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Title: Oral History Interview with Josephine Wilkins, 1972. Interview G-0063. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Wilkins, Josephine, interviewee
Interview conducted by Hall, Jacquelyn
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Mike Millner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2006
Size of electronic edition: 164 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2006.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2006-00-00, Celine Noel and Wanda Gunther revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2006-12-19, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Josephine Wilkins, 1972. Interview G-0063. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0063)
Author: Jacquelyn Hall
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Josephine Wilkins, 1972. Interview G-0063. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0063)
Author: Josephine Wilkins
Description: 328 Mb
Description: 48 p.
Note: Interview conducted on 1972, by Jacquelyn Hall; recorded in Unknown.
Note: Transcribed by Unknown.
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.
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Interview with Josephine Wilkins, 1972.
Interview G-0063. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Wilkins, Josephine, interviewee


Interview Participants

    JOSEPHINE WILKINS, interviewee
    JACQUELYN HALL, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Tell me something about your family background.
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Now how much of that do you want? You want the background of people that you're interviewing and then something of what they have done, is that it? Well, I grew up in Athens. My father was a banker. My mother was a pillar in the Episcopal church. I was pretty much saturated in religion, organized religion, as I grew up. And I have often wondered why I have developed as I have because it was certainly not what I was supposed to be or do. And my family, we in many ways don't speak the same language although there is a close bond. I feel that young people who grow up in an environment where they get the approval of the people who are very close to them, their parents and their family, get their approval, their interest in what they do are so fortunate, because there is a time when you are so unsure of yourself and your thoughts. I know very early I began questioning religion.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When were you born?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
When was I born?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes.
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Do I have to tell you that?
JACQUELYN HALL:
I just wanted to know when you were growing up.
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
I was growing up in the twentieth century. Personally I am not, as far as age is concerned, I'm not sensitive of age at all. But the only thing is that I feel a reluctance to broadcast age. People limit you in their response to you, they fit you in a certain period and they link you. I pick up on things that people think and it's very bad for me. So I've just decided that I'll not broadcast it.

Page 2
JACQUELYN HALL:
The first kind of divergence from the way your family was was over religion?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Yes, I mean I suffered over that. I felt that, in the first place all this faith business, that didn't make sense to me. Really you had to question before you really had a sound base. I felt that my mother, my beloved mother, that if she had grown up in another religion that is what she would be. And all of this walking on water and if they had all these miracles back then why couldn't they have them today? I just didn't like this idea of immaculate conception. That didn't make sense to me. Oh, my heavens, I just suffered because Sunday after Sunday I would approach the Sunday when I was going to talk to the minister. And that there must be some other people in the world who had thoughts like I was having and I was afraid to talk to them because I knew it would come back to my mother. You have me digging back into those dark ages back there, but in fact in many ways it sort of clears up your own thinking. And I hadn't realized that this was the first crisis in my life—over religion.
I came back from school and I had grown up in what they called the junior auxiliary of the Episcopal church and I took the leadership of the junior auxiliary. I'm wondering if that was something else. I would rather tell you this first: They had all kinds of things that the women—the girls—were supposed to do—bazaars and all this and I just hated it. So I thought, I'll just be on the Altar Guild. There was this friend who was connected with the library of the University of Georgia. And this particular Sunday arrived when we were to decorate the altar.

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And she and I had taken a ride outside the city and saw this beautiful dogwood that was just going to be right for Sunday, just right. So we went up there on Saturday afternoon and we tore our stockings getting this gorgeous dogwood and brought it back and put it in vases on the altar and up against the white marble altar. It was just beautiful. And we left so happy over this, over having done this. On Sunday morning I had a telephone call from Miss Mary Ann [unknown] who was heading the Altar Guild. And she said, "Josephine, I feel I should let you know this before you come down to church today. Dr. Richards was infuriated over the wildflowers being on the altar." I said, "Why?" "You're not supposed to put wildflowers on the altar. He took them and put them in the furnace and I felt that you should learn this before you came down." I said, "Miss [unknown], I'm not coming down." Well, it happened that the next day a friend of mine was being married, the daughter of a newspaper editor in Athens, Georgia. And she had asked me, and some of her friends, to help about some flowers at the church. I went down rather timidly, and Dr. Richards, every now and then, would come over to the church from the rectory. And I'd hide behind the pipe organ. But one time he came and he caught me up on a ladder and he spoke his mind. I listened and then I said to him, I said, "Dr. Richards, if the Episcopal church has a rule that wildflowers are not to be put on the altar, that cultivated flowers are more sacred than wildflowers, then there is something wrong and it ought to be changed." He had said that this should not be done again. And I told him, I said, "I assure you that it is not going to be done as far as I'm concerned because I'm not going to put any on." Well! My mother being a pillar of

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the church, why, this finally went up to the Bishop. They sided on the question of the wildflowers and the cultivated flowers! But I just didn't go to church. My mother had a prayer circle, and they took me on and prayed over me.
JACQUELYN HALL:
That you would see the error of your ways?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Well, I was not coming to church and everything, and they didn't understand what was going on with this daughter. I remember one day this assistant rector came out to talk with me, and we talked in the living room. And finally when it was over he went out and he said to my mother, he said, "She's all right, really she's all right." [Laughter]
But I was reaching an awful lot around about that time. But we can't cover the world in here this afternoon.
At my next retirement I found out that there were things that I couldn't do in Athens, Georgia. That was when I headed up this junior auxiliary group. I gave clothing to a little girl in school, or rather the little group was clothing this girl. They did not know her name; I did. And the teacher came and said that something should be done about this little girl, that the mother was dead, the father was keeping a drunken group around him and was using her older sisters in the world's oldest profession, that this little girl was just coming along and something should be done about it. Well, as far as I was concerned, something had to be done. And I took that on. They moved me around from one division of the government and another. In the process I found this whole street right behind the University of Georgia with red lights and the houses owned by my friend. I found out why the newspaper had changed

Page 5
hands. I found out all about the seamy side of Athens. I remember sitting on the desk of this judge. I was talking to him about the red light district, you know. And he said, "Well, now, Josephine." I remember I was sitting on his desk. I remember I had on a white—the fact I should remember this!—I had on a white panama hat that rolled back like this. You see, even at that time I was conscious of appearance. But he said, "Josephine, someday you will understand about this. These women have a place in life and they are needed." And I said, "Well, Judge, if they are, then, why is it they are looked down on?" Now what are you going to do with a person like that! Well, that experience got me into government. I went down to a meeting of the . . . They were trying to organize the League of Women Voters. I went down with one of the teachers at the University of Georgia and was very impressed with some of the women who had come down. I went back to Athens and we organized a League of Women Voters.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Had you been aware of the suffrage movement going on?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
No.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So the League of Women Voters is really the first thing you had heard about women getting involved in politics?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Miss . . . What was the woman's name? Miss Roberta Hodgson was the one that I went down with. I'm sure I wouldn't have gone had she not suggested going.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did the League of Women Voters strike you at that time? Did it seem like a rather far out thing to be involved in, that women should do that kind of thing?

