Title: Staige Blackford [ SRC 21 ]
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Title: Staige Blackford SRC 21
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Creator: Interviewer: Brian Ward
Publication Date: February 25, 2003
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SRC 21
Interviewee: Staige Blackford
Interviewer: Brian Ward
Date: February 25, 2003


W: ....Oral History Program, an interview with Staige Blackford on February 25,
2003, in Charlottesville, Virginia, for the Southern Regional Council history
project. Thanks ever so much for seeing me, I really appreciate it. What I would
like to do just to start the ball rolling is to just ask you a little bit about your
background prior to any involvement you may have had with the Southern
Regional Council. I gather you were educated here at the University of Virginia,
but you could you tell me a little bit about where you were born and raised?

B: Believe it or not, I was born and raised in Charlottesville. My father was a
professor of medicine. I guess the thing that started me off on the whole civil
rights thing was a bunch of us teenagers were sitting around after the war, and
my father worried about...he didn't think the GIs, a lot of them, knew what they
were fighting for. He said he concluded that, in America, every man had a right to
his own self-respect, except for the Negro in the South. Then I read Cry the
Beloved Country, and there is that one little section in there where he talks
about, the truth is that civilization is not Christian; it is a tragic compound of great
ideal and fearful practice, of and deep anxiety. That, to me, wasn't just
South Africa; that was the South. Oddly enough, I started to major in foreign
affairs, but I was editing the Cavalier Daily, so therefore I couldn't take classes in
the afternoon. So, I majored in English, actually. But when I got to [my] Rhodes
[fellowship], as I told you, I did modern history, which I learned, somewhat to my
surprise, began in 55 B. C. with Caesar's invasion of Britain.

I will tell you a wonderful story about Mina Prestwick. She came sashaying up to
me at a party gave. This is off-the-subject a bit. Anyway, she said,
well, now, Mr. Blackwood, it is so nice to have you at Oxford. What are you doing
as your general paper? I said, well, Mrs. Prestwick, I am doing the period from
1870 to 1939, and she looked aghast and said, but my dear young man, you
must realize that is not history, it is journalism. Well, journalism was what I had
planned to do, but I still hadn't done my military. One day, I met a guy who said,
are you interested in working for the U. S. government? And then I came home
between my two years at Oxford and went to a place, an address he had given
me, in New York, which was posing as a tourist office, but turned out to be the
C.I.A.

My first job was with the Central Intelligence Agency in D.C., and I spent six
weeks there in the fall of 1954. I then enlisted in the U. S. Air Force in 1955. Of
all the things I may have ever done, probably the thing of which I am most proud
is, I managed to get through OCS [Officer Candidate School] because you had
to have the right staff sergeant to get in, and the Agency arranged for me to get









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in. If I busted out, I was out of the Agency and in the Air Force for four years.
Anyway, I graduated from OCS. What really began to tick with me in the race
thing was, I was stationed in Mobile, Alabama, for a year, one of the happiest
years of my life, actually. Then I came back to the Agency, worked on the
politician propaganda staff, on the Mexican desk and then on the Spanish desk,
at which point I became engaged. I went with my wife to Old Westbury, Long
Island, where she was from. At that time, one of my best friends at Oxford, who
is now rather famous in this country as Adam Smith. His name is Jerry
Goodman. And John McPhee. He went to Cambridge. Through them, I made a
contact at Time, Incorporated, so I went to work for Time, Inc. Then I later
worked as an encyclopedia editor in New York in history. At Forest Hills in the fall
of 1961, I met a man named Don Ellgood, who was director of the Louisiana
State University Press. I had by that time written a couple of articles or letters or
something about the South and civil rights and so forth.

My best American friend at Oxford was a fellow named Elliot Levitas. He wasn't
the one I was telling you about earlier, but Elliot lived in Atlanta. I stopped off in
Atlanta, and he said, you got an interest in civil [rights], you ought to go meet Les
Dunbar, who is the executive director of the Southern Regional Council. So, I
met Les and went on to Louisiana. That summer, in July of 1962, I got a letter
from him asking if I would be interested in being research director for the
Southern Regional Council.

