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Phillip R. Dixon oral history interview, April 29, 2008

Date: Apr. 29 2008 | Identifier: 45-05-01-4
Interview with East Carolina University alumnus and attorney Phillip R. Dixon of Greenville, N.C. Mr. Dixon discusses his early years in Wake Forest N.C. and family financial struggles after his parents' separation and a move to Raleigh. He discusses teachers and high school friends who influenced him to come to ECU, his mother’s misgivings about his going to college, using student loans and jobs to support himself, and the experience of having less money than other students on campus. He also discusses the supportive faculty and staff at ECU, his hard work to get good grades, his appreciation for the living environment and enrichment activities at ECU, and his participation in extracurricular activities. He describes his summer internships and his clerkship with the N.C. Court of Appeals, his return to Greenville after law school to work and establish a law firm, his involvement in many Greenville area business and community organizations, his service on the ECU Board of Trustees, his interactions with several ECU chancellors, and his advocacy for ECU as a member of the UNC Board of Governors. Interviewer: Donald R. Lennon. Transcriber: Deborah Mitchum. more...
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Transcript of Phillip R. Dixon Interview
Interviewee:Phillip R. Dixon
Interviewer:Donald R. Lennon
Date of Interview:April 29, 2008
Location of Interview:Greenville, NC
Length:One mp3 file, approximately 102 minutes

Donald R. Lennon:

This is Donald R. Lennon interviewing Phillip R. Dixon, who is of the class of 1971, East Carolina University. This is for the ECU Centennial Oral History Project, and I ask Mr. Dixon if he understands that we are recording this to be preserved in the University archives and to be made available to researchers and the public in years to come?

Phillip R. Dixon:

Yes, I do.

Donald R. Lennon:

Okay, thank you. They require--.

Phillip R. Dixon:

Sure.

Donald R. Lennon:

All right. Let's start, if you will Mr. Dixon, with your background before you came to East Carolina, and your childhood, and what led you to this great institution.

Phillip R. Dixon:

I was born, let's see, March 26, 1949, at home in the small town of Wake Forest when the college was there. My dad was the handyman for the college. He was someone who would repair broken window panes, or paint, or change light bulbs, or do any chores that had to be done as far as maintaining the campus. So I remember Chestnut



Street was the road we were living on when I was small, and it was a dirt road and a shotgun house where you could open the front door and open the back door and see right through the house. And apparently it was much more common in those days to be born at home than at a hospital, so my father actually helped deliver me, and he said it was on Saturday night about 7:00. I have a baby book at home that shows fifty, sixty people who came by that night to see me after I was born, so it must have been quite a celebrated event to have a birth at home like that. You know, I had a fairly normal childhood. Neither one of my parents were very well educated and Dad, when I was probably four or five years old, moved and rented a place outside of town close to Youngsville on US 1 north, another shotgun house actually. And so from that vantage point I had to ride the bus to school, which was an adventure. I went to the elementary school there first, second, and third, and all of my fourth grade year.

They were moving the college about that time. Wake Forest College had been offered an opportunity to relocate in Winston-Salem, and that was just unheard of, that you would move a college. But if I recall correctly, Wake Forest College would go every year to the Baptist State Convention in Winston-Salem and beg for money. They only had a few thousand students there, but it was very much the heart of the town. It was a college town. The bus station was right downtown, the train station was right downtown--right at the entrance to the campus--and the campus was within a circle of downtown. It was a huge circle so you could totally drive around the main campus. And then the downtown was right there where we were located. When the college moved--. When the first suggestion was made that the college might move, it was just laughed at. But apparently the first suggestion was that the Reynolds family would give Wake Forest



College part of the Reynolda estate in Winston-Salem. That wasn't enough to convince them to move. And then they offered them, I believe, $350,000 a year in support, and that still wasn't enough. But you know that must have been a huge amount of money at that time--early, mid '50s--and they finally agreed to rebuild every building on campus, if I recall, and sort of recreate the campus there, including the Waite Chapel, which was sort of the keystone for the campus. And they decided to move the campus then and would keep a seminary there in Wake Forest where they could train ministers and missionaries. Well, that was very appealing. It was a great boost to the campus in terms of funding and land, but it upset, as you might imagine, everybody in the little town of Wake Forest. The only two movie theaters closed, the only supermarket closed, you couldn't sell your home, and so many of the professors were having a difficult time relocating.

