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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
P: We are getting ready to do an oral history interview with
Emily White Ring. This is Thursday, November 3, 1977. It
is 10:30 a.m. and we are conducting this interview in the
Ford Library in the Florida State Museum, Gainesville,
Florida, and it will be part of the University of Florida
Oral History Program. Emily, are you ready?
R: I am ready.
P: Good. I said, Emily White Ring. Now, obviously White was
your maiden name?
R: No, Stevens was my maiden name. I was born Emily White
Stevens in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, May 21, 1908.
P: Has everybody always called you Emily White?
R: As a matter of fact, White is my family nickname. My children
call me White; my two husbands have called me White; my
brothers and sisters call me White. It is because White was
the family name of my grandmother.
I was named for two grandmothers--two Emily's.
The first was
Emily Edwards, my great-grandmother; the second was Emily
White, my grandmother. In the South, girls are usually
called by double names.
They were called by double names
when I was growing up. My mother insisted that I be called
Emily White. My little sister could not say it, so she
shortened it to White.
P: You say you were born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi?
R: In Hattiesburg, Mississippi. When I was six years old, my
father was appointed to the Supreme Court in Jackson. He
had been a county judge in Hattiesburg, and at that time the
judges had to run for office. But he was appointed to an
unexpired term by Governor [Earl LeRoy] Brewer [governor,
So we all moved to Jackson, and left all of my extended Stevens
family who lived in South Mississippi, and we moved to the
P: Emily, I know that you have had an interview with the Oral
History Program at the University of North Carolina at
Chapel Hill, and that you went into a lot of your family
background. But I'm going to briefly ask you about your
R: My great-grandfather, Chauncey Bigelow Stevens, came from New
England into South Mississippi at a time when Mississippi
was a frontier territory. He had lived in Lee,
Massachusetts and gone to the public schools of Lee,
Massachusetts. His father had been a fence viewer and a tax
collector and land surveyor.
P: Now what is a fence viewer?
R: It is an official of the town. The town officials had to go
around and inspect the fences. I suppose we know quite a
bit about him because we have had members of the family go
to New England and research the Stevenses.
P: When did he come to Mississippi?
R: Oh, when Mississippi was first opened up as a territory, at
the end of the eighteenth century. And you had to go by way
of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers at that time. He went
first to Ohio and married the aunt of Stonewall Jackson. He
had one son by her, and then she died.
Then he came on down to Mississippi, to New Orleans, then over to
Mobile. He was a schoolteacher on a plantation of a family
named Ferrell, Bryant Ferrell. He fell in love with one of
the Ferrell daughters, Lucy. The Ferrell family was a
prominent land-owning family, and they did not want the
schoolteacher to marry their daughter. So Lucy and my
great-grandfather eloped and married in Pascagoula,
They went to Mobile to live, where he was a contractor who had
something to do with surveying and supplying the building of
Government Street in Mobile. Then he bought land in South
Mississippi, in Perry County. Now Chauncey Bigelow Stevens
had about six sons, and one of these sons was Benjamin.
Captain Benjamin Stevens was a captain in the Confederate
cavalry, and he is my grandfather.
Benjamin Stevens had six sons,
and he named them all
after Confederate cavalry generals.
There was Uncle Forrest
(who died before I was born), Uncle Joe Johnson, Uncle
Hardee, Uncle Stuart, Uncle Zollicoffer,
and my father was
the youngest, named for John Morgan, the raider.
R: How about spelling Zollicoffer for us?
R: Z-O-L-L-I-C-O-F-F-E-R. We called him Uncle Zolly. And he was
short and jolly. He looked like you,
P: Well, maybe I was a Confederate general reincarnated as a
Perhaps. Well, he was one of my favorite uncles.
Uncle Joe lived next door to us in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
He's the doctor who brought me into the world.
had the first, one of the first, automobiles in Hattiesburg.
I think it was a one-cylinder Cadillac.
P: Now, you were born in Hattiesburg?
R: In Hattiesburg. My father was the county judge.
P: You were educated in the public schools of Hattiesburg?
R: No, you see you did not go to school until you were six or
seven years, and I was six when we moved to Jackson. I
started first grade in Jackson.
P: I see. How long did you live in Jackson?
R: I lived in Jackson until I was married at twenty-three. I
went to elementary school at Davis Public School. The
students of Davis Public School had a fiftieth reunion not
too long ago, about five years ago. I was not able to get
to that. But I was about to get to my high school reunion,
which was two years ago. We had a marvelous time; forty-
five of us came. It was not depressing. It was very joyous
P: Tell me about the dates of your graduation from high school
and then going to college.
R: In those days only the middle and upper classes got through
high school in Mississippi. All of the lower class children
dropped out, and, of course, the black children went only a
few years to school.
But our class was graduated in 1925. I have all the annuals of
my high school and my college years. I have gone all the
way through elementary school and high school with a very
close group of boys and girls, friends. Some of the became
rather prominent. One became editor of the book review
section of the New York Times, that was Nash Berger. Ralph
Hilton went into the state department. He now lives on
Hilton Head Island. Eudora Welty, who is the first literary
lady of Mississippi, was a classmate, and one of my dearest
friends. Eudora and I went all the way through school
together, and when we were graduated from high school, we
decided to room together our freshman year at Mississippi
State College for Women. So, shall I go back to my mother's
P: Yes, I think it would be good for us to get a little bit of
that on tape, also, before we go into your college days.
R: My father's people came from Perry County, Mississippi.
were yoeman farmers.
They had cattle and a few slaves. But
my mother's people came from professional people who were
doctors and lawyers and ministers and plantation people.
P: Give us her name.
R: Her name was Ethel Featherstun. Her father was a Methodist
minister--Henry Walter Featherstun. He was something of a
biblical scholar. He always read his sermons.
very, very scholarly.
They were very boring to a child.
I used to visit my maternal grandparents whenever one of the
younger children would have whooping cough or diptheria or
something. I was the oldest girl.
There was one boy older
than myself. We would be sent off to our grandparents, and
they were shifted from one little Methodist town to another.
In those days, the Methodist church sent their ministers to
a different town about every four or five years.
So my mother grew up in a family of girls in the parsonages of
Mississippi. She was the middle girl, and they were all
very pretty and bright, and they sang and played the piano.
But it was hard, because they were very poor.
Now, her mother had come from a family in Vicksburg. My
grandmother, Emily Edwards White, grew up in Vicksburg. Her
father was a physician during the Civil War. My
grandmother, Emily White, lived in a cave in Vicksburg when
she was eight years old, during the siege of Vicksburg. And
sometime in the 1940's I wrote a long children's story about
the siege of Vicksburg and my grandmother's experiences in
the family there with the slaves.
This story has never been
published. I sent it to many publishers who said, "Oh, we
enjoyed reading your story so much. Everybody in the office
loved your story, but we think it has too much history in it
for children." So, I don't know, maybe someday it will be
My mother always said it was very difficult to be the middle girl
in a parsonage. She was a redhead. She was very bright and
independent-spirited. If you read my tape from Chapel Hill,
you see that she was a very unusual woman for her day, very
independent. When she first married my father, she startled
his relatives in South Mississippi, who were very straight-
laced, old-fashioned people, by smoking a cigarette on the
front porch of one of his sister's houses. She loved to
shock people, but of course she steadied down in later
She had a very busy life. She gave birth to seven children--only
five lived. She lost two little boys in their childhood and
Then, when he was only forty years old, we lost my
eldest brother, who was my father's namesake, John Morgan
Stevens, Jr. He had rheumatic fever as a child, so we lost
him. He could have been operated on today and given a heart
Then my two younger brothers came back from the war, Second World
War, and joined my father in his law firm, which was Stevens
That law firm was later merged with another
law firm after my father's death, which is Butler, Snow,
O'Mara, Stevens, and Cannada today, which I suppose is the
senior partner in that law firm.
The other brother, Francis Stevens, left the law firm during the
civil rights revolution of the sixties, because he was a
leader in trying to get justice done for those who were
trying to follow the [United States] Supreme Court decision.
He tried to get the young lawyers of Mississippi and the
lawyers of his own law firm to follow him in that, but there
were too many conservatives around, and so he finally
resigned from the family law firm, and went to Washington to
do public interest law. Now he is one of the administrators
of Antioch Law College in Washington, D.C., doing public
P: Alright, now let's get to your college. Where did you go to
school, and what are the dates?
R: I went to Millsaps College [in Jackson, Mississippi] from 1926
Then I did my graduate work at the University of
North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I got my master's degree in
sociology in 1932. By this time I was married to a fellow
graduate of Millsaps College, my distant cousin, John Miller
P: Alright, before we get into that, let's go back to Millsaps
and tell me what your majors were there and what your
R: My major was English Literature, and my favorite professor was
Dr. White, Dr. Milton White, who is no longer living. One
summer he took me and a close friend of mine, Ruth Buck, to
the University of Wisconsin, and we studied there that
summer. That was the summer of 1928.
P: What motivated that? That is interesting.
R: Well, we were just the kind of little girls who were wrapped
up in our studies. I did not make Phi Beta Kappa at
Millsaps College because we did not have a chapter there. I
was, by the time I got to college, something of a butterfly.
I was the president of my Kappa Delta chapter and we had a
lot of fun--dances and parties--and I did not study as much
as perhaps I should have.
But I became very interested in sociology. I must have had
one course in sociology, and I heard about Chapel Hill.
They sent a man down, a professor Hunt Hobbs. Dr. Hunt
Hobbs came to Mississippi to recruit some students to work
with him, and my boyfriend, the young man that I was going
to marry, was also hired, John Maclachlan. We worked down
in the state Capitol building on statistics.
P: Now John was a student at Millsaps also?
R: At Millsaps, right. We graduated together, although he was
two and a half years older than I was. He had gone to the
Texas Military Institute at San Antonio. After he was
graduated from that academy, he had gone to work in South
America for a year and a half. So he was delayed in getting
P: Give me some biographical information on John Maclachlan.
Let's catch him up to his Millsaps period.
R: Alright. Well, he was born in Columbus, Mississippi on
October 9, 1905. His mother was, had been, Lucy Harrison,
who had married into the Harrison family of New Orleans, who
came from both the Presidents Harrison. She had been born
in Woodville, Mississippi, south of Natchez. At age three
she came to Columbus, Mississippi, with her grandmother and
her parents, at the time that the State College for Women
was opened. Grandmother Stockett, John's great-grandmother,
had been married to a plantation owner who lost all of his
plantations during the war and died. So she had all these
girls to educate. Word went out through Mississippi to sent
your girls to this new college, a new state college at
Columbus. She was living at that time either in Woodville
or Natchez and running a school for girls. So she took them
to Columbus, Mississippi, and bought a house, and they lived
there, and sometimes they lived in boarding houses.
I was reading recently the reminiscences of John Maclachlan's
mother--Lucy Holt Harrison Maclachlan. She grew up in
Columbus, and she has a list of all of the Presbyterian
families, all the Baptist families and all the Episcopalian
families of that day. She was seventy-three years old when
she wrote that, and she has that all in this account. What
each house looked like, and all of that--what a memory!
P: Tell me about John though, now.
R: Lucy was John's mother. Now, John was born there, in
P: How about his father?
R: Well, his father was Scottish. John's father's father, his
grandfather, John Charles Maclachlan, had come from
Argyleshire, Scotland, when he was sixteen. He had scarlet
fever, and his family sent him over here to recuperate from
it because his eyes were affected and he needed a vacation
from his studies. He went into painting portraits.
P: Interesting to move to America to recover from scarlet fever.