W: Before you get to the SRC stuff, do you think your time away from the South was
important in shaping your views on the racial situation in the South?

B: Oh, sure. The best thing that happened to an American at Oxford was May 17,
1954 [date of the Brown decision], because we had had all that McCarthy stuff
and whatnot. Then, sitting from afar, I am so glad I was not in Virginia during
massive resistance, which I look on as a great leap backward. I had discovered
while I was in the service that, in the deep South, people were waiting to see
which way Virginia was going to go [in response to] Brown. Of course, we know
the way it went. That just set things back in the deep South, I think. So, yes,
living outside the South certainly had something to do with my....

W: Prior to meeting Les Dunbar and his making this invitation, were you aware of
the work of the Southern Regional Council in any sense?

B: I was not really aware of it until I talked to Les, and that was in December of
1961.

W: What sort of a brief did he give you when you actually ended up going there as a
research director? What was he looking for in you?









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B: They were looking for somebody to handle their publications. Also, as I recall, I
was over the filing system in the research part, where the press came in and got
information and stuff like that. Now, remember, it is forty years since I did this.
My memory is pretty good. I remember I had a staff of three or maybe four, and
they would log in newspaper-clippings and God knows what else. One of the first
people I ever worked with was, as a matter of fact, and one of the first things he
ever published was a comparison of integrated schools in Atlanta and New
Orleans. And the name was the now famous Robert Coles, Bob Coles. So, I
worked with Bob. We had regular publications, you know, as well as the New
South.

W: Did you work on New South?

B: I wrote some book reviews for it, and I think I wrote one or two articles. I am
pretty sure I wrote an article about the repeal of the poll-tax in Virginia, but that is
such a long time ago.

W: That is all right. In a way, it sounds like what you were doing was collating
material that was being sent to the SRC. Did you ever have any contexts where
you were more proactive, if you like, when you were actually commissioning
studies and research?

B: I can't remember how we commissioned those studies. This is where it gets bad.
I can't remember. I know we did one on integration in businesses.

W: During this era, from what I have seen, the SRC was very pro-active and was
forever investigating the mechanics of segregation and disenfranchisement and
that and produced lots of little pamphlets.

B: I was telling a friend of mine, I ran into a fellow walking back from lunch. I walked
up with him to the Colonnade Club, and he was in Garrett Hall. I said, I am being
interviewed by this gentleman this afternoon. I remember I got there in 1962, and
I left in 1964. About three weeks after I arrived, Mississippi exploded. Two of my
journalist friends were lying under the car, the __ New York Times, Claude
Sitton and Fredrick Palage. Then Karl Fleming of Newsweek was standing with
federal marshals when he heard a ping, ping, and it was somebody taking two
shots at him. Fred's lead, I will never forget, because he was a reporter for the
Atlanta Journal. The day after the Meredith uproar {James Meredith's
desegregation of Ole Miss], his lead went "A Civil War was Fought Here
Tonight," which was pretty true.

W: What was the mood in the SRC? Did you actually do you work in Atlanta in the
head office?









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B: I worked in Atlanta the whole time I was there. I did not go out in the field. I was
telling my friend Richard Hamburg that things got so bad in the summer of 1963
that Les Dunbar refused to sign checks for anyone who went to Mississippi. It
was that dangerous. Wiley Branton, who ran the Voter Education Project, for
some reason, Wiley wound up in the Delta at some point, I don't remember why,
but he could pass for white, so he did. But it was a really hectic summer. I can't
remember all the different things we put out then, but it was a lot.