Page 6
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Oh, no. To me it was so wonderful to see that kind of woman because . . . I was reaching for what life was all about and for a place in it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were the women who were organizing the League, had they been suffragists themselves? Were they women that had been in the suffrage movement?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Yes. I was just trying to think . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
But they really seemed like different women.
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Oh, yes, wonderful. I just seemed to be unwilling to settle for just keeping house and sort of dropping out of the world, it seemed. It was a question of, oh, what has happened to so-and-so? Oh, she married. What happened to someone? Oh, she married. That just closed something out. I grew up with this absurd sort of thing that my mother instilled in me—that there was something that I must do in the world, and if I didn't do it it wouldn't get done. That there was a role I should play in the world. Now it was very interesting that she should say that. Of course, she was playing the role in the church. She wanted me to be a missionary! Just an aside: I know that the fact that in my early life my whole life revolved around the religious atmosphere and purpose, being purposeful . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
You then translated that purpose into secular terms.
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Absolutely.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How about your father in all this?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
My father was . . . I had great admiration for my father. He was absorbed completely in business. I admired him very much: his appearance . . . After the Civil War they had very little left. They

Page 7
found themselves in the old home place in [unknown], South Carolina. They could not maintain that establishment. And they came to Georgia—they had some farmland in Georgia—but bringing with them only what they could bring on some wagons. And silver and furniture were farmed out to people and friends in that area. When my father was seventeen, his father died. My father was the oldest in his family. He put three brothers through college. He himself did not go to college and had no further educational training after his father's death, other than a little something at night school. He moved up to Athens in the Depression. [unknown] He became very wealthy in that area. In the Depression he lost everything he had. He felt that it was not honorable to take bankruptcy. He cashed in everything he had. At one time he owned Coca Cola bottling rights at DeCaux, Georgia, and Lakeland, Florida, and [unknown], Florida. And with some others he was negotiating a franchise for Iowa. So you see he was moving in pretty big circles.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did he make his money? In textiles?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
No, he was a banker, and investments. He had his hands in all kinds of things. When he cashed in everything, why, he still owed seventy-five thousand dollars. The only thing that he retained was a policy at the University of Georgia. And he belonged to the Episcopal Church. The first money I ever made was paying the premium on that policy at the University of Georgia.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So he lost everything?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
He lost everything. The only thing that was left was . . . He didn't talk business, except very seldom. But I remember his coming

Page 8
home one day very much disturbed that, well, my mother had a little inheritance from her parents, and they always kept it separate. And he had lent $25,000 of mother's money to a little plant at Warrenton. And the concern had defaulted. He was quite troubled, of course. The plant was ultimately sold on the courthouse steps for bankruptcy. In order to save $25,000 he put some more money in of mother's to buy and when the crash came, as far as his affairs were concerned, the only thing left was this little old plant over at Warrenton which was not even running. And it was started up.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of a plant?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Work clothes, overalls, shirts. And when he died in '40, why, every nickel of that $75,000 had been paid off. With the exception of a $100 donation to Agnes Scott College and $25 to Berry School up in Rome. I think that's a pretty good record for a man, don't you?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Right. How did his financial troubles affect you? Did you have brothers and sisters?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
I had one brother and one sister. Well, unhappily he never did talk frankly with us about the whole thing. When I say frankly, it was not an effort to withhold, but he didn't say, Now, children, this is the situation. We've got to, don't you know? This thing just, oh, just sort of, you were just sort of bewildered for a while.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was there a real change in your style of life?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Oh, my heavens, yes. The most terrible thing back then was to have a mortgage on your home—it was just something you didn't do. And the old homeplace was in my mother's name, and a mortgage was put on it. I didn't know too much about how terrible this was at the time. I

Page 9
just picked it up as I went along. But he went to Florida in the hopes of recouping something because the boom was going on down there. He handled some real estate and so forth. We all went down with him. I had come over here. I was doing something called the Children's Code Commission, trying to get provision of children's laws in the Georgia legislature.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you go to college?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
My education is very scant, and very individual. [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
That's the best kind.
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
I went to the Lucy Cobb Institute in Athens, Georgia, which was a girls' school. It was organized at the time that they were trying to get public education established in the United States of America. And this was an effort to sort of combat this, and this was to protect the young women, you know.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So they wouldn't have to go into public school?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
I started there in kindergarten and went right on through. You didn't learn very much. I was in the art room a good part of the time. That was supposed to be junior college, such as it was.
JACQUELYN HALL:
It was supposed to go up through junior college?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Supposed to. Then they sent me up to the Castle on the Hudson where you learned how to get up and sit down.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What is that?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
It was called the Castle on the Hudson, a girls' finishing school. So I went up to be finished. [Laughter] Then I went back to Athens. I really wanted to get back up to New York, though. I was

Page 10
exploring . . . Here I was stuck in this world, caught, and the only way I could get up there that I could fathom was to study art. So I went up one summer with a woman from Athens, several of us, who was an artist. I always was reaching for some way to support myself if I ever found that I had to support myself. That was another thing that was in my mind.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you feel pressured to get married and settle down?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
No, no, no, although . . . well, anyone in my setting would have to be rather popular over at the University of Georgia, don't you know. [Laughter] The boys would come in these big groups on Sunday, and they would come by the house and stay until another group would come and they'd move on up Lenox Avenue. I remember my brother—he was seven years younger than I—he came in and he said, "Mother, I counted a hundred and I give up." [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
It sounds like Zelda Fitzgerald's youth.
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
I went up . . . You asked me a question. What was it?
JACQUELYN HALL:
You were talking about you wanted to find some way to support yourself.
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
No, I just thought everybody ought to, you know. This mind was loose, and it was just . . . I enrolled at the New York School of Fine and Applied Arts in poster advertising. And one of the first things they had us doing was a bookplate. And we were to do a bookplate. I don't know why, but I hit upon an arrow and I did an arrow which they liked very, very much. And they had me enlarge it on a tremendous thing like this. But after this summer there I wanted to stay on. We had been housed in one of those old brownstones, and of

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course this woman that I had gone up with was coming back to the university. And somehow or other I found out about something called the "Three Arts Club." I went to the Three Arts Club which was a very inexpensive little thing, really run by the monied ladies of New York. I'm sure if my father had known what the whole thing was about, he wouldn't have liked it. But that's where I was. And I took a course at Columbia University in social science. And I came to know the instructor very well. His lectures were at night. He would come down from his lectures at night and sit in the subway. He went up and I came down. But I just explored around there like nobody's business. What I was trying to do was find some way in which I could use my art for the aims that I felt were worthwhile. And since my mother was a pillar of the Episcopal church I was able to get four of us down at the church mission house one time, collected at lunchtime to tell them how they ought to be using posters in order to do this thing.
And I came back. Well one, I reached the conclusion that . . . in the first place I would go to art galleries. And I would see all these women with poodle dogs and these men with spats buying these art works to put in the galleries for somebody to see and so forth. And I didn't feel they needed me to be doing any more pictures. Here were these gorgeous sunsets every night, and no one ever saw them. I should be doing something more! And then the climax on that was [when] Robert [unknown] made a talk which . . . Well, of course by this time I was down at the Art Students' League. I had left the New York School of Fine Arts (I did two and a half years there) . But Robert [unknown] said