R: Well, it might have had serious effects. I think maybe it was
smallpox, or measles or something. Is it measles that
affects your eyes? Perhaps measles. Alright. He went and
lived on Lochinvar Plantation.
P: Where is Lochinvar Plantation?
R: Lochinvar Plantation, up in the delta somewhere, and...
P: Of course, it is probably a whole story of how he got from
Scotland to America.
R: Yes, well he came to New Orleans--everyone had to come through
New Orleans, you see.
P: Then he got up into Mississippi...
R: Yes, yes.
P: ...somehow, some way, perhaps visiting relatives?
R: Right. Then eventually, he got to Chicago. He was an
inventor. He invented a railroad brake shoe. He invented a
process for making powdered buttermilk. He established a
company. He left his only son to grow up with relatives in
Columbus, Mississippi, because he was busy in Chicago.
P: This son of course was John's father?
R: Yes, John Miller Maclachlan, Sr., who was the son of John
Charles Maclachlan. So John's father was brought up on a
plantation on the edge of Columbus. Lucy was a little girl
in Columbus, and John Miller Maclachlan was a little boy,
and they knew each other. They went to Franklin Academy,
which was the local school for white children. My mother-
in-law told me that the girls did not go in the same
classroom with the boys. I think one was upstairs and the
other was downstairs.
Well, anyway, John Maclachlan grew up there. Then the
grandfather in Chicago asked the young couple and grandson
to come up there and live. Now Lucy, who was a dyed-in-the-
wool southerner, tried to live in cold Chicago and found out
that her relatives up there had turned Christian Scientist.
She had been brought up in a strict Presbyterian family,
and she had had uncles who were doctors, and she just could
not see Christian Science. So she was divorced from John
P: Because of this forced residence in Chicago and the religious
R: Yes, and when my husband John Maclachlan was eleven years old,
he was taken by his mother Lucy to live in San Antonio in a
big household of aunts, his great-aunt Rebecca. There was
one Texas Ranger in the household, the only man in the
household, who fortunately gave him a model of manhood. But
otherwise, he was reared by other women.
Well, he was sent to Texas Military Institute [now Academy] at a
very early age, because he was precocious. I think he was
probably sent there too early.
Then, when he graduated, he
went to South America for the United Fruit Company for a
year and a half.
P: He was graduated from the Academy in Texas?
R: Yes, yes.
P: With what kind of training?
R: Well, it was just a prep school for boys, but with a sound
academic curriculum including Latin.
P: I see.
R: You had to learn to shoot guns and to march and you had a very
strict academic program.
The headmaster was named Dr.
Bondurant and he was a very fine man.
P: No special training, though, to prepare him for the South
R: No, that was just a job and an adventure. So he went down
there at age seventeen.
P: Do you know the years of his graduation from the Texas Academy
and the years of his stay in South America?
R: He must have graduated around 1923, because we both went to
Millsaps in '26...1 went in '26. I think he came in '27.
So he probably graduated about the same time I did.
P: He went immediately then to South America, as far as you know?
R: Yes, yes he did.
P: Do you know where in South America?
R: Yes. Bogota.
P: What was he doing for the fruit company?
R: Well, now, he went first to a town down on the coast, Cali,
which is hot, and then Bogota, up in the mountains. I think
he worked in both places. He had a charge of a crew of
people. He had to carry a gun. He was only eighteen years
old, so that gives you an idea. He was born in 1905, I know
he was seventeen or eighteen when he went down there.
P: So that is about 1022-23.
R: Right, right, that is when he was there.
P: But what kind of work was he doing, Emily?
R: Warehouse supervisory work. They were raising and packing
bananas, I suppose. He learned to speak Spanish very
fluently. So all the time he was a professor on this
campus, he was very fluent in Spanish.
P: He finished his work in South America...
P: ...and he came back to the United States to Mississippi, and
he enrolled at Millsaps College?
R: Yes. By this time, his mother had moved back to Mississippi.
So he could enroll in Millsaps, yes.
P: Alright, Millsaps is located in what town?
R: In Jackson, Mississippi. It had started out as a college
supported by the Methodists of Mississippi. It gradually
P: Alright, what year did he enter Millsaps?
P: Alright, and he graduated at the same time that you did?
R: Yes, 1929.
P: 1929. So it was a three year program?
R: Now wait a minute. I graduated from high school in 1925, and
went one year to Mississippi State College for Women up in
Columbus and then in the fall of '26 I went to Millsaps,
yes. I roomed with Eudora Welty at Mississippi State
College for Women.
P: And John entered as a freshman, in 1925?
R: Yes, but I did not know him until our sophomore year.
P: But he was there, then, from '25 until '29?
P: The same period of time that you were there?
R: The same period that I was, right.
P: And what was his major at Millsaps?
R: Well, he also majored in English, but we both took Latin and
we both took a lot of other courses--history and political
science. He was, as I said, he was good a Spanish, while I
studied French. He was so good at Spanish that he was asked
to teach in the Jackson Public High School, Central High
School. He taught Spanish the year that he finished
P: Tell me how you two met.
R: Well, I was a sophomore. He was rather prominent on campus in
literary societies. He played tennis and, he was very
handsome. He was two and half years older than I was, so
his mother arranged a date with my mother. In those days,
your family did a lot of this for you. And his mother
wanted him to know my family.
So he came to see me and we had a date. He said he thought I was
such a silly little girl, because I tried to teach him how
to dance the Charleston. He thought I was scatter-brained,
and then he found out later that I had a brain. Well, so it
was...from then on we just started going together. We went
together for the rest of the time we were in Millsaps.
P: When were you married?
R: We were not married until '31. I went first to Chapel Hill
and discovered Chapel Hill, as I told you earlier. I felt
that I had come to paradise when I got to Chapel Hill,
because I had never seen such an interesting place, so many
I was wrapped up in all sorts of causes for that time. It was
the beginning of the Great Depression, and I was one of
those little girls who had been brought up under the social
gospel of Methodism. My whole family was imbued with the
social gospel. I felt that I had a great many remedies for
the ills of the world. Of course, I did not. But I was a
young idealist. So I got to Chapel Hill, and I wrote home
to my fiance, "This is a great place. You must come up."
He was teaching Spanish at high school.
I got a letter from my father, saying that he had financial
reverses. My father by this time had resigned from the
Supreme Court and entered private law practice in order to
send his children to college, because the salary was so low
and he did not want to run as a politician for reelection.
But my father said, "Now we will borrow the money for you to
finish your graduate work, if necessary. I would like for
you to stay there." Well, I was not about to stay there
without John. So I wrote to John, "They have a wonderful
Spanish program up here. Why don't you apply for a
fellowship in Spanish?" So he did, and he won it. His
first term at Chapel Hill, he roomed with Francis Hayes in
the men's graduate dormitory.
Hayes who later became professor
of Spanish at the University of Florida?
R: Right. Dr. and Mrs. Hayes live right down the street from me
P: Emily, before you get in to the Chapel Hill episode in your
life, you said that you knew about Chapel Hill when the
professor came and recruited you and John to do the survey
in Mississippi. Now that was about 1929-1930?
R: Yes, I had somehow heard about Chapel Hill. I had seen a
pamphlet about Chapel Hill. I do not know where I saw it.
It had fired my imagination.
P: But before you tell me about Chapel Hill, tell me about the
survey, the Mississippi survey.
R: Well, it was one of those dry statistical surveys, where you
pounded out the data on those old-fashioned calculators, all
of the data for each county of Mississippi. Dr. [S.
Huntington] Hobbs, [Jr.] was writing a book about the
regions of Mississippi, or the counties of Mississippi. He
was in rural sociology. It was very detailed statistical
data. He just needed a lot of student help, graduate
P: Both you and John worked for him?
R: Were hired by him, yes.
P: I see. This actually, then, gave you your first physical
contact with Chapel Hill?
P: This is the Francis [Clement]
R: Yes. So then I went to Chapel Hill the summer of 1929. After
I graduated from college, when I was twenty or twenty-one, I
went in the fall of '29 to Chapel Hill.
P: But you did work for a while on this Hobbs project in
Mississippi before you went to Chapel Hill?
R: Well, we both worked that summer. Then, in September, I went
to Chapel Hill. But I did not have John there. He was
teaching at Central high school that year.
P: Where did you live at Chapel Hill?
R: I lived in Spencer Hall, the women's dormitory.
P: What kind of a program did you take there?
R: I took mainly rural sociology, because...
P: You had now made up your mind to go into sociology?
R: Yes, and of course it was rural sociology because Dr. Hobbs
was in rural sociology. At that time, rural sociology was
an entirely separate department from Dr. [Howard W.] Odum's
regular sociology department, which was in Alumni Hall.
Rural sociology was in the basement of the library. It was
specially funded, somehow or other. Dr. E. C. Branson was
the chairman of it. Dr. Branson was one of the finest
professors I have ever had the privilege to study with. I
was very much taken with him.
P: Emily, what pushed you, what was the impetus to take you knto
sociology, and particularly rural sociology?
R: Well, it was the Great Depression. The Depression was scary.
People who did not live through the thirties cannot imagine
what it was like. Well, you know the history, Sam. One-
third of the people in the United States were out of work.
P: But what motivated you to go into sociology and into rural
sociology? You made that decision in 1929 before the
Depression, the onset of the Depression. Now was it based
upon that summer of work that you did with Professor Hobbs?
R: Yes, yes. I think we felt that sociology might give us some
of the answers to the problems of rural societies.
Mississippi was a very rural society in those days.
P: Now you had come out of a rather cloistered background, except
you had a very liberated mother.
R: It was not all that cloistered in the 1920's. You have heard
about the 1920's, Sam. It was the First World War that
freed people from some of the old conventions. And I was a
rather privileged girl, in that I had my own little car. I
had a little Chevrolet with a rumble seat.
P: But the thing is, Jackson was really not a large city...
R: Well, yes, it was not large. It was probably very small. But
it was sort of an intellectual center of Mississippi. I was
taken to concerts all my life. I read very advanced books.
I had been a leader all my life.
P: But Emily, Mississippi was, and you know, without demeaning
Mississippi, it was rural and it was a provincial part of
the United States.
R: Right, right.
P: What I am really trying to find out is how Emily White Stevens
became concerned about the ills and problems of other people
to such a degree that you decided to leave English
Literature and begin specializing in this area at Chapel
R: Well, at one time I though I might like to go off to Africa as
You get fired up with these ideas when you
are a teenager, don't you think? You want to do something
with your life.
P: But what in your environment, what experiences did you undergo
during that period, in the late 1920's, that would motivate
this kind of thinking, these kinds of goals or objectives
R: Well, I knew by this time that many black people suffered from
syphilis. We had a cook in our kitchen, and we all adored
her. She was one of the best cooks we ever had. And then
she came to my mother and told my mother that she would have
to stop working for us because she found out she had
They were beginning to have public health in
Mississippi. It was one of the pioneer states in public
health. I knew that most black children were born without a
doctor, that they had these midwives. I knew all about
P: How did you know all of that?
R: Well, my mother knew these things. My mother had a class of
young Negro girls that came to our back porch, and she
taught them how to sew. She tried to teach them religion.
She was a reformer.
P: Did you credit your mother with being the catalyst for these
decisions that you made in your life?
R: Oh yes, yes. I am sure I did, yes. Not only my mother, but
my father. My father was a leading Methodist and a very
wonderful lawyer, and I am sure my father did a great deal
of charitable legal work for poor people. At one time my
father was hired to codify the laws of Mississippi. But it
was in the air, I suppose.