W: I want to ask you in just a bit more general terms about the way that SRC felt it
had a role to play in the civil rights movement at this point, because obviously, in
the wake of Brown and the Montgomery bus boycott and then the sit-ins and the
freedom rides, this is a rising tide of African-American activism in the early
1960s. The Southern Regional Council, though avowedly interracial from its early
stages, is overwhelmingly associated with white liberals at that time. How does it
accommodate this rising tide of black militancy?

B: The black militancy comes along after my time, really.

W: I don't mean Black Power militancy, but I am talking much more about the civil
rights nonviolent demonstrations in the streets, those sorts of things which aren't
really associated with African-Americans prior to the 1960s. But something like
the Birmingham demonstrations would be in 1963.

B: I don't know if we did a report on Birmingham or not. God knows I haven't
forgotten Birmingham. I want to tell you an anecdote. The day that the church
was burned up [referring to Sixteenth Street church bombing that killed four
African American children], Burke Marshall [Deputy Attorney General] called
Claude Sitton in Birmingham and said, Claude, what is going on? Claude said, a
la James Baldwin, Burke, it's the fire this time [referring to James Baldwin's The
Fire Next Time]. You are right about one thing. The Southern Regional Council
between 1962 and 1964 did not have a lot of black staff members, as I
remember, and Wiley Branton, Les hired Vernon Jordan to come in as his
assistant. I think his name was Joe Smith. A very nice African-American who
worked for me. I had a wonderful black secretary named Nobby Morgan. Ruth
Alexander, who was an African-American, was a treasurer, as I recall. She has
since deceased. You see, I can't remember all the doggone people who worked
at the SRC at that time. There was Les Dunbar, Paul Anthony, Vernon Jordan,
Margaret Long, Barbara Patterson, who briefly was my secretary before Nobby.
Then Barbara worked in the research department, as I remember, which, as I
said, was part of my job. There may have been some others. I am sure there
were some other black staff members.


W: You mentioned that Jane Bond had worked for you a little bit.









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B: That is right. Jane Bond was back there. By that, I mean, I had an office, and
then around the corner from the office was this big file-room, where they had the
actual research stuff. But part of my job was meeting the press.

W: How was funding at the time? I guess the money came in from the VEP, but how
was the SRC, which seems to have been always on the knife's edge funding-
wise, how is funding in the early 1960s, because at least this is a period where
the movement is gathering more publicity?

B: I don't remember there being any great funding crisis, to tell you the truth. There
was a couple in New York, [and their] names were Steve and Audrey Courier,
and they had a foundation that gave, as I remember, very generously to the
Southern Regional Council. They disappeared in an airplane, and I don't think
they ever were found. This was after my time at the Southern Regional Council.

W: Tell me a little about Les Dunbar and his role. He obviously hired you and
brought you in and sort of looms very large in the memories of those people who
worked with him.

B: Les is a fantastic guy. One of the three great men I have ever known, the two
others being two governors of Virginia, Linwood Holton and Colgate Darden.
Indeed, it was Darden who said of Holton taking his daughter into an integrated
school that was 98 percent black, in 1970, that it was the most courageous thing
a Virginia governor had done in that century. Les inscribed this thing, "For Staige,
I hope Kentucky sent you a copy, but I wanted you to have one from me. You
might be the co-author. Leslie."

W: That is Les Dunbar's book of essays and speeches called The Shame of
Southern Politics. What were his great attributes as executive director?

B: Well, I will tell you one of non-great attributes: he is the most difficult man to talk
to on a telephone I ever ran into. But his attributes were his foresight, his
wisdom, his courage. He was a guy who was an educator, and he had taken on
his job. I wouldn't say I had any courage or anything, but it was interesting to me
that I had an uncle in Atlanta to whom I was very close. He was a bachelor. He
told me when I came to Atlanta that he admired what I was doing, but he didn't
want me to have him when I was entertaining black friends. Of course, people at
the SRC would have been regarded as "nigger-lovers."

W: While you are in Atlanta and the movement is escalating and the SRC is getting
more involved in voter education work, were you personally subject to that sort of
abuse?

