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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with William C. Friday, December 3, 1990. Interview L-0147. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Admiration for Franklin Roosevelt and formation of own political identity

Friday describes his admiration for Franklin Delano Roosevelt. After seeing Roosevelt speak in Charlotte, North Carolina, during the 1930s when he was a teenager, Friday became a Democrat. Friday was particularly impressed with Roosevelt's efforts to assuage economic hardships for people and he explains the positive consequences of New Deal legislation for himself and for his family. As Friday explains, these political events were especially formative for his own thinking and would characterize his political activities later in life.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with William C. Friday, December 3, 1990. Interview L-0147. 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

And I guess the next time that experience happened, when I went my father to Charlotte, when Franklin Roosevelt came to Charlotte to make a historic speech over in the Charlotte Stadium. Then he had come to the city on his special train, and it was quite an occasion. With all the usual secret service, and everything else that goes with it. But to an impressionable fourteen, fifteen year old boy it was quite an excitement. And I was older than that then, and then went on off to war. And I remember so vividly being out playing a softball game, with our men on the base, in the afternoon, when word came that President Roosevelt had died. And an emotional layer fell upon the place in a way that it was so obvious that it struck everybody there. That the experience ofߞhe's gone. This great man who had led us through war, and depression, and had given everybody so much hope, and so much to go by, because if you grew up in the Depression, it's hard to repeat the starkness of that experience, or the harshness of it, or the way it damages people in the sense of not only material things, but will and hope, and any sight of the future. I saw people go hungry. I saw people dispossessed. I saw foreclosure. All of these things made a very vivid and deep impression upon me, which reflected itself in my later years. I was, at that time, working in a textile machine shop, in which my father was aߞstarted out as a bookkeeper. And I got a job there in the summertime, and I was making eighteen cents an hour. And we worked from seven a.m. to five p.m., five days a week. And we worked from seven a.m. to twelve noon on Saturday. And all of that time I spent, I worked for just eighteen cents an hour. That was the average wage earning. Well, Mr. Roosevelt came in. He created the National Recovery Administration. And my basic pay went to thirty-seven and a half cents an hour when that law was passed. And I've been a Democrat ever since. I got my first exposure there to how you use the power of government to create social change. Because that particular county, with over 100 cotton mills in it, had had a disastrous experience. Because the mills closed. The banks went broke. And the domino effect set in. When the larger collapsed, the smaller went with it. And no oneߞexcept one man, Mr. Dan Ryan, who ran his own bank in Hickory, had his own self-controlled operation, survived it. But you don't have things like that to happen to you when you're young and not have it burned into your mind, as to the devastation that's around you. It's your reaction to money from then on. It's your reaction to work. It's your reaction to suffering that's around you. And indeed suffering that you experienced for yourself.