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G: It is June 28, Friday, Atlanta, Georgia. This is Susan Glisson with Warren Prichard. Thank you
very much for your time. We are here to talk about the Southern Regional Council. How are you
G: Talk about how you became aware of the Southern Regional Council and what your involvement
was with them.
P: I became aware of it because my father was interested in it from back in the 1950s and he was a
teacher, a college teacher. He would bring students to the SRC to talk to people so they could see
a real live White liberal. He, I think, maybe was a member of the state organization, but anyway,
he was interested in it. I had been in the Peace Corps right out of college and after that I came
back looking for a job and just happened to go by there and they were willing to hire me.
G: When was that?
G: What were the kinds of things that you did with them?
P: I was assistant editor of the New South magazine, which meant that I edited copies for the
quarterly and also edited stuff that they put out as research publication. Proof read it and checked
facts. Also, I did reporting, I went to various events around the South and reported on them like
hearings, congressional hearings on hunger or meetings of newly elected Black officials or
demonstrations. I went one summer to the Poor People=s Campaign in Washington, it was in
G: Right, after King died.
P: And clipped newspapers, regular daily job.
G: How long were you with them?
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P: About a year and a half.
G: Did you have a sense of any of the internal workings? For instance, you were there in 1966, 1967
after Black militancy has risen on the scene. Did you have a sense of the response of SRC to
some of that kind of militancy?
P: Yeah. I don=t know officially a response, but certainly the tone of the office and kind of a lost place
for White people. It seemed like it used to be easier to be a liberal White southerner whereas after
Black power it was not an easy place. Not a simple, easy place.
G: What was your sense of what the criticisms were about southern liberals?
P: Same as criticisms of White people, generally they didn't understand. They couldn't possibly
understand. They couldn't speak for any Black people. There had to be Black representation at
least proportionally if not more. It=s just White people can no longer represent Black people in any
G: Do you think that the SRC changed in response to those kinds of charges? Did the personnel
change? Did strategies change?
P: I=m sure they did. I remember a lot of meetings where there would be a Black caucus and Black
demands. Sort of a microcosm of whatever was going on in the world. Demands to hire more
affirmative action within the outfit of being a White person and being hired at a level probably
above a lot of Black people that were there was sort of a personal example of where that
happened. I was just kind of hired because somebody knew my father which was the way it went
anywhere around. All the secretaries primarily were Black and all the middle level people were
White in SRC. The Voter Education Project was the other way around, or more than predominantly
Black. So there weren=t those kinds of meetings about that.
G: There weren=t charges about the VEP? That it wasn=t representative?
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G: Was there tension in the office because of that that you could tell?
P: Oh yeah. There was always tension in the office. As between the SRC and the VEP, I don=t
G: In your workings, there was just for the SRC=s day to day stuff, there was that tension.
G: Did SRC respond to that by trying to promote more African Americans?
P: I=m sure they did, but I don=t know how quickly that happened. I don=t remember it being in any
way satisfactory to any of the Black people. I can=t remember if there was a change in policy or
anything. Everybody was kind of guilty in trying to accommodate whatever happened. That was
one of the reasons I left, it was just uncomfortable, and I could, plus I went to graduate school. The
right future of all dead liberals, just study.
G: I would love to have you talk more about the publications and sort of who their primary audience
was and what might have been their impact or what SRC hoped their impact might be?
P: Who was their audience? Hopefully the media and White press.
G: It got circulated to those kinds of folks?
P: I don=t know. The research things, they did a lot of research on the status of school
desegregation for example, and they would issue a report every year as to what and how that was
going. That was sent specifically to the news media. But the publications that were quarterly, the
New South magazine was, I think it was just sent to subscribers. Maybe they would put out a
press release about some particular article, but that was more like a scholarly journal almost than it
was about trying to influence current public opinion or public making.
G: So the subscribers were sort of self-selected?
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P: Subscribers were members of SRC, although we did try to commercially promote it. One of the
members was a big magazine distributor, a guy named Elson here in town, and we tried to sell it.