B: No, I wasn't. I never had any abuse at all. I went to work on a bus and walked









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home, lived in Ansley Park. There is one thing I am going to tell you that I hardly
ever told anyone else. Les let me go in 1964, and I don't remember exactly what
the reason was or why, because it is so long ago, and in so doing, he saved my
life, because if I would have stayed in Atlanta, I would never have, one, finally
gotten in to what I had started out to do, to tell you the honest truth, which is be a
newspaperman. I guess he wasn't happy. One of the problems... [tape
interrupted].

W: We were talking about Les Dunbar and his influence on the SRC.

B: Let me also say that our parting was very friendly. Of course, obviously I have
been in great touch with him over the years. I saw him quite a bit in New York
when he was working for the Field Foundation.

W: Right, because he left not long after you.

B: Maybe a year, I don't remember. I don't have any of his essays. I know I got him
to do me an essay on the fortieth anniversary of the Brown decision. The fiftieth
will be coming up next year again. On the fortieth anniversary, I actually wrote
him and asked him to do a piece for me. But what I say, he saved my life. I left
Atlanta and went to the Norfolk Virginian Pilot in 1964, and in 1965, I was having
a routine physical and this particular doctor did something no doctor had ever
done before. He felt around my thyroid gland and he said, oh, you have got a
nodule. It turned up cold or hot or something. Anyway, they thought they ought to
operate. They went in and they found it was cancerous, and the cancer had
spread to my lymph nodes. So, I lost my thyroid gland at age thirty-four. If I had
not gone to this particular doctor, in other words, if I had not gone to Norfolk, I
would have gone out a long time ago. Sorry to be so personal.

W: No, that is fine. Tell me a little more about some of the other main players in the
Atlanta office at that time. You mentioned Paul Anthony.

B: Paul was a wonderful man. He was working with the state Councils on Human
Relations at that time, so he did a lot of traveling. Of course, I saw him after he
became director, but he did a great job of going out in the field and talking to
these various state Councils on Human Relations. He was just a very able and
affable man. Ironically, my recollection is that he was one of the two Virginians
working for the Council, the other one being me.

W: What was the relationship between the head office and these state
organizations? Was it sometimes very close, sometimes very fraught?

B: I can't really tell you that, because I was not involved in it. I know Maggie Long
had a hell of a time meeting deadlines. She was one of the liveliest wires I ever









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met.

W: She edited New South for a while.

B: She edited New South. I do not know how long she edited it, but she certainly
edited it while I was there.

W: Tell me about her. You say she was a live wire.

B: She was a former journalist, as you know, and she had a wonderful sense of
humor. We all smoked in those days. I think even Les smoked. Maggie was a
good party lady, too. Again, Brian, my problem is that was forty years ago, and
memory does begin to fade. I will tell you this. In a city that was "too busy to
hate," [quoting a famous Atlanta saying] when I came to Atlanta, there were
three integrated restaurants Richie's Tearoom, Stouffer's, and one other I can't
remember. They were the only three places that black and white people from the
Southern Regional Council could have lunch. The first weekend I was there, I
picked up the Atlanta Journal, and there was this ad running in black-type, and it
said, does your water taste different this week? It was my introduction to Lester
Maddox [Georgia segregationist]. The city "too busy to hate" had its own shade
of segregationists. The man who took my place, actually, was a fellow named
Pat Watters, who was columnist at the Atlanta Journal. Pat and I became great
friends. The first November I was there, they had a gubernatorial election, as I
remember, and Pat and I went. There was hotel in Atlanta that was kind of the
hangout for the old seg crowd. We went in there, and Carl Sanders was winning
the governorship hands down, and this redneck, big white guy says, goddamn, I
didn't know that many communists come in the state of Georgia in the last four
years. That is the kind of way it was. I have wonderful memories of Atlanta. It
was a great city in which to live, and working at the Southern Regional Council
gave me the opportunity to meet a number of people in Atlanta.