P: But it is kind of a strange thing, as you look back on it,
Emily, to have this kind of philosophy developing in a rural
state--in Mississippi of all places. Everyone knows the
image that Mississippi projects. You coming out of this
kind of an upper middle class family, your father on the
Supreme Court of the state of Mississippi, and yet for you
to have consciousness of the problems affecting poor white
people and poor black people, is a little bit different, you
must admit, from what you would ordinarily expect as a young
lady at that time.
R: Yes, well, we had a very low type of politics that my family
did not approve of. We had had [James Kimble] Vardaman; we
had had [Theodore G.] Bilbo. I remember seeing Senator
Vardaman dressed up in his white suit and his cowboy had and
his black string tie, and being rather disgusted with that
type of politics. Bilbo was a disgrace. We had had some
more educated people trying to run the politics of
Mississippi earlier, and they had been unseated by these
P: It would seem to me, Emily, that if you voiced these kinds of
R: Oh, you didn't.
P: ...and if they represented your family's attitude, that you
would not have been a very popular family, or a popular
person, in Mississippi at that moment.
R: Well, you had to be very, very careful about who you spoke
with, and my mother was not the kind of person that would
embarass the family by going out and speaking from a stump.
But as I related in my Chapel Hill tapes, she did belong to
this organization called the Association of Southern Women
for the Prevention of Lynching. Lynching was just a
P: But the fact that she was teaching black girls in your home,
on the porch, or wherever. Did that not attract some
R: Oh no, no. You could do things in a quiet way for black
people and it was approved of. The better class of people
always sponsored their own black people and tried to help
them. Every black family had to have one or two white
families to sponsor them or they could not survive. And you
knew a lawyer who would defend you if you got into trouble,
you; you knew a white woman who would help nurse you if you
were sick. You had to have somebody like that.
It was only the poor white people who had this terrible
prejudice. Of course, we can understand now that they were
in a plight almost as bad as the black people. Their lives
were not threatened as much, but they were economically
sometimes even more depressed. So I think that ought to
explain. There are feelings of rivalry with black people.
P: Would you classify yourself almost as a young revolutionary
when you arrived on the old campus?
R: Yes, I think I was. I really think I was. We had a dear
little lady from New England, Mrs. Elsie Hillsmith, who
wanted to adopt John Maclachlan and me, but she wanted us to
go out and organize for the Communist Party. She was one of
those revolutionary ladies from a very prominent family in
New England, and she had just come to Chapel Hill and gotten
a little house, and wanted to be in the middle of things.
Well, she started in on Dr. Branson's rural sociology class with
us and became very intimate with us. She asked us to her
house for tea. I was very much impressed with her. I think
she was an influence over me, but I fortunately did not go
out and organize for any revolutionary groups. But Chapel
Hill in those days was a place where you heard a lot of
people who came and spoke from the left, fellow travellers,
you might say, with the movements of those days.
P: This is after 1929?
R: Yes, when I went to Chapel Hill, yes. Now as far as
Mississippi was concerned, I really did not know the history
of lynching very well until I studied it in my sociology
classes at Chapel Hill. While I was in Chapel Hill, my
mother helped to organize this movement in Mississippi.
That was in the thirties.
P: Let me get a little bit of the chronology straightened here
P: So I am going back. You were at Chapel Hill before John
arrived? You were already engaged?
P: You had become engaged in Mississippi, and it was you who
encouraged him to apply for a fellowship in Spanish?
P: So he arrived at Chapel Hill...
R: But at Christmastime I was lonesome for him, and I remember...
P: This is Christmas of '29?
R: Yes. Although my father had written me the letter saying that
he would borrow the money for me to stay, I decided to come
home, and I was unhappy when I got home because I was at
loose ends. I found a little job in a printing office,
doing seretarial work. I was not a good secretary...
P: Excuse me, Emily, you are getting ahead of me now. I have got
to make sure we have this chronology right.
P: You came home that first Christmas?
R: Christmas, right.
P: Unhappy and dissatisfied?
P: Now, you say you got a job. This is a job in Mississippi?
P: Does this mean that you dropped out of Chapel Hill?
R: Right. Temporarily. I knew I was going back some day.
P: But, when you left Chapel Hill, did you take all of your
things with you and leave the school?
R: Well, I did not have much their. I only took a couple of
suitcases, probably. I had not set up a household. I was
just living in a dormitory room.
P: Alright, you went to Chapel Hill with tremendous enthusiasm,
all of these concerns about your fellow man. Now it is true
that you left your fiance back in Mississippi...
P: But in a matter of just three months you had become
disillusioned with life in Chapel Hill?
R: No, no. I loved Chapel Hill. One of the other Mississippi
students who was asked to go there was Vernon Wharton, who
later wrote his thesis at Chapel Hill on Reconstruction in
P: But let's stick to Emily for just a minute now.
P: I want to find out what turned you off, and encouraged you to
leave college, to leave your graduate program and go back
R: Well, I was just so doggone in love with my fiance. I missed
P: Okay, alright. That was it, then?
P: In other words, you left college so that you could be with
P: You got a job?
R: I always put the man in my life first. I always put John
first. I never had a job while I was married to him. I
will tell you that later.
P: Now we are in the winer of 1929-30?
P: So the impact of the Depression has not hit yet.
R: Well, Mississippi was already depressed when the Depression
came. It is just inconceivable how poor Mississippi was. I
think it was right at the bottom of the list of states.
Maybe South Carolina might have been poorer. But the
Depression did not make that much difference in Mississippi
because it was already so poor.
P: Alright, so you got a job...
P: How long did you stay home?
R: Until the following fall.
P: Did you get married in the meantime?
R: No, in the fall of 1930 we both went to Chapel Hill. That is
what I wanted. He had a scholarship in Spanish.
P: And you were back into you rural sociology program?
R: Well, when I got there, I decided to shift over to the big
sociology department under Dr. Howard Odum.
P: When did you get married?
R: In the next fall, '31. We were there a whole year in graduate
school, not married. I lived with a group of girls in a
garret, an attic. There were seven of us girls. We had a
little household. John came and ate with us. But he had a
room downstairs in the same house. He would come up and eat
his meals with us and act as our bouncer in case we had any
people we wanted to get rid of. We had a grand year
together when we were not married.
In the summer of 1931, my mother finally said, "Well, I think it
high time you two got married." My father was shocked. He
did not want me to marry a graduate student. He did not
think John would ever be able to make me a living. He was
not at all sure that he would ever make a living. But my
mother said, "Well, it's high time." So she arranged the
marriage. We were married at the Millsaps chapel, and the
glee club came and sang football songs. That was September
3, 1931. And we had the reception in my father's home. My
father was very unhappy about it. He refused to give me
away, but my mother had her way. She had other children
coming on that she had to attend to. She wanted to get her
daughter married off. She saw that I was never going to be
interested in anybody else. So that was it.
P: I hope you kept a diary of that wedding trip.
R: Funniest thing of all was that along with us on our honeymoon
wedding trip back to Chapel Hill we had a Dutchman sitting
on the back seat. Sometimes he sat on the front seat.
P: Where did he come from?
R: His name was A. N. J. Den Jollander, and I think you met him
when he came here to lecture. He was a fellow graduate
student of ours. He had always wanted to go down the
Mississippi River on a big steamboat, one of those paddle
P: So you took somebody along on your honeymoon?
R: He had come down to attend our wedding. But instead, he went
over to Vicksburg and down the Mississippi River, and then
he went back to Chapel Hill with us. It was not really a
honeymoon. It was just going back to school. But everybody
thought that was so strange, to have a Dutchman along.
P: As a chaperone.
R: Yes. In a few weeks he came down with chills and fever.
Mosquitoes got him on deck where he played craps with the
P: Okay, you got back to Chapel Hill?
R: Yes, and got the Dutch friend back, who then became ill with
malaria. We got a little apartment in the home of one of
the sociology professors. Dr. Saunders had a little
apartment in his house out on Pittsboro Road, and we took
this apartment. I guess sometime during the year, we found
a little old house that belonged to Mrs. Ellen Winston, who
was a widow of the law dean who had become a little mad.
She let us have that little house. It had formerly been the
home of a black lady bootlegger, for $15 a month. We found
all the jars under the house.
P: What was your master's thesis?
R: Well, Dr. Odum was writing his magnum opus on the regions of
the South, Southern Regions, which became a very famous book
[Howard W. Odum's Southern Regions of the United States].
He was a pioneer in the area of regionalism in sociology.
Well, he had all his graduate students farmed out to write
on subjects that he was interested in. One of the things he
wanted to find out was why the Southern people ate such a
poor diet. He assigned me to write my thesis on the dietary
patterns of the South.
At that time the library in Chapel Hill had a magnificent
collection of books of old travelers throughout the South.
I immersed myself in those old history books, trying to find
out what kind of crops people had and what kind of illnesses
they had. Then, at the same time, the experiment stations
run by the agricultural colleges were doing studies, actual
studies of the diets of schoolchildren and farm families
throughout the southern states. I compiled a lot of data on
this, these dietary patterns, and tried to relate that with
the historical data.
Of course, what you found out was that what people eat is pretty
much determined in rural societies by what they can raise,
and what they can raise is determined by climate and soil
and pests, you know. They could not have milk because of
cattle ticks, and they did not have refrigeration. As far
as protein foods are concerned, they depended on chickens
and a few pigs, because you could not raise beef cattle--you
had the ticks. None of those problems were conquered at
that time by agricultural research.
P: Emily, when did you get your degree? Your M.A.
R: We both got our M.A.'s in 1932. John Maclachlan wrote his
master's thesis on the Negro newspapers of that day.
P: How did he move out of Spanish? He came there with a
fellowship in Spanish.
R: I just kept talking about sociology so much and I guess he was
influenced by that, and Dr. Odum gave him a fellowship. He
got a fellowship with the Rockefeller Foundation, which at
that time gave fellowships to the Institute for Social
Research. He was put on as one of the Institute Fellows.
He had been highly recommended by his professors in
Mississippi, and he was just one of the lucky ones that got
it. Now I never got a fellowship. I only got tuition
P: John went on to get his Ph.D. at Chapel Hill?
R: Right, he got it in 1937, the same night that John McFerrin
and C. Vann Woodward got theirs.
P: Why did you not go on for a Ph.D?
R: Well, Sam, in those days, one Ph.D. in the family seemed
enough, and in the intervening years, between the master's
degree and the Ph.D., between '32 and '37, we were hired by
the Rosenwald Fund to go down to one of those farm
resettlement projects. And I had my first baby in 1936. I
had gotten to the age when you very much want to have a
P: What kind of professional work did you do? You said the
Rosenwald Foundation provided funds for you to go where?
R: They came and intervened John and I at Raleigh, after the M.A.
Jack was hired (I called him Jack) to go teach over at the
Raleigh school. It was North Carolina State at that time.
P: It is North Carolina State University now.
R: Yes, State University.
They had a department of rural
P: He taught with his M.A. in sociology?
R: He taught with that, yes, and he was required to teach things
like farm management, and really agricultural economics
P: At the same time that he was working on his Ph.D. at Chapel
P: So you moved from Chapel Hill to Raleigh where his job was?
R: Yes, and we got an apartment upstairs in a beautiful old
Victorian house in Raleigh.
P: Your first baby, what was the date of that?
R: That was my eldest son Bruce, born in 1936.
P: Why don't you at this point, Emily, give me the names and
birthdates of your children.
R: All right. John Bruce was born February 15, 1936, at Atlanta
Georgia, Piedmont Hospital. The next son is Morgan
Douglass. He was born four years later, in January of 1940,
here in Gainesville.
