Documenting the American South Logo
Loading
Title: Oral History Interview with Edith Mitchell Dabbs, October 4, 1975. Interview G-0022. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Dabbs, Edith Mitchell, interviewee
Interview conducted by Burns, Elizabeth Jacoway
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: 336 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-02-23, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Edith Mitchell Dabbs, October 4, 1975. Interview G-0022. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0022)
Author: Elizabeth Jacoway Burns
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Edith Mitchell Dabbs, October 4, 1975. Interview G-0022. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0022)
Author: Edith Mitchell Dabbs
Description: 462 Mb
Description: 103 p.
Note: Interview conducted on October 4, 1975, by Elizabeth Jacoway Burns; recorded in Mayesville, South Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Joe Jaros.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series G. Southern Women, 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.
Editorial practices
An audio file with the interview complements this electronic edition.
The text has been entered using double-keying and verified against the original.
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
All quotation marks, em dashes and ampersand have been transcribed as entity references.
All double right and left quotation marks are encoded as "
All em dashes are encoded as —

Interview with Edith Mitchell Dabbs, October 4, 1975.
Interview G-0022. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Dabbs, Edith Mitchell, interviewee


Interview Participants

    EDITH MITCHELL DABBS, interviewee
    ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
… having her life complicated by the fact that she was just like everybody else you know, in spite of the fact of all that she was supposed to be and I guess from my earliest memories, a lot of my little disappointments and childish unhappy memories, stemmed from those that I knew I didn't measure up to what my preacher father expected me to be. I remember once we had an awful blow-up—that was after I was in college or ready for college and I did something he didn't like at all. I rode from a picnic across town back into town, from the edge of town back down into the middle of this little highway of this "great white way" in the middle of this little town of about 4,000 maybe…
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
What town?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
It was Johnston, South Carolina, Johnston in Edgefield County. I've always lived in South Carolina, somewhere. It was a picnic of some kind on the school grounds or the church grounds or something—and somebody, a boy I was talking to, had a job at a drugstore downtown and he had to get one particular errand done at a certain time at that drugstore. Most of the day, he was free to stay down there, but he invited me to ride with him in his car back down to the drugstore long enough for him to go do whatever it was that he had to do—it had to do with a prescription or something—a perfectly normal boy—sort of a task, but I went, without anybody's permission, because at that time I still was supposed to get permission to get in a car with anybody. I didn't manage to get down there and wait in the car about five minutes while he attended to his business and then drive back to the schoolhouse without being seen. Somebody found it out and of course it was duly reported to my father and mother. My father was furious, perfectly furious. It took me days and days to

Page 2
figure out why he thought it was such a bad thing, not just that I had not asked his permission, which was a pure defiance to him. But there was something terribly wrong about it that I couldn't figure out at all, and later on, days and days and days later, I found out … how, I can't remember, whether I overheard him talking to Mama or whether Mama told me or I got it through somebody else, but it turned out that as he saw it, I had ridden with this "strange" man, someone outside of the family, downtown right straight smack through the red light district. [Laughter] Well, I didn't know that there was such a thing.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
And that raised your curiosity, I'm sure. [Laughter]
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
And Papa was so angry about it because he said, "You can undo in one silly rash act like that what I have been working years to build up." I immediately got furious because I felt he wasn't concerned with what I was doing, he knew that I hadn't done anything wrong, he wasn't worried about me, he was worried about his reputation, that his boys, his sons and everybody else in his family should do just exactly what a preacher's family out to do. And so all my life, growing up, I was hemmed in by those snobbish little standards that small towners, or big towners either have, everybody … not just small towns, you know more about it in small towns because everybody is a neighbor, but it's there anyway, it's just people. They were cruel sometimes, standards that people set for you and I hated it. More and more from then on, I hated the feeling that other people could set my standards and I suppose that I've got more rebellions about making my own rules and defying. James used to tell me if there was a fence anywhere if I saw it, if it was a long distance, I'd go crawl under it or crawl over it just to prove it wasn't there. And I guess that's the way I am. But there were so many restrictions of that kind, always having to do a

Page 3
little bit better than others. I myself better, so that it was an easy thing to do and I didn't always do it.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
So, it sounds as if you were just as ornery as James was.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
That may have been.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Did you grow up in the same town? Did you live in the same town?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
No. No, I lived there only a couple of years while I was in college. I had finished high school and I believe that I had a year of college a year or so when I moved there.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Where did you go to college?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Well, my first year, I went to a college that doesn't exist any longer. Furman University now is the combination of what was two colleges, Furman and the Greenville Woman's College. I believe before it was Greenville Female Institute or something … and when I knew it way back in the twenties, it was Greenville Woman's College. We lived at that time … [unknown], where did we live? See, I wasn't with the family because I was in school. Pickens County. Then, for my second year in college, I transferred to Coker, down to this part of the state because my father moved down to Edgefield County to preach. He was a Baptist preacher and that put me a little nearer the family, I didn't have to travel so terribly far to school. It is curious, that mattered an awful lot then. It doesn't at all now, to have to travel across the state. But it was a very different thing then, you went everywhere on the train and travel was expensive at the time and the thinking was that it was very dangerous for a young woman to go alone. Even if she was traveling with forty-nine other classmates, it was still thought dangerous.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Especially if you are so ornery.

Page 4
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Probably so. [Laughter] They always knew that there was some danger of my breaking out at any point. [Laughter]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
How many children were in your family?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Well, we had the kind of family that you don't see every day anymore, there were four boys and two girls and since I was the oldest one, I had a lot of responsibility for being a sort of second mother and my poor Mama could have used several seconds. In those days, a preacher made so little money [interruption] and we always had a garden that fed the family and fed them regularly, too. There were always some chickens and a cow, a pig or two or three, which meant a lot of work as well as some advantages. I remember when I was little, we moved up to … I was born down here in Sumter County. As it happens, Mama had been before me from Sumter County and I was born over here at Dalzell, and when I was one whole year old, they moved to the next little town, Lynchburg, still in Sumter County. Then, when I was three, we moved up to Landrum in Spartanburg County, clean across the state, up to the mountain country. And Papa was happy up there because he came from that part of the state and he loved the mountains and he had missed it ever since he had been down here. So, that was his turn. Mama was more at home down here in the flat country. But I remember they told me that for a year there, and this was the third time that it had happened, Papa had preached in three places and that was my third place to live, in each place he lived for one year in some sort of gerry built interim quarters, very uncomfortable, very cramped while he built a parsonage or built a church or something. It happened over and over, and at Landrum, we lived in some style, I guess for part of that

Page 5
year, at least, we stayed at a hotel, the hotel. Mama used to tell me that I started wandering from home and going my own way at the tender age of three because I was very much fascinated by a little boy who was just about my age… What was his name? Bob? No …I don't remember what his family's name was at all and I never knew him after we were big enough to be really good friends, rememberable friends. But, I had a little red wagon and Mama said that every morning, the first time that she would take hers eyes off me or look back for a minute, I would be headed down the street with my little red wagon going to see Tom, going to play with Tom. It sounds like I was an extrovert and I don't think I ever have been. I think of myself as being turned in and I don't know whether I am or not.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Oh, I have always thought of you as being really extroverted, in-dwelling and very sensitive and not showing all the time how sensitive you are, because you are so approachable.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
I haven't thought of the term, "in-dwelling." Now, that sort of could put a different light on it. I'll tell you something that James always claimed he had—and he was right—and I smiled at it for years. He said that he was shy, he was terribly shy. He was, but I could much more easily understand that I am than I could understand that he was, because he didn't look shy, and he was such an attractive personality that people reached to him and he always reached back, but whether I was an extrovert or not … I remember a lot of things from that period. We lived there from the time I was three until I got to be nine years old and we came down the state again to Florencetown. I was in the fourth grade.
One thing I remember about that stretch up at Landrum was the field day that we used to have. Did you ever hear about field days?
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
No.

Page 6
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Well, they are kind of like minature county fairs. They are a town fair or a community fair, the kind of thing that they have down at Penn.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
With all kinds of games?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Games, yes. Contests.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Competition?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes. Mama used to always get a prize for her best butter and a certain lady would get the best pound cake and somebody else would get the best blackberry pie, that kind of thing. But Mama always took home the prize for the best butter and I remember that once she got a silver butter knife for a prize and a little dish that you sort of patted it out in, that made pats of butter. One of the things that I used to compete for in the field day at home was a jumproping contest. We always had that for the little girls and boys, the girls really went to town on that one. And they had a greasy pole to climb, they had a greasy pig for the men or boys or whoever to catch. I remember that the little boys could usually outdo the men on that one, they were I suppose [unknown] more agile, the men were … they could squirm around and I remember jumping rope one time until the contest was won and I kept on jumping because I felt like I was just beginning to fly. I had the feeling that I was sailing through the air. I had such a good time. My father made me stop and said that there wasn't any need to keep on. The idea was to see how many times you could jump before you stopped and I guess that he never had paid enough attention to our playing, he kept up with our work, but he had not noticed enough to realize that I wasn't hurting myself at all. I'm sure that I wasn't really tied at all. I felt so light and free. So, he made me stop and said that there was no point in keeping on because I had won.
I had [unknown]. I'm sure that I didn't understand him a lot of times, because he had a certain

Page 7
shyness of his own. When he was well up, I suppose around seventy or more, no, he wasn't that old. Mama died at fifty-five, he was ten years older, so he was only sixty-five then and Mama was living at the time, so it was when he was around sixty, I guess, he began to have some trouble with his left … well, he said his knee, his left knee. When he went to sit down on a chair, he would almost let himself down and then before he quite got to the chair, he would drop the rest of the way, he couldn't control his knee muscles at all. He got worried about it. He finally broke down and went to a doctor, which he didn't do often. You didn't do it in our family for anything short of a fear of death. But he went to have himself checked and the doctor asked him if he had ever been sick as a child. Papa couldn't remember that he had. He never was able to remember being sick, but he did remember that when he was a little boy, he stayed in the house a lot and his mother had been very protective of him. They lived out in the country, on a farm, they all worked hard and she couldn't protect him in a pampering sort of way, they were not affluent enough to do that, but she was very considerate of him and tried to keep him busy with other things so that he wouldn't play with the big boys quite so much. But he had to go with the big boys and he said that he remembered when he could get out and run with the other boys, when she would let him, then he was always the last one in the line. One or two boys who were smaller than he was would run faster than him. He remembered feeling that something was wrong, he was sort of set aside, discriminated against because the other boys were quicker than he was.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Was he an only child?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
No, no. He was one of a big family and he was one of the older members of the family, but when he was little, he was smaller than the playmates around and yet he felt that he was enough, he tagged behind more than was justified by the size. I

Page 8
(The doctor believed he may have suffered an undiagnosed case of polio as a child.) often wondered if that was the reason … I've even wondered if he tried to compensate for being physically being quite not up to snuff in his own opinion, by being something like a minister or a leader of some kind who could have his turn at calling the shots, you know. In the community, he would have a power that he couldn't get by outrunning somebody, physically, he could outtalk them.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
What was your father's name?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
He was John Mitchell, John Hampton Mitchell. His middle name sort of dates him, the Wade Hampton days, I guess.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Has your family always been a South Carolina family?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Oh yes, my mother's and his family were always in South Carolina as far back as they bothered to look.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Who was your mother?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
My mother was a Wells from this county and her mother …
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
She was from Sumter County?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes. Her mother was a Charleston family and my father's parents were upcountry Piedmont people who were of a very different background, in his opinion, a lazy southern, shiftless and maybe snobbish lowcountry people. He always had a fairly strong prejudice against the coastal … anything that smacked of an aristocratic background and yet his sisters, I remember, were great DAR people and UDC people. I don't know whether they disgusted him with their prizing so much their background, or whether he just didn't believe it was so, or what. He used to make great fun of that and he never let Mama talk much about her family. He was saracastic about it. I didn't learn a lot of things I wish I knew about Mama's family. Grandma Wells had been a Mellichamp and her family was intermingled

Page 9
with the most prominent Charleston names there were in the city. If you wanted to be snobbish, you couldn't get past that. Papa had very little use for that, he didn't like her to talk about it. I started off as a child thinking, "Well, you must not have anything to brag about or you would let Mama tell about her folks." Mama was a very humble sort of person, of course, I think that she overdid it for her own good, but she had great genuine affection for members of her family and since the Civil War, they had all had such a hard time economically, so that she liked to prize what they did have, self-respect, integrity, and an ability to come up again no matter what happened to them and that sort of thing. Papa was very suspicious of anything on that subject our family discussed. He said that people should be more concerned with where they were going and less concerned with where they came from. He dismissed it that way.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Well, that sounds like you had impeccable southern credentials.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
That's a little bit like James' family. His father was, as he said, from the yeoman level of society, from the yeoman farmer background and his mother had a plantation background. His father's practical, hard-headed business sense made him skeptical of his mother's easy-going, aristocratic, be-nice-and-maybe-lose-your-shirt-doing-it kinspeople.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
So, you both grew up with than kind of ambivalence?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes, very similar.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
It sounds like you both responded to it in the same way.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
I suppose that you get that combination when you put that together. I never thought about it once until James began to talk about the ambivalence in his background and then I realized that I had the same thing.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Now, what was James' father's name and his mother's name?

Page 10
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Well, his father, Eugene Dabbs, was descended from a Dabbs who came from England to Virginia. There were two brothers who came over, I think, one came down through the Carolinas and the other went more to the west. There haven't been a whole lot of Dabbs related to us. North Carolina is full of them, western North Carolina. There are just scores and scores of them, but in South Carolina, there are very few and well, none at present, almost none who are related to us at all. He had a background … we all have, of course, but he found out about his and the family thought that it was rather interesting, and kept up with it, of Revolutionary soldiers, service. James liked to talk about Gregg? Bodie?, Gregg's history of South Carolina, I guess I don't remember which one. Anyhow, the Whigs were the rebels, weren't they? Well … who were the loyalists to the Crown?
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
The Tories.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
The Tories. Well, he said that in writing this history, the historian said that the Whigs would sometimes capture the Tories and kill so many Tories in a battle or an engagement, but when the Tories fought Whigs, they murdered them. [Laughter] The historian's bias comes out, if we don't think about this sometime Anyway, he always identified these stories with himself and his family, stories of the Revolution. Actually, his family was in this area at the time of the Revolution and in the community. That was 'way back, the 1750s, the grant for this particular land was given to Peter Mellette and then the Mellettes sold it to Samuel McBride, I believe, who was James' great-grandfather. So, his family was here as long as there was any community, as early as there was any community here. That took in the Revolution.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
They were the founders of Mayesville?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Among them, yes. Before Mayesville, this was a community.

Page 11
People came up from Charleston, they landed at Charleston and came up through Williamsburg and from Williamsburg on up to here and then spread out from here. When you settle a new community, it had to have time to sort of develop and be big enough to found another. You usually started a church in the next little community, or some miles away that became the next community.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
What was the church here? Was this Anglican?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
No, this was always Presbyterian, Scotch Presbyterian. There were not a lot of Presbyterians in the lower part of the state, but …
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Well, McBride, I guess that was a Scotch name.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes, it was, Scotch-Irish, from Williamsburg. Most of these settlers who came in that way were Scotch-Irish and they established Presbyterian churches as they came. At Williamsburg and then about half-way between there and here, a church called Midway, for that reason, and then here.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
At Midway, Georgia?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
No, this was Midway, South Carolina. It is about half-way between Williamsburg and this church and then they came all the way up here. I believe that the Williamsburg people came up here and made this church first and then they put Midway in between. Then they reached out and had another chapel that became a church at Mayesville, ten miles further. That's the way that they planted the next community. I suppose that the Presbyterian strength is due to the fact that there were so many Scotch Presbyterians coming in. They had a lot of immigrants and they pretty well came along up the Black River, settling communities as they came up the river.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Who was James' mother?

