Frank Porter Graham and friends take their stand

On this day in 1938: University of North Carolina president Frank Porter Graham addresses the opening session of the Southern Conference for Human Welfare in Birmingham, Ala.:

“The black man is the primary test of American democracy and Christianity. [We take our] stand here tonight for the simple thing of human freedom. Repression is the way of frightened power; freedom is the enlightened way. We take our stand for the Sermon on the Mount, the American Bill of Rights and American democracy.”

The unprecedented convention, foreshadowing the civil rights movement, attracts such figures as Hugo Black, Eleanor Roosevelt and C. Vann Woodward — and Swedish social economist Gunnar Myrdal, who is just undertaking “An American Dilemma,” his landmark work on race relations.


Classroom to cloakroom, Chapel Hill to Capitol Hill

How many professors have represented North Carolina in the House or Senate?

This somewhat imprecise list compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education says 11, each of whom taught at a different college — including of course UNC Chapel Hill.


Harbinger of South’s reaction on race? Not exactly

“As North Carolina Democrats go to the polls this Saturday to pick a candidate for United States Senate, the politicians here will be looking for the first clue to the political impact on the South of the Supreme Court’s ruling against public school segregation.”
— From “North Carolina Poll Will Be First Hint of South’s Reaction” in the Wall Street Journal (May 27, 1954)
That “first clue” to response to Brown vs. Board of Education turned out to be misleadingly positive: In the Democratic primary, incumbent Sen. Alton Lennon, a hardline segregationist, narrowly lost to moderate former Gov. Kerr Scott. 
In Triumph of Good Will: How Terry Sanford Beat a Champion of Segregation” (2000), John Drescher casts the race as both a rematch of Frank Porter Graham vs. Willis Smith in 1950 and a precursor to Sanford vs. I. Beverly Lake in 1960.

Father, son deeply divided over labor reforms

Why I read footnotes:

“Interestingly, the first 18 years of the journal included dozens of often lurid accounts of suicides among textile mill workers, in most cases young women. Then, in 1929, such reports suddenly ceased. Perhaps Clark realized [such] stories provided ammunition to critics [of] living and working conditions in mill villages.”

— From “Defending White Supremacy: David Clark and the Southern Textile Bulletin, 1911-1955” by Bart Dredge (North Carolina Historical Review, January 2012)

Dredge, a sociology professor at Austin College, gives overdue attention to the Charlotte trade-journalist’s pugnacious defense of the socioeconomic status quo. 

Clark’s father was none other than Walter Clark, chief justice of the N.C. Supreme Court and leading advocate of such workplace reforms as child labor laws — all opposed by David. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall at the Clarks’ Thanksgiving dinners….

I asked Dr. Dredge about their relationship:

“If I played a psychoanalyst on television, I would conjure up some twisted psychological reason for the nut falling so far from the liberal tree….

“It really is odd. Not only because the son was so far removed from his father on a host of issues, but also because he fought over those issues with such passion…. There had to be something there.”

Ranking high on Clark’s enemies list was UNC, a hatred Dredge links to Frank Porter Graham’s call for an Industrial Bill of Rights in the aftermath of the Gastonia strike of 1929: “Clark, it seems, nearly exploded when that came out.”



A legislator’s lagniappe for life insurance

In addition to being a Chapel Hill insurance agent, John Umstead was the brother of Gov. William Umstead, the UNC roommate of Frank Porter Graham and, as a legislator, the impassioned reformer of the state’s mental health hospitals.

He seems to have given this paperweight-mirror to policyholders such as Mrs. W. S. Kutz. Insurance mirrors were a popular giveaway for several decades, but the signature is an uncommon device — likely  printed on the stock design before it was covered in celluloid.

Wolfpack Club shells out for ‘scholarships’

“Because ‘the peculiar advantages of football [to a college] arise only from winning football,’ University of Chicago President Robert Maynard Hutchins concluded that he must either: 1) hire a winning team (against Big Ten rules), or 2) abolish football. He abolished football.

“Last week North Carolina Staters decided to try a different system. D. W. (“Dutch”) Seifert and 17 other alumni organized a Wolfpack Club. Its purpose: to hire athletes. Money for athletic ‘scholarships’ will be raised among 20,000 alumni. Wolfpack Leader Seifert gave tongue:

” ‘Subsidizing of athletes has been going on for years in every school of our acquaintance…. The time has come for athletic scholarships to be placed on a businesslike basis, open and aboveboard…. We might as well face the facts. . . . There isn’t a finer agricultural-engineering-textile school anywhere. Yet popular opinion is that the finest schools are those producing the best athletic teams.’

“Most embarrassed was Dr. Frank Porter Graham, who, as president of the University of North Carolina, is also titular head of its subsidiary, North Carolina State. A few years ago Dr. Graham got the Southern Conference to bar subsidization of athletes. But the Conference two years ago repealed the provision in the Graham Plan barring subsidies by alumni, and last week it appeared that there was nothing Dr. Graham could do to keep the Wolfpack away from his door.”

— From Time magazine, Feb. 5, 1940