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Title: Oral History Interview with Edith Warren, August 28, 2002. Interview K-0601. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Warren, Edith, interviewee
Interview conducted by Hartman, Leda
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 104 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© 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:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-10-02, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Edith Warren, August 28, 2002. Interview K-0601. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0601)
Author: Leda Hartman
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Edith Warren, August 28, 2002. Interview K-0601. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0601)
Author: Edith Warren
Description: 122 Mb
Description: 27 p.
Note: Interview conducted on August 28, 2002, by Leda Hartman; recorded in Raleigh, North Carolina
Note: Transcribed by Sarah Bryan.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series K. Southern Communities, 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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The text has been entered using double-keying and verified against the original.
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
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Interview with Edith Warren, August 28, 2002.
Interview K-0601. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Warren, Edith, interviewee


Interview Participants

    EDITH WARREN, interviewee
    LEDA HARTMAN, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
LEDA HARTMAN:
Okay, if we could just start by your telling me who you are, what area you represent, and how many terms you've held this office, that would be great.
EDITH WARREN:
Edith Warren, and I represent the North Carolina Eighth House District. That includes the western side of Pitt County, most of Greene County, and, under the new district lines, it will be all of Greene County. Currently I also represent part of Edgecombe County. That includes principally East Tarboro. In the new district lines, I will not have any Edgecombe County.
LEDA HARTMAN:
But right now?
EDITH WARREN:
But right now I do, and I have represented that area for two terms. Also, I have part of Martin County, in the western part. With the new district lines I will have more of Martin County.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So for the last four years, you have represented the area that could arguably be called the area hardest-hit by Floyd.
EDITH WARREN:
That's very true. Very true. And that included not only the area of Edgecombe County that was so hard-hit, but the area of Pitt County that was hit so very hard, and also Greene County. In Greene County, you could have traveled anywhere you wanted to go within the county, pretty much, by boat.
LEDA HARTMAN:
For a few days after the flood?
EDITH WARREN:
Yes.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Okay. Let's start at the very beginning. May I ask you when and where you were born?

Page 2
EDITH WARREN:
I was born in Edgecombe County, a little community, Mayos Crossroads. And it's in the southern tip of Edgecombe County, very close to Bethel, so Bethel was like my home community.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And not to be nosy, but if I might ask when, please, just to get a sense of your lifespan.
EDITH WARREN:
I was born on a cold January day, January the 29th, 1937.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Excellent, thank you. Tell me a little bit about your own personal history. I'm especially interested in the fact that you were the first female principal in your area, and the first female county commissioner. Can you tell me a little bit about your professional history?
EDITH WARREN:
Yes, and we will talk a little bit about going back a little further to my roots. Um, I was born in Edgecombe County, grew up on a tobacco farm, worked in the tobacco. On these hot days that we've had this summer that were record-breaking temperatures, compared with the summer of 1952 that I remember very, very well because I was looping tobacco as hard as I could go. That means working in the green tobacco and getting it on the stick, ready to go into the barn. I went to a little elementary school very close to my home. A little school that my daddy gave the land for, and another piece of land for a church next door to the school. I went to high school in Bethel, and I was the salutatorian of my graduating class.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How many in your graduating class?
EDITH WARREN:
In 1954 there were twenty-eight in our class. It was a very small school, but a school in which there was a lot of encouragement. Students worked hard. There was a lot of nurturing. Anyone who wanted to play basketball could play

Page 3
basketball, anyone who wanted to be in whatever kind of activities could, because we were such a small school. There are some advantages to that, because it does allow you to take all kinds of roles, and it also reiterates that it takes a village to raise a child. And that is important, whether it was growing up in those days, or whether it's growing up today.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So you had, I'm assuming, a strong sense of community, extended family, that sort of an environment?
EDITH WARREN:
Very much so. And it was a time that there were no activity busses, so when it was time to go to basketball games, if we were playing out of town, we carpooled, and most often it was not a student who was driving the car, it was the parents who were driving the cars and taking others along with them, so it was indeed a family outing along with other neighbor children that would also be going along on the trip.
LEDA HARTMAN:
It sounds like a good way to grow up.
EDITH WARREN:
And it was. The first kinds of work-ethics from the farm work, to working part-time when I was a junior in high school, beginning to work part-time away from the farm – I worked in retail at Belk's in Tarboro. And when I graduated from high school, they were not sure how I was going to go to college, just that I would.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Why did that come into your mind at that young age, that "Yes, I'm going to go to college? Did a lot of people go to college then?"
EDITH WARREN:
Well, this was instilled from my family, that felt that this was very important. I worked hard in high school and had good grades, but we did not have any extra money, and like I say, I did not know how we were going to accomplish that,

