year to subsidize our Christian school; that there would be no director for at least a period of two years. It closed in '48 and we came in '50. We began trying to see first

Page 20
as a community organization. But in '55 the decision had been made that we would make this available for integrated groups and this was in time for the Supreme Court Decision and we brought an AFC group down there. That changed the whole attitude in the white community toward what we were doing. Before it had been a black operation which they could tolerate for a hundred years. These northern ladies and so forth. It was the only place of its kind where we could stay integrated and stay overnight. King came down and sort of got to know [unknown]. Then I was a consultant to the commission. I was on this committee that they tried to put together. They failed 3 times before. They sent us a note through the mail that said, "We're not telegraphing and we're not doing anything. Meet us at a certain place in Columbia." The South Carolina Advisory Committee, and you will find out who the other people are on the committee. That was in '57 to '59. So about a year later, we had two staff people in Washington for all 48 committees. They had five consultants to work on a part-time basis. I had from Virginia to Arkansas was my territory for several years. So, it was a very tiny group.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
The Charleston News had an editorial about the composition of the South Carolina Advisory Committee, when it was announced. They could say nothing good, of course, about the committee, or about the membership. They started off with Courteny. They said he had been brought in from

Page 21
Texas to head up the Community Services Program. It sounded like he was some sort of dangerous alien that had been smuggled across the —. They organized a special meeting of the Klan. The purpose was to expose Courtney as a communist. They had to announce at the meeting that they hadn't completed their research and they didn't have any . . .
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
I went to a Klan meeting one time with a Presbyterian minister up in Greenville, Alabama. One of the speakers gave the Biblical basis of segregation. He spent about 15 minutes, and then closed out by saying, "Of course, I'm not a religious person myself." The next speaker said, "Let us not substitute intelligence for ignorance."
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Everybody else was wearing a sheet?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Well, yeah. Not really that large a gathering. About 100 feet from where the cross was being burned there was a black family cabin. All the kids were sitting out on the porch just watching the show. They weren't threatened the least. While we were sitting down, and I I was jotting down notes, someone walked up behind us and asked us if we were with the press. They were in their robes. They stayed behind us the rest of the night.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
They kept an eye on you.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Yeah. But they were very interesting folks.
Do you

Page 22
recall the Friends of the Soil?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Yes.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Did the existence of Friends of the Soil create any problems for the Fellowship that you were aware of?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Francis Drake, wasn't it?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Right. Gene Smathers.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
[unknown], Big Lick, Tennessee. That's like ghosts from the past. The only thing, I'm trying to remember. I'm not hesitating because I don't want to tell. I have a vague memory. There might have been a certain amount of energy or funds going into that. It was an organization that was . . . there was an effort to keep it going and to keep it entity that may have diverted a little bit of energy or funds from the total Fellowship. That's not based on any . . . I don't remember any specific . . .
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
I talked to Francis by the way, he's retired . . .
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
That would have been a useful thing. Take that up with him again.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Were there any women who were strongly active in the Fellowship other than, of course, Nelle?

Page 23
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
I don't particularly remember. There was a woman in Chapel Hill who was with the YMCA.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Ann Queen?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Well, I guess she was part of Charles Jones' orbit and was a person who was interested in all these things. I remember Ann being active. She would have been involved in anything which students were taking part.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
But as far as the executive committee?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
I don't remember any. My memory is that they were all men and they were all ministers.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
All right. What about the role of blacks? Were there any blacks who were strong contributors to the decision making?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
I can't remember. I have a very vivid memory of Branch.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Murray Branch?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Murray Branch to the conference at Pleasant Hill, Tennessee, and I think I may have driven with him part of the way. I remember him making quite an effort to come to that conference and participating in a very active way, but I don't suppose he was on the executive committee.