W: One of the phrases I keep hearing when I am talking to people about the SRC,
particularly through the late 1950s to the mid-1960s, is this sense that there was
sort of almost a family atmosphere in the midst of this, you know, massive
resistance, of one sort or another. How did that sense of being on the cutting-
edge of change, but also being in some parallel or uncomfortable situation, like
you described then of the restaurants, how did that play out in the internal
dynamics? I mean, did you feel really close to your colleagues?

B: Yes, I did. I felt very close to my colleagues, and I felt very close to the people
who were on my staff, although I cannot remember their last names, except for
Jane Bond. One of the ladies was named Janet, and there was Joe Smith, I think
was his name. There was somebody named Montez something-or-other; she
was a bit of an itch. But as far as I can remember, the harmony at the Southern









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Regional Council was very good. I would later discover in other jobs that
secretaries can get pretty testy with each other, but I don't remember any of that
at the SRC. Maybe there were tensions, but I am just not aware of them.

W: That is interesting. The SRC, during this period that you are in Atlanta, obviously
is one of many organizations working towards civil rights in the round, the
NAACP...

B: The only time I ever met Martin Luther King, Jr. was outside the men's room at
the Southern Regional Council. As I remember, well, SNCC [Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee] was coming along then. I can't remember what our
relationship was with SNCC, but I wouldn't have said it was completely
harmonious. But I just don't know. You will have to ask somebody else. Your
problem is, of course, that you are running out of people to talk to.

W: What gives you that sense, just thinking back, that maybe SNCC and the SRC
had their moments of tension, if you will?

B: I think SNCC thought we ought to be more militant. Les would put it this way, that
we carried two buckets. We favored integration, but we were trying to be
objective about it. Of course, we were getting directly involved. I mean, SNCC
wasn't the only [group] going around trying to get people registered to vote.
Again, this may be complete bad thinking on my part, I just don't know. I know
we had perfect relations with the NAACP and the SCLC [Southern Christian
Leadership Conference], Martin Luther King's organization.

W: Is that because the NAACP obviously had a very legalistic, constitutionalistic
approach?

B: Right. As a matter of fact, the time I was called up to interview for the job in July
of 1962, the NAACP was having its national convention in Atlanta. I was at the
SRC being interviewed, but they had a cocktail party for the NAACP, and I do
remember serving drinks to Roy Wilkins, the man who was the head of the
NAACP. It seemed to me that the Southern Regional Council had a good
relationship with its sister organizations, even with SNCC, for that matter. That is
just my recollection.

W: Back to what the SRC was trying to do, how would you characterize who its
constituency was? Who did the SRC try to convince?

B: Certainly, we were working through the press and, I assume, working with like-
minded through the South. The South was, as Ralph McGill [former newspaper
editor in Atlanta and prominent voice of the South] pointed out in his book, the
South was not one South, it was many Souths. I guess the Southern Regional









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Council was just trying to appeal to as many of the Souths as it could. You know,
think sanely, think sensibly. This is the law of the land. This is going to prevail.

W: One of the criticisms that could be leveled at the SRC was that it spent a lot of its
time sort of preaching to the converted during this period.

B: That is probably a plausible charge, that it was preaching to the converted. How
much success we were having with the unconverted, I cannot say. I mean, the
South is just a completely different place today from what it was then. One of the
things we did, there was a historian, and you may have heard of him maybe
you are going to interview him, I would certainly recommend that you do
interview him is Howard Zinn. He would be very interesting. One of the first
pieces I ever put out was a piece Howard wrote about Albany, Georgia, where
Martin Luther King did not overcome. They had a chief of police who was pretty
damn savvy, actually.

W: Yes, Laurie Pritchett.

B: Yes. SRC did this report on Albany, which I think came out in December of 1962.
Howard and Les were very close. One of the people I remember very fondly is
Bob Colt. As I say, I personally had a very close relationship with a number of
the journalists in town Claude Sitton, Karl Fleming, Fred Powledge, Pat
Watters possibly because I had been involved in journalism myself.

