Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Harriet Herring, February 5, 1976. Interview G-0027. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Clash between mills and university over unions

In this excerpt, Herring describes David Clark's editorial campaign against so-called radical Frank Porter Graham, who had been advocating unionizing North Carolina's cotton mills.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Harriet Herring, February 5, 1976. Interview G-0027. 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

MARY FREDERICKSON:
I just wondered: did Dr. Odum and Frank Graham see pretty much eye to eye as far as what should be done in the textile industry, or feelings about manufacturers or how to deal with them?
HARRIET HERRING:
Well, I don't know. I hate to say what Dr. Odum felt about it. I would think, knowing him as well as I did, that he would say that Frank's flat-out speeches irritated them so that it didn't do much good, you know. One thing: there was a strike up there in the hosiery mills in High Point, and Frank had been making speeches around that labor should be allowed to unionize if they wanted to. Well, that was a bad sentence; that was bad language right there, you see. Then when this strike happened they climbed the fence (some of them climbed the fence) of the mill (it was a hosiery mill in High Point)—gosh, when have I ever thought of all this mess? Anyhow, they got in there and got in the mill and began talking to the people, you see, about that they were organizers. They hadn't been able to get too much response getting them in their homes or in the streets or the drugstore or somewhere. And I think that my recollection is that they had the police and got them out and so on, and arrested the ones who climbed the fence. Frank was down at. . . . He knew this organizer. He was a North Carolinian, he wasn't a "foreigner"—if you could just say he was from up North or somewhere else, you know, you would damn him right away. So Frank was down at the beach, and all he knew about it was what he saw in the paper. He sent up a telegram to this fellow that had been put in jail for climbing the fence and taking two or three of them in with him, and he said, "I'm sure you've done nothing wrong." And there was a few other remarks in the telegram, but I remember that one, because that was the key one that made them all so mad. It isn't right to break in somebody's property and climb their fences and invade your property, you know (invade your mill). So Dave Clark (and, as far as that's concerned, some of the other papers) didn't think that was a very wise thing. And it wasn't a wise thing to put it that way. So he was still worse off. About that time Dave Clark was writing the most vicious editorials about him, when they were considering him to be president. So he thought he'd get in his knocks right then; it was a good time. And he said some pretty rough things about him. The Institute took the Textile Bulletin for me. And Frank would come by every once in a while, and I showed him [laughter] his name in the paper. He counted on seeing what they were talking about him. The only time I ever saw him mad in my life he turned perfectly pale right to the lips, he was so mad. If he'd been a good cussing man I'd have had a good lesson right there. He was just as mad as he could be, and he wrote a letter to him. It was dignified: it was against his stand, and he didn't think his saying it was wrong or anything. And then at the end he wound up, "With best wishes to you and Mrs. Mary" (or whatever his wife's name was, you know). And so that was the end of that.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What was your own opinion of Frank Graham's outspoken nature?
HARRIET HERRING:
Well, I just think that he honestly felt that way about it, and he was just going to. . . . One of his first speeches on the labor situation—they were just beginning to have some efforts at organization. . . .