Page 4
just that we would. I did get a small scholarship to go to East Carolina. That was an alumni scholarship that was seventy-five dollars a year.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Was it a common thing for tobacco farm girls like you to be going to college in that day?
EDITH WARREN:
There were not very many. Most of my classmates went directly from high school to work.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Or to marriage?
EDITH WARREN:
Or to marriage. I also married young. Billy—my husband's name is Billy. We were married when we were in college, and he was already working part-time. And then, soon after we got married, then I began to work full-time. Then we started to raise a family, and he had a pretty good job. He was a tobacconist and was a tobacco buyer. Early on, though, after our second child was born, we realized in a conversation that we had had over and over, that we needed to go on and at least get my degree finished up. And with two small children, and with the very wonderful support of his mother taking care of the little children while I was in class, I got my degree finished up. And in the meantime, Billy continued to go to college during the off-season. And we paid college tuition on his salary, and how we managed to do all that – we look back and we can't figure it out, except that those goals were there, and we worked diligently together to make that happen.
LEDA HARTMAN:
You sound like a great team.
EDITH WARREN:
So we have been a team for a long, long time.
LEDA HARTMAN:
You must becoming up on a [gold] silver wedding anniversary [laughter]. Is that right?

Page 5
EDITH WARREN:
Well, we have been married forty-seven years.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Oh, pretty soon then.
EDITH WARREN:
Which is pretty incredible in today's world. I taught first grade for a number of years and it was such great fun to see the lights come on in children's eyes, and they get the magic of learning to read. I taught in Williamston for a number of years, teaching first grade, and Gene Rogers was my superintendent there, and now Gene and I are working together in the general assembly. Representative Eugene Rogers from Martin County. So that's really neat to do that.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Full circle.
EDITH WARREN:
Full circle.
We moved to Farmville where Billy's work was. He was working with A. C. Monk and Company, and when it came time to move to Farmville, I taught first grade there. Then I got my master's degree, and became an elementary school principal, of Sam Bundy School in Farmville, and I was the first woman who was a full-time principal with Pitt County Schools.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What year was that?
EDITH WARREN:
This was in 1974.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And you were the first woman, in 1974?
EDITH WARREN:
In Pitt County Schools.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Did you encounter any resistance to the idea of a female principal, or did you just ride along on your accomplishments?
EDITH WARREN:
I was just one of the fellows. It was a very good working relationship with the other principals. They were very, very supportive. They joked with me in the beginning and said, "Well, you'll have to carry your own books and open your

Page 6
own doors." But they were so very, very supportive of me, and there was a very special camaraderie between all the other principals and me. And it's still very special.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Now, how did you get interested in politics, having spent your career in education?
EDITH WARREN:
Well, I have always been a participant in the process. As an educator, as a classroom teacher, I was involved in legislative issues, was president of the District Classroom Association, I did workshops, I did presentations to other classroom teachers, so was involved in the process of how policy is made. Also had been very involved in the active voting process. It was important in my family. My grandfather was one of the precinct officers, and in those days, election day was referred to as "going to the polls," and he was, as a precinct officer, responsible on election day, with a system, with a voting process. My father, mother, were always very involved in the interest of what was happening. We talked about it and read newspapers. In those days we always had a weekly newspaper. We had magazines that a variety of magazines from Daddy's interest in sports, to farming, mother's interest in the Ladies' Home Journal, Good-Housekeeping-types of magazines, to Life Magazines. And I am sure, as I look back, that it was not easy to provide those things, because we were tenant farmers.
LEDA HARTMAN:
You were tenant farmers? You didn't own your land?
EDITH WARREN:
We did not own the land. My grandfather owned the farm. But as tenant farmers, or sharecropper farmers, those issues were important.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Now, you were tenant farmers with your grandfather being the owner?
EDITH WARREN:
That's right.