W: Would you actively cultivate those sort of sympathetic journalists, by giving them
reports...?

B: Hell, I'd go out drinking with them. I mean, let's be honest about this. As I recall,
Claude lived in Ansley Park, as well as I did. I do not remember whether Pat did
or not. Claude and Karl were probably my two best friends in the press corps in
Atlanta during the time I lived there. I lost contact with Karl, but I have kept up
with Claude all these years. In fact, Elliot, one of the things we were talking about
was maybe getting Claude and Woody Hunter, the former dean of Emory Law
School, and we concluded we would like to have an evening with one other
couple and ourselves. So, that is what we are doing. But Claude is retired
outside Atlanta.

W: Might be someone we could track down.

B: You damn well ought to try to track him down. Call Elliot Levitus and see if he
can give you his address.


W: When you were dealing with these people...?









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B: I didn't get a hard time from any of them.

W: Because some of them are transplanted journalists and they are not
southerners. What about the other side of the coin, those journalists who were
yet to be convinced about the civil rights movement? How much success did you
have in trying to cultivate those people to try to moderate their stance?

B: We sure didn't have any success with James Jackson Kilpatrick [Richmond
News-Leader editor who was pro-segregation]. I remember, for example, I went
to a party in summer of 1964, and Gene Patterson, who was the managing editor
of the [Atlanta] Constitution, and I were talking. He said, when the time came to
make the turn, Ralph McGill could make it and Virginius Dabney [Virginia
newspaper editor] couldn't, and that is why McGill would go down in history and
Dabney wouldn't. He then said that the role of the journalist in the civil rights
movement was to create an environment in which a politician could act, which I
thought was a very wise statement. McGill, of course, was acting to try to pave
the law of the land, and Kilpatrick was urging massive resistance.

W: I know you are very interested in Virginius Dabney, and I guess he could be seen
as one of the great tragic figures.

B: I am so interested, I am thinking about doing a study of Virginius Dabney upon
retirement, because all of his papers are over here in the Alderman Library [at
University of Virginia]. I don't think I could undertake a biography, but I haven't
looked yet. One of the reasons it would be Dabney, of course, is because he was
a family friend. One of the first interviews I ever had, I got an exclusive interview
with V. Dabney. I don't whether he called for abolition of attorneys or something,
but he had been very critical of attorneys. When Dabney published his
autobiography called, Across The Years, I got my former boss, Bob Mason, at
the Virginian Pilot to review it. It so happens the Virginian Pilot was the only
major newspaper in the state to oppose massive resistance. Who was the editor
of the Virginian Pilot in the 1960s? He got the Pulitzer Prize. Lenoir Chambers. I
regarded Dabney as a sort of tragic figure, and Bob Mason wrote this scathing
review of his autobiography, and Mr. Dabney was very upset. I wrote Bob and
told him about it, and he wrote back another letter blasting Dabney for not having
been in the service. Dabney never spoke to me again after that review.

W: What do you think it was about people like Dabney, who could go so far, but then
there was a point at which they said, no further?

B: I don't know. I think Dabney was shut up by Tim McBride. That is something I
would have to investigate. What did V. Dabney really feel. I mean, he came out
for integration of the buses, I think, in the 1940s. The man through whom I got
my job at the Pilot was one of my closest dearest friends, now deceased, and a









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fellow named Widdy Tazewell. Widdy, with Mason, was putting out the editorial
page when Mr. Chambers was still alive. In fact, Mr. Chambers daughter, Liz
Chambers, married a professor at Old Dominion. This was 1968 that Liz got
married, and the Norfolk Yacht and Country Club was still not integrated. Hell,
this damn country club here, it has got a couple of black members now, but that
has only been in recent years. I doubt the Country Club of Virginia has got any
black members. If it does, I am going to start looking for three Wise Men in the
east and the star.

