Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James Pharis, July 24, 1977. Interview H-0038. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Church members harass a non-church member

Pharis encountered some tensions when he moved into a supervisory position at Plaid Mill in Burlington, North Carolina. He remembers that members of a certain church received preferential treatment; Pharis was not a member of this church and was once cornered in an alley and threatened.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James Pharis, July 24, 1977. Interview H-0038. 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

CLIFF KUHN:
Were the decisions they made to hire or fire superintendents made at the plant level or were they made by higher ups?
JAMES PHARIS:
The superintendent was hired out of Greensboro, the main office. But back in them days, the local under the superintendent was handled by the superintendent. He'd get the okays from Greensboro that it was alright to put this whoever it was on.
CLIFF KUHN:
You said that this one man in the weave room resented you because you were sent in by the…
JAMES PHARIS:
I think that was what was it. I couldn't say positively.
CLIFF KUHN:
Did of the weavers themselves feel any of this…
JAMES PHARIS:
No, there was… I got along fine with the help. A lot of people there felt a resentment of certain things. I don't know why. When I come there, each individual or sometimes two or three in a group would want to talk to me and ask me how I felt about certain things. The main thing I'd rather not mention because…
CLIFF KUHN:
I'm not after any names or anything like that but what kind of things would people talk to you about?
JAMES PHARIS:
At that time when I come to Burlington, they was a friction. If you didn't belong to the Hocutt Memorial Baptist Church over here, you didn't get along too well in the Plaid Mill. But if you belonged to the Hocutt Memorial Baptist… now I ought not put that on tape.
CLIFF KUHN:
Okay. If you want we can turn it off.
JAMES PHARIS:
And see the management belonged to the Hocutt Memorial Baptist Church and they were letting it interfere with the mill. In other words, if the word would get around—there were two separate departments in the weave room, what they called the upper and the lower end. Well, they worked it out some way or another in a way that they had the biggest part of the Hocutt Memorial members up on the upper end and the ‘riff-raff’ and the one's that belonged to other churches was on the lower end. Well, that caused confusion, you know, and then when there was anything good in the way of the work, putting in work, if they got any bad work, they'd put it on the lower end. The good work would go on the upper end. I remember one time, I had charge of the lower end —that's what the people would talk to me about—three or four cornered me there in the alley one time and they asked me (I had been there but a little bit), "Mr. Pharis, what church you a member of?" I told them I was of the Christian faith. And they says, "You're not a member of the Hocutt Memorial Baptist Church over here?" I says, "No I'm not." And they says, "Well, we've lost again." Just like that you know because I couldn't do nothing for them and that's the way a lot of them felt. Course, they got out of that. They got away from that altogether. When I left Plaid Mill, there was no more friction about it.