Page 12
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
His mother was a McBride, one of those Scotch-Irish families. They came here from Williamsburg and they weren't here for long. Some of them stayed but others moved right on up. Samuel McBride came into this community as a bachelor. It seems that he married the Widow James. When I heard that, I immediately saw the Widow James … I saw Samuel McBride as a man of at least forty, maybe forty-five. It sounded like he would be, especially if he was taken by the Widow James and the widow I saw as a sort of a prune-mouthed little old lady with a bun on the back of her head, maybe very rightous and a tough pioneer type, you know. I found out one day, I think I must have been reading tombstones down at the church, and I discovered that she was seventeen years old. [Laughter] She was already widowed at seventeen. Samuel McBride married her and then she died and he married a second time to Martha Rueberry, who was a Charleston person … now wait a minute. Yes, that's right … I'm getting mixed up on James' own family. That's right. They had only one son, Samuel McBride and Martha had one son, one child, who was James McBride. He built this house when he was eighteen years old.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
In 1859?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
1858 to '60, along there.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
I've always wondered why they named it Rip Raps Plantation?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Well, actually, we made a mistake when we came back here. James told me better and I sort of pushed the other way and bless his heart, he did what he always did, he let me have my way, but I sort of blew it. The plantation was named Egypt Farm. I wish that we had kept that name. He liked that name and it somehow didn't sound plantationy enough to me and I was sort of carried away with the idea of a plantation, I guess, and I pulled for Rip

Page 13
Raps Plantation. Well, they were two different things. The whole acreage, the whole ten thousand acres was Egypt Farms. So named because Samuel McBride was such a farmer, such a successful corn farmer, that trains of wagons came down from North Carolina to buy corn from him —they came down to Egypt Farm to get corn— and the place was called Egypt Farm There is stationery, in James' father's letters, a few scattered things, letterheaded, called "Egypt and Pineland Farms."
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
And was there a farmhouse here before they built this one?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
No. Well, I didn't answer your question about Rip Raps. The whole estate, the whole plantation was Egypt Farms. When James McBride had built the house [unknown], which must have been about '61, after he had finished building the house and the war had started, very early in the war, he wanted to be a soldier like all his friends. But, he had tuberculosis. He was not well enough and was very ill. He was not fit to carry arms and they would not take him in the service. So, he got permission to help by going behind the lines and nursing the wounded soldiers. I found among James' papers, my James' papers, his grandson's a pass issued to James Samuel McBride allowing him to get through the lines as a male nurse.
But on the way back from one of those trips, or on the way back from a visit, nobody has ever been able to tell for sure, he and his party at some time camped by a little river up in the mountains of Virginia that was called the Rip Raps River and he lay all night listening to that little river and thought that he would never forget the sound of it. Shortly after he got home, there came a real gully-washing, stump-rooting rain and he lay in his bedroom listening to the water rushing down the pipes and said that it sounded just like that sound of the little Rip Raps River in Virginia and he believed that he would name the house Rip Raps. So, it was the house that was named Rip Raps. When we came here, I made the

Page 14
mistake of putting the wrong things together. James had to have some stationery printed and I said, "Why don't you put Rip Raps Plantation on it?" I remember that he said, "Well, it wasn't actually Rip Raps Plantation, the whole plantation wasn't called Rip Raps, it was called Egypt Farms." That sounded like more of the Bible, you know, than what I had grown up with, I guess. It didn't sound as interesting as Rip Raps, which I had never heard before. So, I said that I liked the sound of that better and he said, "Well, all right. It's ours and we can call it what we please." We stuck with that. But I think that it would have been nice to actually call it Egypt Farms. I've got a few more years now and grown up a little. [Laughter] What was it that you started to ask me about?
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Was the original Egypt Farms house here?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Oh, no. The house that was here before Samuel McBride, that young … what was her first name? Anyhow, the Widow James, the daughter of one of the first settlers in this place—that's the name on the tombstone of Brick Church —James Bradley. I suppose that he had bought some land here and given his daughter some or else, the James she married had bought it. They were living here down in the building that is now our big barn in the lot. That high, ramshackle -looking old two-stor barn. It has a very, very crude circular stairway in the corner, a squared off, awful looking thing that is probably not very substantial now if you tried to climb it. But, it was a staircase right in the corner that circled around a little bit, twisted, anyway. That was their house and I understand that even before that, there had been one down in the swamp, on the bluff of the swamp on the river. When they came up the river, they first settled right at the river and then they moved back futher because it was so unhealthy down there. So, they built the second house down there

Page 15
on the bluff of the river, after the log house. They built what is now the big barn. After a time, they decided that it should be futher back from the water. They cleared the fields and they moved the house over there. They managed to roll that house, that big old barn, up to where it is now. It was used for a house there for awhile and then it became a barn and then Samuel McBride married the young widow and they built a home in what is now our back yard. You can see the bricks level with the ground showing where the foundation stood. They lived in that for a long time. It was built of hand hewn timbers put together without nails and from the foundation, it was big, spread over quite an area.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
That's just one of the thousands of things around here that makes you feel like you are so in touch with your past. Don't you think?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Well, I never walk by and see bricks on the ground, I see house foundations, every single time. And I nearly always have least a fleeting thought when I see that of the way the house faced, not straight to the north like this one, I think that it did face straight north, but looked out a little bit to the left of this house. I have found out here in the lines following those bricks that it went all the way out to the present road, almost to the present road to where an Indian trail had gone by and it twisted back again and came into the old Kingstree Road. That was the old avenue out and I found in the woods here and there a crepe myrtle bush or a breath of spring which is usually a domesticated plant that I'm sure were planted by the avenue on the side of the road. There are some right out here on the side of the lawn where, when I cam here, that was woods. We saved that bush because it sort of lined up and I thought it was healthy.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
But those aren't any of the ghosts who live in this house?

Page 16
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
No, I don't think so. [Laughter]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Who are the ghosts who live in this house? [Laughter]
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Well, I've always claimed that the grandmother must be here because I've insisted that I've heard one. I can remember that very vividly. I can't swear to it, but I've heard what certainly sounded like a young girl or small person coming down the steps one night. In the middle of the night, I suddenly woke up to a perfectly still world, with not a sound anywhere, because I heard somebody coming down the stairs dressed, or with shoes on. Well, it came very steadily and lightly down to the third step and stopped. It sounded like she lacked a step or two before getting to the floor, but she just stopped and was waiting. Well, I couldn't stand it. It was like leaving the last note of something not struck, you know? The last chord. I had to see it, so I slid over to the edge of my big high bed without waking James and peeked out. It was a brilliant moonlit night and I counted on that light up the hall. We always slept with our door to the hall wide open, because I wanted to hear if Carolyn made a noise in the night or anything.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
But there weren't any children upstairs?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes, Carolyn slept upstairs, she was just six years old. And little baby James was in the basket right by my bed where I could reach out and touch him if he moved. I went to the door and looked out in the hall and I could see everywhere and there was nobody there. The hall was lighted enough with the bright moonlight that was coming through the house with all the doors open and all with the light shining through. There were parts of it lighter than others, but the staircase was perfectly visible and the whole hall was perfectly visible and there wasn't a soul except myself. So, I told James, you know, half-joking but still

Page 17
puzzled by the whole thing, that somebody came downstairs in the middle of the night and I never had figured out who it was. He said, "Well, what do you think?" I said, "Well, my guess would be, of course, that it was your grandmother. But then I have seen pictures of her and it couldn't have been her because she was slightly on the heavy side. She wasn't really a heavy person, she wasn't a fat person, but she wasn't slight and this was a very young, a very small person, a light one." He looked at me rather strangely but just smiled and said nothing. Well, he heard me tell that a couple of times and after I had told it about twice, it began to get like a good story and I began to believe the whole thing, especially since that much had actually happened. One time … he never made any comment about it at all until one time a cousin of his was here who had grown up … she was a niece of his grandmother and had known her as "Auntie" and lived here in the house a lot of summers and so on with her and knew her quite well. She was telling me things that she remembered about her one day and she said, "She was the tiniest lady, she wore number one shoes."
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Oh, my word.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
I came back and told James about that and said, "James, you know that I said I heard your grandmother in the house one night but it couldn't have been your grandmother because it was a small woman and your grandmother was a heavy person and Virginia tells me that your grandmother wore a number one shoe. What goes on here?" He just laughed and patted me, to indicate that he didn't want me to take it so seriously and he said, "Yes, she was little, but the picture you remembered was my mother, not my grandmother He knew that picture I had seen at home, it hadn't often been shown. He said that was his mother

Page 18
and not his grandmother and that his grandmother was small. He said, "I remember her and she was a little lady." Well, James McBride died when he was about twenty-three and that little grandmother lived on to be an old lady in this house.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
That grandmother was the Widow James?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
No. She …
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
No, that's right. James McBride was the one who came back from the Civil War with tuberculosis and named it Rip Raps.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes. James McBride was my James' grandfather. Yes, that's right. Now, what did I say that was wrong? I jumped the track on one of those, I missed a generation in there.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
You didn't tell us who James McBride married.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Oh, yes. The little grandmother that I've been talking about was James' grandmother. That was Mrs. James McBride, yes. She was from Georgia. She had grown up at Jonesboro, Georgia just south of Atlanta, I think, not very far from Atlanta. I've never been there, but other members of the family have just for fun It seems that … Sophie Warren married James McBride. It seems that Sophie's family, her parents and a big family of children, of which she was the oldest, owned a sizeable plantation there, I don't know how big it was. I don't think that it was as big as this, but it was a big one. When Sherman came through on his march and burned Atlanta and everything else he could find, he had officers, I don't remember who they were, but the home of Sophie Warren's family was confiscated by Sherman's men and used as headquarters for one of the officers. That way, it escaped destruction. So that at the end of the war, when most people were land poor and most people who had large land holdings were loosing them, because they couldn't

Page 19
find enough cash to pay taxes on them, Sophie and her father, James McBride's widow by that time, you see he had died during the war, his widow and her two little children got her father to come here. Well, I suppose that he came up actually during the war when they were run out of the house and fled up here as refugees. But she asked him to come when James McBride, her husband, her husband died. Her mother had died, too, along about the same time. I don't know the chronology in there, but she wrote her father that if he would come up here and run the plantation for her, she would bring up the children for him, her brothers and sisters. There were at least half a dozen of them, six or eight of them to be brought up. So, this house was full of young people for a long, long time. She mothered them all and he handled the farm. I was told that … a cousin, Virginia Warren, told me that after the war was over and those people who could were redeeming their land by paying taxes, both of these farms were in danger of being sold lost completely, for taxes and the widow and her father, Grandmother Sophie and her father, …

New tape
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
… finally worked it out that he would sell the property in Georgia at Jonesboro to get enough money to pay taxes on this place and they would have one left. So, they did that and they spent their lives here, her whole family lived out their lives or else left from here. This was home from then on. A couple of them went north. They didn't all stay right here, but anyhow, this became the home seat of the Warrens as well as the McBrides
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
So then, which one of her children was James' mother?

Page 20
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes, she had a little boy and girl. The son died, lived to be sixty odd. He finished at the university in Columbia and was invited to come back to teach math, to head the math department. I understand he was quite a musician, he was a brilliant mathematician, but he had that old southern feeling that he had to go home and take care of his mother and the womenfolk and no one was expected to stand up to handling a whole darm, and it was a different proposition too, not as organized as it had been and since the war was over, there were no automatic slaves, I mean automatic servants to do the work as they had in slavery days. It was a whole life choice that he decided to come back here. He never did a lot of things that he might have done and would have enjoyed doing very much, because he was devoted to his family and But he never married and his sister, his sister was a couple years older than he, his sister married Eugene Dabbs, my James' mother Maude, married Eugene Dabbs. Now, Gene came down here to this community from around Cheraw and the Darlington district, it was a district before it was a county. He came down from Darlington district in … oh, when would that have been? It was late enough that Maude was a young lady, I suppose a teenager. He did not come directly to this community. He went first over to Privateer, I guess it was, on the other side of Sumter, in the Richard Furman settlement over there, and got a job as overseer of the Furman plantation. He fell in love with a Furman girl, Susan Furman, Sudy, they called her. Sudy was a nurse and she was a very religious sort of person, rather straitlaced but very attractive, too. Her father didn't think too highly of her being so fond of this young fellow who came from nobody knew where, way up in the

Page 21
Darlington district. He was the man of the house by the time that he was seventeen, I think. He had lost his father and so, his mother decided that she would leave the whole place and go off and make a new start. He had come down with his mother and her brother, the mother and an uncle, in a couple of wagonloads of furniture to start all over again. Dr. Furman didn't think too much of him as a son-in-law because he didn't know enough about him. He wasn't sure that he had enough columns on the piazzas in his background and that sort of thing. He discouraged this. Sudy couldn't be sure that there was in his background. But Sudy was sort of frustrated over the whole thing. You didn't talk back to your parents in those days, you learned to [unknown], but she decided to go away as a missionary, a medical missionary to Cuba and she went.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Her father let her do that?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Oh, yes. That at least, was respectable, it was doing the work of the Lord. So, she went to Cuba and was gone for some years, I don't know how long. That broke up the romance and when she left, Father left, Eugene left that job, too. He came over here to this community and got a job as overseer of the next plantation to this one, the Witherspoon plantation. But he was still just a very young man, very young, you see, barely twenty. He made a good job of it. They were devoted to him and he was one of the members of the family. That was nothing degrading about at all, about being the manager of a plantation, and he had quite an important job in that period. Anyhow, after he had been here a little while, he began to fall in love with a little girl from this house, Mother Maude. So, he and Maude McBride were married and they set up [unknown] and later on built their own house. They lived together to have a family of six children and when the youngest, McBride, was two years old, Mother

Page 22
Maude died of typhoid. They had just gotten into their new house a short time, because James was eight years older than McBride and he was ten when his mother died.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
McBride was the baby?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes. He remembers that his father and mother decided to build a new house, their own house and they packed up everything and moved to where they were going to live. They set up a camp in the woods, they built a house camp, you know, which is still standing. It was used for years as a double garage later on and it is still standing and sort of a little storehouse out there, we still call it the camp, in the backyard of McBride's house. The house he is living in now is the one that they built. They moved only two miles from where they had been and yet it is so totally … they camped out for about a year before they ever got that house built.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Well, this house was still filled with people.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Well, some of them. By that time, though, the next generation didn't live here. You see, James' aunts and uncles that were all growing up with his mother and uncle, too. The generations were kind of half spaced. But they all grew up about the same time, so when his mother moved out, his aunts and uncles were moving out, too. The interesting thing was, when Mother Maude died and left the baby of two and then five older children …
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
And James was the oldest?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
James was next to the oldest, Eugene was the oldest. An aunt who had grown up in this house, Aunt Alice, one of the little sisters who came here … there was Aunt Harriet, Aunt Alice, Aunt Louisa and there was another one …Aunt Julia. Louisa got married but the other

Page 23
three aunts were living at the summer house here, about two miles away and Aunt Alice went over to stay with James' father and took care of the children after Mother Maude died. She was a teacher, taught him and [unknown] and she was a housekeeper for her brother-in-law and … wait a minute. No. She was Maude's aunt and James' great-aunt, but they had grown up like sisters and felt like sisters and when Maude died, she came over to take care of Maude's children. She stayed for I don't know how long, a year or something, and then Father married a second time, this time to Mother Sudy, Sudy Furman. She had come back from Cuba and was nursing in the hospital in Sumter and had settled back in her old home. So, he married his other sweetheart and the children's stepmother was Mother Sudy. It is rather an unusual tale about how they circled around and came back again. That circle may have been a straight line.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Yes, Sudy never had gotten married?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
No, no. She hadn't. Apparently she never had had any other …
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Well, was she real religious, she had been a missionary?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes. She was a Baptist. And Father's people were Presbyterian. Out here in this community, there was only one church, the Presbyterian church. Well, Mother Sudy went to church because you went to church, but nobody changed her from being Baptist inside. James had a tale that he liked to tell about his father and the way that Mother Sudy could handle him. He said that Mother Sudy could pin him with one look if she needed to and he obeyed without any question, but he could be a little abrupt with her if he wanted to. He could be a delightful person, but he had a temper like all outdoors. He talked big and threatened big and everybody liked him. Well, something happened among the Baptists, the Baptist denomination, some very responsible officer in the denomination who was very high up in the hierarchy, the treasurer of some

Page 24
area had absconded with ?75,000, which was just millions in those days. And all of a sudden the news broke and all of the churches everywhere knew all about it, and I've heard it so often that ?75,000 stuck in my mind from that day until this as the worst figure that you could steal, if you were going to do any steal It happened here at the same time, it was like a volcano erupting, it just blows up and everybody knows that it is evident. Well, I have a memory of people talking about that for a long, long time. I've forgotten the name of the man who did all that dastardly deed and that sort of thing, but I remember what the crime was and how much talk about it there was. James remembered that they learned about it through the newspapers, because they were, after all, Presbyterians and above all that sort of thing. [Laughter] But you didn't say that around Mother Sudy. She was mortified, she had a chip on her shoulder and felt very embarrased and humiliated because she was a Baptist and this thing had happened in the Baptist church and she was in no mood for any levity about it, at all. But they went to church one day shortly after that happened and Eugene, older than James, but still young enough to do these things, I guess, when the collection plate came around, he reached in and took out a nickel. Someone else put one in and he reached in and took it out. His mother saw what he was doing and [unknown] So, when they got home, all of the family was sitting there around the dinner table and somebody told that Gene had reached in and taken a nickel out of the plate. Well, Father at one end of the table looked down to Mother at the other end and Father said, "Huh, must be a Baptist." It was the first thing that popped into his mind and he had forgotten that he wasn't

Page 25
supposed to to mention it. He said it and just laughed and then happened to look up and saw her face and he just froze. James said that she pinned his ears back with one look. [Laughter] He was just about to laugh and he had something in his mouth, he had taken a drink of water or something and he laughed and the water shot out. You could see it all over everything and he was so embarrassed he didn't know what to do. He wanted to laugh but had to stop right there in mid-air, but the water wouldn't stop. But he had to stop his face muscles from laughing. They were making jokes about Baptists taking money out of the collection plates. She was a Baptist all the days of her life, violently Baptist.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Well, did James like her?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Oh, yes. He liked her. He felt that she was a very stern person and to him, she never seemed quite as sensitive and gentle, certainly not as gentle as his mother had been. But he had the greatest respect for her and great fondness for her. She was just a different type of person. And after all, his mother had had children from the beginning and loved them up and this stepmother had started late.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
She brought them up.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
The whole family.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
She had taken them on and it was a different proposition entirely. And she was a little more reserved and a little firmer than his mother.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Well, where did James get his poetic spirit? It sounds like his father was a big blusterous …
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes, he was. He got it from his mother's side of the family and I think that he thought that the McBrides were … well, I don't know