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that art should not be for any purpose, just art for art's sake. Well, in my state at that time I reached the conclusion that it was almost like a massage on the corner. You could enjoy this thing, you know. But there was a lot of puritan in me, too, and I just felt that it had to be for a purpose. And then, also, another thing that was rooted in the church: there were a number of families, poor families, that we helped in the church—my own family personally. So I was exposed to poverty as I grew up. And I became so curious about what happened to these people after Thanksgiving and after Christmas. And I remember this one very big fat woman who had a lot of children, and she had never even been into Athens. And how this woman lived! You take that whole setting and the feeling that there was something for you to do in the world, and you had to find out what it was—and really wanting to do something!
I came back from New York with pamphlets. I had a box, a wooden box as big as that, that wide and that thick that was just full of stuff I had collected. All kinds of things about what was going on in the world. From a course at Columbia and I had . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were there a lot of liberal and radical ideas floating around in the Art Students League?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
No, no, no. This was in the mid-twenties. No.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So you were still very much in isolation thinking about all these things.
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
I'm afraid so. I remember I went . . . I was reaching, just reaching. I'm a pathetic case—I'm still reaching! I heard about some lectures that were going to be held at the Philosophical Society. They were on the great religions of the world. So I joined in. And I

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remember one night . . . it is just as clear in my mind as if it were yesterday . . . there was a man on that platform who spoke of Jesus as man, and talked about him as a man. And I remember I left there and I walked up Fifth Avenue feeling that Stone Mountain had been taken off my back. That was a great, great experience in my life.
Well, anyhow, I came back to Athens with all my papers and I was still reaching. I wanted to go to Europe. I know now but I didn't know then that things were very tight as far as my father was concerned. I remember taking him down to the train—that was the only mode of transportation except cars at that time out of Athens. He was going on a business trip and he said to me, "Now big sister, I won't say that you can't go but I say to you, I don't want you to go." That settled that for that summer. I think it was that year that [Roberta Hodgson took me to the League of Women Voters meeting.]?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was that when you got involved with the Children's Code?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
No. During that year I selected me a tour and found out all about the people that were going to go on it. And I had this lawyer whom I was going with quite a bit look up some of the people and so forth. Also, my father had made a practice over the years of giving us credit and stocks and money to buy this, that and the other. So I had collected. I think the entire tour cost $850. And we were going to thirteen countries in six weeks—a typical tour. [Laughter] I was trying to take this thing up with him. One weekend after the other he would be gone or he would be sick or something. Finally I took him down to the train again and I said, "Now, Daddy, don't lose anything on the train. And don't do anything that

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is going to get you upset because I want to talk with you and I want to make an appointment for four o'clock on Monday afternoon." So I went to the bank and I told him that I wanted to go and that I had the money and that was the trip and these were the people and I wanted to borrow a hundred and fifty dollars from the bank. So he agreed, and I took the trip. And I came back from Europe. And of course I did these art galleries, too. Very fortunately, on that trip I hooked up with a man who was on the board of trustees at the University of Michigan who was a very close friend of a young man who was conducting the tour. Hackley Butler, bless his sweet heart, Hackley Butler was prepared for that trip in a way that I was not at all. And he pushed me up every step and carried my suitcase. And I carried his hat. After we did the tour he would say, "Now Josephine, come on, come on, you know we'll never get back here again." And we'd get all these different kinds of conveyances and see the other side of the community. We took goat carts at one place. Particularly Sicily, where we went to this beer parlor and followed these people . . . And there was a group . . . and we followed them up the mountain. But I saw a great deal through that, through this man's eyes, a glimpse of the other side of life.
I came on back to Georgia and saw in the paper where I was on the committee to entertain the Legislature when the Legislature came to inspect the University of Georgia. And Gerrod Smith, who was vice-president of the bank, was chairman of the group. I went down and I said, "Let's do something different." I said, "You've been having a barbecue for these people every year, and the chancellor makes an address. Let's do something different." And he said, "What different do you want to try?"

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I said, "I don't know, I just want to do something different." "Well, think up something and don't make it too expensive." And I won't go into that because that's quite a story, but we did do something different. And it took me to the front pages of the paper. I had a telephone call from this man who was trying to promote the revision in children's laws, who wanted me to come over and be a representative for him at the Legislature.
JACQUELYN HALL:
After he had read about this?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Well, he had come over; he had been there and saw it. And I insisted I was not the person to do that. I came over and talked to him. And I insisted that I was not. He insisted that I was. And I came on back to Athens. I remember going out and sitting under the arbor, trying to think through. Because somehow or other I realized that that was a turning point—of art. And I came back, and my sister quoted me on this. She said I came back and I said, "Now this is it, I'm more interested in people than I am in things." And I came over to the Legislature. I don't know why they wanted me. I had some imagination. I don't know why, but that's what I did. And we got through the child labor law at that time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You were lobbying for the child labor law?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Yes sir. We had five child labor laws: one was for adoption, one was some kind of desertion law, for children that were deserted. That legislation really was not ready to throw in the hopper at that time. I came to know that through a man who was visiting on the faculty of Emory University and worked with the children's code. And he talked with me at length about it, and he made me promise that I would not

Page 16
reveal the information and where it came from to [unknown]. But I felt a great responsibility for that legislation, particularly since I knew what ought to be done about it.
That was when my father was going down to Florida. And I had several things open to me growing out of that experience. One of them, George Foster Peabody wanted to send me to Columbia on the understanding I would come back and work in the South. And I look back with some interest that the National Manufacturers Association wanted me to lobby for them. [Laughter] There were several other things. But my father said, "I need you." And that settled that for me. And I did go on to
We were then having annual meetings of the legislature. And when this came up again, I felt that I had to come to it and did. But by then there was no money at all. And so I came on the large sum of $150, paid for by [unknown] of the Retail Credit Company and George Foster Peabody. And I had been offered a post, during that first session of the legislature, with the [unknown] Advertising Company in New York. He came back and wanted me again. And I turned down $5,000 a year, which was pretty good at that time for an untrained person in New York, in order to stay there and do that legislation. So— that gives you a little bit about my gropings during that period.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When did you get involved in the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
I was never involved.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You were never involved in that? Were you involved in the Commission on Interracial Cooperation?

Page 17
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Only on the periphery. Remember that my family had no money then and I had $150 a month and part of that was going for an insurance premium on my father.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you living in Athens?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
No, the second time I was over here. My sister had come over to get a job. I remember I took her down to get a train. I had a wire from her—I wish I had that wire now. She and a friend of hers and these two boys, I put them on a train—they were all coming over here to get work. And I had a telegram from them: "We all have positions." They had positions with Sears Roebuck! And I came on over with the [unknown]. Incidentally—I was ultimately appointed by the governor as a member of the Commission, which I was very pleased about. We lived with my aunt who had this lovely place up on Peachtree Street. And she had a Packard automobile and a chauffeur. And my sister would leave every day in the Packard automobile with Sam the chauffeur and drive up to Sears Roebuck to fill her position. [Laughter] Oh, those were weird days.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Things were really shaken up.
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
But after that the session in the legislature, the second session of the legislature, was over and we got the adoption law through. I felt that I just wanted to stay on with that thing. A special session was being urged. And I felt that I had to make money, and I didn't know how to make money and still be free. And the only thing I could work out was insurance. So I went about this thing quite systematically, investigating insurance companies to find out which one I wanted to go with and I picked out Equitable Life. And I went to the manager and said that I was interested. I did not want to sign a contract

