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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Edwin Caldwell, March 2, 2001. Interview K-0202. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Organizing on behalf of Howard Lee

Caldwell discusses his party, PRAD, and its expanding influence. Caldwell leveraged black votes to convince local political influences to back his candidate for mayor, Howard Lee.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Edwin Caldwell, March 2, 2001. Interview K-0202. 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

It was an exciting time, here we are participating in politics and we are not thinking small we are thinking globally, nationally. After the election with Hawkins we decided to keep this thing going, that's how we formed PRAD. I had mentioned that Howard Lee was the president. Howard always had political ambitions, Howard said, "I think I want to run for mayor." The group that we were involved in, let me back up and say, by that time we had taken over all the precincts we had just become that organized. We plotted and schemed and when it came time to go in to have the precincts meeting we had that place packed with our people. We took them over because we had more people there. Therefore, we became a force. We had taken over all the precincts. We replaced all the hostile judges and put our own people in there. There were some very good whites that were still in some of the precincts, and when we took them over. I know I was chairman of the Northside precinct for years, I didn't really want to be chairman but they elected me chairman, this one lady said she was the registrar and she said, "I would be glad to continue to be registrar and I will work with you." So we began to replace and registration began to be a little easier. Wasn't as hostile. People didn't feel as uncomfortable about going to register. We fine-tuned and began to work at turning out votes. So when Howard decided he wanted to run-the Liberal Coalition had already decided they were going to run their own candidate, who was Gordon Cleveland. Gordon Cleveland had been in politics in Orange County for a long time. He was on the County Commissioners but he was from Chapel Hill. They had gone around and asked him if he would run, and he reluctantly agreed that he would. When we went into the meeting and they announced who their candidate was, it was Gordon Cleveland. Gordon was a good man. We said, "you already picked him but you didn't consult with us." I let them know, "don't send nobody else back into the black community you always pick these people and send them over for us to support. This time we have our own candidate, Howard Lee." They said, "nah, we think its to soon for Howard to run for mayor why don't he run for Board of Aldermen." I said, "Howard you want to run for Board of Aldermen?" He said, "no I want to run for mayor." We had this strategy meeting, we were outvoted in there we had about five people in there from PRAD. I guess they must have had about twenty-five thirty in there from the other organization. We just said, "Look, you are going to need us, you need us. We may not have a lot but we can turn out people at election." We said Howard was going to run, you don't run then the business people get back in, because we control the elections, we control a sizable number of votes. So we played the trump card. And they said no- - I forgot a lot of the persons names, they no longer live here, but they were shakers and movers. I just said, "come on group you go your way and we'll go ours, but you are going to need these black votes and we can guarantee all of them." Gordon Cleveland said, "Well I really don't want to run anyway. If Howard wants to run for mayor let him run." That's how Howard got the chance to run.