Page 26
whether the McBrides were the ones, maybe his Grandmother McBride … the Warren family had come to be today— and a number of them are considered sort of visionary and not practical and that sort of thing, but after all, people said that about James, and there was never a more useful human being. But there was more of the poetic and very sensitive leanings in that part of the family than on the Dabbs side. His father had it to a degree and he had a great deal of most admirable personality that came out in other way s. He was a very colorful person.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
When did James start becoming aware of his concern about race relations?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Well, he wasn't concerned about that. He grew up, he said, and … he goes through all of that in several of his books, particularly the first one, The Southern Heritage and in I'm Going Home, too. Some of it comes out in there, although he's not discussing that kind of thing. I'm Going Home is a spiritual autobiography and he is much more concerned with what he called the "spiritual oddessy than …
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
… that sort of thing. You asked me when he became aware of that. He didn't actually. When he was growing up, as he said a number of times, there was no race question. He never heard it discussed by people; they assumed that was settled by the war. The Negroes were slaves and then they weren't. That settled it. And, they had their place and we had ours and we were polite to them, they didn't have the advantages we had and they didn't have the things. They didn't have a lot of capabilites that we had, but they were people and you were

Page 27
nice to them. You were never rude to them because they could not talk back, they could not defend themselves, they had to be like children not able to talk back to their parents. You had to consider all of that. Manners were very important to him. He was taught that from the beginning. But he assumed that those things were taken care of and he was very much surprised in later years to find that people were still talking about it, talking about it again. The thing wasn't quite settled, you know. But what got him into the thick of things was the matter of manners. He had minded his own business and never … he had so much to do with his literary career, he had his teaching and his courses and that he was not concerned with political matters, and he would have said with sociological matters, anything except what he was doing. Only with studying, scholarly matters,
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
He taught at Coker College?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes and he taught English at Carolina before that. Well, shortly after we came out here, I can't remember the dates, he always remembered them exactly on everything, but anyhow, there was a time when a session of the legislature stayed over time to debate and then vote itself … about all they did that session was to vote itself an increase in salary. Oh, they did that … now wait a minute. No. Maybe I am combining things that weren't supposed to be combined …it seemed to me that that happened at the same session when they did do another thing. They spent the whole time trying to figure out how permanently to disenfranchise the Negroes, keep them completely out of politics and keep them back where they had been in Wade Hampton's day. James watched the papers for several days and then he began to boil and boil because here were these people who were supposed to be, they were the political leaders of the state for better or worse and they were all

Page 28
we had and that was the example that they were setting. Right out loud in the house, in the legislature, with all the news media we had there. They were proclaiming to all of the state, including the Negroes, that they did not intend to consider the Negroes first-class citizens or to give them any chance to become that. James said that you had always been unfair to the Negro without admitting it or realizing it but you had never stood up told about it and said so and flaunted it. This, all of a sudden, was terrible manners. He was just scandalized by it. He sat down and wrote a scorching letter to the State saying what he thought about it and then, the lines were drawn.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
To the Columbia State.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes, the Columbia State.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Was that in about 1905?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
No, no. That was after we came from Coker, that was in the forties, I guess, because it was after he came out here.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
O.K., I thought that you said the issue was disfranchisement?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Well, it was, but they were trying to keep the Negro—to keep Negroes from voting as much as possible and to keep them out of the Democratic convention. They could not have any places of responsibility and they spent the whole time trying to figure how they could keep the Negroes from voting and what kind of roadblocks they could construct. The poll tax had been one. There were lots of things that they wanted bad enough and that they could think up. They spent their time doing that and telling everybody about it, as though the Negroes who were looking or listening to it like everybody else, seeing them do it, were just furniture, you know, not people who had minds of their own or any feelings.

Page 29
They were afraid that we had lost ground entirely too much and that Negroes were beginning to want to vote rather seriously in some numbers and they couldn't have that, they wanted to do something about it. Of course, James was so brash that about the next year or so, when election year came up, he was something, I don't know what, a delegate from this precinct into the county. And at the county meeting, in preparation for the state convention, he suggested that we elect some black man to be a representative. Well, I was glad to see him get home in one piece because some of them couldn't take that. And he continued to do what they considered outrageous things.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Well, was this all new behavior?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
He hadn't behaved about it at all up to that point. It is sort of like if you suddenly go out for a new sport or something. You don't start playing in a new way or developing a new technique, you start with whatever it is you have, you just start that way, whatever you are, you express in your way from the beginning and he began to express himself in that field.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Had he always been real outspoken?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes. Yes, but nobody that I know of had ever taken offense at anything he had ever done or said before because he was so gentle and so very courteous, that if you are personally courteous in the field of your personal relationships, there isn't very much for anybody to get mad about. There is not much danger of insulting people. But he talked about things that they were afraid of and he wasn't afraid to talk about them. They would rather that you kept still and wanted him to shut up for goodness sakes, and he wouldn't shut up. He didn't go around trying to convert anybody, he just stood his ground and people

Page 30
asked him. If he felt this man was bad he would say something that nobody had ever said before, they would bring up the subject and he would stand his ground regardless. I remember one night that we were over at McBridge's for some particular family get-together and friends of ours were there, a man who had grown up with James, they had been good friends as boys, came in with his wife, Frank Cain and his wife. And Frank had heard or read maybe some letter of James' in the paper, or heard something that he had said. Anyhow, the conversation got right away to race.
It seemed to me that through those years it always did and I always cringed and shook because I hated so much the tension and the hostility that you could just feel. And I felt that James deserved it less than anybody I had ever known in the world. Oh, I hated it.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
In the forties?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes. I remember Frank said, "James, you don't know what you are saying. Do you hear yourself? You are plainly said that niggers are just as good as you are." James said, "Well, aren't they? Why wouldn't they be, why shouldn't they be, why couldn't they be? What stops them from being as good as whites?" And Frank tried to talk but he just couldn't get out any words. "Oh, my goodness, oh, my goodness." He grabbed his chest and looked horrible. James said that he was really scared that he had overdone it that time, he thought that the man was going to have a heart attack. He was just totally overcome and in a few minutes, he just left, still almost speechless. He couldn't stand it anymore, he couldn't be around people who felt that way. They said their goodbyes and went home after a very few minutes. Well, that kind of thing happened a lot of times. I would try to avoid confrontations when I could but James would sit there quietly, very calmly. After awhile, I finally began to notice, I learned

Page 31
to watch the people in a group when these kind of confrontations were always coming up, and pick out the ones who had certain reactions, but didn't express them, tried not to express them. Everybody was afraid to say anything that didn't sound like everybody else. But I noticed that there were always one or two, sometimes more, who didn't say anything at all and they would be the ones that I would latch on to, with what little hope I had. They were the ones who "saved the ship" or or something. Then after some several years had gone on, not movement but things had developed further, so that everybody was involved, of course there were still some people, but there were more and more people who would at least express themselves if they thought they were in safe company and they wouldn't be swatted right down. They would make some very mild and half-way suggestion, that they were not as prejudiced against Negroes as some people were and that some people that we all knew—they'd go far enough to indicate it very gently, very hesitantly. Things slowly got a little bit better so that eventually people would speak up. Then came the great days and the young people began to speak up. "The crazy, crazy young people. They didn't have any sense, they didn't know what they were talking about they had departed their parents' beliefs and all that kind of thing." They would come up with the most wonderful, honest questions and comments and it was always a joy to me to notice how … I drank it in, I lapped it up …how students loved James. After he had talked at a college, often there would be a private time in some teacher's home, in a student union or a place where the students could get together and a whole room full of students would come in to ask him questions and talk after a lecture. They would sit around on the floor, knee-deep you know and if one or two

Page 32
would have to leave to study, they would close ranks and move up. I remember that up at Wofford College for one time. There were just lots and lots of places he spoke, but I remember particularly up at Wofford that Dr. Lewis Jones would ask him up there several times to talk to his history department, and that was the last time that he went up there, in the spring before he died, the spring of '70, Dr. Jones had him come up and talk. Afterwards, he had around to his home a section, a certain number of about twenty of his students to a buffet supper and to sit afterwards and talk with James. He said that during the year he had all his students in bunches, so many at a time and whoever was there came to the house—a very nice evening. After the buffet supper, we went into the living room and all the chairs were filled up and cushions were on the floor and where there were no cushions, there were people on the floor and they all sat around talking to James. Several of them had personal questions to ask him and I remember one boy said, "Why is it that I can ask you all these things, I never talked to you before, you don't know me and yet I can sit down here and ask you things that I wouldn't dream of letting my father know I thought?" That was just balm to my soul, you know. I just loved to sit back and watch other people react to him and appreciate him because I felt that everytime he wasn't appreciated, I felt it so keenly and when something nice happened, I loved him.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Well, those must have been really hard times, the forties, for you.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
They were rough times because I didn't have an outlet. I had no way that I could actively do something except to do the harder things at home that I always did as part of a background to make it a placid place

Page 33
that he could unwind in. I suppose that I felt that was my chief function right then, to keep things as peaceful at home as possible. Not gloss over them, but to be able to really relax and to keep him assured constantly of my position that what he was doing was something that had to be done and it was great. I still think that was the biggest thing that could be done right then and I have no regrets at all. What else would I have been doing nearly as important as that? He was the most articulate person that I have ever known and he was the most beautiful human being. I'm prejudiced, but I knew him better than anybody else. If he could express something for both of us, then I could do whatever was possible for both of us to make him free to do it. I know that these Wofford boys asked him that night if they could arrange with the college to have a place available that summer, would he come up there that summer and just be an advisor in resident, just stay in Spartanburg on the campus through the summer or through a couple of months in the fall or sometime like that. He was so complimented, so happy to be asked and said that he would be delighted. I like to remember that in his last spring, he had that invitation and just the sheer joy of knowing that these young, young, people really wanted him.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
That was a real vindication.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes. He used to say that he didn't know why people worried over his not having friends, alienating people and that kind of thing, he couldn't afford to worry about the general public's opinion because the general public never knew that he was there until he began to speak up. They never had been anybody to him. People who criticize him now are not his friends. All of his acquaintances were very silent when he needed them to speak up and still, he never took that as a personal thing at all. He

Page 34
said that the friends he did have, any one friend that he did have, was worth all the people who didn't want to try to understand what he was talking about.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Who did he consider to be his friends?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Well, in his own family, there were only the two sisters who stood up for him and whether they agreed with everything he said or not, although they did go along with most of it. They were very loyal to him and very understanding and would defend his right to see it as he wished.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
And who were they?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Sophie and Elizabeth. Neither one of them had ever married at that time. Elizabeth was married four or five years before her husband died, but that was a little bit later. They were very fond of their big brother and very proud of him. They loved him very much and it didn't matter whether he was a little bit a step ahead all the time of the regular learning. That was alright with them, they were willing to let him go along and listened to everything he had to say and lend him all the support they could, plus their love as well. So, that made up for the fact that a lot of people who had been close to him, even members of his own family, stayed silent of this always, or talked about something else. We just didn't discuss these things with them because it was too unhappy. Too much disagreement on it.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Well, did you feel like you began to be ostracized in the community?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Well, in a way. James never did feel it. I did and I think it was because I would measure ostracism in terms that didn't matter to him. If you got left out of this or that or people tried to

Page 35
not to see you in a certain situation. Who were they to him? I would and worried because I felt the children would get some repercussions from it. They were in school then.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Did they?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
They don't feel that they did. They never did feel that they were overlooked and I think certainly that … it is curious, some of their teachers, the old life-long family friends of their father's from Mayesville were concerned about James and concerned about our directing our children in foreign directions, you know.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
James, Jr.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
No, James, Sr.'s contemporaries, if you can call them that. Now teachers of our children, were concerned about how we were training our children. I heard once that someone in the neighborhood said, "Those poor James Dabbs children, I feel so sorry for them." [Laughter] I don't think that they felt sorry for themselves at all. [Laughter] But in school, they got honors that were just amazing. Certainly there were no inhibitions or reservations there. None at all. They never could have gotten away with that. I remember that Dick, Dick was the last one of all and the others did the same kind of thing all the way through. James Jr. was an A student all the way and he was valedictorian, a little class and a little school, but he had been, well, he'd had his share a big share. And Dickie I think was president of his class every year until his senior year and then he got kind of ashamed of himself. They had regular elections then and you worked for it. I never got used to that idea because I thought that it was supposed to be an invitational thing, to get a class office. But anyway, that wasn't the way it was done by the time they came along. Dick decided after three

Page 36
three years, or maybe after two years, he wouldn't run the next year for president anymore. He was president three years, and the fourth year, he ran for treasurer, I believe it was, with the motto of "Sixteen years experience handling other people's money." He got it, of course, but by some curious hook or crook, the boy who ran for president and got it was expelled or dropped out of school. Something happened to him, and Dick was given the job. So, he wound up getting that kind of demonstrations of very good feelings toward him. I don't think they ever suffered. They didn't go to parties a lot, but nobody ever did out in the country in those days. They were very, very few and far between and they never seemed to miss that. They had friends and would do things.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Well, did you just kind of remain aloof from the community?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
No, we did all the things, I just avoided party conversations where you would get involved in these things. I preferred to be happy at home with my own family. I suppose that I got to be sort of a loner then because I was more comfortable not being in these social groups where I felt they were being polite and not talking about something else so that I wouldn't have my feelings hurt. That sort of thing. It wasn't ostracized, there was somethig there … of course, there were times, there were instances of people being very antagonistic and extremely rude and cruel, but I wouldn't say that generally speaking, we were ostracized at all.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Were you real active in the church?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes. Our church is small and it uses everybody and everybody, no matter how you behave, if you have wild ideas, you are still needed to carry a load. Brick Church—It was back in about '49, I guess, that I first heard about United Churchwomen. I was invited to become a national board member. That is a curious way to start. [Laughter] There were no United Churchwomen

Page 37
members in Sumter County except one, I believe. That was just sort of freelance, there was no organization in the state. There had been several attempts, but they had never really gotten something going, in either state or local organization. There were a few scattered women in the state who were very much interested in it and there had been a couple of starts. It happened that the executive director of the national United Church Women was a Sumter woman. She had been living in New York for a long time, but she was a Sumter woman, Dorothy Shaw McLeod, a Presbyterian minister's wife. She was an absolutely charming and very capable woman. I told you that she put the glamour in church work for thousands of church women. [Laughter] I got to know her and she wanted me to get involved in the work and so she asked me if I would consider, if I were nominated for a place on the national board, if I would consider it. So, I talked to James about it and we had decided that I didn't have to belong to anything in Sumter. I don't like clubs, I'm not a joiner. He said that he didn't care, he said that the only thing that he knew of in Sumter that he thought it might be nice for me to belong to up to that time had been the AAUW. Then I found out that the AAUW in Sumter had been infiltrated by one or two persons who were determined to control it from the inside and to keep it from doing anything liberal. So, I thought "To heck with it, life is too short for that." We agreed that I would let it alone. So, I didn't belong to anything in Sumter. I never have identified with Sumter particularly… Then, this opportunity came along and he liked the idea. So, I thought, "Well, if you like it enough and think that it is worthwhile, I'll try it and see." I did go to the national convention, the first time that I had ever left home since I had the children and I thought that I would die before I got back here. They got along all right,

Page 38
but I nearly passed out. [Laughter] That was the beginning of about a five-year stretch with the United Church Women. I served as a Board Member and I had to have something to do as a Board Member and I was put on the public relations committee. At that time, we were just starting, even nationally. The whole national committee was just about sixteen members to cover the whole fifty states, you know. We had a radio and a t.v. committee and I worked on both of them and I worked on the Protestant Radio Commission … was that it? There were a million [unknown] All that kind of thing. I went to workshops down at Emory University, summer sessions in public relations, got particular training in audio-visual, to teach these people to teach with audio-visuals and that sort of thing, and particularly related to religious work, but not just restricted to that. And then there was a marvelous National Communications Institute in New York that lasted for a full week with emphasis on radio for a couple of days, on t.v., on the press, all kinds of things and we met with just the very best instructors and the very best workshop situations that you could possibly get in radio and t.v. And movies. Everyday and every night was filled with some sort of new learning experiences that were really very exciting and most unusual. The press workshops were sponsored by the New York Times. They gave us a tea, I remember, one afternoon for the whole group and I met some exciting people there. Then, various magazine editors were there. I remember in broadcasting, Pauline Frederick. Do you remember her? Her name hasn't been gone so long from the front. She was broadcasting for the United Nations. She was at some of our lunchons and some of the workshops.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
And United Church Women was a new organization.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
It was a new organization and they were training their