Page 24
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
He was at one time.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Was he? Well, that name and face comes up right away. I can remember the name of Melvin Watson and I think I'm getting a picture. He was a young minister. I remember him coming to meetings.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
He finished seminary in the mid 30's which would make him, well, about 75, I guess. But he's the youngest looking 75 I've ever seen. So he probably looked younger than he really was.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Have you come across the name of Mrs. Jernigan?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Yes.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
She was a very lovely black woman.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Her husband was a school principal. And she was secretary of FSC.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Yes. She had a very strong connection with Shaw University. I remember riding with her to the conference in Pleasant Hill. As I remember, I was the only white person in this car of, I suppose there were six of us. We were driving together from Chapel Hill to Pleasant Hill. We stopped, it was one of the larger cities. We went to the train station so we could go to the restroom and by this time I was so caught up in feeling part of the group and . . .

Page 25
actually we spent the night with black friends of theirs. I so identified with them that when we got to the train station, it wasn't any particular protest or anything. I just automatically started looking for the colored restroom. [interruption] [text missing] I started heading toward them and Mrs. Jernigan, who was this very lovely black lady from Raleigh, North Carolina, who was working as a part-time secretary for the Fellowship, she said, "Now Mrs. Taylor, you know we're running late and we don't have time for anybody to get arrested or stop and get somebody out of jail." She said, "You just turn right around and you go right in that white restroom and I don't want you to give me any trouble." She was a very mild and softspoken person and I did what I was told.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
Incidently, she came from Clinton, Tennessee, I believe.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
She was working at the office at the same time you were, then.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
It may be, but at the time she was the secretary. I don't know if I was asked to go and be in charge of the children's program, because that's what I ended up doing. I was back and forth between periods of working for the sociology department and working for the Fellowship. I think I was working for the Fellowship and maybe it was that we were both working part-time there.

Page 26
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
Did she come over to Chapel Hill to work?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
I think she did. I think that's where [unknown].
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Are you familiar with Will Campbell?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Well, I certainly know him and know about him and admire him.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
What do you see as the difference between the Fellowship and the Committee?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
I don't know that I'm close enough to the Committee to answer that.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Well, I'm just interested in impressions.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
Did the Committee ever have membership meetings?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Last winter. I've been a member now of the committee for twenty years and last winter I got my second notice of a meeting. And I went to this one because I didn't think that I'd live the next twenty years.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
Was this the executive committee?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
No, it was the whole committee. They're limited to a maximum of a hundred members and last I heard we had 45.

Page 27
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
Whereas the Fellowship had annual meetings open to everyone.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
And the Fellowship had as many as 500 members by the time Nell left in '49. There were about 125 when she came in. The committee—new members are appointed by Will. By law, it's supposed to meet once a year. It could have lost it's charter if the state had gone after it.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
But did Will ever do anything by the law?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Well, he's autonomian in many ways.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
I guess in thinking of my impressions of the difference, I think of the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen as being a vehicle for Will Campbell to do the things that he's called to do. I really don't have any vision of that as an organization. I think he's a prophet who's out there prophesying and crying in the wilderness and doing outrageous things.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
This is a sideline. He's trying to put together, trying to get a national grant to put together the people in the prolife movement and the folks in the antinuclear movement and the folks in the environmental issues and the anti-death penalty folks. To get those together at a national level all over then try to organize some local coalitions of these groups. And you talk about a wierd

Page 28
bunch.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Reconciliation! The way Will always liked to work with the Klan. Keep in communication.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
What I remember as the Fellowship, it seemed to me to be more of a grassroots group in which you would try to have a well-integrated group get together periodically and have this idea and bought the property and had long-term plans for carrying out that. People were encouraged to build homes and buy lots from these slots or whatever it was. Once the changed its name, I got the impression that it was much more of an intellectual organization with publications with names I never could pronounce.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Even harder and more obscure than Prophetic Religion. That was not exactly a catchy title for a magazine.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
I never remember seeing notice of any meeting after that change.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
No, there wasn't. Intentionally. Will didn't want to spend his time going out and drumming up members for a membership organization.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
That's his style. A totally different style.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Actually, I think what happened was that he got this grant from the Field Foundation to the National Council