Then the youngest son came eight years
later, Alan Stuart, in 1948, also here in Gainesville,
P: Okay, now let's get back to the Rosenwald and the farm
R: Mr. Embry of the Rosenwald Fund came and interviewed us a
Raleigh. He said he wanted to establish a school at one of
the resettlement projects.
These were set up by the federal
government and the southern state governments to resettle
artisans from the cities on the land.
P: Was this a New Deal project?
R: It was a New Deal project.
P: And it was geared to North Carolina?
R: Well, each southern state had these projects.
There was one
at Cherry Lake, [Cherry Lake Farms, eight miles north of
Madison] up at Madison, Florida. They had them in Arkansas,
P: They were both federal and state funded?
R: I think they were probably all federally funded, but the state
welfare department decided who would go there.
P: What was the relationship to the Rosenwald Foundation?
R: They were simply interested in the schools.
interested in southern education.
P: They were mainly interested in black education.
R: Black education.
That was the strange thing, that this was a
totally white project. It had no black people, families, on
P: Where was it located in North Carolina?
R: No, it was in Georgia, between Columbus and Atlanta.
Mountain, Georgia, which is near Warm Springs.
P: Now let me get it straight.
They were interviewing you in
North Carolina for a job in Georgia?
R: In Georgia, at Pine Mountain Valley. It's near Hamilton.
P: Has this project, or these projects, been written up at all?
R: Oh, yes. John Maclachlan wrote them up. And they are
probably in the files of the agricultural department in
P: Has the project in Florida been written up?
R: It was agricultural resettlement.
Yes, we came to visit the
Cherry Lake project at Madison. After we finished that nine
months at Pine Mountain Valley Project, the Rosenwald Fund
had him travel around the South and study the others, and he
wrote it all up. I do not have a copy of it, bu it must be
in the files of the resettlement administration in
P: What was your particular responsibility? You were given a
job. Is that right?
R: Well, no. The Rosenwald Fund really hired John, but they knew
that I worked with him and that we would be doing this
together. I was pregnant, of course, so actually I was just
on the sidelines.
P: I see. But John Maclachlan was hired. He was interviewed by
the Rosenwald Foundation. Now, you said he was hired by
P: So presumably they got some money involved in this thing,
because if it was a state government agency, the Rosenwald
Foundation would not be hiring John Maclachlan.
R: No, well, we were paid directly by the Rosenwald Foundation.
We were not paid by the government.
P: So that was their money.
R: Right, it was their money and it was more money than we ever
P: What was John supposed to be doing? What was his job there?
R: He was supposed to set up the school and hire the teachers and
run the school.
P: What was the purpose of this now? To bring artisans from the
city, Atlanta, and other places, to go to this school?
R: Yes, well, these families were to be given forty acres and a
tractor, instead of forty acres and a mule.
P: Now, when you say artisans, what do you mean?
R: Well, they were electricians, plumbers, carpenters.
P: Who were not able to find work in the cities?
R: That's right.
P: And it was an attempt to put them back into an agricultural
economy which was already depressed?
They were supposed to raise the usual southern crops,
cotton and corn, in a better way. It does seem strange,
because as you say, we had too much cotton.
plowing under crops in the United States at that time.
P: They were plowing under crops under the earlier programs, of
course. By the time you get up to 1936, I presume that is
when this was, this was already the second phase of the New
Deal moving in.
R: This was '35-36, yes. It was really just a subsistence
program to get these people out of the cities where they
could not find employment and give them a subsistence.
P: Of course, we are lost now, just a little but, from '32, the
time that John graduated with his M.A. degree, to '36.
During that time, he is enrolled in the Ph.D. program in
Chapel Hill, and he is teaching in Raleigh?
R: Yes. 1933-34, we taught in Raleigh. I knew it was more than
one year. Then '34-'35, he was teaching in Raleigh, and
then we were asked to go '35-'36 to Pine Mountain Valley.
P: That is how it happened that your oldest son was born in
R: Yes, right.
P: Now, John was in charge of this project in Georgia?
R: No, no, no. Mr. Tap Bennett was in charge of the whole
project. He was a judge and a prominent citizen. On the
project we had one architect, Neil Ford, from Dallas, Texas,
who had made quite a name for himself at an early age. We
had a social worker named Joseph LaRocca who came from
Washington. These three young men were concerned with the
welfare of the families and the education of the families
and the political autonomy of the families. They were
idealists, too. But they ran head on into Mr. Tap Bennett,
who was an old-fashioned conservative southern person, who
was only interested in this place making expenses, I
suppose. He wanted to sell the cotton at a profit, and we
wanted the people to have more independence.
P: Was there an experimental farm? Were all of the people
raising cotton and whatever else as they were learning how
to become farmers?
R: They had to be tough, because they perhaps had had farming in
P: But they came out of a city background?
R: A city life, right, and they had to be taught. Now they had,
it seems to me, they had a central tractor station and the
big machinery was owned by the project. But they each had
their own homestead, and their own house. Neil Ford was to
build their houses.
P: It sounds almost like it was a sharecrop operation, however,
if Mr. Bennett was interested in...
R: He tried to make it a sharecrop operation, and we wanted it to
be independent farmers.
P: I see.
R: So it was rather an exciting time. We had quite a struggle
with him, and I was just on the sidelines, but it was an
P: Alright, now, that was the interesting year. John goes back
to Chapel Hill?
R: Well, the Rosenwald Fund says, "After you make this general
study of these other projects, we want to send you back to
Chapel Hill, because we feel that we interrupted your Ph.D.
program and we want to see you through it."
P: Now Rosenwald had hired John to be one of the people at the
P: At the same time, he is doing doctoral research?
R: He was principal of the school, you see, and had hired the
teachers. Now education of rural people really was not his
field. They knew that his field was sort of rural
agricultural economics, and so they sent him back to Chapel
Hill to finish his Ph.D. dissertation on the regions of
P: That is what he did as a doctoral dissertation, the regions of
P: As part of Howard Odum's bigger study?
P: Okay, and John graduated in what year?
P: 1937, the same time, you say, that John [Berry] McFerrin, who
later came to the University of Florida in the Department of
Economics, and C. Vann Woodward, who also came to the
University of Florida to teach in the Social Sciences
R: Yes, right.
P: Okay, this is 1937?
R: Yes, I still have the commencement program.
P: What happened to you and John Maclachlan from June 1937, on?
This is the summer of 1937. How did you make a living? You
had a baby by then.
For the two previous summers, '36 and
'37, the summer of '37, before we came here, he was hired to
teach at North Texas College at Denton, Texas. But they had
a polio epidemic in the South, so I did not want to take
baby Bruce to Texas, so I took him up to Wolf Creek,
Tennessee, to a very ancient farmhouse.
We had been very close friends at Chapel Hill with [William] T.
Couch, who was the editor [director] of the Chapel Hill
Press [University of North Carolina Press]. Bill and
Elizabeth Couch were older than we were, but had been very
kind to us, and they had recommended this place in the
Tennessee mountains. So I did not want to take my baby to
Jackson, Mississippi, to my mother's home, because they had
too much polio. I did not want to tak him to Texas, which
also had polio, so we just buried ourselves in the mountains
that summer, and he learned to walk that summer.
Wait just a minute now, Sam, we went to Ole Miss first, you see,
that's the intervening year. We went in '37-'38 to Ole Miss
P: I see, when you get your degree first in '37, so you went to
teach at Mississippi in sociology?
P: As what, assistant professor?
R: Well, let me say this.
R: Assistant Professor. We went at a very low salary. Dr. Odum
wanted each of his graduate students to go into the southern
state that they had originally come from, as his emissaries.
P: So you went to Ole Miss for one year?
P: Then John got a job in Texas?
R: For two summers. The summer after we left the project and the
following summer. The summer of '37 and also the summer of
'38, he must have been at North Texas State College. Then
we came to Gainesville.
P: Alright, now let's find out what the circumstances were that
brought you to Gainesville.
R: Yes. Well, we had heard Dean [of Business Walter Jeffries]
Matherly talk about the program here while we were still in
Chapel Hill. I remember his coming up there in a white
linen suit, and making a brilliant talk about this
university and the Social Sciences program here and how they
were going to start University College and so forth.
was an experimental, progressive sort of thing.
Then, while we were at Ole Miss, C. Vann Woodward came here in
the Social Sciences, and he had written to us that it was an
interesting place, he liked it, and why didn't we come? We
could probably make more money here. So he persuaded us to
come. He said, "I will find you a house."
P: But who offered you the job? Vann Woodward was not chairman
of the department.
R: Oh no. Dr. [Lucius Moody] Bristol. Dr. Bristol offered us
the job. He was the only sociologist here.
P: He was in the Department of Sociology?
P: So John was offered a position in the Sociology Department?
R: Right, as assistant to Dr. Bristol.
P: And it was really Vann Woodward, however, who had
R: But at the time, he must have had a joint appointment, because
he also taught for [Rollin Salisbury] Atwood in C-1
[Comprehensive Social Sciences:
Man and His Social World].
P: I see.
R: In the Social Sciences department.
P: Alright, you arrived in Gainesville, when?
R: In the fall of 1938.
P: I was here as a sophomore then.
R: You were a sophomore, and we moved right into this house.
was called Roper Street, which is now N. E. 7th Street.
P: How did you get to Gainesville? Were you in Texas, or were
you in Mississippi when you got the job offer?
R: I was in Mississippi.
You see, always in the summertime, I
would take my children back home to Mississippi if possible,
if there was not some kind of epidemic.
P: So you drove from Mississippi to Gainesville?
R: Oh yes, we had a very nice 1936 Ford, which we had bought with
our Rosenwald money while we were at Pine Mountain Valley.
That replaced the model-T which had long since broken down.
So we came in our own car, and we were delighted with the
climate. It was rainy, of course, but we liked it. We were
very much impressed with the fact that the university had
its own radio station [WRUF]. Now they talk about getting a
public radio station for the university.
P: Now tell me about your house on Roper Street.
R: It is the little house that sits next to Bernice and J. O.
Hack. Theirs is on the corner, and...
P: The corner of what?
R: What is the name of that other street? I cannot remember.
Well, this is now 7th street,, and it was probably Columbia?
Anyway, that other street leads you to boulevard and to the
duck pond. When Bruce was little, we used to take him over
to the duck pond to feed the ducks.
P: Now try to remember the first time you saw Gainesville, Emily,
when you arrived here in September of 1938. Describe
Gainesville to me.
R: Well, we were charmed with the beautiful live oak trees and
the moss and the palm trees and the proximity to the beach.
In those days, we used to go over to St. AUgustine Beach
quite often. We had regretted that they did not build the
university on the beach.
P: Tell me what Gainesville looked like to you.
R: Well, of course, we saw those beautiful boulevards. East
University Avenue was full of big palm trees and sweet olive
bushes and azaleas and all those oak trees down University
Avenue. It still had the two main streets, and the choo-
choo train still came through town, still had the old White
House Hotel and the Thomas Hotel. We just thought it was a
charming little town.
P: Alright, now what was your first look at the campus? Try to
reconstruct that day when you first saw the campus and what
the campus looked like to you. It must have been almost
immediately after you arrived in Gainesville.
R: Yes, well, the older red brick, what they call Florida Gothic
buildings, seemed to have a sort of harmonious look about
them, and the tall pine tree. We thought it was a lovely
campus. Of course, Chapel Hill is a much older campus, and
we did not really compare it with Chapel Hill, because the
trees are so different, the buildings are so different. But
we liked the idea that the buildings were designed to go
P: Let me ask about an individual now.