Page 39
nucleus of public relations people that way. It was a communications workshop.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
And what was the function of the group? What were you all trying to accomplish?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
We were trying to learn how to handle public relations, to spread the idea of cooperation among the denominations in the women's work. The United Church Women is the united effort of the women of many churches. It included thirty-odd different denominations.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
All Protestant?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
All Protestant, yes. They are just beginning, apparently now, to work somewhat with Catholic and Jewish women and they have always had affiliations with them and worked on local projects within specific towns together, but officially and nationwide, they are Protestant. It is a united Protestant effort. That was one of the bigest learning experiences that I ever had. It was terribly hard because by that time, we had our whole family and they were all big enough to need me here all the time and to miss having me here. Miles away, I would worry because Dottie had braids down almost long enough to sit on, just a little girl in the second grade or first grade … no, she must have been in the second grade, I guess, and Dick was not quite school age. I would go away for several days; it was just almost unbearable and I would promise myself that I would never do it again and that I would get out of that thing right then. I would worry about how her braids would get done and I would arrange for some neighbor to do it and that sort of thing. Oh, that was a real sacrifice for me, because I suffered through that. But, it was a great experience and I suppose that I learned enough that maybe it paid off in other ways. I don't know, I hope so. The children lived

Page 40
through it real nicely.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Now, am I correct in understanding that the United Church Women was a liberal organization?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Oh, yes. Very. So, that put me as much beyond the pale on my own as James was already. I not only reflected his rascality, but I had some of my own. We were very marked there for awhile.
Then, we had "wild" friends, you see. There were the Durrs that I was telling you about. Virginia Durr was Hugo Black's sister, no less.1
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
That's Sheldon Hackney's mother-in-law.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
And her husband was an attorney who was always defending the wrong people. I remember terrible stories that we learned from him that nobody every knew anything about. One in particular, some black man …I don't know whether he tried to rape a woman or what he did wrong, but he was badly beaten and he climbed up those old rickety steps in the courthouse … no, not the courthouse, the building where Cliff Durr had his office and he climbed up those steps too beaten and maimed to walk, to Cliff Durr's office. He never turned away anybody in his life … His life was threatened hundreds of times. Virginia was a very articulate, charismatic sort of person that people just soaked in. She could present any sort of a situation. She wasn't afraid of the devil with his horns screwed on tight, she was just greater than anybody. I remember how they were … we had two sets of friends in Montgomery, Alabama. One was Cliff and Virginia Durr and the others were Moreland and Marjorie Smith. Moreland was an architect, a marvelous one. He had gone to Montgomery and set up his own business and taken in

Page 41
over a short period, two partners, but it was his business. And he got to be so liberal that they were afraid of him and they kicked him out and somehow managed to take over his business. He had a beautiful home down there and I remember that when we went down to see the Durrs, little realizing how complicated it was and how we might really endanger them. Actually, I think that James went to address the Alabama Council on Human Relations, which was practically underground at the time because it had been persecuted so much in Alabama. We thought that we were going to visit the Durrs, maybe the Durrs invited us, but when we got there, the Durrs told us that their friends, the Moreland Smiths, whom up to that time we had not met, were expecting us to sleep down at their house. They had a lovely place, nice and quiet and they wanted to share in entertaining us. So, they were having us there to spend the night. Well, Virginia Durr had us to supper and she had several friends come in for supper. Now, we never saw, we went to her house maybe three different times, several different occassions and there was somebody Taft, young Bob Taft, Jr. was there one time and I was surprised at that because I only knew about Bob Taft, Sr. and he didn't seem like the sort of person that would …
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
And he was a Republican.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes. But everybody was on his own with them, you know. And young Bob Taft I met there another time. But what I started to say was, we went there several times and I have never seen beyond the front room of her house. I would bet you that there was nothing back there, maybe a bed to sleep on and absolutely the very essentials in the kitchen. When her friends came in, she did not give a dinner party and have them all come in as guests. Each one brought a dish and they were helping cover for her and Cliff and entertain us and get together and enjoy each other, too, knowing that the Durrs

Page 42
probably could not afford to have that many people in. They were not allowed— they couldn't get any other place to live. The house, they did not own. Now, they both owned property. Virginia came from old aristocratic southern family well, Black's family, who had a plantation outside of Montgomery, but she couldn't get a decent place to live in Montgomery because nobody would rent to such "dangerous" people. Their landlord would not fix the walk, he wouldn't fix the steps, he wouldn't to this, he wouldn't do that and they were living under extremely uncomfortable circumstances. They didn't have any heat, they couldn't entertain. We often speculated on what kind of food they had. She had hard times but they stood by their guns. And the Moreland Smiths took in their guests for the night and the few friends who came in to supper brought the supper with them, and people just stood together and saw each other through. Did you ever hear about Aubrey Williams? He was in the same … wasn't he also in Montgomery? Yes, I think that Virginia and James and I met Aubrey Williams for lunch one day and Aubrey was dying of cancer. There were only certain places that they could go feel free to sit and talk. We went to a sort of half way place. It was in a mixed neighborhood. It was a nice, big place, very comfortable, inexpensive, a very ordinary looking place. I had a very simple lunch, just to be together for a chance to talk, because you didn't be seen talking with the Durrs or with Williams and they didn't be seen talking with each other, you know, unnecessarily, just for the heck of starting a riot.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Wasn't Williams in Washington?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Well, I don't know whether he was or not. James knew all of that, I just stayed in the background and listened to these things

Page 43
and tried not to …
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
You got to know Virginia Durr through the United Church Women?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes, I got to know her through the United Church Women. I got to know the most liberal women that I have ever met through the United Church Women.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
So, is that how James got to know Clifford Durr? Through your contact with Virginia?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
I think not. I think that he got to know him through the Alabama Council on Human Relations, who asked him down there to speak and the Durrs were members. The Durrs and the Moreland Smiths, and the Smiths later went to Atlanta after he got kicked out of his business, went to Atlanta and settled there. They had a lovely place in Atlanta, and he had worked a lot with the Southern Regional Council and did extremely well. But those people were the sort of people who belonged to the Alabama Council and I believe that it was that council … weird things happened to us in lots of places, but I think that it was the Montgomery Council that met … nobody knew where it was going to be ahead of time, you didn't talk about it ahead of time, but when it was time, we were taken to the place where the meeting was. It was a Negro church in a very rundown section of the city. I never saw the church, it was a dark, dark night and the streets were extremely ill lit and you couldn't see the building at all and I had to hold on to James and somebody else who was with us. Maybe it was Cliff Durr. I had to do it not to stumble, I couldn't see where I was walking. We got out, we were told to park the car sort of back of the church on a side street. The bigger street ran in front of the church and down

Page 44
a little piece, there was a street light hanging, naked bulb. We were to park back here where there were some trees and it was in shadow and the light wouldn't reach. Then we were to walk down to the front street, come in by the walk and come into the front entrance of the church. Well, we did that, but there was no light anywhere. When you got to the front door and reached out to open it, it opened itself and we went inside and the vestibule or whatever we went into was black dark. Then we were taken to a dimly lit next section and from there into a back room where the windows were all heavily draped and it was brightly lighted. It was a small room and was jammed full, people were standing around the walls. It was packed. Aubrey Williams was there, I remember that. That was before we had lunch with him that time and I didn't know him. James had known him for a long time.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
This was in Montgomery?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Montgomery, yes. He had been there for some time. I knew that he was very, very ill. Virginia said that he had been getting worse steadily. I happened to notice a time when he reached into his pocket and put something into his mouth and I knew that he was taking medication and was very ill, but he was there, still fighting to the last breath. Well, anyhow, we went back into that room and James talked to them and they talked about their problems. We knew … I don't know how we learned these things, where we learned them or from whom, but while we were meeting back there, the police were patrolling the area trying to find where the meeting was. They had heard there was such a thing planned and they meant to find out and break it up.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
This was the Alabama Council on Human Welfare?

Page 45
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes. The Alabama Council on Human Relations. It was a purely voluntary thing, a personal sort of thing that was not connected with any [unknown]. I remember that when we were all through talking, several people went out a few at a time. Aubrey was among the first. I remember that Aubrey couldn't stand to be around people. He couldn't hide the way he felt.
So he just eased out like he was going to get a drink of water or something and didn't come back and then somebody else did and that was the end of the meeting. After James talked, they asked him some questions and they exchanged problems and that, sort of thing and it got real quiet, the room began to thin somewhat and I thought it was a little bit odd. Because I hadn't seen a meeting sort of dissolve like that, but it was carefully done. No crowd of people left that church that night, you see. They just disappeared into the night a few at a time or one at a time in different directions. We didn't go out the way that we had come in. When we went out, all we had to do was step out of the back, that was a corner room of the building that they met in as it turned out and the lights were cut down very, very low and we were almost the last people out. We were let out the back door. I remember the man who showed us out cautioned me …I don't know who he was, he was a black man, he was very courteous and thoughtful, I don't know whether he was the minister or the chairman of that group. Anyway, he was very active in it. Anyway, as James and I went out to go together, he said, "Now, be careful, Mrs. Dabbs, there is a step right there." And he reached out as though he were going to steady me, James was on the other side and we were holding on to each other, and the man reached out and said, "Be careful, Mrs. Dabbs." Then, he pulled his hand back. He realized, I suppose, that in case anybody was watching, he wouldn't dare reach out and be kind and thoughtful to a white person. He wouldn't

Page 46
dare touch somebody.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Surely not a white woman.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Certainly not a white woman and certainly not if the police were watching because that was all it would take. He said, "I'm sorry not to give you a light on that step. Just go very slowly and be careful." There was a light right overhead, but he didn't dare turn it on. We could barely see the outline of our car just fifteen feet away at the edge of the curb. He took the safest way out for us. I don't mind telling you that I was relieved when we got several blocks away and were sure we weren't being followed.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Were you aware of the danger?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes. Scared half to death.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Did you go with James to most of these things?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes. Everywhere, especially when I knew they were like that [unknown]. I was terrified to think about him going by himself. I had a feeling that at times, it might be some help if I went along. I don't know whether it really was, I just hoped it would be just the fact that I was there.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Did you ever run into a crisis?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Well no, we usually skirted them like that. There was one time when the Southern Regional Council met in Atlanta at Clark College, Dr. Benjamin Mays was president, you know.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Morehouse College?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Morehouse. Well, isn't there a Clark Dormitory … or isn't there a Clark College, too?
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
I don't know.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Well, it must have been Morehouse College because I think that Dr. Mays was president at the time. But Morehouse is not part of

Page 47
Atlanta University. Well, we went to Morehouse, but I guess that meeting must have been at Atlanta University, because I have got that stuck in my mind, It's down on the corner of that street— a big long block … I guess it was Atlanta University. Who was the governor of Georgia at that time?2
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Well …
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
They were father and son … well, the governor of Georgia had said that one of the most evil things in that state was the Southern Regional Council and he was going to get rid of it. Who is the bridge down at Savannah named for? Over the Savannah River. That same governor. I can't remember it. Why is it that you can't remember things when you want to? Well, anyhow, he had his deputies out and that night, there was some business part of this meeting and I think that after that there was a sort of a reception type of thing with people milling about all over the floor, just a social get-together with people catching up with each other and that sort of thing, which is the nice part of most conventions. In the midst of that, as that got underway, a whole horde of apparently newspaper men barged in at one time and we knew, because we had our detectives too, we knew that they were the governor's men sent around. They had gone out and made a record of every license tag around that whole place and then they came in and they managed to get pictures of practically the whole crowd. That was a black list.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
When was it?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
I don't remember which year. I could pinpoint it if I could just remember what year it was.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Early forties?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
I would think so, yes. Or the mid-forties. The forties and

Page 48
and the fifties, I know that things are bad now, but the forties and the fifties were really difficult times and most people don't know about it, because they had nothing to do with it. They would have nothing with it. They would not speak, they would not move, they would not listen. They would not be in the wrong place, they would not be alone anywhere or take any stand and so, they were out of it. And the people who were in it because they had to be there, they were the kind who had to be there, the people who were involved were in dire danger that is unlike anything that we have had since then. They just stood so alone.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
What supported you, what held you up?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
James. And I hope I held him up. He was magnificent. He had no measure, no competition except himself. Nobody set his standards and he didn't interfere with somebody else's, but he had such a strength that he was a tower for everybody else who valued what he did and could see him for at least a part of what he was. He was so concerned about truth and about being honest with himself and about being the best self he could be, as he said, the best human being he could be," regardless of anybody else, just be the best I can be, better than I was yesterday," measuring himself against himself over and over. He was so concerned with all that that he was a strength to everybody else. He was a mediator because he was never overpersonal about his views at all. He had an uncanny ability to be objective about things that he cared so much about. He didn't see them as personal issues and I think that's why people turned to him and always listened to him. I never saw anybody who would sit or listen to him for just a few minutes or in conversation, who stayed angry with him as a

Page 49
person even if they came there thinking that he would say things that they didn't like. They would say, "You're crazy! That's impossible! Don't you see what you are getting into?" But they saw him as a person getting into this other thing that was not himself, trouble, disenssion, new ideas, scary ideas. He was just so real and just concerned about other people. You had to admire it and you had to feel that as long as that stood, there was hope for the situation. I remember once we went down to Miles College in Birmingham, Dr. Lucius Pitts was president of Miles College at that time. They had built a beautiful, big house for the president. It was just lovely, beautifully furnished. It was so new that it didn't look very lived in, but it was a lovely house. We were guests at his house while James made a series of talks over a couple of days or something like that. Well, you talk about crises. Dr. Pitts had been in crises. He and James had been friends for a long, long time. They met on many occasions in conferences or what not and were companions in the programs that they had. They got to know each other quite well and got to be very friendly. So, he knew the whole situation when he went down there. But Dr. Pitts had been going through very troubled times. He was still in them and up to the night before we were there he had had police bodyguards in his house. They stayed there around the clock. He said later that he didn't mind it so much. James asked him if they didn't make him nervous and he said, "Well, yes. I got nervous over all the coffee that I had to sit up and drink with these boys." [Laughter] He had been too outspoken for a black man, you know. I guess that he had been too liberal, which is sort of curious, you don't think of black people as liberals, you're not supposed to. but he had overstepped and he had just been too much of a … He was a very fine person and he has died since James did, I think, but

Page 50
he was a very fine person. James talked and I was scared. I didn't go to his talks because he talked to classes and several different groups. I didn't trail him around, that was too much. I could go be lost in the whole audience and I didn't like to do anything that was really conspicuous. I saw something of the campus and some of the buildings and met Mrs. Pitts, of course. After a couple of days, we left, but you know, I was on pins the whole time because here I was in a house where there had been threats, to the place and the people, too, and I was certainly not making it any better by coming in as a white person and being there. It is impossible to think that they didn't know we were there, whoever "they" were. And yet, Pitts was determined to go ahead and teach class and have James. James was determined to go ahead and do it and "if these people want to be wild, that's their feeling, not ours." There was work to be done and he'd go ahead doing it. We had to live like normal people and not hide all the time. man James was, I've never seen such courage and a sense of a thing to be of a person to be as he had. All of that just made it impossible to escape being in situations that were dangerous. I can't remember what happened in Shreveport. He went down there to a very large gathering. I think that it was a Presbyterian large church gathering. His topic, whatever it was, threw aside all the laws of self-preservation. [Laughter] At Shreveport, Louisiana, at a time like that … there was a good deal of tension. There had been several incidents in this area that did not make the papers over the country, feeling was running kind of high about several particular things and he got lambasted in the papers the next morning. We arranged it so that we were there the night before the speech and we got a good night's sleep that night. Then, the next day,

Page 51
all day long … it seems to me that he was doing something of his business, but it was the kind of thing that would antagonize the press and when night came, we were all packed for home. He made his speech and we just quietly walked out to the car and got in and left that town just as fast as we could because there were all sorts of … well, there were actually threats against him and against anybody who agreed with what was being said around that meeting. There were press people there or police spies and we knew that and he thought that the best way to keep order was just not to be there. So, that time, we drove straight through from Shreveport to Atlanta without stopping. I never been so tired in my life from driving and driving. I was hypnotized the last good many miles, and I was the last one driving. We had a friend in Atlanta who wanted us to spend the night with her. She didn't know that we were coming in from such a drive. I don't know how far it is, but it seemed like days and days. I think that it was two nights and a day, all day long, something like that. That was before the roads were as good as they are now. You couldn't make good time. I remember coming into Atlanta the next morning and James had finally just given out. He tried to take the heavier part of the drive, the longer stretches because he thought I would get too tired and we both tried to sleep, each one when the other was driving, but we couldn't do it, we were too tired to let loose. I was so tired and my head was going around and around and my eyes were swimming. I tried to focus on the road and I couldn't and we were coming into town. There were four or six lanes and big old trucks on both sides of me and I didn't dare look at either one. I just tried to head between them and hope that I was going where I was supposed to go. None of them looked familiar to me, I had never seen that side of Atlanta. I don't know where it was, but it was the proper