We did, I guess, sell a few on the new stands, but it wasn=t a widespread popular thing.
G: The press releases might be used to highlight articles.
P: Occasionally, yeah. But the bulk of the press, the effort to influence the press was with the special
report. They did one on the Orange Burke massacre, you might have heard of it.
P: A couple of the people on our staff went over there and did an investigation. It wasn=t taken
names and subpoenas, but it was just going and asking what happened right after it happened.
They put out a paper on that, and that was promoted and that got a good bit of press. Incidents
G: I guess I=m just trying to distinguish in my head, it seems sort of two purposes at least, and please
correct me if I=m wrong. There=s one purpose in trying to raise the awareness of the press, of the
media, and maybe others who have been reading the press in terms of particular challenges,
particular issues and that's what the special reports kind of did, and then there=s this sense of the
publication that you did which really had a different purpose it seems to me that was mainly to
strengthen the morale of the members.
P: Yeah. I think it had been more important than the past as just a what=s going on with White
liberals in the South, and here=s of a collection of the issues were interested in. How many
people were lynched in Georgia versus Alabama? We had a summary of the news, of the quarter
related to the race politics balance, mostly that. That was more just letting the liberal southern
membership know what was going on up there. I think it had been more important in the past as a
linkage to let people know to build the organization, to inform one with the other which none of this
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was in the press. Then by the time I was there, all this stuff was getting into both politically and
the front page. Another important thing, probably more important than what we put out was what
we collected and the questions we answered for the press. We had the best source of how many
people were lynched in what particular year or who was arrested and who was shot, what was
going on. We were really the source of information, reliable information through the whole national
news media. We clipped twenty newspapers I guess everyday and filed them, and we had
enormous files on particular things. That=s probably still around somewhere I hope.
G: Yeah, there=s lots of microfilm in the microfilm collections. So you didn't have a sense that
you were writing something whose scope was intended to identify this silent majority of people who
were going to rise up and resist?
G: It was really more toward maybe the people who you=d identify as allies, and keep it in
P: I think so.
G: Do you think that that might have evolved over time? That earlier it might have had intentions or
beliefs in identifying something, some silent majority?
P: Might have. I think probably it did. That was I think a hope and almost an expectation right after
WWII, as I read the history, that there was opportunity to move things toward progress right after
WWII, and that it wasn't automatically locked up until it affected more or maybe a little more...
G: Massive resistance ...
P: And that there was. There were some liberal White politicians in the South in the late 1940s. In
fact, there=s another book written about that, but I think it probably was with that idea before I got
G: But it evolved.
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P: Yeah, and then other things spun off like there was a project that tried to specifically influence the
press, and there was sort of a monthly, I don=t remember the name of it, but it was more of a
monthly review of what=s going on in the South. I don=t remember the name of it, but that was
Reese Cleghorn. We picked up a lot of retired or fired journalists. Just about everybody there had
been run out of somewhere. Reese Cleghorn was then a reporter at the journal and had come
over there and started this project. It was more specifically trying to generate political, at least
trying to generate a political movement. Propaganda.
G: Were you aware of any other media being used? Was radio ever used or television being used?
G: You mentioned the VEP. Did you have any sense of how that project was working and what it=s
P: It seemed to be a lot more action oriented force. The people there seemed a lot more unified and I
guess without the Black White that came up because they were run by Black men, mostly Black
upper staff. Ours was White at the time and that was a White organization. I can=t remember...
There were a few department heads who were Black besides the VEP which was almost another
organization. There was a prison project of SRC which had a Black head, the rest of them pretty
much were White. The research and publication staff was mostly White at the time. The people
who were doing the work day to day were mostly Black which is sort of one the protests.
G: You mentioned the prison project. I know there=s a sense in the late 1960s that SRC=s kind of
building on some of it=s earlier stuff, expanding or broadening what it does with prison reform and
housing and workers rights. Did you have a sense that that was a withdrawal from dealing with
racial issues or was that a re-conceptualization of where the issues really were in order to achieve
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P: I don=t think it was so much a withdrawal because SRC was never set itself up to be a direct
action outfit. It was always supposed to be research and information. So I think they were always
looking for some other way to go. They had taken in some other organizations farther back like the
Southern Women Against Lynching, whatever that was called, Miss Tilly.
