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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Robert Sidney Smith, January 25, 1999. Interview I-0081. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Waning regional culture in North Carolina

Smith sees regional culture declining in North Carolina as immigrants arrive, but believes that a sense of civility and individuality remains.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Robert Sidney Smith, January 25, 1999. Interview I-0081. 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

JM: What's your sense of the extent to which the regional distinctiveness of the southeast -- maybe of North Carolina, in particular -- has persisted or not across time? Is this still a place that's a lot different to do business or--. SS: Yeah, I think it is different. When I was working with Exxon and was down in northern Florida and people knew that I was from North Carolina, their stereotype--. They envisioned everything in North Carolina being like the “Dukes of Hazzard.” I mean, that was exactly what they thought of. All of the state was that way. Of course, that was not true in any way, shape, or form and wasn't even [true] at that time. The influx of people born and raised in another place that are now here with some of these big companies, they bring with them their attitudes and approaches to things. So, there's a changing in the culture, but I think a more relaxed attitude still prevails. A civility still prevails. A certain amount of chivalry still prevails and there are some that view those traditional things almost with hostility. Chivalry can be viewed chauvinistically. That is a kind of tug of war with certain people. But, I think the basic, fundamental traditional values and attitudes of the South are still alive and well. [They may] in fact, in some ways, may be winning the cultural war. It may be over time that that begins to be exported out, when a lot of these people move on. I can see a New Yorker, born and raised in Manhattan, comes down South, works here for ten or fifteen years as a regional person, then later on in life goes back to New York in a high ranking position at corporate headquarters. [He] will carry some of that [North Carolina civility] back. I'm beginning to bump into people like that in New York, [people] that have an appreciation for the way some of the traditional attitudes have manifested themselves down here. I think entrepreneurism is a key element in the southeast. You were kind of on your own down here for years, so you learned to do it on your own. I think that's still here. People down here don't like to be told what to do. We'll make up our own mind and decide later. I don’t necessarily need government or a big corporation or somebody else somewhere else. I'll get it done. It may not be perfect. It may not be just as right or better, but I will get it done.