Page 52
side. I knew that we were nearer home and further from Shreveport, but I also knew that I was on the point of slamming straight into the side of a truck or anything, just totally out of control and that I had to hold on a little bit longer and we would get to Caroline's house… James had almost slumped out, he couldn't stand it any longer, he was just broken. He finally managed to rally when we got well down into the city and he could help me. He could read the street signs and he knew what streets to look for because he knew a good deal more about Atlanta. He could at least say, "Now, when you get to the next stop light, I believe that's the place you should turn to the right."
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
You felt like you had to drive all the way from Shreveport to Atlanta just to get a good distance between you?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes, and on top of that, we did everything on a shoestring. We wouldn't have any money to stop at a hotel or a motel. It never occurred to us to do that. We used to go to the Southern Regional Council When James was president it ran on such a shoestring literally that we did everything under the sun to save them money. We would have to get there to a Board meeting that started at ten o'clock in the morning and so, we would get up here at four o'clock and leave here at four in the morning and drive. It took us six hours to get there and we would drive and get there just at ten o'clock and walk into the meeting and try to rest a few minutes somewhere, if we could, in the afternoon. There rarely was anytime to rest, not at a meeting like that. It was all crowded into one day because the Council couldn't afford to put people up overnight. A lot of people stayed over the night either before or after or both, but

Page 53
we didn't because we didn't have money. The council didn't have money and we thought that we should not be causing them to spend on us. After the meeting was over about 5:30 in the afternoon, we would head for home. We had six hours to get back home again. I would leave somebody that I could trust to stay with the children.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Didn't you ever get discouraged?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Oh, yes, yes. I never would have stuck it out without James.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Well, did James ever get discouraged?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Well, I am sure that he got discouraged and it is hard to know why he didn't quit sometimes, but he never lost his faith in human nature. He believed that somehow or another, people would win out. They had trouble with themselves and had their problems, but he believed they would come along. It is amazing how much of it came to pass, you might say, how right he was. Of course, the famous things that people do have always been those things. Somehow or another, the man he was made people uncover potentialities that they didn't know they had, it made them discover and believe in themselves. It gave them faith in themselves and gave them courage to be themselves. He was just a shining example.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
You said that when you were working for the United Church Women, you got to know some of the most liberal women that you had ever known. Who were some of the women?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes, well, Dorothy McLeod was one and another was Mossie Wyker, Mrs. James M. Wyker from Louisville, Kentucky. She is there now and is retired. A beautifully capable, courageous, liberal woman. She was the president of United Church Women nationally at the time that

Page 54
Dorothy Shaw McLeod was executive secretary and Mrs. Wyker is an ordained minister of the Disciples Church. I remember an interesting little thing that happened once in Atlanta … what was the occasion? James and I went to a service in a big, beautiful church in Atlanta and … I wish that I could remember why. It was a very important occasion and dignitaries of the National Council of Churches and other groups were there. Dr. Frank Laubach spoke, I remember. He was the "each one teach one" missionary personality. I believe he made an address and it was a religious meeting. It must have been sponsored by the National Council and Mossie Wyker was the minister of the day. The church had a very high … now, I don't know what you call this, being a Presbyterian now and having been a Baptist, I don't know what you call the parts of the church, but there was one raised platform where the minister goes up into the thing to speak and then there was another on the other side where a lay reader could speak, not maybe so high as the minister's. But nobody except the minister ever set foot on the steps of that inner sanctuary up there. Well, we had our programs and I knew Mossie and I knew what had been planned for the day, I may have had something to do with the planning, I don't know. But seated right behind James and me were two women and they commented about everything. It was supposed to be whispering, but it was a little louder than that because you could hear everything. It was a stage whisper and everybody around heard it. At the point when Mossie got up to go forward and up those little steps, she started in the direction of the steps and I was so proud of her, because I know what a magnificent job she does when she speaks. She is a dynamic speaker and pulls everybody in sight to her point of view. She can pull anything she wants to, you can't resist her

Page 55
and I thought, "Mossie is going to do herself proud and I am so glad." But the women behind me started whispering, "Look, she's going right on up there. Somebody ought to stop her. They oughtn't to let that happen." And as they got so excited, I was afraid that they would stand up and say something. Actually, they really were very worked up, I have never heard such upset women in the church in my life. [Laughter] The only release that they got was to talk back and forth to each other and they got louder and louder and I was afraid Mossie would hear them. But I thought, "Well, Mossie will be in complete control of the situation, she will think of something." Well, she went on up her steps …
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Now, this wasn't her church?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
No, it wasn't her church. She had never been in it before. Maybe the women did go there all the time. They must have been local women. They were not United Church Women. But they came maybe out of curiosity to see what all these liberal people were up to. Mossie made a very fine sermon and I was proud of her, just as I expected to be. I remembered for a long time how concerned those women were that another woman, purely because she was a woman, was about to mount the steps reserved for a male minister. Mossie had been such a devoted minister for so many years, brought up a family and all that and done a lot of extra outside work, but she had also served as a minister at one church or another. Her husband, I believe, was one too.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
I really don't have a clear understanding of what the United Church Women was all about and why that was so scandalous in Sumter.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
It was scandalous because it was liberal. Of course, it is liberal in the first place to try to work … we found out in the United Church Women, I learned fairly early that it is more difficult … you think that it is difficult to get blacks and whites to work together, well, I don't know if you could even imagine now in 1975 what it was like.

Page 56
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Well, were you trying to do that?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes, yes, that was very bad. But even harder than that, than getting white women to be willing to have Negroes come into their membership on equal footing, it was difficult to get Methodists and Lutherans and Presbyterians and Episcopalians and Disciples and what have you to work together.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Baptists?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Well, now the Baptists have never been strong in the United Church Women because they can never represent their home church. The Baptists are autonomous in every individual church and they have trouble doing things through representation because nobody represents a very large group. Individual Baptist women, however, have been some of the most faithful members and workers that we have had. In such cases, they have been on their own, not representing their women's groups. They had to be women with some conviction and some stability of their own to do it. But then you had to get other people to work with them and that was really hard in getting the races to do things together. We had a time in this state, after I had been on the board for a couple of years, we got to work … well, as soon as I started working with the United Church Women, we started working on the United Church Women here, trying to have a South Carolina one. I finally did write up that whole experience because we wanted to get a history of the whole movement in the state. I don't know what has happened to it all. I got my part together, what I remembered, but the others … it was supposed to go into a little book, but it has never come out. I don't know what happened. Anyway, United Church Women in

Page 57
South Carolina started with four women rocking in the sunshine on a front porch in Sumter one day. Little old Miss Reid, who was up in her seventies.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Miss Reid?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Miss Rebecca Reid was the leading spirit here in Sumter. She was a cousin of Dorothy McLeod and inordinately proud of Dorothy. She loved her and would do anything to help Dorothy and her ambitions for the women of the church. And she [unknown] Well, Miss Reid had several of us come to her house and talk about this, her house being where she boarded. She had a room upstairs. Miss Reid and I and Susie DuRant, who agreed to be the president and a cousin of Dorothy McLeod's, Lucille Shaw, sat out there and talked and rocked and talked. We decided to invite several people we knew of who might possibly be interested in such an organization, to come meet with us in Columbia, since Columbia was so central to most of the state— about a couple of weeks after that. Well, we did and by that time, we got ten people to come and we decided at that meeting that we would organize and we did. We had a president. Susie agreed to be president and I think that Lucille Shaw, Dorothy's cousin, agreed to be secretary … I'm not certain. I've got all of this written down somewhere. Then we needed somebody to be responsible for leadership training, to begin to get things organized and know how this thing was done and learn to set up. We needed a good public relations person to not just do publicity but for public relations, to sell the idea to church women across denominational lines, the idea that they should work together to

Page 58
do some of these things that women always like to do and the churches depend on them to do and they could be so much better if they would put their heads together and all the effort together. Such as taking the walls away from the asylums, I mean, the chains and iron bars outside, that kind of thing. I just happened to think of that, that is a very minor thing, but that type of thing, developing half-way houses. Things that are not theological at all and women can do better if we all get together and push. Well, I was the sucker who got rooked into the public relations and it was fair because after all by that time, I had had a chance to find out what they were thinking and how they were going at these things on a national level and I should have paid back some effort, for all that. So, we got to work on it and Susie was president, I think, for two years [unknown] She was a very capable denominational worker and she liked the idea of working with other denominations, but she really wasn't strong enough physically for any demanding work. (She was older than I am.) So, Susie resigned and I took over her job and it was during that time that I learned a lot of things and was able to put into practice a lot of things that I suppose I had slowly learned. How to handle in South Carolina, where nobody ever had interracial meetings, not only to get black and white church women together, but to make them eat together. About half a dozen of us sat down and sweated that out. We laid our plans and no army general ever planned a strategy more carefully and it paid off. We decided that no matter whether we had ten people or fewer, we were going to have an annual meeting in Columbia of all the people, just individuals around the state that we knew about and slowly build up a solid, reliable, list of Protestant women who wanted to get together and talk over these possibilities. We would have a meeting [unknown] and those individual members would make up the state group

Page 59
of United Church Women, that we would get together once a year and boast each other's courage and make plans and so on. The first year, we just met, all morning and we went out and got lunch and then we met in the afternoon. Susie was president that second year. So, then the next year when I was president I said, "Let's not do that anymore, we've done that and now that is finished. Let's try the next step." So, the ladies of that church where we met and we had a hard time trying to find a place in Columbia every year who would let us meet. Some church.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
With black women?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes. It was never in the sanctuary … I mean, for some years it was not in the sanctuary, it was not in the sanctuary at all but in an educational building or something. Now, the black churches would always have us, but I said, "No, that's not the point. They are already willing to have us. We need to have a white church. We are not going to condescend and be put up on the front seat of a Negro church. We go in together and we sit scattered about in a white church. So, we managed to do it, but the ladies of the hostess church made coffee and sandwiches and that first year, somebody sat at the coffee table and poured the coffee and we came up like you would do at a reception and got a little plate and napkins with some sandwiches and your cup of coffee. You walked about and talked to your friends or if you didn't have friends, you tried to make some. You were polite to everybody and if anybody looked lonesome, you went over and talked to them. The next year after that, we had little card tables and you could sit where you pleased. There were plenty of card tables, more than the members had to have and if you wanted to go and sit at a table all by yourself with your best friend and not associate with anybody, you really could. But, you were sitting down in the same room with all these strange people you had never eaten with before. And for

Page 60
black and white, it was a brand new experience. It was really exciting to watch these people learn. Not two people in the whole room had ever done it before, had ever eaten in the same room with white or black, whichever they were not. Finally, the third year, we had one big long table where everybody sat down and ate together, they served their plates at the same place, sat down together, ate together and they have ever since. We never do, you can imagine, have a very big crowd still.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Were you president for three years?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
I was president for four years and by the end of the four years, we had ten city councils scattered over the state. We had a state council and at the state council meetings, Mathew Perry was one of the speakers—Mathew Perry a black attorney in Columbia, and we had invited some men. Some ministers and some people working in outstanding positions like the American Friends or with Christian Action Council or something else. We had a feature in Christian Social Relations—that department sponsored it—and Mathew Perry was one of the speakers on a panel for them and James was another speaker and we had two women and they [unknown] There were 120-odd people present at that meeting, a lot of them local Columbia people and yet four years before, no one. I had been there four years.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
When was this?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
About … I don't know whether it was my last year or the year before. My last year was '54. I believe that it was '53, the next to the last year. 1953, at Ebenezer Lutheran Church in Columbia. The Lutheran and the Episcopal churches were the easiest ones, or the least difficult, to get to let us meet. Some of the ministers were good, just beautiful people and they stuck their necks 'way out. Dr. Kenneth Morris was one. He was liberal enough to be much criticized, yet he was the first to let us use his Episcopal church.

Page 61
[unknown] a report that was given to a commission of his church, an Episcopal church. Anyway, there was something else I wanted to tell you about that …
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
You were just talking about the organizational structure.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes, it was stronger than we had ever imagined. All that from about five or six years before, from four women plotting to do this thing, you know. What is so exciting is that there are always people, in that case, church women, sitting back somewhere very quietly, waiting for somebody to strike a spark and to know that somebody will go with them, that if there is any point in doing it, they won't be just all alone. They are ready to go, really. All they need is somebody to get them started. You just start out and sort of fill in the ranks. First thing you know you look back and here they come, shoulder to shoulder.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Well, were you committed to the idea in the '50s of social and political equality for blacks?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Oh, yes. That's the main difficulty. [Laughter] "This could lead to social equality?" "Well, what do you mean? How? Why?" "Well, why not?" I can see how it terrified people and they are still afraid of it. It is pathetic, tragic. They don't think like bad people, they are just fearful people and they do just such bad, bad things from being afraid.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
You think that your attitude was what today we would call paternalistic?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Well, that is a thing that James and I have both watched ourselves and watched ourselves every step of the way. Because having grown up in a paternalistic atmosphere, having always seen only that sort of thinking, it would be very natural for us to be paternalistic. We were

Page 62
certain that we were to some degree paternalistic now at what point had we been and how much so? And really improving? If so, why not faster? We felt that it was a bad thing in this day. Now, maybe in slavery times it was so much better than your attitudes could have been that there was a place for paternalism for that transition period, maybe. But this was much too late for paternalism and it is not useful, it is not a good thing to be and can be a bad thing. So how could we rid ourselves of what we had grown up with, just born into us practically, you know and conditioned into us. We always wondered, James always said, "I keep asking myself if I am in any way prejudiced. I don't want to have a bit in the world, but do I have it? Did that thing I said or this thing I did actually reflect deep seated ideas? Is prejudice still there?" It is a thing that you dont' get rid of in a hurry. It can be totally unintentional. It is a habit, an attitude like of that of a certain amount of very limited condescencion, it's a habit and most habits are unconscious. That's why they are so hard to break. You can't get hold of them to do anything with them. So, you aren't aware of it. Miss Reid used to laugh at it—she was a delightful person. She said about tolerance that she hated to see people who were so intolerant of each other of different customs or of different cultures, or a different life style, she just hated to see those things. She had spent a life time trying to be more and more tolerant. She wanted to be totally tolerant and she said, "You know, I think I am. I think I have finally made it." Or at least she said to me, "I got to the place where I said to myself, 'I finally made it," and I was convinced that I had made it and was tolerant now. I was the shining ideal and vision that I had wanted to be. I could put up with any kind of person, any kind of idea, I didn't let anybody shock me, even these wild young people, even the reactionary people. Nobody shocked me anymore and I am totally tolerant. Then, I suddenly realized that I am absolutely intolerant of intolerance."

Page 63
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
That's Miss Reid talking?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes, Miss Reid. [Laughter] So, you see, condescension, that paternalism is like intolerance. It gets down and then you don't know that you have it. You are afraid to say that you haven't got a bit of it anymore. I suppose actually so long as you make allowances for people for the reasons that they are different— in this case, the reason is that they are black—if you make allowances for them and don't demand that they measure up and be all of whatever it is, the whole thing, then you are being paternalistic. And that is not what you always meant by it at all. So, it is very hard to say that you are not. I'm sure that sometimes I do make allowances, I 'll say, "Well, those people never had a chance in their lives …" You are inclined to make allowances for them. You feel like it is a generous, right thing to do, to make allowances for them. Don't demand more than they can deliver. But why can't they deliver, why don't they deliver? Maybe you have got to make the distinction between they "can't" or they "don't" and they don't because you don't let them or something doesn't let them. But now, if we do honestly believe they could, maybe that's the test. I don't know and I don't know how to say when and at what point you no longer have any paternalistic attitudes. I don't mean to have them, but then on the other hand if I look at myself, I realize that there are times when I wonder if I make allowances to many times.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
People would be surprised though, I think, to hear you admit that you are conscious of these attitudes.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
They might be. I feel that I have gotten over condescension and more paternalism than most of the people I know. I think that I am as nearly free of it as anybody I really know personally and I can understand and judge that. But at the same time, I don't know whether that is true, whether you would call that totally free or not. Because there are people

Page 64
I know that I feel I shouldn't blame … now wait a minute, I say that about white people, too. If they have never had the advantages of any education whatever, or other advantages that would enable them to do the kind of job that I feel the situation ought to have, then even if they are white, I would make allowances for them because they didn't have those advantages. So, maybe that's not … unless that's being paternalistic, too, that is paternalism. It is not white-black paternalism, but it is being paternalistic, I guess.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
What is the difference between being charitable and compassionate or being condescending? And if you can walk that line …
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes, I think that is maybe what I am trying to get at. I don't know just where the line is and I don't know whether you ever do know for sure. You've got to be fair with people. God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb and you've got to temper your judgements to the possibilities of people's capabilities and not feel that everybody is responsible for the same beginning potentiality. Because maybe they didn't start off evenly handicapped. Maybe some of them had to make it up faster than others. You make allowances for children, in school, you expect one of your children to go after things differently from another, someone in your own family, sisters and brothers. You will say, "Well, he is different from the others, he sees it this way."
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
But that, of course, always leaves you in a position of dominance, if you are the one who is saying, "Well, I will make allowances for this person."
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes, now that could be called paternalism. That's looking down from your height of superiority. But I don't think that I do that at any point because somebody is black. I feel that I have gotten past that, long ago. If that