P: I don=t think it was a withdrawal, I think it was always sort of more of an education, finding new
ways to shine light on problems, regional problems.
G: You think that maybe some of the more local efforts and some of the increasingly more radical
efforts were maybe falling in into some new areas?
P: Probably, but I don=t remember that being discussed necessarily. After public accommodations
and voter rights, it was mostly a Black movement after that in time got done, after 1963, 1964. It
was prisons, it was food, it was hunger, it was housing.
G: More economically driven?
P: Yeah. They were anticipating property tax polls, stuff that hadn=t happened by then yet.
G: Were you aware of what might have been going on in the organization in the early 1970s and how
they might have responded to food, the new White backlash, the Nixon, the Watergate?
P: Nixon and Agnew came in while I was there, 1968 wasn=t it? That=s when Agnew and Nixon
went in the first time. Yeah that was the whole thing was White backlash and that was well
establish. White backlash and Black power all at the same time.
G: SRC caught in the movement?
P: More or less.
G: How did they do it?
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P: They definitely did it by having Black caucuses and questioning our purpose and thinking what it
really is is registering voter and economic development and where then the White liberal no longer
has a place except in changing White people.
G: Were they able to work with anybody in the Nixon administration that you know of?
P: I don=t know that we lobbied this. You say worked with, I don=t think we worked with...
G: I know in some sense that some of the relationships that say Dunbar might have had with the
Kennedys helped get some of the funding for setting up VEP, that kind of relationship. Was any of
that happening with Johnson even or with the Nixon administration?
P: They kind of fell out with Johnson in specifics of the Mississippi movement and particularly the
OEO projects in Mississippi, Head Start and so forth. Johnson came down on the side of the White
establishment the, whatever the [Fanny] Lou Hamer movement. That whole movement that wound
up at the convention. Johnson pretty well fought that and they were not happy with him about that
and they continued to snipe at the OEO movements that were really establishing White power
structure organizations across the South. They didn't work with him on that. Their political efforts
seem to me to be the issue of proclamations and resolutions and sending telegrams of support and
so forth. I don=t know if there were any connections like maybe Dunbar and the Kennedys.
Certainly they were not friendly towards Nixon and his people.
G: What about any relationships with some of the post-1967 White liberal politicians or the new
African American politicians that were being elected? Was that after you had gone?
P: No. One of the big things that VEP did was to have training for these newly elected Black officials
like new Terry or new court of the ordinary judge or local county officials. We=d go, they=d go, I
went with them just sort of as a reporter, but big meeting of the newly elected Black officials of
Mississippi and teaching them about due process and stuff [like] how do you arrest somebody or
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how do you assure their rights. So already elected people, which were very local, they weren=t
even congress people at that time. John Lewis was still working for the VEP rather than running
for whatever. By the time I left, there still wasn=t a Black mayor that I know and all that. The
registration hadn=t manifested itself in elections beyond local elections by the time I left.
G: What about funds in terms of there=s like a high point, if you want to talk about a high point in the
civil rights movement dates, 1964, 1965, with Freedom Summer and the Civil Rights Act and the
Voting Rights Act were passed. After that sort of high point, did SRC have trouble getting funding?
P: I think they did. I think so. The Ford Foundation and the Field Foundation. I don=t know any of
the specifics, but I know it was harder. Dunbar had gone or come from or gone to the Field
Foundation, so there was a connection there. I think Ford cut back, I don=t remember. Nixon
threaten the tax free status, which made it less attractive as a place to contribute money. I can=t
remember how that came out, but it was in doubt all along as to whether we were going to remain
tax free or tax... you know what I mean. Give money to them without having to pay taxes on it or
whatever. Nixon was trying to make us a political action, something that would be partisan and
competitive which it was, probably by the letter of the law it was. I don=t know, the funding... it=s
hard to say. I didn't busy myself with that.