Page 29
of Churches and the National Council he split and he needed an organization to house it and that's why he went to the Fellowship.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
I thought that he got cut off from the National Council. Did they finally cut off his grant? Weren't we encouraged to write letters to the National Council?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
The grant came with him.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Maybe they tried to but . . .
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
It seems to me that they were . . . he was being dismissed and they rallied to get the National Council to keep him on.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
I don't know whether that happened or not but at the split when he got canned by the National Council because he just wanted to be a preacher. That's the way he puts it. I haven't heard from the National Council side. But I have copies of the correspondence going back and forth. I haven't had time to dig into them. He had a grant from the Field Foundation to do what he was doing in the South with the National Council. So when the National Council fired him the grant stayed with him. So then he went to the Fellowship office and said, "I would like to house this grant with the Fellowship" and that's how it got restructured.

Page 30
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
What year was that?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
1963.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
That's when he came to the organization?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Yes. Well, he was with the Fellowship as a member of the Fellowship back in the 1950's.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
But I mean as an executive.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Yeah. He became the executive secretary at that time. Do you recall or do you know anything about Buck Kester's leaving his executive secretaryship in '57? Do you know anything about why he left?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
I don't guess I do. I seems like I remember hearing about it from when we were at Penn.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
You didn't pick up on any of the internal gossip?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
No. I guess we weren't really in touch with it.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
You say you only met him once in New York.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
When he instructed for the refugee organization, I went to see him for parent problems at Penn.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Let me bounce something off you. It seems that the

Page 31
camp because a kind of bone of contention in the Fellowship. You mentioned the grandiose plans and apparently Buck was assigned to oversee that. He lived at Black Mountain not too far from there, and so it was kind of his job to build it up and keep it going. Supervise workcamps and still do his field work. Then travel around the south building fellowships.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
That's a big order.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Yes.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
That means they had more responsibility than just the camps?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Yes. He was doing the same job Nelle was doing. Essentially, that's what he was hired for in '52, plus to get the camps going.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
So he was back in the circle. He was once again the executive secretary.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
From '52 to '57. There were some people, like David Burgess, who were real gungho about getting the camp going. And there were other people, the Hughley's, Neal and Sadie, who really thought the camps were the wrong direction to go in, that they ought to concentrate their energies on building little local groups.

Page 32
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Putting more energy into the property and development and all that.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
My impression is that they finally split top executive committee. Charles will probably be able to tell me more about it.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Yes. Charles can help.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Buck was asked to leave around '56. It took him about a year to find some place to go to.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Well, as we were saying earlier, being the sort of independent . . . Well, those prophets, it's hard for them to get along because they're each . . .
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
What surprised me was that he could have been the executive secretary during this period. I remember in '57 we went to some of the meetings and I remember very vividly when they laid this plan out.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
[unknown] back in '52. [unknown] '48, '49. See, we got the property in '48 when Nelle was still there. It was donated at that time. Then Nelle left in '49 so abruptly. The you have this time of Charles Jones from '49 to '52 being part-time position. They had run out of money that time, too, but then they got a grant again, I think around '52 and they hired Buck.

Page 33
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
See, we went down to Penn in '50 and our involvement was in that period and even remember Buck Kester there. I do remember later that once they were beginning to develop the property he had responsibility in terms of making contact with the Council of Churches and they put on a workcamp and the church community had a workcamp. He had the responsibility where you had to check with him.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
That gives me a lot of insight.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
I remember a lot of mailings.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
I think it would have rung a bell with us. The fact that we change SIDE with what's happening to Penn and so forth. I just don't remember that. I just remember that Ray ended up there in semi-retirement.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
In fact, in that time around '55, he made a tour of the whole South as far as Texas. It was about the time that the Delta Farm in Mississippi ran into trouble and had to close that down. Gene Cox had to get out.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
He was a white haired . . .
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Oh, yes, I remember him.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
He lives just down the street from Elvis Presley's Gracie Mansion. In fact, he was the first person I interviewed about this years ago.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
He and Buck were in that together, the farm.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
But anyway, Buck made a tour down through there and gave a report on the conditions of the South about '55.