W: Who was it you said that you thought Dabney would have been influenced by?
You mentioned someone whom you thought might have been highly influential in
arresting his development, if you like.

B: Well, I was saying that Tennant Bryan, who published the Richmond Times
Dispatch. The feeling among journalists in this state is that Dabney was shut up.
Again, I doubt that he was willing to go that far. I think he was willing to go as far
as integrating the buses, but I don't think he would go for integrating the schools.
Dabney's tragedy was that he never left Richmond, and he became a member of
the establishment. Generally speaking, journalists are not members of the
establishment. Ralph McGill may have been in Atlanta. I just remember the first
Thanksgiving. He was a patient of my uncle's, and my uncle actually persuaded
him to join the Episcopal Church, I think. But I remember we went to a cocktail
party for Thanksgiving in 1962, and Ralph McGill was there. My wife, who had
worked for Sports Illustrated as a thoroughbred racing researcher, was chiding
Ralph McGill for not having more coverage of thoroughbred racing. McGill's reply
was, well, we don't have any thoroughbred racing in Georgia.

W: Was McGill a good friend to the SRC?

B: Yes. He was a good friend to the SRC, and as I said, we had a very close
relationship with the Atlanta newspaper because, of course, we were right across
the street from them. In those days, the SRC was on Forsyth Street, and so was
the Atlanta Constitution-Journal. They were directly opposite of each other, is my
recollection.

W: Did you work to place articles there? Did they come to you?

B: They came to me. Pat Watters did a lot. I was trying to think of who else I worked
with at the Atlanta Constitution. I worked a lot with Fred Powledge at the Atlanta
Journal. Again, what the SRC provided, one of things we did, I remember the
summer of 1963, we put out a weekly bulletin on where demonstrations occurred
and what was happening.


W: I have seen those. Just a state-by-state listing.









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B: Right. That was something that was coming out of my shop.

W: I would like to ask you in conclusion just to think about, if someone said, how
would you assess the contribution of the SRC in the early 1960s, the period in
which you were most intimately involved, how would you try to characterize the
contribution and the role of the SRC in the civil rights movement?

B: I think maybe it helped create an environment in which southerners could
tolerate integration. That is how I think it helped. Maybe it didn't convince the
converted and maybe it didn't have much to do with converting the unconverted,
but it was a force for good.

[End of Interview.]









SRC 21 Summary
Staige Blackford
February 25, 2003

Staige Blackford begins with an account of his personal background, including his work with the
C.I.A. (pages 1-2). He states that his time away from the South helped shape his views on the
racial situation, and how Les Dunbar invited him to be research director for the Southern
Regional Council (SRC) in July 1962 (pages 2-3). He talks about handling the publications of the
SRC and working on New S, ',ai (pages 2-3). He talks about the mood of the SRC and the role
they felt obligated to play in the civil rights movement (pages 3-4). He briefly mentions the
SRC's funding situation in the early 1960s (pages 4-5). Next he talks about Les Dunbar and his
role in the SRC (pages 5-6). He then goes on to talk about other major players in the Atlanta
office of the SRC, including Paul Anthony and Maggie Long, and talks about the family
atmosphere of the organization (pages 6-7).

Mr. Blackford talks about the relationship between the SRC and the Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee (SNCC), as well as with the NAACP (pages 7-8). He tries to
characterize the target audience of the SRC (pages 8). He talks about giving reports to
sympathetic journalists and cultivating relationships with them, as well as working with
journalists who were not yet convinced about the civil rights movement (pages 9-10). He
mentions his interest in Virginius Dabney and gives some history of Dabney's actions during that
time (pages 10-11). He mentions Ralph McGill as a good friend of the SRC and talks about
working at the Atlanta Constitution (page 11). He concludes the interview by assessing the
contribution of the SRC in the early 1960s, which was his time of involvement, to the civil rights
movement (page 11).




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