G: From your time there, how would assess what you saw as strengths and what you saw as
weaknesses of the SRC in its work?
P: Strengths. That it existed and its history. I think the strengths were more in its origin. And its
support of people who were fairly isolated and unusual, voices in a wilderness. Weaknesses would
have [been] that it didn't succeed, I don=t know. It didn't succeed, the movement didn't
succeed to a degree. It had tremendous victories, but in a sense it didn't succeed. The kingdom
did not come, but what was that? Could anybody have stopped Nixon or that thrust of the whole
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southern strategy which contended into this last election? It was always a minority organization, it
was always calling out to the good people, assume that they're there, they were keeping quiet,
and I think it did that. I have no idea what it=s done since. I think the same could be said of any
liberal Democrat or liberal American movement and the whole thrust of the 1960s, what was its
weakness or what was its success? It had tremendous success, but I don=t know, maybe it=s
weaknesses were some of that... I don=t know. It was a lot of fun, it was a lot partying, it was a lot
of drinking. Going to lunch and staying all day at the bar.
G: I haven't heard about any of that yet.
P: That could have been a weakness, it was a hell of a lot of fun. It was fun to be a renegade, you
know? Until the Black people turned on us. We were comfort to each other, we were honkered
down in the palace of the enemy. We were good people, we were righteous. We had done right
and said the right things and stood for the right things and suffered for it, and this was a refuge,
kind of a reward for our sacrifice. So that made it unusual. I gather it was a lot easier to just have
that before the mid-1960s. As I said, it was a lot of fun.
G: Were any of those feeling affected when, as you say, the Black people turned on you? Did you
begin to suspect those feelings? That it was you and a righteous cause?
P: Yeah, definitely. That was the whole point, I think, of their purpose. Where do you get off thinking
you=re so good and you=re making these people work like this? You=re not playing by your
rules. You=re self-righteous. It went from being righteous to being self-righteous.
G: Who were some of the major personalities you associated with SRC and what do you think their
contributions were to it?
P: The ones I remember were the writers, Pat Watters and Bob Anderson. Hired writers, did special
reports and they put out some good stuff, and books even on the voting rights, the history of the
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voting rights movement, and the movement in general. There were some real characters among
the state organizations. They would come into town every year, for sure, maybe more frequently.
That was a big drunken party, there was lots of rousing. Those people were pretty daring
characters. I don=t even remember their names. They were working in what to me would have
been really depressing situations, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama. I wouldn't be sure about
this, but I bet there=s a good portion of alcoholics among all that group, or early deaths by heavy
drink. It=s unbelievable some of the stuff they did. We=d go to lunch, you know after the 1964
public accommodations you could go to lunch by dressery and that was kind of a new thing. We
could go out and go to lunch and have a martini and then have another one. We never went back
to work after lunch, hard to imagine forty years later, thirty years later. Hard to drink a beer before
dark anymore. Anyway, you were asking me about the people who had impact as leaders. I guess
the ones that I saw were the writers and certainly Vernon Jordan. [The] force of his personality
would have probably dominated anything he got into or been successful in anything and has been.
The Voter Education Project was much more hands on, in the streets, giving money and support
to actual organization efforts, local efforts, so that would have had to have been a big part of his
success and strength and thrust in the thing as compared with supplying information, keeping up
with the various regional issues we were keeping up with. There were a lot of interns and young
people who came through there who certainly got influence. But by the time I was leaving, the
whole movement of White liberals was against the war and away from civil rights. There=s a lot of
things that failed at the same time, in that time or that went off the front page. The whole civil rights
movement, the movement against poverty. It kind of got replaced by the war and then supposedly
nobody was interested in any political thing anymore. It was a peak and I was there at a good
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time. It was a great time to be there. In my life I=ve come upon good things at a good time and
got out about the time they went bad.
G: How do you think historians should incorporate the SRC into a story of the Black freedom struggle
or in the post-war shout?