P: Tell me about Dr. Bristol.
R: Well, Dr. Bristol was very, very kind to us. He and Jack used
to play tennis together. He was very vigorous. I do not
remember how old he was at that time, but he must have been
pretty old, because he retired soon afterwards, did he not,
Sam? Mrs. Bristol was very kind to us.
As a matter of fact, the Bristols lent us the money to build our
house. They had some apartments over there on 14th and 5th
Avenue, and 5th avenue was called Seminary Street in those
days. They were very kind to us. Seems to me they lived in
one of those apartments.
P: What kind of an administrator was DR. Bristol?
R: Well, by this time I was wrapped up in my little baby, who was
two and a half, and in making new friends here. In those
days, the faculty members always called on you. I still
have the calling cards that I saved of people who called on
us. Now, the Leighs were very nice to us, Dean and Mrs.
Leigh were very nice.
P: Townes R. [Randolph] Leigh?
R: Townes R. Leigh. Jack Maclachlan became something of a
favorite with Mrs. Townes R. Leigh, and I know many jokes
were told about her, but she was really kind to us. She
invited us to her home, and gave us grapefruits. She lived
right near us, just kind of across the street. She sort of
took us under her wing.
Mrs. Matherly could not have been nicer and Mrs. [President John
J.] Tigert was so lovely to us. Jack was rather fond of Dr.
Tigert. So it was the wives ot these administrators who I
knew more than the deans themselves. We affiliated right
away with Holy Trinity Church. Mr. [Francis B.] Wakefield
was rector then.
P: Your life had always been very identified with the Episcopal
church here in Gainesville, has it not?
R: Yes, but I was brought up Methodist. But while we were at
Oxford, we started going to the little Episcopal church. I
had gone to the Episcopal church sometimes when I was in
Chapel Hill. So when we came here, it was the church that
we went to. Actually I was not confirmed in the Episcopal
Church till I came here, cause I had been baptized a
P: Emily, what has been responsible, do you think, for this
strong religious conviction that you have had, and the
identification with the church--first the Methodist and now
R: Well, I think possibly it was because my maternal grandfather,
Dr. Featherstun, was a minister, and I visited in his home
so much. He taught me a great deal.
My grandmother, Emily White, was a painter. She was the kind of
little lady that painted china and organdy dresses and sofa
pillows. She tried to make a little money painting. I
think she had influenced me. She taught me, for instance,
that it was a sin not to eat everything on your plate. So
this was always a trial and tribulation to me in years to
come, because I always have had a little weight problem. I
think mainly it was because I thought it was wrong not to
finish all the food on your plate. I had written my thesis
on all of these people not eating properly, so I had a
P: Do you consider yourself, Emily, to be a religious person?
R: Well, yes, I suppose I am. Well, I really could not define a
religious person. There are different kinds of ways of
practicing a religion, don't you think so Sam? I tell
people that there is no real requirement that our church
makes on anybody as far as Christianity is concerned, except
to love God and your fellow man. That is all that is
required of you. I think it is the same way with the Jewish
religion. That is required of you, Sam--to love God and
your fellow man, don't you think? You do not have to
believe in the virgin Mary or anything like that.
P: Emily, are you a regular church goer? Have you been all the
years in Gainesville?
R: The only time I did not go to church regularly was when I was
a graduate student. I did not have the time; we had so much
work to do. You had to catch up on the weekends.
P: Tell me again about Gainesville during the war years, World
R: Well, of course, we had all our soldiers on the campus. They
would march hither and forth, and of course it was a popular
war. Everybody was for that war. John Maclachlan was on
the rationing board. Was he on the draft board? He was on
all sorts of boards.
P: He was too old to be drafted.
R: Right. But he had to teach everything in the department. His
throat was chronically hoarse, because he hd to take over
all the courses of people like Dick [Winston Wallace]
Ehrmann who did go off. You know, Dick was somewhat
P: John McFerrin went off, too. Were they the same age bracket?
R: John McFerrin was younger. John was a sort of child prodigy,
I think. He went through school fast. John Maclachlan had
by this time two sons, and I suppose that protected him from
the draft. Also, he was doing all sorts of civic work, you
see, as a sociologist.
P: Gainesville was a lively place during the war years?
R: Well, the campus was very lively, yes. Of course, as a mother
and housewife, what you remember mainly was the rationing of
it. You could not buy soap; you could not buy coffee. We
had friends who gave us their coffee coupons, because they
did not drink coffee. I remember the [Herbert Snow] Wolfes
gave us some.
I remember the [John R.] Greenmans made soap on their farm out
here on the Newberry Road and gave their friends their
homemade soap, and it was very good soap. The Greenmans
were lovely to us. They gave us watermelons besides soap,
and our boys were the same age. You know John Greenman on
the faculty; he is retired too. Dorothy and I were in the
same garden circle. Oh, I was a tremendous club goer in
those days. I belonged to seven or eight different
P: What happened to your poor people and your black people?
R: Well, I got involved most with my own children, I suppose. I
am intensely maternal, and as time went on I lost the edge
of my social reform impulse, I guess.
While I had been a graduate student, I had written articles for
the New Republic on sharecrop tenancy and on southern diet.
I had written several articles for the New Republic. I had
written an article for the North American Review on how
difficult it is to get through graduate school. It was
called "The Conjugal Ph.D.'s." I still had some hopes of
being a writer. My literary interests at this time were
turning towards children's literature, because I read so
many stories to the children. I wrote some children's
stories that were published in the little children's
magazine, Jack and Jill. One of my stories was published in
the Girl Scout Magazine.
P: Well, Emily, did you have black people working for you as
maids in your home?
R: Oh yes, we always had black people.
P: The problems were obvious here in rural Alachua County, the
R: Right. I joined the League of Women Voters, and I was really
shocked and amazed that the League of Women Voters was not
the least bit interested in any question that had to do with
segregation or with race relations or with the educations
of... They did come out in support of the public school
system when the southern states threatened to disestablish
the schools and Mississippi actually did.
P: Did you play any active role in the political life of
Gainesville as a young faculty wife?
R: Well, we always tried to vote for the right candidates, the
ones who stood up for things that we believed in. We kept
up with politics, yes.
P: But you were not active, as you had been in earlier years, and
certainly not to the degree that your mother had been?
R: Well, my mother was never politically active. She was active
in a very quiet way. She established the Bethlehem Center
down on one of the Negro business streets in Jackson. It
was a center where black children could come and be given
some recreation and classwork.
P: But what about Emily Maclachlan?
R: No, I did not. To begin with, Gainesville did not have the
kinds of problems with black people that Mississippi had.
People were actually voting in Alachua County by this time.
Black people were voting.
P: In the thirties and forties?
R: Oh yes. We did not have the problems that Mississippi had. I
think the population of black people was only about twenty-
five per cent, was it not? You just did not have that kind
of problem in this county. Now I know we had poor black
people. But we also had prominent black people, and it
seemed such a contrast to me from what the kind of...
P: But that was not one of your major concerns, is really what I
R: No. I would have been very happy to see black people in Holy
Trinity Church at that time. I would be happier if I saw
more of the now. We have a few, but not enough.
P: But you did not play any active reformist role in the life of
Gainesville at that time, and I presume no other woman did
R: Well, I would say Peggy Ehrmann was much more active
politically than I was. I believed in the same things that
Peggy believed in--you see Dick was one of the founders of
the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People] here. I had not thought of it before, Sam,
but I think that John was a restraining influence on me. I
tend to be led by the man in my life, and I think that he
was more diplomatic and conservative. I think he saw that
you could only go so far. You know sociologists sort of
take a biological view of social history and social reform.
I remember when the Supreme Court made that famous decision
in 1954. John said, "It's going to take at least two
generations to integrate the schools." He was right. He
died before he saw it, but you remember the terrific
opposition and struggle.
P: Emily, let's leave that for just a moment. I want to get to
asking you about C. Vann Woodward, who, of course, has
become such a noted figure in American history. Now, he
brought you here? He was responsible for John getting the
job offer from the Department of Sociology? And you say he
found you a house?
P: Tell me about Vann Woodward in Gainesville and his wife and
R: Well, his wife was Glenn. We had not know Glenn at Chapel
Hill. I think he must have married her later. But at the
time we knew him in Chapel Hill he was not married. He used
to come to our house quite often in Chapel Hill, and then
when we lived here together. It was a very short time
before he left. He and Glen came to our house for dinner,
and we saw them quite often. Then, first thing we knew, he
P: What kind of a teach was he, as far as you know? What kind of
a person was Vann Woodward?
R: I only knew him socially. I never sat in on one of his
classes. I did not, and as I look back on it, I feel that I
missed a wonderful opportunity. I could have gone and sat
in on various classes at that time, I suppose. But I was a
little embarrassed to do so, because I feel that if you go
and sit in on a class of one of your friends, it might be a
little odd. But I would have loved to. I really missed the
kind of intellectual stimulation the I had had as a graduate
student at Chapel Hill. I really missed that.
My resource was to read a great deal. I read all the novels of
Anthony Trollope from one end of the shelf to the other end.
Our friends, the Robert Harrises, had all the Trollope
novels, so I borrowed them and read them, all fifty-two. I
think it was kind of escape reading.
I was torn sometimes with feelings of being conscience-stricken
that I was not doing anything really worth-while with my
life, except rearing my children, and taking part in all of
these clubs, and the church work.
P: So your mother and your graduate school days were haunting you
a little bit?
R: A little bit, yes. I think all women who are educated,
especially of my generation, and all generations, perhaps,
are torn with this feeling--that you really should be doing
more with your life.
P: But you were following the role of the traditional southern
R: Yes. Evidently this had been very deeply rooted in me before
the other came, you see. I did not have a chance to get out
and teach or anything like that until after Jack died. They
did not let me teach on this campus, you see. Bill [William
Graves] Carleton, chairman of Social Sciences, would have
hired me to teach. He said he would, before Jack died. But
the deans would not let women teach then. When I joined the
faculty in 1961 there were only four or five women teaching.
P: Tell me about Dick Ehrmann.
R: Well, Dick was graduated form Yale, and he had his Ph.D. I'm
pretty sure it was in anthropology. So he taught the course
in anthropology in the Sociology Department.
P: What brought Dick to Gainesville?
R: Well, he was a Jacksonville boy. He grew up in Jacksonville.
And Peggy was a Florida girl.
P: Did John Maclachlan have anything to do with his appointment?
R: Oh yes, oh yes.
P: When did John become the chairman of the Sociology Department?
R: Well, wait a minute, didn't the Ehrmanns come here the same
year we did? So how could Jack have hired him? Dr. Bristol
or Dr. Atwood must have hired him. I cannot remember that.
I do not know who hired him, but we were very
P: Well, you could not have come at the same time.
earlier that John was the second sociologist.
R: Well, he must have come the next year, Sam, yes.
R: We would have to look that up.
P: About 1939?
For two years you belonged to the Newcomers group.
They went in two year intervals. We all belonged to the
P: So the Ehrmanns and the Maclachlans were good friends
R: Yes, yes.
P: You saw eye to eye on political issues?
P: Political issues, even though John was the most conservative
of the group?
R: Yes, I think Dick and Peggy were more openly politically
active than we were.
P: John did not resent Dick's involvement in the NAACP?
R: No. He approved of it. But he had to bear the burden of
being the chairman of the department that had people in it
that were disapproved of by other people.
P: When did he become chairman of the department? Do you
R: Yes, yes. I looked it up and there is a little article about
him in Who's Who and I just reviewed it. He became acting
chairman in 1941 and chairman in '42.