Page 18
because I had indicated that I wasn't going to stay with it and I didn't plan to stay with it. I didn't want to sign a contract and I wanted to know if I could sell annuities and educational insurance using one of his men, a specialist, and let me run interference and go to work there? Oh, yes, yes, yes, come right in. Well, I dived into the thing. And these men that went out, they would embarrass me, the way they handled things. And I didn't like that. I was caught in that and I felt that I had to handle it, I had to get into it. So I took several courses and ultimately I got to be a specialist on taxes. And I was in the midst of that when I was elected state president of the League of Women Voters. And my insurance career ended. Also I had, at that time, a bus going up to our museum. I was sort of reaching back to my art a little bit. I don't know what happened to my tools or my clay or anything else. And from then on I've been keeping my head above water financially and doing the things I thought were worthwhile.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When were you elected state president of the League of Women Voters?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
I was elected state president of the League in December of '34. I was president until 1940. Meanwhile I started something called the Citizens' Fact-Finding Movement.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I've run across it in my research.
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
I was so eager with the League to get some things done. And those were the days when the really accepted thing for a woman was still magnolias and pouring tea and chautauquas. Woman's club and garden club was the accepted thing. And we did some pretty good things, a series of forums that we put on that built up a listening audience in

Page 19
eighteen states and so forth. We'd make real news every time we put them on. But still it seemed to me the need was a greater reach than the League had. And I hit upon the idea of trying to coordinate some of these organizations that had broader reach than we did. I didn't have a car, and this man, bless his heart, Gus Wilkerson lent me his automobile. And I took a little trip through Georgia, having drawn up on a sheet of paper the organizations that I would like to bring together.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Then you were traveling around visiting these organizations?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
I took a trip through the state, having written to them prior to my coming saying that I was taking a trip through the state, I wanted very much to talk with them—this was on League stationery—and that I expected to be in Albany or whatever the city on such and such a day, and hoped that I might see them at eleven o'clock, or four o'clock or something, that I would call before coming into the city. And I struck out. Prior to doing that I made a study of the purposes of these organizations. And I found that so much of it was palliatives, you know. For instance, the Lions Club had an excellent program for the blind. But all the time in Georgia they had a whole new group of blind children because they didn't have drops in babies' eyes and all that. So my line was that I was president of the League of Women Voters and I didn't feel that I had enough information about the state to intelligently lead it. And I wondered if they didn't feel the same way. I had a very encouraging response and so forth, and I felt we could get together on this thing. And I said I'd be very happy to arrange a meeting.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What were some of the groups, the other groups involved?

Page 20
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
They were the establishment groups. What I wanted to do was to try to build up something that was strong enough to say some things that needed to be said, but was too strong to be attacked. There were the men's service clubs, the Rotary clubs, Lions, women's groups, church groups, the PTA. I couldn't find any nucleus at that time of churches, other than the church women. The Library Association, the Georgia Press Association.
JACQUELYN HALL:
The only nucleus you could find of people, of church people interested in those issues, were women?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
I could find only a church setup, a state setup, where you had a working vehicle there that was a state-run organization.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was it the Methodists you worked with?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
You could have done one denomination, but the church women represented all denominations. Then there were the farmers.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of farmers?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
The Farm Bureau. That was the only one we had. And the Georgia Press Association, the Library Association, and that was it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Not the Commission on Interracial Cooperation?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
No. This was establishment. We carried on the program for twelve and a half years with a rather unique setup there of a rotating chairmanship. The chairmanship rotated among the state heads of these organizations. And they came! They didn't want to be left out. That's where my art came in: we dramatized on the table at each of these meetings the subject to be taken up.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kinds of subjects?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
We divided the state into twelve areas which, we maintained,

Page 21
if you put them together, gave you pretty much a picture of the whole. First was the past of Georgia. Second was natural resources. Next was agricultural. Industry and commerce. Education. Public welfare. The penal system. The political system. The tax system. And federal activity. We came to the specialists in Georgia and selected the person whom we felt was most competent to give us the wealth of this information so that the group could share that information with the members of their organizations. And this whole thing was just operating on a shoestring. And how I kept myself above water financially, I do not know yet.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Where did you get your funds?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Well, I had several fellowships. The one thing for me that it started was I got a $3,000 grant from the Rosenwald Foundation which was given to me as a grant to do what I wanted with. [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you apply for it?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Did I apply for it! Did I apply for it! Edward R. Embree was coming to Georgia to speak out at Emory and I was present—this was back before we even started. In fact, I doubt we could have even started Fact-Finding had it not been for this. And I thought, Well, now, we ought to be able to get some money from Rosenwald, but there's a need for an angle in there. Is this wise for the League of Women Voters to take this money that the public feels this way about?
JACQUELYN HALL:
People were suspicious of Rosenwald money?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
I don't know whether I would use the word "suspicious," but it was stamped Negro, you see. And those were days when, regardless of what your interest was in race—and of course I was just getting into

Page 22
this. When I was a child I asked my mother why in the world we couldn't read the funny paper on Sunday and all these things on Sunday, and that the Negro servants in the house had to work so hard on Sunday. And she said, "My dear, I give them some other time." I said, "Mother, it's Sunday, it's Sunday." And this blessed woman, this very wonderful woman, she says, "Josephine darling, it's never been established that the Negro has a soul." This was my mother when I was a child . . . When I was a child.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did the League of Women Voters try to deal with racial issues at all?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
No. Where was I? Oh, I was speaking about this $3,000 grant. I talked with Dr. Will Alexander; that name, I'm sure, is familiar to you. Dr. Will said, "Now, Josephine, just don't bother the man. There's no chance of your getting anything. Just don't bother the man." Then I talked with several other people, lawyers who were interested in what we were trying to do with the League, about whether they felt that it would be wise for the League at that time to take Rosenwald money. And I felt that I had covered the waterfront enough that if we got attacked in taking it that there were some pretty top names that would come forward and support us in it. And so, regardless of what Dr. Will said, I was going to see this man.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did he say that? Why did he discourage you?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Well, I've got my own ideas. [Laughter] He didn't want anybody . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
That was his source of money?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Yes. Anyhow, I was ill with this terrible cold when this

Page 23
man arrived, and this was very bad. I was getting myself doctored and whatnot, and finally I called and found out the hotel where he was. I couldn't get an answer. Finally I found out that he was maintaining his room, but he had gone to Washington and was due back at such and such a time. And in time I got him on the telephone. He was going out to speak at Emory. And I introduced myself and I said, "Doctor, I want very much to see you while you're here. I would have tried to get in touch with you earlier, but I've been down with a cold." And he said, "Well, Josephine, I'm on my way out to Emory to speak now." And I said, "Oh, doctor, I do want to see you." Anyhow, he said, "Well, maybe you can bring me back." So I went out . . . trying to size this man up. Finally we got going coming back and he said, "Where are you taking me?" And I said, "I'm taking you to our office." And he said, "Don't you think this is a little high-handed?" And I said, "Yes, I do, doctor, but I'm going to bring you right back after you see our base of operation." So we pulled into the garage there and I said, "I will take you back." So we went upstairs. I already had it arranged. I had several coffeepots there and so forth, and didn't he want some coffee? And he did want some coffee. We had some little cakes and so forth. We sat on this little couch there and talked. And he said to me, "What are you trying to do?" He asked me this and it came so quickly and so suddenly that for a moment I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I said, "I'm trying to make Georgia discontented." He said, "What do you want from me?" I said, "I want three thousand dollars." He said, "After all, three thousand dollars is very little money to make Georgia discontented." He said, "I can't do that." He said, "The League is political in focus, and I just couldn't

