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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Ruth Dial Woods, June 12, 1992. Interview L-0078. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Seeking and gaining appointment to the UNC Board of Governors

Woods describes her decision to seek appointment to the University of North Carolina Board of Governors in 1985. Describing herself as a Democrat who embraced "situational politics," Woods saw herself as especially well-suited to work on the Board to promote issues of equality for students and faculty. Particularly interesting is Woods's description of how various members of the General Assembly worked to ensure her appointment, despite the fact that some of them disagreed with some of her other activist activities.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Ruth Dial Woods, June 12, 1992. Interview L-0078. 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

ANNE MITCHELL COE:
I was actually thinking about changing gears a little bit and asking you to talk a little bit more about how you got onto the Board of Governors here? You said you decided that's what you wanted to do. What was sort of the process?
RUTH DIAL WOODS:
Did I say that's what I decided to do?
ANNE MITCHELL COE:
I thought you did.
LAURA MOORE:
You said you sought the appointment.
ANNE MITCHELL COE:
Or would you like to correct the way I'm remembering that?
RUTH DIAL WOODS:
Do I really want to talk about that?
LAURA MOORE:
Well you certainly don't need to if you don't want.
RUTH DIAL WOODS:
There was a meeting at my house one Sunday afternoon. Not a meeting, but I had some friends in. My husband's a staunch blood thoroughbred Democrat. I'm an opportunist. I'm a registered Democrat, but I'm an opportunist. Situational politics is the name of my game. They were talking about different things and what were the Indians going to get out of the Martin administration, a Republican and my Democratic husband. And I was in the kitchen doing something and I just walked in and I said, "Well, I'll tell you what I want." He said, "What do you want?" I said, "I want an appointment to the Board of Governors." I hadn't really thought about it. I hadn't really thought about it, but when folks start talking about what they can do I'm ready to challenge them and say "Let's see what you can do." And this guy says, "Well, you know, we can do that." I says, "Are you serious? What do we have to do?" He says, "Well, first of all, you've got to ask your husband if he'll bow out." And I looked and I said, "What?" Come to find out, my husband had mentioned to a couple of legislators that he might be interested.
LAURA MOORE:
I didn't know that.
RUTH DIAL WOODS:
And this guy says, "Well now you know I can pull it with you but, now, your husband over there is too ingrained in the Democratic politics for me to be able to help any. So is that really what you want?" I said "Yeah, that's what I want." So the next thing I know, "When are you going to get out and get up here? Time's running out and you've got to get up here and walk the halls." and I said, "What do you mean 'walk the halls'?" I thought all we had to do was throw a resume up there and they look at it. So I had to get out and come to Raleigh on a Monday and Sidney Lockes walked around introducing me to some people and at the end of the day he says, "Can you be up here tomorrow?" I said "Ruth, you need to be up here." So I come up tomorrow, which was Tuesday. I drove back and forth to Raleigh every day for four days and on Thursday is when you went in and you were introduced by your representative or whoever was nominating you and I looked and I saw all these key women that I had been in organizations with and I said, "Sidney, I'm out of my place. No way will I be able to get a nomination." He says, "Just sit tight." And I have friends there who were seeking the nomination. You know politics gets dirty. So I got up and did my spell and I came out and I says, "I'm not going to make it. I'm not going to make it." And I had to go back the next day, when they were going to take the vote, and I remember Representative Crawford. They left the floor to go back and count the votes and I was sitting up in whatever you call it.
ANNE MITCHELL COE:
The gallery?
RUTH DIAL WOODS:
The gallery. And I remember Jim Crawford walking out to count and he just looked up at me like that way and I have, believe it or not, a little scribbled note on a little torn sheet of paper that Coy Privette wrote to Pete Hasty and said, "Dear Pete, The boys on the back row and I are trying to get support for your nominee." But I looked at Sidney the day I went in to speak to Coy Privette and I said, "Sidney, you aren't going to make me go in and shake hands with Coy Privette." He says, "Oh yes. Put on a big smile." I thought, "How false can you get? Here is a man that would kill you if he knew that you supported ERA." But I just walked in there and I felt like my hand must have reached out a mile with the biggest smile on my face I'm sure I've ever had. But you know, Coy Privette and I get up together. Now Coy is "Ruth, how are doing?" "Coy, how are you doing?" You know, the games people have to play.
ANNE MITCHELL COE:
So despite all of your work for ERA and everything they still wanted you.
RUTH DIAL WOODS:
I got the solid backing together with Betsy Cochran's help because she was the minority whip in the House at that time. I got the solid Republican vote and I got the Black Caucus vote. Then my husband drummed up some Democratic votes for me, other votes. It came out, so here I am. I don't know what I'm doing here. I don't know what I'm accomplishing here. I don't know. My term will be up July 1 of next year and I have not made up my mind whether I am going to seek reappointment or not. It may be time to go on to something else. My long range goal is to retire, write my book, and do some teaching at the university level if I live long enough.