P: He had a very rapid rise.
R: Rapid rise. It was amazing to my folks back home in
Mississippi. My father had not thought that he would be
able to make a living for us, and here he was just going up,
P: He came here, and within three years, he was acting chairman
of the department.
R: Right, and the next year, he was chairman. Then he was made
associate dean of arts and sciences, 1946-48.
P: I remember that. I was here. John was a very successful
teacher, too, as I remember.
R: Now, his were the only classes that I did sometimes sit in on.
I was sure he was one of the most brilliant professors I
had ever heard.
P: What were his special areas here, teaching?
R: The sociology of the South, and demography.
P: Emily, how did he become involved in the planning of the
R: Well, he was appointed by Dr. MIller, who was then president
of the university, J. Hillis MIller, to be the chairman and
the research director of the committee that planned the
This committee was made up of people from
all different departments. They requested authorities from
all [over] the United States who were cognizant of the
problems of setting up a medical center to come here.
had all these conferences, and DR. Russell S. Poor from Oak
Ridge was brought here as actual director of the project.
But John Maclachlan did all the research work and
coordinated these different campus departments.
P: He wrote the reports?
R: He wrote the reports.
Three of his reports are in the
cornerstone of the medical center, the one on Florida
doctors and the health of Florida people and that sort of
P: What do you think John Maclachlan's impact was on this
R: Well, if you go back to the years of the Second World War, I
think he carried the burden of the whole department while
other people were away, and then think that he guided it in
certain directions. For instance, in 1948 they added
anthropology. They changed the name of the department from
the Department of Sociology to the Department of Sociology
and Anthropology, and they brought in John [M.] Goggin, who
was an archaeologist. Those two departments are now
separated. After his death, they were separated. But you
might say that he started anthropology on this campus.
P: Then, I think his worth in starting the medical school was
probably the biggest thing that he did, because that that
time they had all sorts of good ideas about medicine being
for all the people and not so specialized. The ideas was to
have more training in family practice, and community heath
centers, and John and Dr. Miller wanted to give the whole
thing a more sociological direction. I think that is why he
wanted John to do the studies. I do not know whether it
actually turned out that way or not, because there is a
tremendous tradition in medical schools, and I am sure there
are many conventions that have to be followed, and all
doctors tend to want to specialize. But it was hoped at
first that we would have some more doctors interested in
general medicine and family practice.
P: Emily, tell me about John, the man.
R: Well, I sometimes feel a little guilty about directing him
towards sociology because I do think that he had a sort of
creative genius in a literary sense. If he had been writing
fiction I think maybe he would have had a more brilliant
career than as a sociologist, because he really had a gift
of words. I think that is why he was such a good teacher.
That literary tradition was in our families, of course. I
think he might have been a happier man, because I think
sociology, especially in the South, was a very suspect
subject. Were you teaching at that time, Sam?
P: Yes, I came in '47.
R: Well, you know all thr troubles that we had with the
legislative investigations. Of course, Dick Ehrmann by this
time was making his studies of the dating behavior of
Florida students, and he was very much criticized for that.
Anything having to do with sexual studies was considered
very, very bad, and Jack had to bear the brunt of defendant
him on that.
Dick was the only one who knew anything professionally about
homosexuality at that time, and so when Charlie Johns and
his group could not find any Communists, they had to be
satisfied with finding a few so-called homosexuals, and the
promptly fired them. Dick was called in as an expert
witness on homosexuality, and people got the idea that maybe
he was a homosexual, which of course was absurd. It was
just that he was asked what he knew about it, and being a
family sociologist, and one who had studied the subject, he
was the only one around that seemed to know anything about
it, and was willing to speak out about it, you see?
P: And John was supportive?
R: Supported him all the way, yes. Right. Very proud of him.
P: How was John as a family man?
R: Oh, he was wonderful. He always wrote these beautiful long
letters to my Mississippi family. He started out "Dear
Folks" or he started off "Dear Cousin Ethel." He called my
mother "Cousin Ethel." She was his cousin. And they just
loved it. We both wrote long letters home, but his were
especially valued, and they would pass them around all the
different family members. I saved some of them,
He was a wonderful father. He took such an interest in his
children. I came across a letter recently when he said that
he was helping Bruce with his algebra in high school. None
of my boys ever really liked algebra.
They all tended to
like history and literature, but not mathematics and that
sort of thing. So he always helped them with that.
I can remember him getting up early in the morning to type one of
the boys' thesis, because they had not learned to type yet.
He was intensely interested in them, and he was a very
affectionate father. He always had a lot of endearing pet
names for everybody.
He was very demonstrative. Now I came from a family that was not
openly demonstrative. They did not hug and kiss each other.
But John came from a family that did. Now there are two
kinds of southern families; some do and some do not.
P: What about his impact on students?
R: Well, he was very popular, yes. He always had time to talk to
students. After he died, so many of his students wrote to
me and said, "If it hadn't been for John Maclachlan, I would
have become discouraged and dropped out of school."
P: He had lots of problems here, though, with funding, space...
R: Oh yes. He always had funding problems, yes. After he went
back to being just head of the sociology department and not
a dean, we got Dean [Ralph Emerson] Page, and he and Dean
Page were not simpatico, I suppose. He was criticized for
having an office at the medical center and trying to do
research at the medical center and directing graduate
students down there, while also being chairman of the
Sociology Department. I really think at that time (his
health was beginning to break), that he should have given up
the chairmanship with the Sociology Department and not try
to do so much. I think that was too much of a strain on
P: Did you have any indication that he was beginning to have
R: Oh yes, yes. He was the kind of jolly, outgoing person who
always put other people's interests first. For instance, if
he had any money for travel, he would give it to other
members of the department to go to the meetings, and he
should have been going to the meetings as chairman of the
department. He did not really like to go to these meetings.
He did not like the politics of professional work. He did
not like campus politics, academic politics. He was not
good at it.
He was a reconciler, however. When he sat on committees, people
always told me that he could make a humorous remark and
bring things to a resolution humorously by getting people
together. He was good at that.
But as far as striving in this hard competitive struggle to get
to the top, he was not good at that. He was not good at it.
I think that hurt him. For instance, he was never made
president of the southern sociological group, and I think it
is because he did not politic for it. He would go to the
meetings, but usually he would send someone else to the
meetings. So I think that was a mistake, perhaps. He was
not competitive enough.
P: He had good friends outside of the department, too, did he
R: Oh yes, oh yes.
P: Outside of sociology?
R: Oh yes, yes. For instance, Andrew [Nelson] Lytle thought the
world of him. The folklore people thought the world of him-
-Alton [Chester] Morris and people like that.
P: He liked social activity, I remember.
R: OH yes, yes. He had had some serious illnesses as a child,
memingitis and pneumonia several times, and his lungs were
affected. Also he was a heavy smoker; he was a chain
smoker. He would smoke almost two packs of cigarettes a
day. He was doing research, in his later years, on the
statistical data that was coming out. The first statistical
data was beginning to prove that smoking causes lung cancer,
and later on they found out heart disease, too, was caused
very largely by cigarette smoking. Yet, he simply could not
give it up. He was addicted to it.
P: Emily, when did he die?
R: He died September 1, 1959, during labor day weekend. A lot of
people were off campus. I had, earlier, gone back to the
university to get my teaching certificate. I did some
courses over in the College of Education, trying to get a
job teaching at Gainesville High School. They said they had
too many faculty wives teaching. Tiny Talbot told me that.
[He] said, "Mrs. Mac, we've got too many faculty wives
teaching. They make a clique. I would like to hire you,
because I'm so fond of Dr. Mac, but I can't hire you." They
called him Dr. Mac. "I can't hire you." So I did not have
a job until the beginning of August; they called me from the
school office and said...
P: Beginning of August, when?
R: Of 1959. He died in September, first of September. They
P: The following month.
R: Yes. They said, "We have got a job at the Newberry School.
We've decided not to close the Newberry school, and we need
somebody to take over the library." I had taken some
library courses. That place was a shambles, that library.
P: So you took the job?
R: I took the job on the fourteenth of August. I was out there
on the first of September at a long faculty meeting and came
home and started dinner (we always called it supper at our
house in the old southern way), and Morgan, who was between
his freshman and sophomore university years, had been
working on campus in the grounds department. He came home
and we started talking, and I said, "Where's your dad?" I
looked out and I saw that his car was there, and so Morgan
went upstairs to look for him and found him on the bed. He
had died. Nobody was in the house with him. He had died
suddenly of a heart attack.
He was only fifty-four years old and at the height of his career.
It was cigarettes that did it, and I think it was overwork,
Sam. So that is why you men have to watch that so
carefully, and he was overworried. He ate too much; he
drank to much beer, and he smoked too many cigarettes.
P: You had your job. Did you stop working?
R: I had this little two-bit job, yes. It paid me about $3,000.
John, in the meantime, had been raised to about $10,000,
which was high, I suppose, for those days. So then I found
out I did not have any pension, because they had just
switched over from the old pension plan to the new, and he
had not signed the papers. So I had no pension from the
state of Florida. I had, I think it was $3,200. Somehow or
other, we managed.
Then I had to make up my mind whether I wanted to teach in a
country school with the hopes someday of getting into the
city schools. There were too many people, thirty-five, to
teach in the social sciences. The principals, I think,
liked to take these pretty young things who were here on
campus getting their husbands through the university and
they sort of liked to have these inexperienced, pretty,
young teachers. Here I was, fifty-one years old. So I had
to make up my mind what to do with the rest of my life.
Remembering the courage of my mother, I decided to go back
to graduate school.
I forgot one little episode. In the spring before John died, in
the spring of '59, I had been asked to come up the
Mississippi Southern, which is now the University of South
One of his former students was running the
sociology department, and he was desperate--one of his
professors had just suddenly left him. He called jack and
he said, "Can you send me somebody to teach sociology?" I
picked up the other phone, and I said, "Well, if you want
somebody, maybe I'll come." He said, "Well, I wish you
So I went up there and taught. They had the quarter system. I
taught for eleven weeks at Hattiesburg, my place where I had
been born. I had many relatives there, and every other
weekend I would go up to Jackson to see my folks. In the
intervening weekends, John and Alan would come to the Biloxi
house. My family had an old house on the Mississippi
seashore campground, the Methodist assembly grounds there,
near Keesler Field at Biloxi. My mother and father had
bought this house, and we would have a little family reunion
there, on one weekend. The next weekend, I would go to
Jackson. So I knew that I could teach.
I had taught a course in family sociology and the introductory
sociology course. I had taken a lot of books and studied
all night, just ahead of the students. I remember one day
in class at Mississippi Southern, all of a sudden, I could
not think of what I was going to say next. That is a
panicky feeling. You have never had that, Sam. You have
never had that feeling as a teacher. But it was terrible.
I said, "Pardon me, students," and I went to the bathroom
and collected my wits.
P: So you had had this little bit of teaching in a college which
convinced you that you could do university teaching?
R: That I could do it. As you know, [Dr.] Manning Dauer
[Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science] is
one of my oldest friends. I think of Manning as a sort of
brother, because he has always taken an interest in me, and
not only me, but other widows, as you know. He sort of
takes a fatherly interest in us. So he called a meeting in
my living room one night, when Vann Woodward came back to
visit, and I think he had John McFerrin and Shaw [Earl]
Grigsby and Vann and several others there, and said, "What
are we going to do about Emily White?" Here I was teaching
out in Newberry at this terribly low salary, having to
commute early in the morning with a group of girls. So they
decided that I should go back to graduate school. That is
what I did. I borrowed money from the National Defense
Fund, $1,000. Can you imagine it? And I went back to
R: Here. I was headed for a doctorate in education.