Page 65
is … if I am seeing the line where it really is between compassion and understanding and paternalism, then I am not paternalistic.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Do you think that you can convey that to black people?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
I have wondered. Now, I think that it depends on how well people know you. I think that some of these people down at Penn, on St. Helena Island— that Mrs. Chisolm, Mr. Boyd, some of these people— I don't think that they feel there is any condescension in me. I think they know that I have the greatest respect for them and yet, they know that I know that they haven't had a lot of advantages that I have. I trust them to understand that I feel my superior advantages give me greater responsibilities and that I would judge myself much more strictly than I ever would them because I would make myself measure up. I have to be pitted against a different yardstick.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
But you know, I get the feeling that the Boyds, anyway, feel like they have had all the advantages that anybody has had.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes they do, they feel that it is a good life. Mrs. Middleton, Mrs. Major … I love Mrs. Major. You've never really got to know her. She is the dietician. She is so reserved and she is not the person to gush over anybody. She has her own little ways of making her little allowances and advances in a very reserved way, but you appreciate so deeply her friendliness; you know it means something. She is very shy, actually, but she is so dignified that she manages to keep her slight aloofness and slight distance.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Is she the one who brought the flowers and fixed up the cottage when we were there?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes. I had forgotten that I took her a box full of camelias once up here to the dining room. And I really took them to her personally, but she didn't know how to carry them because it was a great big old box of them laid flat. When I went back to the dining room the entire room was full of

Page 66
them. She had them on every table. That was years ago. I learned at that time that she loved flowers so, so when she brought these down to the house that time, I just thought such a sweet, personal thing to do. That's the kind of thing that Henriette 3 would never think of because she doesn't see herself in the role of hostess. Mrs. Major has a lot of imagination and sensitivity and is a nice person, a very lovely person. A lot of those people, I'm so fond of, really. I miss seeing them and I don't get to see them. I wonder how they are?
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
The people down at St. Helena?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes. I care a lot more about them than I do about a lot of these people in Sumter. It was a very moving experience for me.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Well you know, I walk around this house and there are maps of St. Helena Island in every room and evidence of you interest in Penn School all over the place. It is clear that that is really a major focus of your energy and interest.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes. I use it as an alibi for anything that I don't want to do. I say I don't have time.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
What is it about those people or that experience that is so gripping?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
I think a lot of it is their own—I'm divided between their self respect and their sincerity, their relationships to other people. They are so genuine and the history that they have had is so real. They have been through everything. You see things in American history generally, the war, the hard times, the long struggle for improvement, the achievements that they have had, recognitions and a long time with no recognitions. St. Helena's had it all right there in their own little boundary. It happened to them without any pushing forth from the outside world, except of course, Penn always was supported from the

Page 67
outside for a long, long time, but those who were putting in the money and putting up the buildings couldn't have done one thing with just any sort of people. These people cared and there was something in them that slavery had never snuffed out. When I was talking down there the other day, or when I was getting up a talk, I realized and emphasized to them that in the spring of '62, the first little class got together and the people who came to look for an education…
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
You mean 1862.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Right, 1862. The first people who came to make up a class to get learning, were nine mothers. They didn't think of children going to school but women came and some of them brought their babies with them because they had to nurse them. After awhile, they began to bring their children and then it got sort of cumbersome and so tedious to have to deal with to try to handle the children and home and cook the meals and hoe the fields and go to school, that they just sent the children and let the children tell them at home what they learned. In 1862, nine women started and none of those women had ever seen a book or ever seen a school and knew what it was like. They didn't know what it was to go learn. Three years later in the spring of 1865, the school put on an exhibition, which was like a commencement, to demonstrate what had been learned to the uninitiated. And the children had learned to read, as Miss Murray said, they could read through and had studied simple physiology books, and they could make sentences with a subject, predicate and a verb and an adverb when told to do so. Some in the smallest class were writing compositions. They learned penmanship was very important and if you could spell anything, you spelled it beautifully. [Laughter] And all of that in three years from people who had never seen a book.
Now, you know that

Page 68
is not just any kind of people. As I said, I hadn't realized in terms of time, until the other day. It is just one of the little examples of what it is about those people that you see in other ways. The way they kept going after the big natural disasters just has to arouse your admiration.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
The way that they have always aspired to better themselves.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes, and they have a certain kind of humility, that only the strong can have. They can take suggestion and instruction and be helped. Not everybody can do that. They know that is what is happening, but they are glad to have it and they don't resent the people who give it to them. That is more than I can say for some of the present day staff they have down there even with all their advantages. But the people of the island, it seems to me, are very remarkable people. I have seen such terrible poverty there that it just tears you to look at it—tragic needs, but the people somehow can be hospitable, they do little gracious things without having anything to do it with. I remember one woman particularly who walked like a princess. She wasn't ragged and she wasn't dirty, but she couldn't have been more simply dressed. Late one afternoon, I was riding along by myself looking for someplace that I hadn't been able to find yet … it may have been when I was looking for Tombee.4 But anyhow, I was riding along very slowly and I slowed down some more when I saw approaching me along the shoulder of the road, a woman carrying a big white enamel dishpan under her arm kind of on one hip. Behind her was a boy of about eight or so. It was hard to tell, he wasn't very big and I had the feeling that he was quite small for his age, but he was still a young boy. They had been fishing,

Page 69
this mother and her little boy and they were coming along just about supper time. I thought of something to ask her and stopped and asked her. I couldn't understand two words she said because it was pure Gullah, but as musical as it could be. And she stood there with that pan poised on her hip, with her back as straight as an arrow, but relaxed, very gracious and giving me the information that I wanted. It wasn't her fault that I couldn't understand it. I let her talk a little bit just to hear it. I thanked her, asked something about the fish, something that I didn't have to ask her, what kind it was or where she got it or something. She had caught a great big old fish, it was too big for any bass … I don't know, it could have been, but it was one huge fish and it filled up that dishpan or whatever it was. It had been skinned apparently and was gleaming white. It had been dressed and washed at the water and it was ready for supper. She was going home to cook supper for her family. She had done this thing herself and had had some pleasure while she was doing it. She had rested, she had lived with her little boy. You just felt that she was handling her life as though she had chosen her life style and she was doing exactly what she wanted to do. I felt sure that in that situation she would naturally want things a little easier, but maybe she didn't. She knew the richness of what she did have like I couldn't understand it at all. I thought maybe you were a princess one time. On that island were princes. I mean, people whose ancestors who came there were princes. I've come across a couple of very interesting stories about that.

Page 70
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Have you?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
In Miss House's notes.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Edith, you are a real romantic. [Laughter]
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
One of those goes back from Leroy Brown, whose father Leroy Brown now is a county commissioner for the twelfth term …
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
And his father was George Brown.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes, who was the basketmaker.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Yes, the basketmaker.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
And George Brown's grand-uncle was Alfred Graham, whose grandfather brought the craft from Africa and taught him. And also, his grandfather was lame. I'm sure that was right. I've got to research it again very carefully and then I am going to see Leroy Brown and his wife, Corinne, when I am down there.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
That is one of Mrs. House's stories, isn't it?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes. The first man who came was Vaberlee and he was a prince, a very powerful prince from Africa. He was sold, he was not a captured servant, he was sold, possibly by his own people. Or maybe by some political enemy. And the thing that is very curious is that in all his telling of this, he never said one word of bitterness or criticism of whoever it was who sold him into slavery. He doesn't even come out with personal bitterness at his masters. He admits what a terrible time it was, well not Vaberlee but Vaberlee's son, the second Vaberlee. I think the first Vaberlee was the first one that I found who fitted that story that you sometimes hear along the Sea Islands and I had not heard before on St. Helena, of people in the early days who could not stand slavery and when they were pushed just to the limit of their endurance and could stand it no longer they stood up, lifted their arms and flew away to Africa and were never seen again over here on this side of the water because they flew back home. That old tale, I understand, is still whispered sometimes down in

Page 71
the lower Sea Islands in Georgia. I asked Tecumset if he had heard of it and he said that he didn't know of one, but then I came across this and that was a story that was told about Vaberlee because there were two men living at the time that it was told, who had "seen" him do it. [Laughter] For a long time, it was told and believed and Leroy Brown might be very embarrassed about that. I do want to find out from him and from his wife about it, if Vaberlee is a name in his family because it sounds to me like the same family.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Well, they have been achievers, the Browns have been achievers.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Oh, yes.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Didn't Leroy go to Princeton or Columbia?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
I don't know where he went. Leroy, of course, was a Penn man, and I'm not sure if he went to Hampton.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
No, Leroy, Sr. went to Hampton. I'm talking about his son.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Oh, his son. Well, now he has several children and they have all gone to college, everyone of them. Cynthia, I think, is the daughter's name and she was at Brown last year and I believe that she is about to finish at Brown. I think that was at least the second child he had that went to Brown and they just think that way.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
I want you to read a discussion in my dissertation, I'll find it for you tomorrow, about all the troubles George Brown went through. It is just incredible, all the tragedy in his life and yet, he put this child through Hampton and kept his family together. Penn laid him off, you know, as the basket maker. In the Depression, they put him on

Page 72
half-time and then during the forties, they dismissed him. Here he had dedicated his life to Penn and to being the basket maker, because Miss Cooley thought that it would be nice to preserve that craft. Well, all this shouldn't be going on the tape. [Laughter]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
You were really active with the United Church Women and you've really been active with Penn school. Were there other organizations?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Well, I belong to other things. I am a member of Will Campbell's Committee of Southern Churchmen. I am on the Southern Regional Council …
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
The board?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Well, it is a board membership. Members are elective only. I mean that it is elective only to a limited number of members and that is the board, a little over a hundred members. You can have all the co-workers and supporters that you please, get everyone that you can to work with you, but it is a board organization. I am on the board of the Southeast Institute of Psychotherapy in Chapel Hill. Well, there are things like the local historical society.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
You said you never were a joiner.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
No. [Laughter] I get into these things because I am interested in what they are doing, I guess. This business about the Institute of Psychotherapy is rather funny. I think that I will float out of that in a couple of years, because it is not really my dish anymore. In the beginning, the man who thought up the whole idea started FREE-Fellowships for Racial and Economic Equality and he was …
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Who was that?

Page 73
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Graham Barnes. I believe that he was a North Carolina man originally. He was working on his dissertation at Harvard under James Luther Adams and several other fellows, all doing graduate work under Dr. Adams who were friends of his At the time that Martin Luther King was assassinated, Graham Barnes was so shocked that he felt something had to be done, that whites ought to take some leadership in this thing and do more to help. He left his work, he dropped his graduate work right then and there and never has gone back, I don't know if he will or not, and came down home. He talked long and hard with a couple of fellows that he had known at Harvard; in fact, they talked about it before he came back. He came back and started working out a plan for an organization which would focus on racial prejudice in the white-collar layer, which he felt was the neglected area. People hit at the more privileged and they aim at the extreme underprivileged because they feel that they are the more biased ones, but they neglect that inbetween area where the blue collar workers are and a lot of the material for the Ku Klux Klan, that sort of thing. He thought that there should be somebody who cared about those people and should work on them to eliminate a lot of racial prejudice there. I think that the name of the thing was unfortunate, because it immediately turned people off and made it very difficult to work [unknown], but his idea was good. He asked James if he would serve in an honorary capacity, meaning that he would be a counselor and not constantly pulled into meetings, as the first president of the organization. He would get together from grants some money for scholarships. Well, James agreed to do it and Graham has a genius for getting money out of foundations and he managed to get started in a big way with a real flourish. Some of his friends came with him and Jim Adams

Page 74
came on the board, too. My James and Jim Adams were the two oldsters of them sort of. The rest of them were a couple of generations younger. They were Graham's age. Well, it flourished for several years, four or five years and then Graham's ideas began to change, his focus began to change and his ambitions took a turn and since he was doing more work than anybody else and had started it up, the rest of us little by little went along with him. But he was thinking in terms of not focusing so hard just on racial antagonisms, because there are so many other kinds too, and they are all tied in a bundle. He felt that the best thing was to try to help people solve their problems, whatever they were. So, he got into this psychotherapy point of view and now what we have is a school of psychotherapy. Last year, we gave master's degrees.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
At Chapel Hill?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes. It's not part of the University, but in that Institute there. They have beautiful and very roomy quarters out there Of course we are running into financial troubles this year like everybody else and we are not running a graduate program this year, but we may again next year. We couldn't do the final granting of the degree, but that was worked out through long negotiations with the Lone Mountain College in California. They get a lot of credit because they have their name on the diploma and we do all the work. We have a faculty and a couple of people on our faculty are with the University too, and one is a practicing psychiatrist in Chapel Hill. We have outstanding people from all over the country there and they will have a quality institute and things are going well, but it is not the sort of thing that I really belong in. This business at Penn which gets down to the personal level of people's difficulties and problems—it suits me better than organized class approach or lettered techniques or that sort of

Page 75
formalized approaches and I think that I can do more at Penn, I could account for more energy that I have goes further down there than at Chapel Hill, I can work in an advisory capacity on a board about various matters but certainly not about teaching of psychotherapy because that is not my field, I don't know anything about it and I don't make any pretense and I'm not expected to. Neither are the other board members. The teaching is left to the faculty. We have to judge faculty by their credentials and a trustee's role is very different from a faculty's role. I realize that, but still I don't feel that that is exactly where I belong. So, when I get through with any help that I can be to the University's Southern Historical Collection and Dick decides where he is going to be, he may not be in Chapel Hill at all, then there is nothing else to make me go up there, nothing important enough to … well, the Institute by itself is not enough to make me make that trip every month or so. I've been going so often because I am on the executive committee and it meets at least once a month.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Oh, good heavens.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
So, I have been making that trek up there at least once a month and next month there is a board and committee meeting together.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Edith, I don't know how you do all the things that you do. You have more energy and you are out in that car driving up and down the highways all the time.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Well, I'll stay home more, I've got to stay home because I've got to get this writing done and this is what I want to do. I have a hard time beating myself to make me write, to make me stay at it, to pull things together to write, but when I get started and get to looking things up, I get so excited …

Page 76
I forget to eat, I don't want to go to bed. Then in the morning, because I stayed up until three o'clock, then I can't get up. [Laughter] I just go overboard. I'm intemperate about work when it quits being work.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Well, maybe this winter you can just be here with Duchess and the fireplace and establish a rhythm.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes, I'm hoping I can and if I do, I suppose I'll stick to it. I'll find something to fit into it because it will be so satisfactory to feel that things are in place and have a place to work.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Well, let's go to bed.
Interruption until p. 87
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
this is when you first came back to the farm?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes. And there must be things there. We kept chickens for awhile and James minded the tobacco barn himself and I made all the children's clothes, even James' little suits. Did a good job, too. The best suits he ever had.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
You made a bed upstairs, too, didn't you?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Oh yes, Dick's bed in this room, I made and I made all sorts of little bookcases around here. I learned how to make my own extension cords and do simple little things like that.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Built a fire, too.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
I sure did. [Laughter] So many things like that.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
O.K., some of James' friends that you thought about overnight.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
A lot of nice interesting people. There are many, but one that I remember is Robert Penn Warren. He met Warren the same time that he met several of the group out at Nashville. What was that literary group called?