Page 7
EDITH WARREN:
I'm assuming that that was a little bit easier than if a total stranger had owned the land.
EDITH WARREN:
Well —
LEDA HARTMAN:
Not really?
EDITH WARREN:
Very likely a little bit different, but the amount of income was still —
LEDA HARTMAN:
Lower than it would have been if your family had owned the land?
EDITH WARREN:
That's right. That's right. We do, my family, the farm is still in family hands now, of course, but those were some very difficult years. But since so many families were in the same situation, we didn't realize that we didn't have much money, because we cared about each other and we had plenty to eat, and somehow or other parents saw that good things were there quality-wise, such as the importance of having newspapers in the home.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Yeah, your family does sound unusual, because your folks focused on being literate, even though they were working the fields very, very hard, not even owning their own land.
EDITH WARREN:
Absolutely.
LEDA HARTMAN:
They had different priorities.
EDITH WARREN:
Absolutely. And it was important that those goals be maintained.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So your family was unusual in that way, it sounds like?

Page 8
EDITH WARREN:
And it was a very good time also. And those ideals that were instilled, that carried through—the involvement process. I was already married when I reached the age of twenty-one, and when my daddy called me early in the morning to day happy birthday, his next question was, "Have you registered to vote?" And during that period you had to be twenty-one. But that was a way of saying to me again the importance of being involved. And throughout my career as an educator, from a classroom teacher, I was involved in those activities. I came to the general assembly and met with legislators as a principal. I served on legislative committees. I was involved in community affairs, and it just continued to carry forward.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So it was something you had really been involved in all of your adult life.
EDITH WARREN:
It just seemed a natural process. And then from that kind of background, after I retired the opportunity was there to do something else in the way of service—and that's what it's all about, is service—and I ran for the Pitt County Board of Commissioners and was the first woman elected to that board.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What year was that?
EDITH WARREN:
That was in 1996.
LEDA HARTMAN:
That sounds so surprising [Laughter] , that there had been no woman county commissioner before 1996!
EDITH WARREN:
And there were women county commissioners, you know, throughout the area, but this was the first time one had been elected in Pitt County.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Was that an issue in your election?
EDITH WARREN:
No.

Page 9
LEDA HARTMAN:
It just hadn't happened?
EDITH WARREN:
It just had not happened. There were plenty of qualified people, but it just had not happened.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Before I ask you about your involvement in the general assembly, let me go back and ask you one little thing about when you became principal. That was 1974. I'm thinking you must have been right on the cusp of integration at that time. Do you remember what the integration process was like?
EDITH WARREN:
Yes I do. I was teaching in Martin County when that process of total integration came. There were some, um, tense moments in that this was something new. But children are children, and teaching first-graders, you know, they were all first-graders, eager to learn. I remember one day there was a little black boy in my class, and he came in quite upset. And as we were talking to try to get him settled, feeling comfortable and just relaxing with whatever was going on with him so we could focus on the classroom, and he was crying, and he told me that he was afraid that there was something going to happen to him. I said, "Well, don't you know that Ms. Warren is going to help take care of you, that you are safe here at school?" And he looked at me with the biggest smile, and those teary eyes, and give me a big hug. He knew that he was okay, and that the fact that the color of my skin was different from his did not matter. He knew that he was taken care of. And to me that is the thing, and that is that you teach children where they are so that they can grow; and issues and concerns of people are issues and concerns of people and the community. From Martin County, when we moved to Pitt County, we went through the process with Pitt County also. And there again, you know, people who had the attitude

Page 10
that this is a change that we're going to make, and the transition went quite well, I thought. And children that you greet at the door, you greet to come into your classroom, or to come into the school, to learn, and together you make those things happen. And through the years I have had the opportunity to work with some wonderful, wonderful children, and wonderful parents and grandparents. So it has been exciting, some wonderful opportunities.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So what you were doing then on the local level, in your classroom, in your own terrain there, you sort of expanded through the years, it sounds like.
EDITH WARREN:
That's right. That's right.
LEDA HARTMAN:
To principal, to county commissioner. And what made you want to take the next step and come over here to Raleigh?
EDITH WARREN:
Well, after this seat became an open seat, several people talked to me about running for this seat in the general assembly.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So you were buttonholed.
EDITH WARREN:
And I certainly had the interest to do that, because of lifelong service. And so here I am. And it is an exciting place to be.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Now, when Floyd hit, you must not have been in the legislature for very long at that point. Is that right?
EDITH WARREN:
That's right. I was in my first term.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Okay.
Tell me how your part of eastern North Carolina, that you represent and that you spent the bulk of your life in, has changed from the point