P: Now you already had your M.A. from Chapel Hill?
R: Yes, right.
P: So what kind of degree were you working towards?
R: For an Ed.D. Hal [Graham] Lewis was chairman of my committee.
Well, I took a lot of courses, and I took some of the
exams, but in the meantime, the next summer, Shaw Grigsby,
Dr. Shaw Grigsby, had taken over as temporary acting head of
the Sociology Department.
T. Lynn Smith did not really want
it. He was our research professor. Jack had brought T.
Lynn here, which was one of his accomplishments, as you
know. T. Lynn Smith, by the way, is, was our expert on
R: Jack was very proud of that. Well, Shaw Grigsby said, "I hate
to offer you a job, because I know you will never finish
your doctorate, but we very much need you to teach in the
sociology department this summer. Do you want to try it?"
I said, "I sure do." So that summer I taught rural
sociology and family sociology. I had taught the family
course before at Mississippi Southern.
P: Now what summer was this?
R: 1961. I went to graduate school just one year, 1960-1961. I
was a full-time student and a third-time assistant over
there in the College of Education, got a little pay for
that. I was living on this; we were eating on this, and the
Defense Fune $1,000. Well, so that summer I taught two
classes for Shaw Frigsby and enjoyed it thoroughly. But it
was a very trying summer in that John's mother had been
discovered to have lung cancer and Dr. Emmel had her in bed.
She was in bed at my house.
P: She was living in Gainesville then?
R: Yes. She had had her own little apartment, but when she was
ill, I brought her to my home and nursed her through that
year of her final illness. She did not want to go to a
nursing home. So what I had to do was to get two colored
women, a girl and a very experienced woman, Letha Williams,
who had worked for Mrs. Miller and worked for other people.
Letha came in the morning, and the younger girl came in the
afternoon. I learned to give her the shots, Demerol shots.
During this time, Miss Lucy told me a great deal about her
youth on the plantations of Mississippi.
It was really a wonderful experience for me, in a way, because
her mind never did give out until the very end. I had never
been particularly fond of my mother-in-law, until that year
when I nursed her. I became very close to her.
But that was the first summer that I was teaching. All this
happened to me, all at once. I had lived such a leisurely,
happy life, and then all of a sudden... Then that fall or
maybe the next year, they said, "We want you to teach in the
C-1 program," and they shifted me from the Sociology
Department to the Social Sciences Department.
P: Still without that degree?
R: Yes. I just gave up on it. I said, "Well, what good is it
ever going to do me? I need the money much worse." Of
course, if I had been one of those really smart people, I
could have gone and done both. But I had a big house to
take care of. Two sons were still with me. The older one,
Bruce, was in the navy, but Morgan was a sophomore in the
university, and Alan was in elementary school. Alan was
just eleven years old when his father died. I had the full
care of these other two boys. I was cooking for them, doing
their laundry, besides which we were renting all four
bedrooms of our big house upstairs to students. I became a
landlady. That was a big help financially. So, we got
along, and it was really a very happy time, because the boys
tended to look to me as both father and mother, and all our
friends rallied around. So it was really a happy time.
P: And [you] went to teach in the Social Sciences when?
R: In '62 or '63.
P: Bill was, let's see, Maurice Boyd was the chairman?
R: Well, Maurice Boyd was the one who hired me, yes.
P: How did that come about?
R: Well, Maurice Boyd was writing that book, which was supposed
to be a general introduction to the social sciences. Who
was he writing that book with?
P: He was writing it with [Donald Emmet] Worcester...
R: With Worcester, right.
P: ...and Glen [John] Hoffman, the book that caused so much
R: Yes. He had been coming to our living room and talking to
Jack about it, the summer before Jack died. So I had gotten
to know him and he had gotten to know me. I had said,
P: He wanted John to do some of he writing of the thing?
R: Well, no. He just wanted him to read the chapters.
P: I see.
R: I said, "You know, Maurice, when Bill was chairman of the
department, Bill Carleton, he would have hired me if Dean
[Winston Woodard] Little had let him. But Dean Little had
said he would never have any women professors in University
College." He did not know it, but he had one. DO you
remember Irmgard Johnson was the first one that got in? Bob
[Robert Franklin] Davidson, chairman of humanities, put her
name on the list of prospective employees, professors, and
he [Little] thought it was a man, because of the name.
Isn't that the way it was? That was the story, that he
thought Irmgard Johnson was male, assumed it was was a man.
THen he found out later that she was a lady. Is that true,
P: I don't know. I really don't know.
R: Anyway, Bob got her under the wire. When I came to teach, I
think there were only a few women. Let's see, there were
Winn [Winifred Loesch] Dusenbury, now Winn Frazer, in
English, and Tommy Ruth Waldo in English, and Bertha [E.]
Bloodworth in English and Irmgard Johnson in humanities.
Were there any others? Well, Dr. Mildred [Mason] Griffith
over in botany, probably.
P: Emily, now, let's see, [Byron S.] Hollingshead was already the
R: Yes, right.
P: Dean Little had retired.
R: Right. Now I still had my office in Peabody Hall, upstairs in
the attic where Sociology Department resided, you know. The
people used to say, you really have to love sociology to
climb all those steps.
P: Well, you talked Maurice Boyd into hiring you? Or did Maurice
come and offer you the position? How did that come about?
R: This was decided by the higher-ups. I do not know who decided
it. Dean [Stanley Eugene] Wimberly might have decided it,
or the Sociology Department might have decided. I was to be
jointly employed. I was listed under both faculties. I had
to go to the faculty meetings of both departments.
P: How much were you paid?
R: Oh, I think I came in at five thousand something, and then by
this time maybe I was five thousand, seven hundred. To me
this was riches compared with what I had been paid at
Newberry. And every year, I would inch up a few hundred
dollars. Then, one time, just before he left here, Dean
Wimberly, Stan Wimberly called me into his office. I was so
surprised. I thought, "Well, what have I done wrong?" He
said, "Emily, I think you should apply for tenure." You
remember we had this rule, that if you were here four or
five years, and you did not get tenure, then you were kicked
out. Do they still have that rule? I thought so. Well,
anyway, he says, "It's time for you to apply for tenure." I
said, "Tenure?" He said, "Yes, I want you to apply for
tenure. Promise me you will do that." So I did. By this
time, Jack Doherty [Herbert J. Doherty, Jr.] was chairman of
P: Jack Doherty came in in 1964.
R: Yes. In the intervening times, of course, Dr. [Franklin
Ahasuerus] Doty was our chairman. He was very, very kind to
me and very encouraging. Then he became our dean, and jack
Doherty took over the department. So when Wimberly said I
must apply for tenure, I went to Jack and he said, "Alright,
Emily, what have you written, academically?" Well, the only
thing I had ever written that would be of any use (I had
written mostly children's stories), was a monograph that I
had done the year that we were at Raleigh, at the state
college. I had done the writing of an experiment station
bulletin on North Carolina rural housing. It was a summary
of the WPA survey. They wanted somebody to write it up, so
I had this little bulletin, and I did not even keep a copy
of it. But he says, "Well, we'll ask the librarians over in
the College of Agriculture to find it for us." Those
ladies, bless their hearts, found it. So we got the exact
title and the date, 1935, and I suppose if I had not had a
monograph, I probably could not have gotten tenure.
P: But you did get tenure?
R: Yes. At that time, you were not supposed to do much research
in University College. If you did your teaching
satisfactorily, they told me, that was all that was required
of you. It was not a "publish or perish" business over
P: Emily, were you happy teaching?
R: I loved it. I just loved it. I think I had good relations
with the freshmen. I did not have any problems until the
last few years of my teaching. I think I got a little tired
and bored with it, finally. Because you had to teach the
same thing over and over. Now, anytime they would let me
teach a little course that I designed, I just loved it. We
had a few little honor sections, don't you know.
Jack Doherty let me teach a course called "The Quest for
Community," and I taught a course on all of those old
nineteenth-century experimental colonies.
and the Amish and the New Harmony people and the Shakers and
so forth. I enjoyed that very much. Then I taught that
same course up at Suwannee in the summer of '72.
P: Emily, how did you get along with the black students? You
remember we began to get a large number of blacks after
R: Yes, well, I had the very first black students who came, the
first black freshmen. I think I had two or three of them.
I did not feel that I should make any special notice of
them, because I did not want to embarrass them. I treated
them just like the other students. I think they appreciated
Well, I remember in later years when we had more black students,
I had one girl who did not seem to be at all well. We had
been talking about the history of lynching in the class and
evidently the subject was very painful to her, as she went
later on to one of the deans and complained that I had said
something that hurt her feelings. I think she
misunderstood. I was just giving her the history of it,
giving the class the history of it. But she did not think
it was a subject that you should talk about in class. She
came from a very well-educated, middle-class, respectable
family, and I suppose it was embarrassing to her for the
white students to know that this had gone on.
P: That was your only problem?
R: That was the only problem so far as I ever knew that I had
with any black students.
P: You got along well with your colleagues?
R: Oh yes, I think so. You had your office across the hall, Sam,
and you were very helpful to me. Paul [Lamont] Hanna was
very helpful to me. Paul was the kind of person who was
always ready to explain the details of how you would grade
it or how you would write these questions for the tests,
those big objective multiple choice tests we had to write.
I do not know what I would have done without Paul helping
George [Coleman] Osborn took my classes if I needed to go to a
meeting. I tried to go to sociology meetings. I think I
tried harder than Jack ever tried. I went not only to the
southern meetings, but I went to the national meetings,
usually at my own expense. Then I was asked to teach the
course in, well, right from the beginning, the sociology
course that I was asked to teach was the one in American
social problems, because nobody in the Sociology Department
wanted to teach it. It was a nasty little course having to
do with juvenile delinquency and alcoholism and drug
addiction and prostitution, just all the things about
American culture that nobody really wanted to talk about.
So I had to teach that course.
P: And you enjoyed it?
R: Well, I did it to the best of my ability, let's say. It was
the seamy side of life, really. It was a depressing course
to teach, and yet I tried to do a good job with it. I think
I enjoyed teaching the American Institutions course more.
But I think I would have thoroughly enjoyed teaching family
sociology. I had taught it at the Mississippi college that
one summer, the first summer that I taught.
I wanted to write a book on the American family, the history of
the American family. I found out that nobody had every
really done it. I actually outlined the book and did a lot
of research for it. But my teaching load was so heavy that
I just did not have the energy to do writing. You see, I
was teaching great big classes. Our freshmen classes, you
remember, Sam, were sometimes, were usually around forty,
forty-one, forty-two. I had sociology classes as big as
eighty-six. I was teaching thirteen hours a week and the
materials always changing...
P: The last few years have been very happy ones for you, haven't
R: Well, yes. I feel that I finally got to do what my conscience
had been telling me that I should be doing all the time that
I was a housewife and mother. When I finally got a chance
to teach, I felt, well, maybe this makes up for not doing
some of the other things I should have been doing. I hope I
was a good teacher and a good influence on the students. In
sociology, we were always taught in graduate school, that
sociology is not a subject in which you tell students what
they must think about social problems, about social
conditions. You are just supposed to tell them the facts.
Even as a graduate student, I disagreed with this. I felt
that you could never really hide your values.
How we are interested today, you know, in the teaching of values.