My father wanted to relocate with the campus--he worked for the college--but my mother didn't, and it ultimately led to them separating, and I was only about nine years old. But I do remember before they separated, my father looked at a home. He had a chance to buy a home. A professor there offered him a chance to buy a home through owner financing. The professor had already paid for the home through his lender, and he offered to let my dad pay essentially rent, but thereby acquire the house through owner financing. And I remember this very distinctly. It was a split level house on Main Street. You would drive in the driveway--it was a dirt driveway--and then the garage, it was a dirt floor. But you would get out of your car and you would actually go upstairs. You would go up steps to the first floor of the house, you would go in the front door, and then inside the house you could go down into the basement and go inside the garage. And like so many garages, it was not used as a garage so much as for storage. And I was about



seven years old when we were looking at this house, a big deal for us, because up until that time we had lived right beside the railroad tracks on Sycamore Street, also a dirt road, and it was not a very nice house. But this was a lovely home. And in the basement of this house was a casket with a skeleton in it. And of course no one explained this to me, the little seven-year-old, but I certainly went back and told all my friends about it. They didn't believe me, so we went down to the house. It was only about four blocks away. The key is under the mat, we go inside, the house is empty, we go downstairs and there was a bald light bulb with a string and a chain. We turned the light on and sure enough in the corner is a wooden coffin, almost like you see in the cowboy movies. It took us forever to get over to that casket, but we finally opened up the top, and here's a skeleton. And there's one lower leg missing, and there's saw marks on the skull, right above the forehead, and so we assume somebody has been murdered and we need to report this to the police. I don't know why I didn't think my parents wouldn't have done that. So we go downtown to try and find the police station, and we can't find the police station because it's in a very bad section of town. The most impressive structure in downtown Wake Forest was the post office. It was an old WPA project. We go in the post office. The only person there is the post master and he's in this little teller window. So we go up to the counter and tell him we think we've discovered the body of a murder victim. He doesn't laugh at us or make fun of us. He takes our names down very carefully, finds out who our parents are, where they live, commends us for being good citizens, and says he'll take care of it. What we didn't know, is he knew that house belonged to a professor of anatomy at Wake Forest College, and that was one of his props he used in teaching his class on anatomy. We also didn't know he was the editor of the



"Wake Weekly" newspaper. So that Saturday morning, front page, above the mast, was an article, "Some of our local boys had the scare of their lives when they discovered a skeleton in the home of Dr. So-and-so, professor of anatomy at Wake Forest College." So we became heroes overnight. Everywhere we went everybody would pat us on the back and say, "Good boys. You did good, reporting that crime."

It was a great place to grow up, being a little college town, but it was certainly devastating to us when the college moved. It took thirty years for the college to recover. Raleigh has now rediscovered it. When my folks separated though, that was a hard time. Neither one of them were very well educated, and Dad really had to follow, he had to follow the job I think. But he had had a very difficult time. He was blown up in World War II and had a lot of recurring nightmares from all those terrible things he had to deal with, and so when he and my mom separated, he ultimately moved to California, and I didn't see him again but once after I was nine years old. I saw him once when I was fifteen. And at that time when my mother, who was not well educated, moved to Raleigh, they had a very new project there, a government housing project, called Halifax Court over behind Peace College. It was based on your ability to pay. It was a very nice place to live and it was heated, it was concrete block and clean, but it was in a very poor section of town near the Pilot Mill. You were within walking distance of downtown. When I was a youth I used to trick-or-treat at the governor's mansion and lived right near the Krispy Kreme doughnut place. One of my fondest memories is we'd go collect bottles when I was a small boy, two cents apiece for bottles, and once you got fifty cents you could by a bag of three-day-old doughnuts, put them in the oven, heat them up, and they were just wonderful. And it was a rough



section of town. It was a very rough section of town. It was hard because my mom was a single mom and she was working and gone a lot of the time. I remember taking care of my younger brother from the time he was about a year old until he was school age--

Donald R. Lennon:

It was just the two of you growing up?

