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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, April 4, 1990. Interview L-0193. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Various factors in the consolidation of the state university system

Scott describes the changing role of Chapel Hill as a perceived basis of political power during the 1960s. According to Scott, during the 1960s, the North Carolina General Assembly became increasingly diversified in its makeup, touting power bases at several locales throughout the state. This shifting of political power was important in the consolidation process, as was the growing power of historically African American institutions of higher education. Finally, Scott emphasizes the centrality of William Friday's leadership to the success of consolidation.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, April 4, 1990. Interview L-0193. 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

WILLIAM LINK:
Well, I am wonderingߞyou may have already said this, but I am wondering whether the University of North Carolina in the '60s is beginning to loose its clout in the Legislature.
BOB SCOTT:
Oh yes. Yes, I think so. Again, over the years the University has a long and noble and honored tradition, and it was from the University that the professionals were graduated. The doctors, the lawyers, the teachers, to some extent those, that is those who went on with the graduate to get their doctorates. And these people are out all over the state and were the leaders in the communities and the state leaders, with the exception of those who went to Wake Forest, and some went to Duke, who were not involved in this fight, they were members of the legislative group for generations. Well, following World War II, that began to erode and, there were other people in leadership roles who did not attend the university who consequently didn't have those loyalties. An example: Bob Scott was elected Governor and he didn't go to the University at Chapel Hill. I want to make clear, I don't think that there was any plot in saying that we're out to get, we are going to break up this cartel. I am convinced that there was no concentrated effort in that with that in mind. It was just the feeling that, well, you know, the University is not all powerful and all be all. There are other things to consider. I believe that the University leadership was not aware that this condition, this environment existed. Otherwise, when we first talked, they would have mount a campaign to stop it right then. I don't think they really felt they would get very far with it. You see, I had precedent on my side. The University at Chapel Hill, the Chapel Hill campus, really, under, what was it, Governor Morrison, they made the first round of consolidation that brought N.C. State, Chapel Hill, and Greensboro under one board. He did it for the same reasons that I was doing it. If you will go back and read the history of that time, it was an economy move in an effort to get planning and coordination. And the rationale that the Governor used at that time to propose itߞand, of course, he was a University graduate and was able to convince those folks that was the thing to do ߞand so there was precedent for doing this. Then beyond that they had taken in two more campuses, Asheville and Wilmington and Charlotte [that's three more campuses!!] so it wasn't like it was the first time thatߞall I said was, "Let's just open up the umbrella a little wider and bring these others in." Well, that was my logic. The answer to that was, of course, "The ones that have been brought in are your major institutions. We're not bringing in the Pembrokes." Of course, politically again, I used it effectively. I was saying to the black leaders, "They don't want any of their black institutions in a Consolidated University." Those, you knowߞagain it was a purely, got to be a purely political fight, and I played the political game. Unfortunately, the education aspect of the whole issue was set aside, as it so often is. Education and all of that had nothing to do with it. It got down to books and the legislature. [Laughter] The merits of the issue were long since put aside. But, I want to make one other observation about once it happened. I am going back to Bill Friday. I said then and I have said repeatedly since, it is one thing to pass legislation that created this system, it a quite another thing to make it work. I doubt very much it would have worked, if it had been anybody else there other than Bill Friday. Once it was done, and as hard as he opposed it, he accepted the fact and again he was trained in the law and he accepted that, and he made it work. And I knew that it would be a number of years when the jury would still be out before the verdict was in whether it would work or not. But it was a very difficult thing. It was a highly emotional issue. Many scars with a lot of blood on the floor, and he had the job of taking this truly, this shotgun marriage, and everybody is suspicious of everybody else, to make it work. And, again, his demeanor and his method of operation and so forth, and his skills with dealing with people came into play at a good time. And I doubtߞI just don't know if anyone else could have done it or not. So I give Bill Friday credit for taking that tremendous challenge and making it effective. I will always admire and respect him for that.