Page 35
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
This is news to me.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
I think it is quite insightful that you picture him as primarily as camp director. I think it says something about where his primary energies were being directed, which did become an issue, and he writes about that.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
We weren't active in the Fellowship either.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
He would not have included Penn Center on his tour because I'm sure he found it real painful.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
He was bitter about Penn center.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Penn school was bitter about him. He had a very rough time there.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
One of my impressions was that Buck ran into trouble because of Buck in the 50's. Well, Buck was grate in the 30's with the Fellowship by getting it going with his charismatic personality but then comes Nelle Morton in the 40's who's the organizer par excellence. and the victor. Buck tended to give knee-jerk reactions and Alice steadied him a whole lot from what I've heard and kind of kept his feet on the ground.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
She was the organizer of that team.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Yes. Buck comes back in '52.

Page 36
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
What age would he have been? I'd say he was going into sort of a retirement.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
No. He wasn't retired because in '52, Nancy would have been just 19 and going to college.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
No time to retire is it.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
He's in his forties at that time.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Pretty young.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
But Buck was still operating back in the 30's in terms of the way he operated. The fellowship he's grown beyond that.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
He was in an endangered situation in Mississippi farm-wise.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
My description of Buck Kester is the Lone Ranger who would ride into town and the folks would ask, "Who was that masked man?" He'd go to Marianna, Florida then to investigate a lynching and almost get lynched himself. He'd go into some little town in Arkansas and try to organize the local tenant farmer's union then he was gone. He was from one hot spot to another . . .
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
He was drawn to hot spots.

Page 37
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Publicity may have been part of it. I don't know. But Nelle was a quite organizer of local community groups.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
It was a totally different approach.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
And getting them out there to stir up trouble and create change rather than react to it.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Is Buck dead now?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Yes. He died in '76.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
What did he die of?
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
He died with his boots on.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
The Lone Ranger died with his boots on. Say, do you remember Betty Kester who was Irene's good friend? She is his widow.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
Only for a limited period of time. It was a short mariage for both of them.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
His second wife was his wife's sister. After his first wife of many years died then [unknown]. We'll give you the phone number of Janet Ferguson who is such a close friend of Betty Kester, and she'll even know if she's traveling.

Page 38
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Well, I'm leaving town at six.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
A.M.?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
A.M. But I can call from on the road.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Well, if you're going to call from the road you can just call me.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
It's [text deleted] . Janet's the one. Janet Ferguson.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
They stay in touch with one another and visit back and forth.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Gosh. I had a list of names I wanted to ask you about but I think we've talked about everyone on here that's of importance. Did you know Jim Dombrowski?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
I just may have been in a conference with him or something. He was just a name that Nelle talked to frequently.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Oh, really?
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
His name came up a lot. It was always a name to conjure with. I don't know that she talked to him a lot. We didn't do business so much by phone as we do now, but you know . . .

Page 39
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Well, the mail worked good back then. You could send out notices to people; "Don't forget that we've got a meeting" and it . . .
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
We don't do that these days.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Well, I wouldn't dare do that.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Well, I just remember him as one of a band of saints if you'd want to call it that.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
It's interesting that he had some connection with the Fellowship. Did he ever leave it? I thought that he'd think that to be too conservative.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
I think that he probably just drifted away but he maintained his membership, primarily I suspect, to get the literature, but he wasn't all that active in it. He wasn't on the board.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
Was he head of the steps?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Yes he was. But you know, he began the Fellowship. It was his idea.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
I think Nelle admired him a lot. That's my perception. It seems to me that his name came up frequently.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
He was placed in the public image at that time, as I