Page 24
do it. But I am more interested than I like to admit to myself." He said, "Will you have breakfast with me?" And of course I had breakfast with him. But before I had breakfast with him I had this gal who was volunteering down there to go up to the Carnegie Library and look up all these things about Rosenwald. And so at breakfast he tried to tell me Mr. Rosenwald couldn't do it, and I would quote Mr. Rosenwald on something, don't you know, and finally he gave me the $3,000. But he said it would have to come as a little grant to me, and it was a residue of a fund that he had and so forth and so on. But I never was able to get with him anymore to try to get any more money out of him. [Laughter] I told him, I said, "Remember, even if I did kidnap you, I didn't take you across the state line." But we became very good friends in time. But I had that little $3,000 to work with, and what I did was I endorsed it over to the League. And in forming the Fact-Finding Movement I said that we had a thousand dollars that we could use and draw on in getting this thing started. And we did.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And you would bring in experts on different subjects?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
We didn't bring them in.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, you used the state heads themselves?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
The state, the state. And we issued these pamphlets. They started out in mimeograph form, and we made a policy that we would supply one copy to anyone who asked for it. Any more than that would have to be purchased. But we would put no one on the mailing list unless it was a definite request for it. And we built up a mailing list of 16,000. Which was . . . at that time I didn't realize that that was quite something, because to me there were three million people in Georgia and

Page 25
16,000 didn't amount to a hill of beans. You know what I mean. But this was really . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of response did you get to the information and stands that you took?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Well, the very fact that we had such a mailing list would indicate something, wouldn't it? They were received in the schools, libraries and individuals also out of the country. Our first series was just straight factual information. Just facts. And the next one, well, the Report to the President on [Economic Conditions in the South]—that grew out of our work. It was the same sort of thing. Clark Foreman made a talk out at Emory University and said we needed the same type of thing for the whole South. He went back to Washington, and he took this up with the President. Well, I say it grew out of it—it just happened that we had something going down here and it was an idea. We took the reports after they came out and annotated them for Georgia, so as to get a picture of Georgia in relation to the whole South. And we got the various reports which were ultimately issued in one pamphlet. So that was the second series. And then the third series was issued under the title, "Let's Reason Together." And we asked the specialists to sit as one body and collectively to consider these areas of Georgia and to tell us what they felt could be done. And if there was a difference of opinion, that was to go in the reports, too. Interesting in that first series, the factual series, one man after the other would say to me—because I worked with them on these. I know the first person who did it was the president of the Department of Agriculture in Athens. Chapman was head of the college faculty then. Anyhow, I was over there

Page 26
and this was late in the afternoon. All of a sudden there was this silence and he wheeled around and looked out the window and he says, "You know, it's amazing to me, I see this whole picture now clearer than I ever have before." Because, you see, they had had to sit down and boil this thing down. One man after another said that to me. Anyhow, they collectively considered the subject, and they issued the third series—what could be done. That was all we could do. As I told you, this was not a lobbying group; this was not a pressure group. But we were building up followship for something. And Ellis Arnold was going around seeing Communists under every bed. He was attacking the university. And he was smart enough to see we had an issue and he was not prepared to carry that issue. And he has told me that he has read those pamphlets not once, but again and again. And during his term of office he enacted forty pieces of legislation. And he publicly stated at a meeting of the group, and it was carried in the press, that his whole program during his term was picked up from those reports. Which I thought was pretty good for a little organization. This was carried on to a large extent by just volunteers, you see. We ultimately got some foundation grants and ultimately got it tax-exempt. Even at that the total cost was . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Are the papers of the Georgia Fact-Finding Movement deposited somewhere, or do you have all those pamphlets and things?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Well, you make me feel very guilty here, because Emory has spoken of wanting the things. I think they really ought to go to the University of Georgia. I have them in storage. But this was quite a little period. And the fact that it was done so—it was good, you see.

Page 27
This was a clean little effort.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you still involved with the League while you were doing the Fact-Finding Movement?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Well, I started the Fact-Finding Movement in 1937—until '40. Well, of course, this was good for the League, too. The League was being accepted—with the top establishment organizations. Now, remember, this is way back, way back. This was good. The national office had some raising of eyebrows. I was in Washington at one time and Miss Marguerite Wells [unknown] I said to her, "Miss Wells, in what state in the South do you have a strong League?" "None." And I said, "Well, frankly, do you think it behooves the national League under those conditions to raise any question about any effort that is made down in there to get something done, that at the same time is pulling the League along, too?" Well, we went on out to catch a cab. And she looked at me and said, "My dear, I just want to tell you you're doing a magnificent job, and you go right ahead."
JACQUELYN HALL:
Off the record?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
"And I want sometime to have a talk with you, and I'm seeking the interview"—which I thought was pretty nice.
JACQUELYN HALL:
The Southern Conference for Human Welfare was organized in 1938. So that was when you were still president of the Fact-Finding Movement?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
I was never president of the Fact-Finding. I tried to stay in the background just as much as possible. I was administrator.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you get involved in the Southern Conference? Have you read Thomas Krueger's book about the Southern Conference?

Page 28
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
I've got it, but I have not read it. I was away at the time; there was no conference with me in regard to it. The man who wrote Forty Acres and a Steel Mule, H.C. Nixon, had been through here. And I had a telephone call long distance from Alabama a few days later from someone who identified himself as Joe Gelders, saying that they were having a meeting and they wanted very much for me to come over. At the Tutwiler in Birmingham. And they wanted to talk about a southwide meeting. Why, I didn't know Joe Gelders from Adam's house cat. I was floundering. And H.C. Nixon got on the phone and said, "Josephine, I want you to come over. I know all about this and I want you to come. Try to make a point of coming." I went. And H.C. and myself were the only people outside of Alabama who were there. It was a small group. The people who were there were, most of them, active in something called . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was it the Southern Policy Committee?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
That's right.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who were some of the people there?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Joseph Gelders and Judge Charlton. I don't know about the people who were there, but they were toying with having a meeting, a southwide meeting. Well, I happened through Clark Foreman who had come down to Atlanta and headed up a national emergency, I think the thing was called the National Emergency Committee, that got out the report on the South. Isn't that right? That's it. Anyhow, Clark was here and I happened to know through him that this report was coming out on the South. So instead of going on and having the southwide meeting that they wanted to have, I urged them to delay that meeting until the report came out

Page 29
and let the meeting of the South be the South's response to this report. And so we elected Judge Charlton as the temporary chairman of this planning committee. And I made an appointment with Clark for them and went down to the train and met Judge Charlton and Joe Gelders, who came over. And we talked with Clark about the timing. I never did identify myself . . . I never did go on their board. I helped draw up their by-laws. I spent my time at the police station, mostly, trying to keep the thing from blowing up. I was very close to it, but I was president of the League. I was working with these establishment organizations. And I felt that you cannot spread yourself too thin. I felt that I could not do that, too—not that it would have taken any more time than I gave to it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But you weren't officially a member of the board?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
We worked at night on their by-laws over there and from then on . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
How much support came from the federal government, from FDR, for what the Southern Conference was trying to do? Was there any real support from Washington that helped the Conference, like in the antipoll tax campaign. Was there an expectation that support or help would come?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Not that I know of, and I think I would have known. What happened was—this tremendous outpouring of people in Birmingham.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you surprised to find so many liberal people in the South?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Everybody was surprised. W.T. Couch and I were on the program as "program chairmen" for the called meeting.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You set up the speakers and the agenda?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Supposedly. Joe Gelders did most of that. I helped, but he