Page 77
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
The Fugitives.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes, Donald Davidson and Allan Tate, Red Warren …
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
"Red" Warren?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Robert Penn Warren, yes. And there were a couple of other people as well. I remember Martha Foley he talked about, Martha Foley was the editor of Story Magazine and she was from New York and had nothing to do with that particular group, but he met them all at the same time at a writer's conference at Boulder, Colorado the first summer after we were married. He stayed in touch with Robert Pen Warren all the rest of his life. I ran into Warren over at Coker. I made a point of going over there to see him because he spoke at Coker last year sometime. I was so pleased that … well, I don't know, it was a warm moment in a rather formal situation, but all of a sudden, when I went up to speak to him in the drawing room with people around just aching to speak to him, wanting to just shake hands with the man … they didn't ask for autographs, or I didn't see them … I guess that some of them did, too. Anyhow, that kind of a group, totally strange, admiring and appreciative, but strange. He didn't recognize me at first, but I told him who I was and he said, "Are you James McBride Dabbs' wife?" I said, "Yes, it's been a long time since I've seen you. I didn't expect you to remember me but I was sure you would remember James." He said something about how he would never forget him but he didn't recognize me at first. I had just seen him one time. James and I went up to his mountain house when he was there for the summer, we were just up there one afternoon and evening for dinner and part of the night. He had no reason to remember me at all. That was some years ago. But he and James were warm friends. They admired each other and appreciated

Page 78
each other's work and exchanged notes on what they were doing and what they were up to, that sort of thing, you know. Although, they never got to visit much. But they all met at the same time and that is why these other names came to mind. Another that … two other writers that James was very fond of, one was Mrs. Conant. Isabel Fiske Conant was a New England poet of some importance over quite a period and when we knew her, she had done most of her writing. She didn't write much anymore. She was not well, she was very lonely. She and Frost were good friends. They had been neighbors at some time or another and both of them planned to retire to Florida and had Florida homes. She retired down there. I know that she sent us a snapshot of the little house she had found and named "Wingfold." I thought that was typically poetic. And that was a wingfold for her, it was her last house. Mr. Frost came down and had a home pretty close to hers. She worried about him all the time because he was lonely, too. He and James were very special kind of friends.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Robert Frost?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes. Robert Frost. He lived in Vermont or New Hampshire, Vermont, I guess … I think Vermont. I ought to remember the town, but anyhow, James and a former colleague took a bicycle trip in the summer before we were married. I was in New York that year and James managed the whole bicycle trip, he said, so that he could come by New York and we could have some days together and then he would come back by New York on the way home. He said that when he got back to Coker and made a chapel talk about his bicycle trip, he just happened to mention that it began and ended in New York. [Laughter] But on that bicycle trip, he and Fred Denker, his companion, a music teacher at Kent State, stopped over to see

Page 79
Mr. Frost and they camped overnight in his backyard, but they spent a good part of the time talking in the house. I remember that he said that in the evening, a neighbor, another poet named Bill Snow came over to see Robert Frost and met James and Fred Denker. They talked most of the evening … well, far into the night, on and on. Then Bill Snow went home, James and Denker went out into the yard to their pup tents and went to bed. In the morning, I don't know whether Frost had them over for breakfast or what …no, it was after breakfast, I guess, but they came over to say goodbye. Anyhow, they talked awhile again and James told me that Robert Frost said, "Do you know what that Bill Snow did to me? He was back over here before breakfast trying to argue again. I don't argue before breakfast." [Laughter] Apparently, it was interesting that Snow and Frost were such good friends and neighbors and spent lots of evening talking to each other that way. James treasured the memory of that one time that he was there and Mr. Frost was always planning when he had a lecture trip or something to stop by, swing a little out of the way, and come see us, but he never got here. One time, James did an article for the Yale Review entitled "Robert Frost and the Dark Woods." Of course, Frost was sent a copy, maybe James sent it to him, anyhow he saw it. Frost wrote James that it was the best article that he had seen on himself. He liked it better than any he had seen written about himself and his work. Of course, James was always a hero worshipper where Frost was concerned and he was ecstatic over that It was praise from Frost himself.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Was this before he met Frost, that he wrote the article?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Before he had actually seen him, yes.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Before he slept in a pup tent in his backyard?

Page 80
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
No, now wait a minute, it wasn't. It was after that. He had seen him. Somewhere along there, after he had seen him on that trip but before he wrote that article, Frost had lost somebody very close to him. I think that it was his daughter, who had lived with him and was very close to him. And Mr. Frost was very badly shaken up; he found it hard to accept. He stopped writing and at some point he said that he had finished his writing. I don't know if that was in a personal letter to James or maybe just a statement publicly and it was generally known, but it was understood that Frost would not write anymore. James knew why, that he had been too emotionally shaken up over his daughter's death. He had met the daughter and he had met Mrs. Frost. So, he wrote to Mr. Frost and he told him about the experience that he, James, had been through when his first wife died and how it looked for awhile and felt like that was the end of everything, but life got better and better and he began to live again and he found that there were sources for fulfillment and joy that he had never tapped before, but he didn't come up with any Pollyana stuff. He was too smart for and sincere, that and Frost was too much in the depths to be treated like that. It was a totally, understanding, compassionate, sensitive, gentle communication and it spoke directly to Frost. They wrote about it a couple of times, back and forth about Frost's depression. Sometime later, I can't think how long, I would say maybe a couple of years or less later, after that correspondence, Mr. Frost on his way down to his Florida home for the winter a place that he rented, had set up a lecture trip. That was the time that we thought for sure he was coming by Rip Raps but he didn't get here because an agent had planned it for him and he didn't realize that it was important enough to him that he schedule it and he didn't. When we realized that he wasn't

Page 81
going to make it here after all, we planned to go over to Columbia and hear him. He spoke at the University, I think it was. Now, we got there almost at the time for the program to start and we hustled right in to our seats and as it happened, had to sit right up near the front because those were the seats that were left. People hesitated at first to fill in and then they filled in more and more crowding closer, getting it solidly filled but there were still several seats at the front. So, the usher gave us seats way up at the front and in just minutes, just after we got in, Frost came out from the wings somewhere. Well, there were floodlights between us and we could see him beautifully but he certainly couldn't see anybody in the audience, couldn't pick people out at all. When he got up to speak, he said some of the usual things about how it was pleasant to be in Columbia and he liked South Carolina, he didn't know much about it, but he liked it and he knew very few people here, but he did know several, a couple, and he said, "As a matter of fact, I have one friend in South Carolina, he might be here tonight, I have a feeling that he is. I hope he is. Anyhow, I have one friend in South Carolina who is the one man responsible for any writing I have done in the last couple of years. It was because of his friendship and his understanding that I was able to start writing again after I had stopped." James wanted to wave his hands and say, "Here I am Boss," but he managed to keep still.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
That's marvelous.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Then afterwards when everybody was crowding up on the stage, trucking across like a graduation line, trying to get to speak to him, he stopped and he and James shook hands and held on to each other's hands and talked and talked. James said that he was getting embarrassed because he was taking too much of the man's time and everybody else wanted to meet him, you know.

Page 82
But it was really a high time and a great experience that Mr. Frost would say that it was because of his understanding and friendship that he wrote again. He came out with a whole volume, I think it was Beyond the Further Range. This other volume of poetry came out just after that. Anyway, he did considerably more writing after that and that was something that James always felt so good about.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Of course.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Once years later, the gas man or somebody who came by here like that, a tradesman, somebody who didn't know James personally at all, had noticed a letter to the editor in the county paper and he asked James why he took a chance on alienating people by taking strong stands for social justice and James just laughed. He said, "I don't alienate anybody. I might anger people who have never heard of me before and they might not like what I say, but that's not alienating anybody who is my friend." He said, "Don't you feel afraid that you won't have any friends at all. Everybody wants a lot of friends and you won't have any if you talk like that." After the conversation, James came back in the house and told me about it and he was laughing. He said, "Think about the friends I have. Any one of them, I wouldn't swap for all those people who are so critical and so scared of what I write in the papers." Of course, one person like Robert Frost took care of all the rest of them.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Do you think that James and you decided to come back to Rip Raps in part so that he could be free to pursue the kinds of things that he was interested in and not feel like he had to be too concerned about the opinion of his colleagues.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Well, I don't think that there was much of that in his mind, but it worked out that way certainly. He wanted to be free from the

Page 83
drudgery of correcting papers, planning seminars, any kind of teaching that he wasn't interested in at the moment. He was a fantastic teacher, the best that I have ever known and he liked teaching, he loved it. But he came to the place where he preferred to do the writing and he couldn't do both because of the conflicts that time demands and that sort of thing. I think that the other restrictions were not in his mind, but I do remember that Dr. Green had just become the new president of Coker, I think a matter of months or maybe one year before James decided to retire out here.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Who Green?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
I can't remember. I thought that the whole thing would come to me. He was not there but for a few years, but anyhow, he was a very nice person and he and James were on very good terms, very familiar, and he told me once that Dr. Green had said, "You know, to tell the truth, I envy you. Not many have the courage to do what you are doing." James was coming out here with part-time at Coker with a guaranteed salary of 1,000 dollars annually and he was actually starting his second family. You know that I inherited two daughters and one of them was starting college then and the other was starting first grade when we moved out. My baby came at the same time that we came out here. I came from the hospital to this house, so he started off out here. That's the stage we were at and you could expect expenses and all that sort of thing to be ahead of us. But he elected to be free to try to write. He didn't get to for a long, long time because he said that farming was a jealous mistress and he had very little freedom. Dr. Green said, "I envy you that, you can go where you please, you can say what you please and you can write if you want to. You can teach or not teach and nobody has to like what you say or whether you say it."

Page 84
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
And he took full advantage of that freedom.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes, he did. The freedom was there but it was not the kind of freedom that he suffered such a need for.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
And this home always was a refuge, as you were saying earlier this morning.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
It was a buffer against the world out there and a place to come back to and regenerate.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
I always felt that if I could keep it like that, if I could keep it a sanctuary, there was nothing in the world that he needed more than that. He certainly didn't need more money. We took care of the money thing by trying to be totally self-sustaining. We weren't consciously trying to imitate plantation days where you had the work done for you and that kind of thing, but we were trying to be self-sustaining as an isolated farm family because that's what we were. The Depression was still going full tilt and very few people had much money. We even grew our own rice. We couldn't grow coffee and we couldn't grow sugar, but we grew sugar cane and cooked syrup and we grew our own rice, as I said. We grew corn and made our grits and meal and we grew wheat that we would grind for homemade bread and I just thought that we were licking the world singlehanded, you know. Single, because the two of us were together just that much interwoven and we figured that as long as we had each other and were both convinced that this was what we wanted to do, there was no need to consider anything else. We didn't have any sense of loss. You know, I was startled a year or two ago to realize from some remark or casual conversation with somebody else, that those years were the Depression years. I was on cloud nine. I hadn't heard about a Depression and in all these

Page 85
years, I never thought about that. It never crossed my mind. It was not a reality. I made the children's clothes. I made little James, Jr.'s suits. Not a heavy winter coat, I didn't manage that, although I did make little cloaks for Carolyn That was one of the first sewing jobs that I did after we were married, a darling little blue coat with a cape, I remember. She just loved it, thought she was so dressed up in it. Well, sewing and cooking and keeping things calm around here, trying to keep us comfortable enough to be happy all the time, because that kind of comfort isn't what makes you happy anyhow … I thought that was enough of a job for and I felt justified in not trying to have a separate career of my own and James and I were just a team. He would do some things and I would do other things. I thought many and many a time of a former friend of ours, a colleague of his at Coker who had been my teacher, too, just as he was. She was never married and I often thought that as a student she admired James very much and of course, that was perfectly all right because everybody else did, too. She told me, I think right after we were married, I was back over there for something and she was still teaching at Coker and she told me that she just couldn't resist saying something to me, I think that she still thought of me as a student and was going to give me some of the facts of life and a little advice which was very sweet of her because it was done in a very warm friendly fashion, but she said, "I just have to tell you that I would give my eye teeth, anybody would give anything to be in your shoes. You have a chance to make a background for somebody who could be the lion of any drawing room and he is just a wonderful person. Of course, you know that, but I just want to tell you that I think you are so fortunate and I hope that you are going to remember all you have

Page 86
to do is to make a background and let him be himself." I thought that it was very perceptive of her, very generous of her to say that she would like to have it so much herself. There was nothing catty about this. It was just real nice and I felt warmer and more friendly to her than I ever had before. I had admired her but I hadn't felt warm. She was a rather elegant looking person and very self-sufficient and somebody that you could hardly get close to and feel warm about easily. After that, I felt more so.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
You had been a student?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
I had been a student at Coker. I was a senior the year that he came there to teach. So, he had taught me for two years and that's how I got to know him. So, I've always felt that maybe she was right. I was justified in being lazy about some other things if I could just keep him relaxed enough so that he could be his full self, because he was so much more articulate than half a dozen other people I could name, that that was his job to do the articulating. He could write and he could talk unusually well and he had a beautiful mind and spirit to express the right things in the right way and so, he was the spokesman and that was right. I was perfectly willing to make a setting. Of course, if it was here for us, it was here for anybody who was harmonious with us, anybody who enjoyed what we enjoyed and would like to come just to be with us. They could appreciate the place and they would get a certain period of sustenance, but even on a brief visit you were free from worry and sort of a new, made over, fresh, optimistic approach for whatever they had to face when they went back. It was sort of apart from the world out here, just because it is quiet and it is surrounded by enough woods that you feel you are way off from everything—and you are. It's about three-quarters of a mile down to the highway

Page 87
and the Black River Swamp behind us is about a mile wide. There is not a neighbor here right now. There is not a human being, I would daresay, within almost a mile in any direction. And with all that country remoteness, it never was lonely. Of course, it has been lonely like nobody on earth could describe these last five years, but that is the other side of the same coin. By the same token, it never was before and I used to say that we could never be lonely and you couldn't say that without a chuckle coming up because it was so smilingly interesting that anybody could think this was a lonely place. It is just quiet and peaceful and so rejuvenating. So, I think that we always felt we owed the world something because we had so much and I don't know of anybody else among all my friends who has just the same thing. There are lovely, lovely places, beautiful, lavish homes, maybe, but not quite the peace and tranquility that we find here and that so many of our friends found here. It was sort of an extra responsibility to share it. We never felt that we had any right to be selfish about it. It wasn't something that we did, you know. It was a place that we were fortunate enough to live in.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
But you chose to keep it this way, you chose to keep it natural.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Oh, yes.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
And to keep it unpretentious and unhurried and unstructured.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Oh, yes, people have come in … well, we have even had reporters sometimes who would make very thinly veiled slurs, snide remarks about how … at one time, there was a stove in this room with the fireplace and when the winters got so bad, we decided that it was more of an economical effort to have a wood burning stove in here than to have

Page 88
a wood burning fireplace. It didn't look too good, but it heated the study more and James had to be in here so much and James had to be more comfortable than … and he didn't need to be hopping up and down to replenish the fire all the time and still concentrate on his writing. So, we had a stove and I remember that some reporter who came to interview him, I don't know who he was, but he made a comment about how a stove was out of place in this old house and said that it looked rather bare. I was afraid that it was cluttered and he thought that it looked bare. [Laughter] He just wasn't in tune with it. That was all. [Laughter] And it suited me for him not to try to get in tune with it because if he didn't want it, other people did and he could do without it. But people were always coming and periodically, somebody would come in, I guess that they have given up on me because I haven't heard it in a good while and they would say, "Oh, isn't this a marvelous house? Wouldn't you love to get ahold of this and restore it?" I would always say, "Over my dead body." [Laughter] Because in the first place, the old English teacher in me rose up in revolt "Restore" means to recover something that was exactly as it was, not to change it and do things with it and fix the ceilings and hang a few balconies and maybe put in a ballroom and that kind of stupid stuff, they would paint all the antique furniture in bright new colors and so on, but I would really feel insulted when people would want to do over the house, to restore it. Because the original floors are all over the house, the original walls, the plaster has never broken, things like this medallion around the light are original, nothing has been patched. Now, the places that just simply wore through had patches around the fireplace and in the old kitchen before I did that over three years ago and in the dining room, I believe there are a couple

Page 89
of boards that have been replaced around the hearth because the family always sat right there. Every evening, that was the sitting place. You didn't have a parlor for everyday. You had a parlor and you kept it shut six days a week and you behaved yourself on the seventh day in there. But except for that sort of thing that always has to be done, even the floor in the piazza and the bannisters are the original wood. When we came here, they had the original paint. We had to paint the place and put in water and lights and screens for the first time. I remember that we used Sherwin-Williams paint on the outside of the house and the white paint, excusing [unknown] … as some of my neighbors say, "excusing" the blinds, was 2,000 pounds. One ton exactly is in this house of Sherwin-Williams white top grade exterior paint. And nearly anybody with half a bird brain can understand why I don't repaint the house every few years. It got done and James said, "We painted it and my children can paint it again if they want to." [Laughter] Years later, we painted it again and he was sort of apologetic about that. He told somebody, "Well, we just finally decided that we would paint it every thirty years whether it needed it or not." [Laughter] And it needs it very much again now, but I won't be doing it for awhile. [Laughter] There are other things that are more urgent than that. Those things never bothered him and it never seemed to bother our guests, that the house badly needed painting. Now, one front step got so bad one time that that bothered us a little. We were afraid that some guest would break a leg and we had to have that done. That sort of thing that was really urgent, we would do, but to keep it even as pretty as you would like to keep it … I would like for it to be

Page 90
painted and always be in good repair without changing it. James used to say that anybody could be rich enough to keep up a house like this. I think that I told you maybe one time that he felt anybody could be a millionaire, if he wanted to and act early enough, and you wanted to be bad enough, but the price might include sacrificing a great many other things including himself to do it. He said that he didn't have any envy of anybody who got rich because he didn't want it that much. One man, he died several years ago, a man down in Beaufort, Calhoun Thomas, was in school at the same time that James was. I don't know whether they were in the same class or if Calhoun came along a couple of years later and James taught him, because he taught at Carolina for three years shortly after he graduated, but anyhow, he knew him at Carolina. And Calhoun Thomas later on, talking to somebody in our family, said, "Yes, I remember James. You know what struck me about that fellow? Most of all, he had the least respect for money of any man I ever saw." [Laughter] I think that Calhoun Thomas thought that was sort of a bad thing to say but it impressed him at the same time and I also suspected that he felt a little bit envious because James was not bound by any awe of wealth or social standing or any particular prestige symbols. They just didn't bother him, he always smiled at them and went on about his business of things that he considered more important.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
When you all did all this farming and stuff together and made yourself really self-sufficient, you didn't actually go out in the fields and do the farming work, did you?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
You did?