Page 40
recall it. The same as Miles Horton.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
Even more so I'd have thought.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
And greatly admired. You know, Miles Horton was admired.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
Hounded. And was much more radical than what I'd assume the Fellowship was.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
I think so. Miles was, of course, also nonreligious.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Uh-huh. That's like saying he's not one for literature. I guess his involvement would be of a nonreligious nature. Social change.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Miles asked Buck to come help him to start Highlander.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Did he?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Yeah. Buck went ot the Fellowship instead in the early 30's and supported what was going on at Highlander around the late 30's. They had split over the communist issue. Miles was willing to work with anybody. Not to be taken in by them but work with them. Buck wouldn't. Miles was more active as an organizer. Buck wasn't. There was just a real difference in personalities.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
I never knew that.

Page 41
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
In fact, Buck wrote one letter in which he implies he thought Highlander was his operation, but then decided not to [unknown] it from what the Fellowship was doing.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
I think that both were such strong individuals that they couldn't have worked as a team very well, could they?
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
And Miles felt betrayed by Buck eventually. Buck agreed for the Fellowship to help sponsor a multigroup meeting and Buck backed out of it, and said that he had never agreed to do it according to Miles, then denounced. But that's Miles's version. I just wish Buck were aground so he could talk a little but about it.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
Back to the matter of the conferencing center being the [unknown]. It seems to me that there was a period in which it was either a go or no go business with the conference center. It seems to me that it was absorbing so much energy and funds and the director, whoever it was, . . . It must have been Buck at the time. It was a question of whether to put those energies into organizing groups and carrying on the movement as opposed to trying to raise the money to get this thing off the ground. It seems to me that there was a big decision one time on whether the next meeting ought to be in the conference center itself as a commitment that we are going to go

Page 42
through with this. I can't remember if we met there or not. I guess we met at Warren Wilson.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
The health department killed it. You had to have approved outhouses, and approved water supply, and kitchen and all that. That just could not be done.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
We spent the weekend trying to meet those standards.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
But you're right, there was an attempt to have a meeting there, but at the last minute they had to switch it to Warren Wilson.
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
I think, as I recall, there was a decision to be made, are we or aren't we. Let's meet there and sho that we are going to go through with it, we are going to make a go of it. There were others who were [unknown] heated discussions whether to say let's not do it as opposed to let's go there.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
The feedback I'm getting now from people like Sadie Hughley and some others is that the board itself is really divided but those who were for the camp by David Burgess were so strongly for it and the rest of us . . .
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Kind of a passion . . .
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Yeah and those who were against it weren't so strongly against it so they remained silent in the executive
[text missing]

Page 44
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
But anyway, they just wanted to [unknown] to really maintain it [unknown].
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
They would have had everything all finished.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Somebody at Vanderbilt, he thought he could get a grant to buy it for $50,000 or something like that.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
That would have changed the course of a lot of . . .
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
It's probably just as well that they didn't get it.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
They probably would have . . . It would have been more like a church conference.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Do you know, just as a sidelight, what happened to the money that came from [unknown] [tape jumps].
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
We had a . . . While we were at Penn Center, we got together a group of people to talk about problems in the rural south and think of ways that these problems could be dealt with. We had people from different . . .
COURTNEY SICELOFF:
Gene Cox was one of them.
ELIZABETH SICELOFF:
Yeah. Gene Cox, Alice Spearman, Paul Willing of the Southern Regional Councils; so Charles Jones was asked to be a member of that group, and he was driving down to [unknown] Island from Chapel Hill. I believe his 1

Page 45
daughter met him. She was at a workcamp. Charles had car trouble when he was coming down, and he was running late. The group was already gathering. Charles called from Denmark, South Carolina to let us know he had been delayed. When we answered the phone he said, "There's something rotten in Denmark." He was always such a master of the one liner.
END OF INTERVIEW

Page 43 is missing.