Phillip R. Dixon:

--during the summer. Mm hmm, during the summer. There was almost ten year's difference in our ages, so I was really more his father than I was his brother. And Mom was trying to make do with little money, so she was working all the time. But it was a lot of responsibility for a small kid, you know, nine, ten, eleven, twelve years old. We were in a car wreck when I was about twelve, with a boyfriend of my mother's, where I got really seriously hurt: cut my arm real bad, thirty-eight stitches in my arm and back. They had to strengthen my arm and back, so they had me lift weights and do all sort of things at a time when we didn't do much of that. So by the time I was fourteen I was six, two, 185 pounds.

Donald R. Lennon:

Prime football material.

Phillip R. Dixon:

Just a huge kid, just a man among boys. And so I was a good athlete because I was so big--not because I was good, because I was big--and didn't meet anybody any bigger than me until I met a kid named Randy Denton, who was six, five at the time, who later became a six, eleven basketball player at Duke. But I was captain of the football in junior high school and went over to Broughton my sophomore year and had great teams over there. Then my mother remarried and we moved over near Enloe High School. Played football there, and I came here to actually play football. That was my plan. I actually had a best friend who was a good football player they had recruited, and they basically told us that if we wanted to try out, walk on, they would help us out. So that's the



reason I came, really. And it was funny because my mother didn't want me to come to college. She needed for me to go to work, really. And when I was in high school, except for playing football and track and things like that, I worked about forty-eight hours a week in a grocery store. So I worked Saturday, Sunday--.

Donald R. Lennon:

Was it independent or a chain?

Phillip R. Dixon:

It was Independent Grocery Alliance on Wake Forest Road, and they would be open until 11:30 at night. I'd go in Saturday morning about 5:00 to unload trucks and I'd work all day Saturday, Saturday night, Sunday. I made a dollar an hour, and I made--. I took home about thirty-eight dollars a week or something, but that was a lot of money, you know, and I paid--.

Donald R. Lennon:

What happened to child labor laws back then?

Phillip R. Dixon:

Well, you know, it's funny. I was a big kid and so, I don't know. It didn't seem to be a big deal. But I worked so much. It was just unbelievable. I would get up real early and go to school each day and do study hall, and I was a pretty good student, but I really did work hard. I sort of was independent from the time I was about fourteen or fifteen in that I bought my own clothes, and bought my own car--wasn't much of a car--and paid for my own gas, and paid for my meals at school and that sort of thing. I had all these teachers though, and it seemed like all our teachers went to East Carolina. There were just so many coaches and teachers. I mean, it was a very well-regarded teacher's college. And one of my teachers had a son who came down here to play football. His name was Dusty Anderson. And Mrs. Anderson was the best teacher you could ever have. We all have teachers that really inspired us and motivated us, but she's the person who really made me think about going to college. I think I'd--. Because I was captain of



the football team I got to be elected one of the class officers or something, and she pulled me aside and said, "You know, you really ought to go to college." So I really sort of got that set in my mind, and although I wasn't encouraged to come to college, I applied on my own and I got a National Defense Student Loan and an Equal Opportunity Grant, because I was so poor. And I had this promise that I would have a little money if I played football. That didn't pan out. But I came down here a day early. My mother was not happy about me coming. She went to W.T. Grant Department Store in downtown Raleigh, and we found a damaged suitcase made out of black cardboard. It had all sorts of tears and defects in it. She bought it for five dollars, and she got me a laundry bag for I think a dollar, and I loaded those two things full. She put me on the bus and sent me down here, and we were so ill-equipped for what was happening, that I came a day early.

Donald R. Lennon:

So you had not been to the campus prior to this?

Phillip R. Dixon:

Yeah, I had been once, but I'd just come with a group of people for orientation. But when I was put on the bus, when I came down here, classes weren't starting until the next day. The campus wasn't open. And strangely enough there was one other person here who had arrived early and he was from the Bahamas. His name was Geoffrey Winston Knowles. And here we are with no place to stay. And a janitor, or housekeeper, let us in one of the dorms and we stayed overnight. It was so hot, [Laughter] I remember, no air conditioning, but we were just grateful to have a place to sleep. And I was so excited about being in college. It was a big deal. I was so afraid I was going to flunk out. And money was really tight, I mean, I lived off ten dollars a week my first year.

