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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 >>

Durr joins the Progressive Party

Because of her desire for change, Durr became a supporter and campaign organizer for Henry Wallace's campaign for president under the Progressive Party, a choice that brought her into conflict with her brother-in-law Hugo Black. She continues explaining her experiences in the Progressive Party, focusing especially on its effectiveness and the character of Wallace, for several more minutes after this passage ends.

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

JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, how did you think that a third party could keep that from happening?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, let me tell you what happened. This is another story. You see, the Progressive party, I joined the National Citizens PAC, the fact is that I was just crazy about Henry Wallace. He had been a great friend of my sister's and a great friend of Lister Hill's.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Wallace hadn't had such a great liberal record as head of that agriculture Department.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, he hadn't. But he had a great record for not fighting Russia or going into war, so at that time, it . . . well, I met Henry Wallace at Mr. Hill's one day on Sunday for lunch. I sat down and. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now, when was this that you met him?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
This was when he was still Secretary of Agriculture. So, I sat down and there was a very silly sort of a woman at the table with us and she said, "Oh, Mr. Wallace, I have just longed to meet you. You know, I am a great believer in blood. I think that the important thing is good blood. Of course, I am from the South, you know, and we believe that it is very important to have good blood. I know that you are a geneticist and I am sure that you must agree with me." He said, "Well, you know, I'll tell you. It's very easy to raise pure-bred chickens. You can put a wire around them and separate them and it's very simple to get pure-bred chickens. It is a little more difficult with hogs, but you can do it, if you get the wire strong enough. And with cattle. And of course, with corn, you have to put the cheesecloth over the tassels so that the wind won't blow the pollen. But you know, the trouble is . . . "perfectly serious, not laughing a bit . . . "they haven't found a fence that is high enough or strong enough to keep the human male from straying." Well, you know, he was perfectly serious about it and I really thought that-he was one of the most delightful men. Well, you know, Henry looked like . . .I used to always think of "purple mountains' majesty" and golden plains of wheat and the West and pioneers and covered wagons. He looked like all that and he was so sweet and so serious and he tried to help us in the poll tax fight. He was a horrible politician, but I just adored Henry and I thought he was great. And Sister adored him. Now, he was fonder of her than he was of me. He had a mystical streak and Sister was able to, . . . she had a kind of a mystical streak herself and they loved to talk about mysticism.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What does that mean, exactly? People always say that he had a mystical side.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, he believed in revelations and he was a great Christian, but he believed in revelations, that people had touch with the other world. But he was so sweet to Cliff when . . . you tell them.
CLIFFORD DURR:
You are wandering all over the place.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
They asked me why I joined the Progressive Party and I'm telling them, because I believed in what Henry stood for and I adored him.
SUE THRASHER:
Was your sister supporting him too?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, heavens no! Hugo would have had a fit, he had one when I did. He thought that I was an absolute idiot for leaving the Democratic party. Well, Cliff didn't leave it either, you see, I was the only one. And did I catch it. Cliff was very nice about it, but Hugo just gave it to me up and down. And I really don't believe that he ever did like me as much after that. He tought that I was an absolute, total idiot that left the Democratic party and voted for Henry Wallace. Hugo was a yellow dog Democrat really. He thought that you had to stick by the party and although he didn't think too much of Harry Truman, but he thought that he had to stick by the party.