Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Salter and Doris Cochran, April 12, 1997. Interview R-0014. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Anti-unionism among doctors on mill owners' payrolls

Many whites in the Weldon area were not just segregationist; they were also anti-union. The Cochrans remember doctors' opposition to unionization. They made good money treating mill workers and needed to maintain the status quo to maintain their income.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Salter and Doris Cochran, April 12, 1997. Interview R-0014. 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

SALTER COCHRAN:
The mills would treat people like dogs. My wife was instrumental in the unionsߞyou know that movie, Norma Rae? I was the only doctor that opposed the rest of the doctors in the area.
DORIS COCHRAN:
They were against the unions. We worked with some of the employees during the civil rights movement.
SALTER COCHRAN:
My wife was informing these people of their rights. She knew about unions and organizing.
DORIS COCHRAN:
Some of the black mill workers stayed at our house.
KAREN KRUISE THOMAS:
You say the doctors of the community took a stand against unions?
SALTER COCHRAN:
It was socialized medicine!
DORIS COCHRAN:
They didn't do it overtly, but they were not for unions.
SALTER COCHRAN:
I was on the outside looking in. The mills paid certain doctors to take care of their patients. That's a form of socialized medicine. I never had been part of the picture. The mills always encouraged people not to come to me, because I have always been client-involved. Because if you get institutionally involved, you know you aren't helping people. It's managed care.
DORIS COCHRAN:
In other words, a lot of the mill workers, when they were injured, would be sent right back on the job, rather than treated completely. My husband, of course, wasn't for that. He was for the patient, the worker. They opposed that posture. He always let it be known that he was not going to send a mill worker back before they had recovered from whatever injuries they had sustained. So that put him on the outside.
SALTER COCHRAN:
This was prior to 1970, or maybe early '70s.
KAREN KRUISE THOMAS:
The white doctors in this area were in favor of working for the mills?
DORIS COCHRAN:
Yes.
SALTER COCHRAN:
That was their only way of making a living. This area has been known as the poverty strip. When you have mills, you know you have lower incomes.
KAREN KRUISE THOMAS:
If I understand you right, it's kind of ironic that these doctors would support this what you might call "managed care" in the mills, but every white doctor I've talked to or read about in the North Carolina Medical Journal is very against any kind of socialized medicine.
DORIS COCHRAN:
It wasn't labeled as such. They didn't look at it that way. They saw it as an opportunity for them to have a steady income, and help the mills stay where they were.