Page 30
did most of it. He was a wonderful man. I remember the FBI came to me about Joe Gelders, and I remember it just as well. I was standing there, and I said, "If Joe Gelders is a Communist, we need a lot more of them."
JACQUELYN HALL:
When did that happen?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
This was after the meeting.
JACQUELYN HALL:
After that very first meeting? The FBI came to see you?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Yes. Oh, my heavens, of course they did.
JACQUELYN HALL:
At the very beginning, the FBI . . . ?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Well, they . . . I can't tell you the very beginning, because . . . I know at the very beginning the power structure over in Alabama became very concerned over this. I know that. Because here was this great outpouring . . . and of course the thing was labelled "the left."
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you manage the attacks that were made on you, personally? How did you feel when the Conference came to be so attacked?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
It just made me know that I couldn't continue to operate as I was operating in Georgia and at the same time do that over there, too. I just couldn't do it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But you did work in both. But it was hard to do? Were people in the League or in the Fact-Finding Committee unhappy about your working with the Southern Conference? Did you get pressure?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
My help for the Southern Conference was more a personal contact help, you see. I don't think there is any question about the fact there was some communist influence there. Those were days when there was the collaboration, you know. I had great respect for that Southern Conference effort and concern for its ongoing. And I

Page 31
wanted to do anything that I could to help towards it, but I could not—when the labels were flying the way they were there—I could not identify myself with it, and at the same time work in the field that I was working in. And you have to be selective. I could have cut myself off from them but this made no sense, you see. But I did anything I could in helping that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
It seems to me from what I've read about the Southern Conference that it was a unique kind of thing in the South. I don't know of anything like it down to the present that has tried to unite such a broad spectrum of people. Trying to bring in the labor movement, bring in the black people, and really get to the root of problems. I can't think of anything comparable to that. Can you?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
I am unwilling at this time to . . . I have not read, what is his name . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Krueger.
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Krueger. I have not read it. I don't know just how he . . . have you read it recently?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Fairly recently.
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Do you recall his explanations for the folding of the Southern Conference?
JACQUELYN HALL:
I don't know of any one explanation. The final blow, I think, was Henry Wallace's campaign for president. A lot of people who were the remnants of the Southern Conference got involved in the campaign. And I think that was when it finally fell apart. Before that, I guess the combination of the Dyes Committee attacks—and their liberal members and supporters were beginning to fall away. And the financial base got

Page 32
very narrow. I was interested in finding out what your response would be, because I don't think it is a really good book myself. I think it is interesting just because that period and that whole episode was interesting. But it is hardly a profound book. It doesn't really . . .
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
There are some angles in there that I really would prefer not to discuss right now. Clark was down in Ajunta, which is just a short distance from San Juan. He is living there now, he and Margaret. And I'm going down there. I had a card from him Christmas in which he said, "I dreamt last night that you arrived as a visitor on foot." I just have an open invitation to come down, and I really covet a long talk with Clark, about as much as anybody. And there are some angles there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Have you been in touch with him?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Oh, yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And he has been pretty much retired from everything?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Clark had several hard attacks. He is now the head of, you've heard of this organization, the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee. He is the director emeritus of that. I had profound admiration for that man, as I said to him a long time ago. I said, "I love you and I will always love you, but by golly, some of your methods I just can't go along with whatsoever." Clark could get things in trouble. He was pretty much right if he would just go about it a little differently, you know. He had quite a little inheritance from his parents. He's just put it into the things that he felt were worthwhile. And I know one time—this goes back to what I said initially, of what it means for a human being to have the approval of the people close to them. It gives them something

Page 33
that they need so badly. And if they are going counter to what is accepted by them and approved by them, it makes it difficult. Well, it takes something out of you. But Clark used to sit on the terrace out there. And one night, right out there on that terrace we were talking and Clark said, "You know, Josephine," he said, "if I didn't feel that I had the support of Trot, which is . . . that I feel that if I didn't have the support of Trot" . . . and he wasn't talking about money, he said, "I don't think I could go on. I don't believe I could go on." But Clark was at the University of Georgia. And they had a lynching in Athens, Georgia. I was off at that finishing school at the time. And that was the turning point for Clark. From that he moved into the interracial field. He went to the London School of Economics. He did a lot of exploring over there, met H.G. Wells, and so forth. When he came back, he associated himself with the Interracial Commission. When I was with the Children's Code Commission, Clark was over at the Interracial Commission. That was when I came to know him so well. Our friendship has continued throughout these years.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about the friction between him and Jim Dombrowski? Was that one of the things that weakened the Conference—when SCEF was created and split off from the Conference?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
When SCEF was created, it wasn't a split-off. I drew up those by-laws. The initial by-laws of the old Southern Conference, we all did that together, a small group of us at night. There was a revision of the by-laws that I worked on—in this little room that I showed you a picture of. The Conference was giving up its tax-exemption. They were to try to carry the load down here; nothing else was being organized,

Page 34
and so forth and so on. Well, I said, "Clark, we've just got to do something about holding this offshoot." I think it was more a difference of approach. Jim Dombrowski is a wonderful man, a wonderful man.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did they remain friends?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
I don't know how much contact they've had. Clark was never a person to keep a chip on his shoulder.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When individuals within the Conference were being accused of being Communists and the conference was trying to protect itself—like, for example, I think at one point a policy decision was made, in 1940, to prohibit Communist Party members from being a part of this conference or just to prevent them from holding office—was that a split within the leadership of the Conference over what to do about the attacks that were being made?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
It was an effort to meet a public situation in a way that you could still function as an organization. Those were the McCarthy days. It was hard going.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was there a fear on the part of Conference members themselves that the Communist Party really was infiltrating the Conference and really was trying to take it over? Or was it mostly just trying to protect the organization from illegitimate attacks?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
There was a certain amount of communist activity, but that was perfectly natural, perfectly natural.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And people weren't afraid of that?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Well, when you say people, maybe some of them were. But there was concern on the part of people like Dr. Frank Graham to make

Page 35
sure that this didn't happen.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Make sure what didn't happen?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
That it was not taken over. Not taken over by anybody or any group. I think that the Southern Conference Educational Fund has done a good job.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Have you kept up your relationship with them?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Have you been on their board?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
I have not been on their board. I have been to a lot of their board meetings. I am a trustee for the Aubrey Williams Foundation. I have on my desk right now a copy of Ann Braden's statement resigning from the board.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did she resign?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Well, she's tired. She's tired.
JACQUELYN HALL:
They've worked so hard for so long, haven't they.
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Of course, I think they've been behind an awful lot.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, what do you think caused the downfall of the Southern Conference?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
That's the thing that I said that I would rather not discuss right now until I talk another time with Clark.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I've wondered as I've followed that whole period what the relationship was between the people who were involved in the Interracial Commission and the Southern Conference. It is surprising to me that people like Will Alexander and Howard Odum and Jessie Daniel Ames—that group of people—don't seem to have gotten involved or been very supportive of the Southern Conference. Was there rivalry?