Page 11
when you were a girl growing up to the time the flood hit. Can you give me that perspective?
EDITH WARREN:
Well, as a child growing up, I played, I worked on the farm, I did the part-time work on Main Street in Tarboro, I went to school at East Carolina, I traveled the roads, I traveled the paths – whether we were going to pick huckleberries or cut the broomstraw or take the tobacco to market, or if we were going down to the creek to fish a little bit. Throughout those years you would see the crops grow. It was incredible to see what happened with the ravaging flood waters that came over this beautiful landscape of farms, and creeks and little streams that became monster tidal waves.
LEDA HARTMAN:
But before the flood actually hit, the area must have changed quite a bit since when you were a girl growing up, in terms of development opportunity, I don't know—
EDITH WARREN:
Yes, yes it had. The towns had grown larger. Highways were paved. In some cases we even have four lanes of highways. As a child, we all lived on dirt roads. There were two paved highways within my close community, and those were main highways, pretty much paved roads. Many of the homes where farmers lived in the community are no more, because farming has changed so much into more mechanized processes, and not requiring quite as many people to have hands on throughout the year. Just during certain seasons of the year.
LEDA HARTMAN:
No more fifteen-year-old girls like you looping tobacco.
EDITH WARREN:
That's right. That's right. That was a family activity. Growth from the communities, with your additional houses, Greenville having just

Page 12
mushroomed considerably from the growth of the university and the med school, and the university health systems, just has brought a lot of growth there. More diversity in work opportunities. Now with our manufacturing we have pockets of very high unemployment in our region. But the landscape had looked quite different.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And now you brought some pictures to show what Floyd did to your area.
EDITH WARREN:
Yes. Just to take a look at some of those just brings back those days of activities.
LEDA HARTMAN:
It was like nothing you had seen in your lifetime?
EDITH WARREN:
Never, never in my lifetime. Here we are on Main Street in Tarboro, talking with DOT [Department of Transportation] Secretary at that time, David McCoy, and Representative [Joe] Tolson and I. Here we are just at the edge of where the flood came to on Main Street in Tarboro. The gentleman that I am greeting right here was a good friend whose family members were rescued from the attic of their home.
LEDA HARTMAN:
This black gentleman that your giving the hug to?
EDITH WARREN:
That's right. That's right. And as we shift on through here—
LEDA HARTMAN:
How far—
EDITH WARREN:
We are a good half-mile from the bridge between Tarboro and Princeville.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Over the Tar River.
EDITH WARREN:
Yes.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And how long after the flood were these pictures taken?

Page 13
EDITH WARREN:
This was on Monday. I think.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So this would be about four days after, maybe five days.
EDITH WARREN:
Yes. Yes. And here we are at the Princeville city limit. This was on Sunday afternoon, and a boat had just come in and brought a family from Mildred. That's about four miles away.
LEDA HARTMAN:
That's a small town?
EDITH WARREN:
Yes, a little small community.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Now, you live in Farmville.
EDITH WARREN:
Yes.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Did your own neighborhood get hit?
EDITH WARREN:
My neighborhood was very fortunate. We had water, more water than we have ever had in our neighborhood – it was up to, in the street, up to the bumpers on the big pickup trucks, so when I looked out my window I did not see lots of trees down, but I saw all this water, and I knew it just did not feel right. So I got in touch with the director of the public works for Farmville, and asked him how things were in Farmville. And he said, "Miss Edith, you can't get out of your house, can you?" I said, "No, I can't." And this gentleman, David Shackleford, he said, "I will come and get you." He said, "Farmville is in a mess." So he came and got me, and we went a few blocks away in Farmville, and that side was being flooded. They were in the process of evacuating people very quickly. The waters were rising. People were being rescued by boat, and I knew that if this was happening in Farmville, that was very, very dry and never, never had we seen anything close to this kind of water in Farmville, then I knew that there was a lot of trouble in other areas.
LEDA HARTMAN:
That were lower?

