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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Clifford leaves his law firm in the middle of the Great Depression

Though he was a partner in his law firm, Clifford Durr found himself in trouble with another one of the senior partners, Logan Martin, when he protested the summarial firing of staff members. After using his influence to support Black rather than Kilby, Durr found he had to leave his job even though it was the middle of the Depression.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Now, you didn't tell why you left the power company.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, you see, this was the law firm and the power company was just one client. The senior member of the firm was the brother of the president of the Alabama Power Company and he pretty well controlled the business. He was a son-of-a-bitch if there ever was one.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Not Mr. Tom, you mean Logan.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Yeah, Logan Martin, not Tom. Tom was a hard working man and a rather decent fellow. Well, there a whole series of things that went on and increasingly unpleasant, but finally, Logan just started firing people. So,even before a meeting of the members of the firm, I was above the line and my percentage was low, but I was sharing the profits and he was the top man and he drew more than anybody, about almost as much as the rest of us put together. He was a bachelor and had no responsibilities at all. So, without consulting the firm, he started firing people, a lot of young lawyers and stenographers.
BOB HALL:
You weren't a partner?
CLIFFORD DURR:
I was a partner.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
You see, they had a big retainer from the power company.
CLIFFORD DURR:
We had some young lawyers who were just working there. I was above the line, but the lowest man on the top totem pole. I can remember that the head stenographer came to me in a great state of excitement, we had one stenographer left whose husband had left her and she had a baby. Mrs. Cole came to see me and said, "Can't you do something about Mrs. So-and-So? Judge Martin has just told her that she is fired. She's got no family and she has this baby and I am afraid that she is going to kill herself." So, I went into Martin and I asked if we could keep her on. He said, "Will you pay her salary?" I said that I had a wife and a baby but I was willing to take my share of the cut, so that we could keep the thing together. Also, some of the younger lawyers were married and had children and I protested against their summary dismissal. They didn't even get a week's notice or anything of that sort, they were just fired. So, he said, "Well, unless you are willing to pay their salaries. I'm not." The other members of the firm would agree with me and were very upset about it, but they wouldn't take a stand.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
What about that old judge?
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, he didn't take a stand. You see, Judge Foster was the first partner and he had been on the State Supreme Court and . . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, tell them how Logan hated Hugo, though. That was one of the things. He just despised Hugo Black, more than anybody in the world. Tell them what he said about Hugo.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, he ran the politics. He never did any legal work and he had separate files and a separate secretary.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
This is Logan Martin you're talking about?
CLIFFORD DURR:
Yeah. And when Hugo ran for the Senate the second time, I found out that one of the vice-presidents, old Colonel Mitchell, His brother was Sidney Zollicoffer Mitchel, who was head of the Electric Bond and Share. and came from the next county over there in Lollaford, Alabama. He didn't like Kilby and so we began talking about the situation and he would call me up to his office and would get on the phone with the power company local managers and tell them all to vote for Hugo Black and the senior member of the firm was going all out to cut Black's throat. Well, between Colonel Mitchell and me, we carried the power companies for Hugo. Logan didn't like that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was the name of this firm?
CLIFFORD DURR:
Martin, Thompson, Foster and Turner, it was then. It later became Martin,. . . (Foster went to the Supreme Court) . . . Martin, Turner and McWhorter. Thompson was appointed to the state court. There was a good deal of argument about whether he fired me or I resigned.