Page 36
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
You don't understand the era. There are a lot of roads that lead to the same thing, as you well know. Sometimes when you are travelling one road, you can't be effective continuing to travel that road if you take up a stance on this other one. It wouldn't have done for them in that era, in that era it would not have done for them to be active in it.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Dr. Frank was the person to do it. Dr. Frank had to leave before the first meeting was over. I met him on the steps as he was leaving. And I said, "Dr. Frank, you know who they want." He said, "Well, I just can't take it." And he sent me a wire, saying to let the nominating committee see the wire. Couch just was in a panic. I remember he came racing to me: "Read the wire to them, read the wire!" And I said, "I haven't got the wire." "Tell them, tell them, tell them." So I went to the microphone and told them about the wire that had come to me as chairman of the nominating committee. They ignored it completely. And he had a long period there where he was uncertain. In regard to that—Dr. Howard Odum was interested at that time in getting an organization started.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But he had his own ideas about what sort of an organization?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Correct. Prior to the Southern Conference meeting there was a meeting of the National Policy Committee here. And afterwards Dr. Odum came on up to my old quarters there. And I remember sitting on the

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couch there with him, and he opened up this sheet of paper in which there was a diagram of this southern organization that he wanted to get started. The various areas of the South . . . race was part of it. But it was to be this broad-gauged organization. Well, he also had been talking to Carnegie. And I thought that he had some funds lined up to get something started. And that, too, figured in Dr. Frank's mind in accepting this presidency.
JACQUELYN HALL:
He had been talking with Howard Odum?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
I can't answer that, but it was known. Anyhow, Dr. Odum felt that the fact that Dr. Frank took that presidency stopped him from getting his southern regional organization started.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now why, I don't understand why.
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
A member of his faculty, I mean his faculty president. You see, this is the president of the University of North Carolina that became president of this southwide organization.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Which the Carnegie Foundation . . .
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
I say Carnegie, but I'm not sure it was Carnegie. He thought that he . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Foundation people would not like the idea of . . . I mean, would make his ideas seem less respectable in their eyes? He wanted to set up a completely separate organization from the Southern Conference. He wasn't trying to get the Southern Conference to become what he wanted?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Oh, no.
JACQUELYN HALL:
It was a totally different plan?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

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JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did he want to set up a rival organization to the Southern Conference instead of putting his energy into . . .
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
His idea of setting up an organization flowered prior to the beginning of the Southern Conference. Now no one behind the Southern Conference meeting knew anything about Dr. Harold Odum. It wasn't a question of their coming in and getting something started before he did. But nothing had gotten started and this idea that he had, he felt was torpedoed when the president of his organization became president of the Southern Conference. There was great bitterness there for quite a while. Somebody was writing a biography of Howard Odum. I felt very guilty over that thing, but actually I think in a way I'm glad that I hadn't a talk with him about that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You talked with the person who is writing the biography?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
He asked to see me.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Someone from Vanderbilt? Well, so much went on; there was so much potential.
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
There was a great deal of reaching. And of course in the New Deal days there was a creative ferment. It was in many ways a wonderful period to live through. And I think since the Supreme Court decision has been pretty wonderful, too.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How would you compare those two periods: the thirties and forties with the sixties and seventies? Is there a similarity in the kinds of ideas which have come up, in the way people have been moved?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Of course I think they are reaching for the same thing. But the leadership during this period has been taken by the Negro.

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They've attacked very basic things. And in a way they've had more to hold on to during this period of time with the court decisions. They've had more to grip. During the earlier years there was more groping.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you become friends with Jessie Daniel Ames?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Our office, the League office, was in the Forsyth Building—and that too is a long story. It's right next to the old Dinkler Plaza, which was then the Ansley Hotel.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is that building still there?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Yes. It was owned by the Candlers. When I took the question to the League . . . We didn't have any money—$12.18 or something like that. The office had been in the home of a woman out in Decatur. So I walked the streets of Atlanta trying to decide just where we wanted to alight. And I picked out this building. The old Ansley Hotel was the political headquarters in Georgia. It just seemed to me that that was where we ought to be. So I found out who owned it and I went to see Mr. Candler. And he didn't think much of this at all. I mean he just didn't even consider it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did he say? What was his reason?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Well, he didn't have to give it. It was just out of the question, that's all. He ushered me out. Very nice, but . . . Then the Palmer Building—you know where the Palmer Building is?—we got in touch with Chuck Palmer. And Mr. Palmer would give us space. But that's not what we wanted. We wanted that Forsyth Building. So I went back to see Mr. Candler. And he was very nice that day, but he did walk out to the elevator with me and patted me on the back. [Laughter] And I felt,

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well, now, we just won't accept this space down there. So I kept on going back to see him, and he finally let us have the space. And we paid $10 a month for the elevator service and cleaning. Then the Atlanta League lost their space, and they came to me about it. So I went around to Mr. Candler again. And bless his heart, he gave us space for the Atlanta League. They paid $10 a month. Then we started the Fact-Finding Movement. And I went to see Mr. Candler again and got space. And this was at $10 a month. Had the whole floor—which was pretty good. Three organizations at $10 a month. But that is the long way to answer your question—that's where we were based. And Jessie Daniel Ames was in the Interracial Commission, which was in the Standard Building. And that is on that little street, Fairlie Street. It's a little brick building. This little brick building is still there. And as you go down Luckie, it's that first little street right on the corner. So you see, very close.
Oh, yes, Ames was my treasurer when I was president of the League of Women Voters. That was where my contact with her—but I knew her before that time because I remember going out to talk with her about taking the presidency. So I knew her before that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did you think of her anti-lynching association? Why did you not get involved in that?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Well, I just think it was perfectly marvelous.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But you didn't get involved in it. Why was that?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
You can't do everything. [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
One reason I ask is because it seemed like the organizations and the women who were most involved in that particular thing were not

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people from the League of Women Voters but church women, people from that angle of things. And I thought maybe that you were much more involved in political activity.
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Church women were an excellent vehicle for that kind of thing. Because she carried religion into this. I remember, what was that woman's name, down in south Georgia. She was baking a cake on Christmas, and a telephone call came about a threatened lynching. And she left her cake and went dashing to see the sheriff in the next town. Of course the cake fell, but it didn't make much difference about the cake. But they did a magnificent job.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were they really successful in reaching people in rural communities?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
What they did, you know, they went around and talked to sheriffs, and got the signatures of sheriffs, pledging that they would try to prevent lynchings. And if a lynching was threatened, that the sheriff would get in touch with one of them and let them know it. And of course at that time all this lynching business was in large part to so-called protect white womanhood, and so it was perfectly natural that this would be a woman's thing and natural that religion should be brought into it—taking life.
JACQUELYN HALL:
It seems that most of her energy did go into that lynching campaign. Is that right?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
It was her brainchild. She came from Texas to the Interracial Commission to head up the women's work. And she borned this anti-lynching program.
JACQUELYN HALL:
For ten years. It seems she was very careful to keep the

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association on one track. There were a lot of conflicts between her and Walter White of the NAACP over what could be defined as a lynching. Toward the end of the period the NAACP was talking about lynchings going underground and legal lynching, things that were not great mobs and what was traditionally called a lynching. She didn't want the organization to support federal anti-lynching legislation and get into political action. It should be very single-mindedly aimed at preventing mob lynching in the South. Yet she herself was a very political woman, and her own interests and understandings were much broader than that, it seems to me. Is that . . . ?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
She knew strategy, do you see. I think you hit on something right there that is very important. And that is that it's always true that your interests and the things that you support can be far wider than this thing that you're just driving at. If you want to get something done in that, oftentimes you have to hold these things in abeyance more or less.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How would you compare her attitudes and political ideas to your own at that time?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Well, of course Ames' work and her interest was focussed on the Negro, on the situation of the Negro. She accepted work in that field.
JACQUELYN HALL:
It was really a kind of choice of a profession, in a way, wasn't it?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
It was her profession. And my heavens, nothing more needed. But, the longer she practiced her profession, the more her interest centered in that one thing. I don't know of anything else that Ames was involved in, except the League. She was on the board, my state board,