Page 14
EDITH WARREN:
Absolutely. So as I began to make contacts around the region, it was just so frightening to hear what was happening. And fortunately, I had telephone service, so that at least I could make some contacts around and talk with people in the various areas. And I just felt so helpless that this was going on, and I could not get out and do anything. As I would talk to emergency management people around in the different areas, they would say – and so many of them call me Miss Edith – "Miss Edith, you cannot get here. You're just going to have to make up your mind that you have got to stay where you are. You cannot get out." I just could not picture in my mind what was going on.
LEDA HARTMAN:
That must have been frustrating to you.
EDITH WARREN:
It was very frustrating, because I thought, "I need to be doing something. I need to be doing something."
LEDA HARTMAN:
Why did you feel that way?
EDITH WARREN:
Because that's what I'm accustomed to doing. If somebody has a need – my mother always made a pot of soup, or she baked a cake, or she made a pie, or did something to help somebody in need – so throughout my life I thought if somebody needs some help, you make a pot of soup, or you do something to help them. And it was very, very frustrating. At that point I had to accept the fact that all I could do was be on the telephone, because I could not get outside my door at that point. But as soon as I had a ways and means of starting to cook, which came, fortunately for me, not many hours after the event occurred – we did have power restored in my neighborhood—
LEDA HARTMAN:
And your house didn't get flooded?

Page 15
EDITH WARREN:
And my house did not get flooded.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So you were in better shape than you could have been?
EDITH WARREN:
So I was in much better shape than I could have been. So yes, I could make the pot of soup, or I could make the sandwiches, and leave them at the police station, or do those kinds of things.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Did you do that?
EDITH WARREN:
And I did those things until the bread supplies gave out, because in Farmville, very quickly the supplies gave out, and we were one of the few communities that, by roundabout ways, people could get to. And of course very quickly the supplies were exhausted. And I did have someone who was coming from the Raleigh area on Saturday, one of my neighbors who was former representative Linwood Mercer, was coming in from Raleigh on Saturday afternoon, and I asked him to bring me a supply of bread and sandwich fixings and those kinds of things, so that on Sunday afternoon, when waters had receded to a small degree, and people had learned some routes of how to get about a little bit, I could take some food when I went to Greene County and to the emergency center also in Tarboro. Our first trip out, we went a roundabout way from Farmville to Greene Central High School at Snow Hill. And the high school is outside town, so from the high school we took a boat, that was a wildlife resources boat, into Snow Hill, and from there a pickup truck took me into the emergency center. I just could not believe what I was seeing.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What was it?

Page 16
EDITH WARREN:
It was just water everywhere. Going on the trip into Snow Hill, we followed the road. We were traveling by boat on the road above cars that were stranded on the road. And it's still so hard to believe that that event happened.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What a shock.
EDITH WARREN:
It was a shock.
LEDA HARTMAN:
A trauma?
EDITH WARREN:
A trauma. And we all just cried and cried and cried, you know? It was just an incredible—see, we still do it.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What makes you cry three years out?
EDITH WARREN:
The memories are still so vivid, and people suffered so. And still are.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And still are?
EDITH WARREN:
Even though we've made a lot of progress, we still have people hurting, and those memories of that.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So when you see somebody suffering now, does it bring you back to when it first happened?
EDITH WARREN:
Puts you right back, even though you laugh along the way with stories, and you smile because you seen wonderful things that are happening. We did not have adequate housing when this flood hit in rural Eastern North Carolina. We did not have a stock of housing for people to move into. We had people who lived in substandard homes. Today, you can ride through communities and you see nice homes on the landscape. You see new buildings going up. It is just incredible to ride through the streets of Princeville.