P: It think it was really important. I think just for being there and for representing of however small a
minority, I think it probably did keep a pilot light burning in bad years when there wasn=t a Black
movement. I think it was enough of an opposition to keep things from being overlooked
completely. It=s hard for me to know what influences and how political public opinion gets
influences. Like I.S. people, how do you know that Atlanta, Georgia is in favor of George Bush, his
policies on fighting terrorism? How do you understand that? There=s polls, listening to talk radio
or reading editorials in the paper, I don=t know really how to gauge that. It surprises me that
people keep faith with issuing proclamations and resolutions as if that would have any impact
where I don=t think people much read those things. I don=t have a good sense of the effect of
what makes a big difference. Things like the assassination of Martin Luther King, that had a hell of
a big impact, but SRC=s expression of publishing a telegram sent to Robert Kennedy=s widow the
day after he was shot, what effect does that [have]? Or publishing the fact that so few schools or
no schools in Alabama have been desegregated by 1977, what effect does that have? I don=t
know what effect a lot of that had, and I don=t know how to gauge about SRC or anything.
G: Right. But being in existence and firing away this kind of John the Baptist role that seems to be a
theme among all the people that I =ve talked to judging that the language of caring the way we
talked about a voice in the organization is a John the Baptist kind of metaphor that everybody
P: There=s a lot of ministers involved in that whole thing.
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G: Why do you think that role has been unacknowledged by historians?
P: I don=t know that it has. I read that one book, the history of South between WWII and 1954.
G: John Egerton book?
P: What=s the title of that?
G: Speak Now Against the Day?
P: Yeah. That=s the only reading I=ve done about that era, how the SRC was started. There were
two or three other outfits and they=d meet and try to come up with something that fits and starts
through the... I forgot your question.
G: If it was important in this preparing the way kind of role, why might that have been a relatively
P: I don=t know. Why are things overlooked in history anyway? It was a pretty small effort really
relative to the whole population of the South and the prosperity and detectives and all that stuff.
G: Do you think it had anything to do with the fact that it was White people doing it?
P: White people would have been the ones to acknowledge it, the White district pretty much. No, I
think my image of it was that White liberals were so unusual they would have been looked upon as
not like other people. They would have been looked on as radical innovators or destroyers. They
wouldn't have been looked on as normal White people, kind of an honorary radical if it had to be
Black, if that was the measurement of effectiveness. Why was it overlooked? Even Lenin was
overlooked for a long time or who else? Somebody who=s trying for suddenly to take over. What
are you writing. Is this is a book?
G: I actually will not be writing, Brian Ward who is an historian at the University of Florida will complete
the book. I get the fun part of the job where I talk to people. This grew out of a desire by a person
that lives in Denmark, George Esser, to get on tape some of the folks that haven=t been talked to
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in order to produce a good evaluative assessment of the SRC that hasn=t been done just on its
P: I probably was in the third generation of the bulk of the membership, maybe second, I don=t know.
When did it start?
G: Well, it was the CIC, the Commission on Interracial Cooperation where it grew out of and it started
P: I would have been at least the sixth generation. I=m surprised that you don=t have other
peoples names, that you didn't have the name of Glenda Water. Did you try to get that?
G: I=m going to write her. I=m going to try find her number. I=m hoping that Connie Curry might
have her phone number.
P: I didn't know Connie was much involved in this just as a cold...
G: She worked as sort of an associate of the project she worked on all in the same grade.
P: I didn't think she would have been in on the policy-making.
G: She was very close to Paul. That might have been one of the linkages, if she=s kept in touch with
a lot of people The interesting thing was Leslie Dunbar was really interested
personally, it was important to him that this gets out there. When I asked him to tell me who were
the people that you have a sense of urgency about getting up there, he didn't really have that
P: How old is he?
G: He=s probably in his eighties although he doesn't look like it and he seems to be in good shape. I
already went to see him in May.
P: What=s his son doing?
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G: I don=t know what Timmy=s doing. He mentioned him. He mentioned him because Will
[End of interview]