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was treasurer. But I don't know of anything else she was in.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Would you say that you were more interested in the economic issues and problems that were being discussed and dealt with during the Depression and the New Deal than she was?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
No, I wouldn't. Not more interested.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did she get along with the women that she worked with?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
How did she get along with them? I have no reason to feel that there was anything but admiration and respect. She worked a great deal through Mrs. Tilly. You know that, don't you? She brought Mrs. Tilly into this.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did she work through Mrs. Tilly?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Well, Mrs. Tilly was a very faithful church woman. And it was through Mrs. Tilly that Ames got all these church women together.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did Mrs. Tilly work all over the South or just in Georgia?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Well, church roots go pretty far, and anybody who was devout and good and churchly and a leader in Georgia could go farther out.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you mean Mrs. Tilly could relate better to the kinds of women that were in the church?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
She had the contacts. She had contacts. And in many ways, I would say, probably relate better. Although Ames was the strategist. She was a very personable kind of person, Jessie Daniel Ames. You couldn't help but like her. She had to do her thing, though.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And that's where she came into conflict with the men on the Commission? What were the sources of that conflict? For example, let me ask you this: it seems that during World War II, by the time the

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Depression, then the New Deal and World War II had happened, I think that things had changed a whole lot in the South. Black people had become a lot more militant and outspoken, and the kind of race relations techniques that had worked earlier, right after World War I when the Commission was first formed, had pretty much lost their legitimacy. I think that the people involved in the Commission felt the need, Will Alexander, felt the need for some change in techniques and style in the Commission. Now, I imagine that he felt that Jessie Daniel Ames had not changed enough. Was that the kind of thing? That he wanted things to go further and she didn't? Did he think that, but it wasn't true?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Both Dr. Odum and Dr. Will discouraged Mrs. Ames in trying to get the Negroes to come together at Durham.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did they discourage her?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
They thought it wouldn't amount to anything. And it may have been partly due to the fact that they didn't . . . I mean, people are people. And she had an awful time. She took a trip up into Washington, to see Howard Odum. She made several trips. In the end they did not stop her. They said, "Go on, but it's not going to amount to anything."
JACQUELYN HALL:
They wanted northern Negro leaders to be involved if there was going to be something like that, didn't they? Was there a difference over that?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Not that I know anything about. I think both of them at that time were willing for the old Interracial Committee, which had done an excellent job, to fold.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why?

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JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Well, the funds were giving out. You know that, don't you? The Rosenwald Foundation gave $25,000 a year to the Interracial Commission, and that was largely its funds. They got some money from church groups and so on. But it was chickenfeed compared with this $25,000. The Rosenwald Fund was set up over a 25-year period. And its funds would be exhausted at that time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But Dr. Will could have raised more money, probably, if he had wanted to.
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
But Dr. Will was then in government in Washington. And his interests at that time were elsewhere. His activity was elsewhere. I don't mean to give the impression that I feel that Dr. Will was losing his goals of being an effective force in society. I don't know what was going on in his mind about the future. But I do know that Ames was left with the whole Interracial Commission, and time for it to fold was coming along. And then one thing happened that was most, I think, unfortunate. When the white meeting was called in response to the Durham statement, one of the rules was that no government people could be involved in it. Well, I'm quite sure that Ames thought through that that would exclude Dr. Will. Dr. Will couldn't get in! [Laughter] It was a perfectly logical thing to do, because this was to be an expression of the South, you see. And you didn't want to have it felt that the government was stimulating things. But you can see what that would do to almost anybody, and particularly when the Interracial Commission was his baby, particularly Dr. Will. He sat on the mezzanine outside. He was not in that meeting.
JACQUELYN HALL:
That's amazing. Ralph McGill was chairman at that meeting, wasn't he? He was chairman of the committee that invited the people to

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the white meeting?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
We had twelve men, and the invitations went out over the signatures of all twelve.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why was it so excruciatingly hard for her to get a group of white people who would be willing to sign an invitation? And then she couldn't find a chairman for the next meeting. It took a year to get somebody to consent to chair the meeting. There was the Durham meeting. Then the Atlanta meeting. Then nobody would consent to chair the Richmond collaboration meeting.
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
I've forgotten who they ultimately got to chair.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Howard Odum. But she was trying to keep him from being the one to chair. [Laughter] But he was the only one that would do it.
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
He was there and sort of took over at that meeting.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why were people so unwilling?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Those were days when working over race was hard to come by, to get people to do. I'll never forget—I think I mentioned it in that little thing I wrote, about Bishop Moore, about the businessman.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I can't remember.
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Anyhow, at this meeting there was an effort made by a Mr. Carlyle Frazier, representative of the Chamber of Commerce in Atlanta, and another man, I've forgotten his name, who really had been among the twelve that sent out the invitation. An effort to keep any statement from coming out on that meeting. And finally there was a committee appointed to go into this whole thing and bring in some recommendations about what to do. I was on this thing. And this Carlyle Frazier said, "The businessmen aren't here. We ought to wait until we've got the

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businessmen here." And Bishop Moore got up and he said, "Mr. Frazier, now the businessmen had every opportunity to come here. There were an equal number of businessmen invited to this meeting as there were other people. They have chosen not to come. And I for one, Mr. Frazier, am tired of waiting on the businessman, and I think we must go ahead and proceed." [Laughter] And he proceeded.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you in favor of the decision to dissolve the Commission and create the Southern Regional Council?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You were?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Yes. Wouldn't you have been?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes, probably.
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
The Southern Regional Council was just a continuation of what the Interracial Commission was doing.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But Howard Odum was the first president and he wanted it to be his old plan. When the Council was first formed, was it meant to be that broad southern regional planning thing?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
It was hoped it could be done. The racial aspect entered into each . . . but of course . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did that happen?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Well, those were lean days. Lean days. I think you probably know that during a period of time George Mitchell would borrow on his insurance.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Have you been on the board of the Council ever since it started? And on the Executive Committee?

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JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
All the time?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
All the time except one time I sort of fell by the wayside. I was up in Mayo Clinic. I was going to have to be out of circulation for a while. I had had no traffic with doctors for some twenty-five years. But after a while I had to take seriously what they said. So I was off it for a period there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, would you say that from the time the Council was formed until 1954 and the Supreme Court decision that it was a continuation of the Commission, that it tried to do the same kinds of things with the same strategies? Then the change came after the initiation of the Supreme Court and the federal government? Looking back over the Council, what do you see as being the turning points in the Council, or do you see pretty much continuity all the way through?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Right now I prefer not to talk about the Council. I want to ask you a question: what did you think of that article in the paper Sunday?
JACQUELYN HALL:
I got the New York Times this Sunday and not the Atlanta Constitution. Was there an article about the Council in the paper?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Oh, yes. You got out of that question very well.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is it critical?
JOSEPHINE WILKINS:
Vivian is quoted heavily in it. I was not happy with it. There are some very good quotes towards the end of it. I think it's best right now not to discuss it. You're too close to the Council.
END OF INTERVIEW