Page 17
LEDA HARTMAN:
Yes, it is! I was just there a month ago, and I was flabbergasted.
EDITH WARREN:
I can ride through Princeville and I can cry again, because I am so excited to see what has happened there. The recent celebration that Congresswoman Eva Clayton put together was such a wonderful event, because folks had the opportunity to see the results of their hard work, and the efforts that were put in by the federal government, state government, local government, and the faith communities, individuals and friends who cared from all across the country. It has just been an experience that proves over again that in this country, when we work together, good things happen.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Would you say that Princeville is one of the best examples of flood recovery that you have seen?
EDITH WARREN:
Yes, I would say that, because they were just completely wiped off the map.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Right, literally.
EDITH WARREN:
Literally wiped off the map. And even though in years past there had been some flooding in that community, nothing that would even begin to compare with this – yards would be flooded on rare occasions, but –
LEDA HARTMAN:
Not a home underwater.
EDITH WARREN:
They were absolutely wiped away.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So we see some of the successes in Princeville – better housing —. What are some of the other successes that you see in other parts of the area that you represent? What went right?

Page 18
EDITH WARREN:
I think some of the major things that have gone right have been housing. Housing. Because houses that have been repaired, houses that have been replaced, are stronger, better, more comfortable conditions than they were before, whether it was a new home or whether it had been renovated. There are still some folks out there who, for various reasons, have fallen between the cracks, and the process is not completed for them. Also, with the additional funding opportunities, there has been some good infrastructure put in place with water and sewer and streets, infrastructure of good housing. So you know when we look back, if we can get past the destruction part, and look to the hope of tomorrow, and see what those good results have been. And it is just wonderful when you ride down the street and you see folks sitting on the porches, and visiting and laughing, and enjoying the sunshine of the day, so to speak, when you think three years ago, how devastated, how hurt, communities were.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Many communities. Not just Princeville, not just Grifton.
EDITH WARREN:
[House] Speaker Jim Black met me in Princeville during this process, and we went to ride. One of the church deputies took us through. There was not a sound. There were no birds to see. There were no children playing in the yards. I mean, just not a sound. The only living creature that we saw on the tour that day was a pig – and you've probably heard the story about the pig that was running around and they couldn't catch him. That was the absolute only sign of life.
LEDA HARTMAN:
I haven't heard the story about the pig. There was a pig running loose in Princeville?
EDITH WARREN:
There was a pig running loose. Don't know where he came from, but he was seen by a number of people, and reporters and so forth, but that was the

Page 19
only living thing. And not to hear a sound of a bird, nor see a bird flying, just reiterates the devastation. And that was just typical of what was going on throughout eastern North Carolina.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How many days after the flood was this?
EDITH WARREN:
Oh, this was probably more than ten days after that, because we had flown over the region by helicopter, Speaker Black and other leadership people with the general assembly had flown over the area.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Were you there too, flying over?
EDITH WARREN:
Yes.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And naturally, since you were a representative of this area.
EDITH WARREN:
But to see it from the air, and then to be on the ground.
LEDA HARTMAN:
In the water on the ground, so to speak.
EDITH WARREN:
Still indescribable.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Well you're doing a very, very good job of describing. I don't have too much more. I wanted to ask you about where some of the improvements still need to be made, and of course about the possibility of state rescission of the recovery money.
EDITH WARREN:
Well, we still have some housing needs that are there. Some of these are on the drawing board, ready to go. The governor has been very supportive. Governor Easley has been very supportive in the commitment to continue to see this recovery through the process. So has the general assembly leadership. With that kind of commitment, I really believe very strongly that we will continue to move forward with the process. And the governor has made that commitment, and I understand that there

Page 20
have been projects okayed to move forward there were some question about earlier because of the funding.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Now, I know there was a housing project in Greene County that was sort of on hold until the legislature decides what to do. Can you tell me what happened with that?
EDITH WARREN:
It appears that that will be able to move forward. There is also one in Edgecombe County, and the indications are that they should move forward.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And these are housing recovery projects that were made partly with state recovery money after Floyd?
EDITH WARREN:
And with some of the federal monies and so forth, putting the different pieces together.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Okay. Now, who has fallen between the cracks, though?
EDITH WARREN:
Well, there have been some individuals that, because they were living with other family members, that their specific needs have not been totally completed. They're in the process, but not totally completed. And some of these, if we had had enough money in our hands at the time of the event, could not have logistically have taken place, because of the process of getting all of the deed work done, getting contractors in place, getting the paperwork done.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