Page 91
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes. I didn't do much of it. I had the children to look after and the cooking and washing and ironing and the sweeping and so on. We raised chickens and I did look after the chickens. Later on, we got into the chicken business seriously and had a couple of thousand birds out there at one time. And I still was doing that part myself with James doing everything else. He drove the tractor … we started off with a mule and one man. Of course, there were families on the place who were renting and had been doing most of the farming and James had somebody to help with the whole farm, he had plenty of help, but the man who helped him a lot in the garden, I remember, was disgusted about the second year that we were out here when James bought a little garden tractor. It would be a very ancient, over-simplified looking thing today, but it was a great big step forward for us. James said that if he could just pay for that little tractor, he thought it would pay off—it would be a good investment. It wasn't as cranky as a mule for one thing and he could feed it when he wanted it to work only and could do a lot more work with it. The man who was helping us was very much disgusted because he said that he had to have something that he could say, "Whoa" to and it would whoa. [Laughter] This tractor just didn't "whoa." So, James was the one who handled the tractor. Somewhere, we have a snapshot of that first year when we planted oats back here by the back of the carriage house, down to where the old ford crossed the branch, that's a pasture now. Well, that was a grain crop of some kind then and we have a snapshot somewhere of that field with little small stacks, only a head high, scattered around all over. James had cut that hay and raked it and piled it himself and we went out and took a picture of it. We were like two youngsters just starting out and it

Page 92
stayed exciting that way all the way through. It was always at that time …well, we started off out here, when I was about thirty and he was about forty, thirty-one and forty-one or something like that. So, we were not just spring chickens starting out our first experience, and yet, everyday was a brand new day. I used to get up some mornings so excited that I couldn't stay in the bed any longer and I would sneak out and go look and see if it was really the day out there, if it was the same place, what was going to be new today. It was just like you were going out to meet the day. I couldn't wait to see what would happen. And the children were always like that and I would be so exhausted that I would think, "Oh, I'll never live to see them grow up." But at the same time, that was a physical thing and every single morning, if you are young enough, you get rested in the night and in the morning, I would wake up and think first thing of all about the children and wonder what they were going to do today, "What is going to happen today?" Or I would wonder what somebody else was going to do today. It was just marvelous to live in a place like this with nice people around you. No wonder I … if I hadn't been a romantic before, I would have become one, I guess. [Laughter] There were [unknown] people on the place. I wish that I had kept a record of them and the things that happened, old sayings and little interesting things that involved some of the people. One time, one man who came to this farm just about a year after we had moved here, or maybe the same year, Uncle Joe Hampton. He was an uncle of the last man who is about to leave now because he has a job somewhere else and I don't need to farm out here, Uncle Joe was one of the old-time people who hunted and trapped and fished every spare minute he could get. He knew the woods and he knew the branch and the swamp back there toward the river and late

Page 93
afternoons in the fall and early spring, especially he used to be out with his gun after a squirrel or a rabbit. He knew their habits and feeding times and the best places to find them and all that sort of thing. I remember that we were always having emergencies and too many things, we would get into states of crisis that got compounded immediately you know, and you think that you will never live through it, if you stop to think that much. You just kept one foot after the other one to see if you could survive. One of the times like that when James had been going along and feeling tired and getting sick or something, late in the afternoon, James was away from home and Uncle Joe came to the back door and one of the children came running to me and said, "Uncle Joe is here." I said, "Well, he comes by all the time, why do you look so scared?" He said, "I think he got hurt." So, I flew out to see what was the matter with Uncle Joe and the poor man was standing at the back door. He had his gun, I think under his arm or leaning against him and he was just standing there and he was holding one hand in the other. I said, "Uncle Joe, what is the matter? Are you all right?" He said, "Well, Miss, I shamed to tell you. I just too shamed to tell you." He was laughing sort of hysterically, a very uncomfortable, miserable laugh, but he thought he had to laugh about it, you know and maybe keep from getting scared to death. He said, "I was down yonder shooting a squirrel and I shot my hand, I hit my own hand. I was down yonder on the branch after a squirrel and I saw him hopping. He kept going from one tree to the next." Joe was trying to follow him around on the ground. He said, "He got in a great big high tree and there was a lot of vine in that tree, a grape vine and I reached up and I couldn't get him in the sight of my gun. I finally got him in sight and the vine was a little in the way and I pulled the vine out of the way and shot my hand and I shot my finger off." He was holding the finger. It had come completely off. He

Page 94
was holding it in his hand and blood was just gushing out. I said, "Wait just a minute, let me get a rag to bind around that to hold the bleeding the best I can." I grabbed something, I always used to keep what my mother kept when I was a little child, a rag bag, old scraps of sheets or things that had been through the wash and boiled clean and put down in a clean bag for emergencies. So, I got a piece of soft sheet and tied it tight around his whole hand and I wrapped it and told him to hold it tight himself and get in the car—and I grabbed up the two children who were here at the time and put them in the car with him and we sat out for the hospital twelve miles away and got into the emergency room. The doctor said that it was too late to put it back on and Uncle Joe said, "Well, I guess that it is kind of silly, but I don't know how to do without my finger. You don't throw away a piece of yourself, so I brought the finger along for that reason, I thought maybe something could be done." That was one of the rough times. Everybody has troubled times and I used to have them on Saturdays and Sundays when the doctors were out of their offices and maybe gone to the beach for a well deserved rest. Even the dogs got snake bites on Saturdays when the vet was gone. [Laughter] It really happened that way. [Laughter] It seems more so than it was, but the people who came through these yards … I wish I could remember all of them.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Edith, since the last five or six years, since James has been gone, your life has changed a lot.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
It has changed totally, but it hasn't settled down to any particular routine yet. I haven't really accepted it's being so different, and I haven't mapped it out. I think that maybe I should get organized. I should be systematic, practical. I have tried to be as realistic as I can, but I suppose that I

Page 95
have never lived by a schedule that I had set, it was set by the circumstances around me pretty much and you do get more or less into a routine but you don't set it all by yourself and say, "All right, now everybody conform to this." So, I'm not convinced that you can do that for yourself, but to some degree, you have to plan and I haven't worked it out.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
But idn't you tell me a couple of years ago that especially with that book, Face of An Island, that you have begun to develop new confidence in yourself and in your own ability to write a book?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes, that is true because now I don't make a setting for anybody and that was what I was doing before, trying to keep things so that … I guess "setting" isn't a bad word, trying to make it possible for James and the children to develop as they saw fit and to do the very best that they could and make whatever contributions they wanted to make to themselves as well as to the society around them. But now, they are all beautifully taking care of themselves and I suppose that I owe them … I've had the feeling all my life, I mean ever since I've had the children, they have always made me proud of them, every single one. I've never had the children disappoint me or do things I was ashamed of or embarrassed about. So now, they were always concerned that I should be proud of them and so now, I feel positively and consciously that it is my turn to do something that they will be proud of. I suppose that it is a token of appreciation or something. The biggest kick I ever get is having one of the children brag on something that I've done. I get a kick out of it, you know, they want to tell their friends that Mama did something outrageous, but delightful. [Laughter] I just love that. Any

Page 96
approval that I get from them just makes my day. I have found, or I am slowly finding, maybe, that I can be somebody. I won't be the same person that I was, I'm only half, say, of the person that I used to be, but there is another half of me that needs developing, I guess. I am beginning to learn that if you just take a chance on just being happy\##\ doing what you want to do at the moment, whether it fits anybody else's ideas or not, you can have a lot of fun. You may not do everything that you want to do and you may not do it just the way that you would prefer to do it, but there is still a lot of fun to be had. I'm beginning to make progress with being somebody all by myself. I've developed a lot of confidence, although along with it there is a certain sort of curious philsophy developing that … people, some people call me a historian, which is ridiculous, it is so funny. I don't know any history at all and everything that I found researching for one book, learned for one book, I had to dig and dig like a fourth grader because I didn't know any of it. I'm doing something that I wanted to do, I'm finding out what I am curious about. Then, I think that sometimes… it has always struck me as funny, I'm a "writer." I'm a historian, I've written one book, so I'm a "writer." I think, "Well now, how many other people walk around under the same hat. They've written one book or they are writing a book or they have written half a dozen books or are teachers and have students do the research for them and the students actually should get the credit for the books because they aren't capable of putting together the grammar that it took to make that book, and yet they are called and accepted as "writers" and "historians." They don't know any history and they can't write. They don't know a bit more about it than I do. It doesn't mean that I know anything, but I don't have to be too sad about it because I know some other things about

Page 97
children and a lot of home [unclear] > country things that they don't know, maybe. We all know something of our own.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Well, I think that you are just breaking through to a real truth, that you probably stood in awe of writers and historians and thought they knew so much.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
And it is absurd. They are just people. And I have certainly found that the people who are my best friends now are people who are doing things and care about things and people that I respect very highly. Young and old, I respect and admire them or else I am too busy to fool with small talk, and too interested in other things, you see. I have learned that the people who are doing things or know things, or are things, are the most approachable people of all. They are the most single-minded, maybe. I don't mean that they have to be uncomplicated people, everybody is complicated, But people that you can get close to, people who want to be known and loved and shared are the real people. They are not the ones to stand in awe of. So, I am slowly working through this thing. I'll get there eventually, if I live long enough. I've got to live a long time, because you know you live to get something done and I will have to live to be at least 120 to get caught up on all this that I've got. I actually line up ideas of things that I want to do, I could give you a list of at least half a dozen full time jobs that have just got to be done and nobody is going to do them if I don't.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Oh, I am so glad to hear that. [Laughter]
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Really, I'll be around awhile.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Good. Who are your best friends? Guion Johnson?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes, I don't know how to name them for fear of leaving some out, but Guion and Guy Johnson are certainly very good friends of mine. And

Page 98
some of the first people that I think about. And then there are a lot of people that James knew best and that I love so devotedly now. I always saw them as friends of his, but when they didn't have him to communicate with anymore, I discovered that they were very happy to communicate with me. And they could. And we can communicate. We are friends.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Is Will Campbell one of those people?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Oh yes, Will Campbell is certainly one of them. He is a very colorful friend we both had for a long time and I always saw him as James' friend. James said that he could go to Will to get his theology expressed in understandable terms, to get other things too, because Will is quite a philosopher. He is the cornfield type and he has a keen, marvelous mind behind that everyday language that cuts through to the center of things and says it in his own way and nobody else's. James was talking to him one time some years ago, he liked to remember that, about Will's ministry to people who were really … well, I started to say hard to minister to, but people with Will's education, training, skills, intellectut, you would think that they would not be the ones that he would choose to minister to and yet he can get close to people that nobody else in his circle of friends can approach at all. He has preached to the Ku Klux Klan. He has made great friends who were big Ku Kluxers and he really, really cares about those individuals because he feels that they have been neglected and misunderstood and there are reasons that they have so much bitterness and frustration built up in them and he wants to get into that and know them and be one with them. He told James that it wasn't so hard. James said … oh, I don't know what the question would have been, "How do you present religion, what is your approach, how do you preach to people who are so different from the ones you used to speak to, formally? How do you reach a lot of different kinds of people?" Will

Page 99
said, "Well, there is one message that is simple, there is one God and all men are bastards but God loves them just the same." [Laughter] James loved that. The move he thought it over, the more it covered, you know. It sounds so simple, it sounds flippant, but Will is not a flippant person. He's a tragic person. He has unusual depths of emotion all the time and he's never on the surface. He was one of the dearest friends that James had and he is a good friend of mine now. The last letter that James wrote … he wrote two letters and mailed them the same morning that he died. One was to Will Campbell and in less than a week, Will was here for his funeral.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
How did they get to be friends?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Well now, let's see. I wonder how that was. They might have met through the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen, when it was a fellowship rather than a committee and I know that he had known him in that capacity for a long time.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
James was in the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Oh yes, James was president of it at one time for a while. Will is now the … well, they have a president, but it is a small committee and Will is the director.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Did James get interested in Penn School through Howard Kester and through the Fellowship?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
He knew Howard through other things, the land program or something like that, but he knew about Penn before … well, not before Kester's day. To tell you the truth, I don't know how he knew about it. James was just a well-informed person and knew what was going on, you see. And he had known about that school down there for years.

Page 100
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Was he a good friend of Marion Wright?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes, he and Marion Wright had been at Carolina together and Marion Wright was the president of the Southern Regional Council for four years, I think. And then when Marion went out, James took over. I mean, he was elected president to follow Marion Wright and James served for six years as president of the Southern Regional Council, along with his other matters. He thought that was long enough and finally just quit anyhow. But he followed Marion as president of the Southern Regional Council and when Marion left that, he came to be chairman of the board at Penn, on which board he was already serving. And when James got through with his six year stretch at the Southern Regional Council, Marion was ready to leave down here and had gotten James on the board by that time for a couple of years and so, James followed him as chairman of the Penn board.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
That was the first that you …
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
That was the first that I knew of Marion, or of Penn. When James and I were married, we had quite a honeymoon for just plain folks, because we saved up for a long time and he needed to get away completely. He had two children and so on. So we farmed the children out here with his family and we roamed the world for about a month. The first thing that we did was go down to Beaufort, down to the Gold Eagle Tavern, which is torn down now. I remember that Hunting Island at that time had just been made accesible by a causeway. You could actually get there without going on a boat.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
What year were you married in?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
35. There was even some talk about making a government stretch of beach down there and developing it in some way. We thought that would be pretty bad because it was idyllic and other-worldly. It was the most beautiful

Page 101
beach that I've ever seen, but we went out there several times. We saw the lighthouse and walked the beach and I don't think there was a human being on that island except us. There were no houses, no reason to be there unless you went to swim or something and there was nobody to go swimming with. It was just brand new. I remember driving to get there, driving across St. Helena Island. And at one point, James pointed down the road, he may have seen a sign for Frogmore or something like that, but he pointed off to the right where a road came in and dead ended to the one that we were on and he said, "There is an interesting school over there. I would like to go see it sometime. Maybe we will have time while we are down here to go by." I don't know, somehow on your honeymoon, you don't have time for things like that. [Laughter] And we never got around to visiting it, but he told me then that there were two ladies there, two ladies from the North, he didn't know where and didn't remember their names, who were running the school all by themselves and they were the only whites there. They had some black helpers that they had trained mostly and had a very good school. It was a very interesting experiment. I remember at the Gold Eagle [unknown] the waiters in the dining room were all Penn-trained people.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Oh, really?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
All of them. Anybody trained at Penn was vastly superior in whatever he did to people trained in the same thing anywhere else. Their school was that superior to everything else. They were furnishing teachers for all the black schools up and down the coast of several counties and all over the islands. Penn was really a light to the islands. James knew about that. As a matter of fact, Mr. D.R. Coker over at Hartsville who was a big Coker College supporter and had been a friend of his for a long time, knew about the

Page 102
school and was real interested in it and Miss May, his wife, told me not long ago, remembering those times, that Mr. Coker had given Penn School at one time a bull when they were improving their herds, cattle, you know.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
That was David Coker?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
David R. Coker.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
He was a trustee of Penn for awhile.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes, I believe that he was. So, I suppose that you might find that there were a lot of people who knew something about Penn but I just didn't happen to run into them or we never talked about it. I did not become acquainted with it until James went on the board, that was while he was still with the Southern Regional Council.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
And now here you are writing a book about the history of the island.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Well, that's one way I can console myself when I feel that I am sailing under a false flag, to claim that I am doing a history of Penn. Nobody could do it and nobody else has gotten hold of stuff. Now, you have, but outside of us … now, Guion Johnson has done a marvelous book on the social history of the Sea Islands, remember which tells a lot of the island's history, but she wasn't doing that thing. It was the Sea Islands sure enough that she was talking about and hers is a wider study, not so in depth about St. Helena.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Oh, nobody has done the kind of work that you are doing.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
I hope that this is going to be different and I hope that it is going to be very interesting. Of course, about four people up at Chapel Hill besides Guion have done books. Her husband, Guy, did one on the folk music. He is quite a musician himself and there was one on the language, the Gullah and

Page 103
several things like that, I forget them. Clyde Kiser wrote one … Clyde Kiser, by the way, was a classmate of James' up at Columbia University. He knew him up there a couple of years and Kiser is from the University of North Carolina group who wrote some books on Penn. He wrote From Sea Island to City, a study of the migration of the Sea Island people, particularly from St. Helena to Harlem.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Tell me now, didn't James study under G. Stanley Hall?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Oh yes. When he was finishing at Carolina, I think in his senior year, I found several letters written by Dr. Morse in psychology, I guess. Anyway, this Dr. Morse at Carolina was a personal friend of G. Stanley Hall and Morse was eagerly sponsoring James, when James said that he would like to go on for his master's in psychology and it would just be heavenly to study under G. Stanley Hall, but he didn't have any money. Nobody has, of course, to go do graduate work and he said that he would probably have to settle for what he could get. Dr. Morse said, "Oh no, if you want to study under G. Stanley Hall, why don't you just do that? I will be glad to write him," and so on. So, he got some sort of financial help for James up there. I don't know what it amounted to, but I'm sure that there was some. He endorsed him, I suppose you would say, very heartily to Dr…
END OF INTERVIEW
1. Actually, Mrs. Durr is Hugo Black's sister-in-law, her sister being Mrs. Hugo Black.
2. Talmadge.
3. Henriette Gadson, Mrs. John Gadson.
4. Tom B. Chaplin plantation.