And my present husband, Dr. [Alfred A.] Ring, is so
interested in that. I think I am the one who got him to
give the money for a chair in social ethics, because he was
going to give it to real estate or something like that. He
had taught a course in valuse, not how you value real
estate, but in business values. He was asked by the, who
was it, Dean Matherly, or Dean [Donald John] Hart, to teach
that course. He had not especially wanted to teach it, but
he got interested in the subject. When he married me, we
discussed it, and I said, "Well, why don't you give this
property to the university, and they can sell it, and in
your will you will put some more money to establish a
professorship in social ethics." I was the one who called
it social ethics. So that it would be very broad, you see.
We hope to have that course succeed in the future. Now
Mike [Dr. Michael V.] Gannon is going to be teaching it this
winter and spring. Hans Oberdick, the young professor from
Swarthmore, came and taught it last year, and we sat in on
P: Your personal life seems to be a very happy one?
R: Well, I think so. I have many friends. I cannot imagine
myself living any place except Gainesville. My Mississippi
family wanted me to come back and live in Mississippi when
Jack died. And I would, I think I would have been happy
there. You see, after all, if you grew up in Jackson and
your two brothers are among the most prominent lawyers
there, you would have entree into all sorts of things.
But I felt that my place was here. My sons had been born, had
gone to school here, and they loved Florida. Every time
they come home to Gainesville they say, "We had forgotten
what a wonderful town Gainesville is." My boys love
Gainesville. My son who teaches at the University of South
Carolina, my middle son, is an anthropologist. He got his
Ph.D. at Stanford; he would have loved to come back and be
another Dr. Maclachlan in the Social Sciences. I hope
someday they will hire him, because he is a special kind of
dissertation on India, south India, and he specializes in
how people make a living. He is really kind of in the area
of folk cultures, I mean of economic anthropology.
P: How long have you been married to Alfred?
R: We were married April 5, 1975. Alfred said (he knew that I
was getting ready to retire), so he said, "Well, why don't
you retire a little bit early?" We saw a lot of each other
for the year preceding our marraige, and then we decided to
marry, so we married. I retired in March of '75, and we
were married in April. You remember the department gave me
a little party. It was more of a wedding party than a
retirement party. It was a very nice, happy occasion.
P: I was there.
R: Yes, I know you were. Remember those white bells we had, and
P: And the champagne.
R: ...and the silver loving cups that they gave us? Wasn't that
nice? Yes. The funny thing was that Alfred took pictures
with my camera, and I was so excited that I forgot to put
any film in it.
P: Well, we'll have to restage the event, Emily.
R: No, not really.
P: You have redone your house, so that it is really a beautiful
R: Oh yes. Alfred said, "Where do you want to live?" I said,
"Well, do you really want to live in this condominium?" It
was Gaineswood Condominium, and of course, it was a very
posh, beautiful place. It has a big swimming pool, which
very few people use. But I did not like living on the sixth
floor in a penthouse and carrying the groceries up and down
the elevator. I love my home so much. So he said,
"Wouldn't you like to live in your own home?" He says,
"We'll do it over." He really did it over. The roof
leaked, and I had had those rooms upstairs rented to boys
all those years. They were a wreck. Everything had to be
P: Your place is beautiful.
R: It's beautiful now, yes, and we...
P: And you look like you are very happy.
R: We are very happy, yes. I am very much in love with my
husband, and he would not like for me to say this, but I am.
He is very conservative about what you say. "Don't you
tell any secrets on that tape." I said, "I won't."
P: What else do you want to say on the tape, Emily?
R: Well, I am going to say...
P: Go ahead, and [then] I want to ask you a question.
R: Well, I have gotten quite interested in these oral history
projects that you have, Sam, and I do want to help in a
small way. I think it would be wonderful if you had more
women in your archives, and I hope I can help you.
P: Tell me what you see Emily Ring in the future. How old are
you now, Emily?
R: I am sixty-nine.
P: All right, tell me what you see for yourself the next twenty-
R: Well, I just hope that I can be as interested in young people
as my mother was when she was getting elderly. She had so
many young friends who were always writing to her, sending
her Christmas cards, and she was wrapped up in her
grandchildren. I think that is the kind of old age I want.
I want to keep in touch with the campus and with young
people and see a lot of my grandchildren and Alfred's
grandchildren. He has six and I have four, so we have ten
together. We do take a very active interest in them. Sam,
you are going to love it when you have grandchildren. You
are going to love it when you retire. Then you will have
time for them.
P: Okay. I will look forward to that for the next fifty years.
R: Yes, right.
P: What do you think about Gainesville? What has happened to it
in your lifetime here? Is it good or bad?
R: Well, as you know, we have a summer cottage in Maine. We stay
up there in a very secluded place all summer, and we do not
even take the Gainesville Sun, because we just are so busy
up there. It is an entirely different life and we do not
seem to have much time for reading newspapers. We take the
Christian Science Monitor and the Wall Street Journal. But
by the time the Gainesville Sun got to us by mail, it would
be a little bit stale, so we have to depend on our friends
to tell us if anybody is in the hospital, or worse, if
anybody has died. We were startled to hear on one of those
morning news programs that Gainesville had become a crime
center of the United States. What were the statistics, that
we were the eighth cith in criminals?
P: Well, do you see it...
R: And yet it does not seem that way. When I come home, I walk
back and forth to the campus at night by myself. You know
the other night, I came to your lecture. I walked up to the
campus by myself, and I met some friends in front of [J. J.]
Finley [Elementary] School, and they said, "Well, what are
you doing out here by yourself? Aren't you afraid?" I
said, "No, I'm just so used to doing this." But I do not
feel afraid on the streets at night. Maybe I should.
P: Do you think Gainesville has gotten too big?
R: Well, it is big. But I do not see the bigness, because I
right close to the campus. I just go back and forth to the
campus and to Holy Trinity Church, and I hardly ever go out
into the suburbs.
P: Your world is encompassed by about three or four miles?
P: Old Gainesville.
R: I can go on my bicycle anyplace I want to go, you see. We
ride to church on our bikes sometimes.
P: Emily, tell me what you think about young people. Are you
upset with all of the revolutions?
R: Oh no, I think young people--what would we do without them?
think they are wonderful. I think that they are just as
idealistic and hopeful as... I think when you teach a lot
of young people, you get a lot of faith in them.
I think it was interesting to be on this campus during the
You remember we had a lot of excitement, and I was
in the middle of it. I remember I was in the teach-in
against the Vietnam War. Here I was out in the middle of
the Plaza of the Americas, speaking into a microphone, which
I had never done before. I was telling those students that
if they were really supporters of this peace movement, and
they really wanted to influence people who had say-so in
this country, they would shave off their beards and put on
their shoes and go knocking house to house in support of the
peace movement. But you see, most people had the students
who were for peace identified with drugs and shacking up and
beards. Beards were not acceptable in those days. They
would not give up the drugs and the beards for the sake of
peace. I was trying to tell them that they should, because
I was really for peace.
I thought it was a terrible war to be in, and to have to teach
the Cold War--the last four or five weeks of this freshman
course we taught the Cold War as though it were one of the
American institutions. Do you remember I was very much
opposed to that? We were not teaching a book on the family
until I came into the department; I picked out the book, I
believe. Well, we were not teaching aout American
education. We would spend all this time on the Cold War.
P: Emily, does the drug scene and the shacking up--does this
bother you? Do you think it poses a threat to our society,
R: I am much more worried about drugs than I am about sex. And
now we have this new scare about cocaine. I am something of
a health nut. I believe in vitamins, and I am the kind of
person that goes down to the health food stores to buy whole
grain cereals and that sort of thing. Do you know, the kind
of people who go to the health food stores are very young
people and very old people. Well, I am worried about drugs,
Now as far as shacking up is concerned, I think it is just a new
kind of marriage. I think most of the people who shack up
have more or less a permanent relationship, and with the
divorce rate what it is, maybe it is a wise thing to try
each other out, and see if you can make a go of it. Now,
you could not do it if we did not have contraceptives. But
now that we do have contraceptives, it makes it possible.
It has been advocated for generations, that young people try
each other out, see if they can get along together. Because
I know when my students were writing papers on their own
social problems, one of the worst problems they had on
campus was trying to get on with their roommates. When
three or four were trying to live together in an apartment,
they were just having a terrible time. You know, living
with somebody, day to day, is an adjustment that you have to
make. Can you do it?
P: So you do not feel that what we are going through now is a
real threat to...
R: Not that part of it, no, no. But there are some other things
that do disturb me. Now, I wonder about my grandchildren.
Alfred worries about his four little granddaughters. He
worries a lot about young people having promiscuous sex. He
worries about that. Of course, you read the stastics on
illegitimacy today. It is just staggering, staggering. I
do think that unwanted, illegitimate babies are a problem.
This is why I do contribute to the planned parenthood
organizations. I think we need to teach young people how
not to have children until they really want children and are
responsible for them. I think that is a very serious social
P: Do you see a decline in the standards of morality? We have
been hearing about Watergate and [the resignation of
Richard] Nixon and the disillusionment with government. Was
this reflected really in the students that you were working
R: Well, there has always been a cynicism about politics and
government, because who is the government? It is just like
the church--it is the people. The government is the people,
or should be. I feel that if you just let the government be
run by the professional politicians, then you are asking for
it. I think that you just have to make yourself aware of
what the candidates are standing for, and the issues.
is why I have always been a supporter of the League of Women
Voters, and of other organizations that teach people about
I think the mass media is doing a good job. Investigative
journalism, I think, is an encouraging development. We have
gots lots more of that.
You have got to be on your toes
today, more than ever. We were discussing it last night,
Alfred and I, about how all the politicians and the deans
now have glass fronts to their offices, so everybody can
walk by and see what they are doing at any hour. He was
down at the City Hall, and he said they have got glass on
the front of their offices. I guess that is sunshine,
government in the sunshine, I suppose.
P: That is a good thing.
P: Emily, what are you going to do tomorrow, next week, next
month, next year, with your life? Are you going to write?
R: I am going to help you. I am going to help you with these
P: All right. Are you going to write? Are you going to finally
get back into that?
R: Well, when I married Alfred, I made him promise to give me
several hours in the morning that I would be free of cooking
for him and washing for him, so that I could write. But I
have not gotten started. Now, that is bad. I should get
started, because, in preparation for this tape, I went
through a lot of old family letters. I have often thought
that it would be fun to write a novel about several
generations of southern women. And I would have all the
material right in my own ancestry. Then when I interview
some of these other southern ladies, I will probably get
But writing, as you know, is a very arduous task. It requires a
great deal of self-discipline. As you get older, it gets
harder. I write a lot, but they are usually long letters to
my friends and family. That is a kind of writing. I spend
a lot of time at that. I think it is important. Very few
people do that anymore.
P: But you look into the future, and you see yourself staying as
busy as you have always been?
R: Oh yes, yes. Well, Alfred is the same way. He does not
really want to retire. He has not really retired. He
retired from the university in '75, but he is very active in
his consulting work. He is a consultant to public
P: Emily, you know now, when we finish this tape, what we are
going to do. We are going to transcribe the tape, and we
are going to audit-edit it, and then I am going to ask you
to read it over, and check it, and see what mistakes we have
made in name spellings and dates and so on. Then you
understand that when we get it back, we are going to type it
up and put it into the archives, make it part of the
University of Florida's Oral History Project. Do you
P: Then it will be available, after you give us a written
release, for research purposes in the same way that other
archival materials at the university are available.
P: Okay. You agree to that?
P: Okay. I want to thank you for this, for taking time from your
schedule to give us this interview, which has been a very,
very, excellent interview.
R: Well, I have enjoyed it and thank you, Sam.