Page 21
EDITH WARREN:
—transition from one situation to another, so it is a time process. It couldn't have been cured in a few months' time, regardless of whether or not you had the money in your hand to do it.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So the question wasn't just money, it was also, "Can you wade through the bureaucratic process to get your paperwork in order to go ahead."
EDITH WARREN:
And then, "Can you get contractors to complete the work?" And I cannot say thank you enough times to all of the people who were involved, to the faith community. I have a brother-in-law who lives near Atlanta. His church came a number of times with several workers, and would stay for several days, and work on various projects. And this was happening from all over the country. We talk about going and doing mission work during times of need in other parts of the country, and this was our time of need, and people all across this country responded to that need.
LEDA HARTMAN:
I'm wondering if there were some people who were just above the eligibility requirements to get state or federal aid, who may have gotten hurt in the flood, but were not able to get as much recovery as people who perhaps were of lower socioeconomic –
EDITH WARREN:
And there were, of course, a number of those people, which means that, in some cases, folks have two mortgages now, because they had a mortgage on their home originally. They qualified for a small business loan, which is a low-interest loan that is a federal program. But now they have that mortgage, so they have two mortgages, and for many families that is very, very difficult.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Just because their house doesn't exist anymore doesn't mean you can quit paying on it.

Page 22
EDITH WARREN:
That's right. That's right. So that has been very difficult.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Is there any help for those types of people, or do they just have to soldier on?
EDITH WARREN:
Well, they have pretty much soldiered on. They did receive some repair and renovation money that everyone received, and there were some other private or faith community kinds of grants, and those small kinds of assistances, that did help along the way. But it has been a very difficult and heart-wrenching process along the way. It really has. And we're not home yet. Legislative delegation members from throughout the affected area are very much committed to working diligently, to seeing this through all the way. And then, as it appeared that we were losing access to some of the available monies a few weeks ago—
LEDA HARTMAN:
This is state recovery money for Floyd, and it seemed like some of that would be rescinded, right?
EDITH WARREN:
That's right, some of that was rescinded and halted, and we had projects and contracts in various stages of completion. And it caused some real trauma on top of the trauma of the loss from the beginning.
LEDA HARTMAN:
On the part of local officials trying to coordinate the recovery?
EDITH WARREN:
Trying to get it coordinated, and if these monies are rescinded, that meant those contracts stopped where they were. We had people expecting to get paid to get work done, people expecting to close out on the buyout of their home and purchase of their new one, or to pay a contractor, and getting projects underway like

Page 23
the one in Greene County that was ready to roll out. And how do you pay those bills and there is no money, and you have a binding contract?
LEDA HARTMAN:
And you have been counting on that money.
EDITH WARREN:
And we have been counting on that money. So we went into action very quickly and got a meeting put together of interested parties from the local government, areas throughout the region. A goodly number of them got here for a meeting with the general assembly and from the recovery office, and from the governor's office.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And you were instrumental in organizing that meeting, weren't you?
EDITH WARREN:
Yes. It became evident very, very quickly that we had to have a group together. We were running out of time, and so we got on the phone and just very, very quickly, almost like from this morning to this afternoon, getting that together. And people responded, and the message was very clear, that we needed to recapture this money because the needs were out there, we had binding contracts and so forth. And together we worked through that, and hopefully we are on track again.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Now this is something that you felt that the local officials on the ground had to sort of give a reality-check about to state officials. Is that right?
EDITH WARREN:
Absolutely. Absolutely. And it was a reality-check.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What were some of the assumptions that the state officials were going on that the locals had to say, "Wait a minute, this isn't what we're dealing with."

Page 24
EDITH WARREN:
Well, at the state level it was the rescinding of the money. And then on the local level, the reality was we have binding contracts here.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And the needs aren't finished.
EDITH WARREN:
And the needs aren't finished.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And at the state level there's concern for the budget crisis.
EDITH WARREN:
The budget, trying to balance the budget and close it out for the fiscal year.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Thank you so much for your time and thoughtfulness. You're a wonderful interview. So it was important, you thought, for the people who were dealing with this—
EDITH WARREN:
Everybody had to be in the room together, around the table, to solve this problem.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Now, how much of the flood recovery money originally was going to get rescinded, and how much were you able to recover?
EDITH WARREN:
I am not sure what those figures were. I can get that information for you. But we were getting down to the point that the numbers were fairly small as compared with the original numbers. But when we're getting the point that we're talking about a hundred million dollars, at this point that was considerable money. If the money had been rescinded, that would have left like fifteen million or so in the Hurricane Floyd Recovery pot, which would not have been enough to do business. It would have, in effect, closed it down. We could not let that happen, because we were not finished, and it was important that the people who had been devastated with this flood not to be abandoned. This has to be finished.

Page 25
We can be certain that in today's world there is going to be another natural disaster, whether it's tornadoes, whether it's going to be ice storms, whether it's going to be the West, flooding in the East, hurricane, ravaging forest fires—
LEDA HARTMAN:
Drought, like we've had this summer.
EDITH WARREN:
Drought. You know, we just know that at some point in time there is going to be another need, and we just cannot leave our citizens abandoned.
LEDA HARTMAN:
That's wonderful. I have one last question, and then we're through. From what I remember reading about the possibility of rescinding this money, it seems like some state officials had the view that some of the local communities were dragging their feet, they hadn't spent all their recovery money yet, so do they really need it? And I'm wondering about the obstacles and the challenges that local communities that are really rural, that don't have a lot of resources, may face in trying to navigate all the bureaucracy, get all the paperwork together, they may not have a lot of manpower, sophistication. What do you see?
EDITH WARREN:
That is a good summation, because the larger counties would have staff, they would have the personnel, more know-how because of the experiences in dealing with a larger county. Our very small rural counties, like the Greene Counties, would not have access to those resources. They would not have access to the processes, staff, to implement these kinds of programs, and the time and the manpower. So for those areas, it would take longer to get the pieces put together. And when you have had pretty much your whole county underwater, you are dealing with large numbers of pieces that have to be put together. Some locales – Farmville, the town of Farmville, got its project completed and presented for consideration first. Well, that could easily be done

Page 26
because we were talking about one neighborhood. We were talking about smaller numbers. So that made a considerable difference, you know, if you're dealing with, say, sixteen houses in a buyout package, where others are dealing with hundreds of them. So the logistics of the process has been certainly overwhelming. And we have learned a lot. Some things I'm sure will be done quite different next time, under any kind of disaster. And yet there were some things that were in place, like the immediate emergency response. I've observed the helicopter work in Greenville. The Forestry Service was in charge of that command center, and to see them put into work the logistical process of getting supplies out into the rural areas, and knowing that you can't get from here to there except by boat or by helicopter, and to see that command process move so very smoothly and so very rapidly, was wonderful, that we had that kind of expertise that could go on the ground immediately and make that kind of response. We have learned along the way some of our other processes would work smoother next time, because we have learned some logistics in the process, of handling the paperwork and how you would go about applications, and who would do that and do it well. So we would certainly have information to share from North Carolina with others who have a need.
And also in North Carolina, we have a very talented director of our state emergency system in Eric Tolbert. And now of course Eric is our national director, so that is an indication of the quality of his expertise.
LEDA HARTMAN:
We'll be interviewing him too. Just thought you might like to know.
EDITH WARREN:
Well wonderful. Do say hello to him!
LEDA HARTMAN:
I'm sure he will remember you.

Page 27
EDITH WARREN:
Yes, yes he will. Yes he will. So it has just been an incredible number of people who have worked so diligently and tirelessly to bring this area back to where it needs to be.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Not just back to where it needs to be, but forward beyond where it was.
EDITH WARREN:
That's right. Forward. It will be a stronger, better place. Again, the quality of the housing is much, much improved. We had housing needs before this event happened.
LEDA HARTMAN:
I think we're all set, unless there's anything I've neglected to ask you, or you wanted to elaborate on.
EDITH WARREN:
Well I think you have certainly covered the territory quite well, and it has really been an experience that we don't want to have to live through and experience again, but we learn from these experiences, so the next time an event happens – and there again, somewhere there will be some kind of natural disaster. Maybe another hundred years.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Let's hope. [Laughter]
EDITH WARREN:
And we would hope not, but chances are that a need will arise again.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Many, many thanks.
END OF INTERVIEW