Donald R. Lennon:

Well now the National Defense--



Phillip R. Dixon:

Student loan?

Donald R. Lennon:

--Student Loan Program, how much support did that provide for you?

Phillip R. Dixon:

Well, I'll tell you, I went to school here for four years--but I had several jobs--but I ended up owing $1785.00 for four years of college. But I worked as a hall proctor in a dorm; I was an orientation counselor, showing people around the campus; I sold class rings. I got a dollar for every boy's ring and fifty cents for every girl's ring, and we had a little counter that we set up in Mendenhall Student Center. It was just called the Student Union back then. Miss Mendenhall was the director, and she was--everybody called her "Miss M"--she was a wonderful lady. I didn't have any money and I had this girl that I wanted to date. I said to Miss M, "I'd really like to take Sarah out, but I don't have any money." So Miss M said, "Sarah, come over here. Phil doesn't have any money but he'd like to take you out," and she said, "Well, I have an activity card." So we dated for a good while and I always had to thank Miss M for that. So I was real glad that they named the Mendenhall Student Center for her. She was everybody's mother or grandmother. She was a great lady.

But I was very fortunate. I was vice president of the student body and I got paid for that too. It wasn't much, like fifty-seven dollars a month. But I remember my first year I had ten dollars a week to live on, and my second year I had fifteen dollars, and that was a big deal, to go to fifteen dollars. My last year, I had twenty-two dollars a week. But I led a Spartan life. You could eat in the cafeteria for a nickel. You could get a glass of water and lemon and add sugar to it and make lemonade. You could buy two slices of bread for a nickel, and you could go to the condiment bar and you could get lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, onions, and make a sandwich.



Donald R. Lennon:

Was Mr. Julian still around the cafeteria at that time?

Phillip R. Dixon:

You know Dan Wooten is the person I remember dealing with, and Dan was the director of housing. But he's the person who helped me get the job, and if you would bus tables, you would get your meals free. And so I would bus tables.

Donald R. Lennon:

For many years Mr. Julian operated the cafeteria.

Phillip R. Dixon:

And the surprising thing is, I had had a job working in a grocery store where I had to clean commodes, and mop, and sweep, and I didn't mind hard work, and I would bus tables quickly, especially at breakfast because I wanted to get out of there. But he would always say, "No, no, no. You're doing this too fast." And I would say, "What do you mean?" And he said, "Well, watch." And people would come in and sit down after someone else had eaten, and they would eat what was left. And it wasn't as bad as you think. They weren't gnawing on chicken bones. They were eating leftover rolls, or Jello, or some vegetable, because somebody would get too much, you know, more than they wanted. But I was always impressed with him being caring enough that he would recognize that there were people who were struggling.

And then we had a professor here, Dr. Richard Todd. I can't tell you how many times he paid for students' tuition, books, fees, room, board, loaned them money. He and his wife didn't have any children but they certainly adopted a lot of the students on campus. He later had seventeen children [named for him][glitch in recording], and one named for his wife, her name was Clauda Pennock Todd, so that was quite a feat. But he was just a wonderful man. And there were a lot of college students then, and a lot of professors who recognized they were first generation college students, who became sort of surrogate parents in a way, and gave advice and counsel, and encouraged you to



go to graduate school, and would take you to the law school and the medical school for interviews and things. It was a nice place to be in school.

Donald R. Lennon:

Well now you mentioned the fact that there were first generation students. Did you observe any difference between the first generation students and ones who were coming from more affluent backgrounds?

Phillip R. Dixon:

Well, I'll tell you, I'll tell you, I had grown up in Raleigh from the time I was nine, and I was a lot better prepared than most of the students who came here. So I worked really hard and I studied really hard because I really was afraid I was going to flunk out and have to go home. And I made a 3.97 my first quarter and a 3.97 my second quarter. I was just studying all the time. But it came easy for me in that I think I had a good background from having gone to a good school system. And when I had a taste of success like that--and again I'd always been a pretty good student--it really empowered me and I guess motivated me to want to do better, because some of my friends were saying, "Oh, I can't believe you got a 3.97," so I was bound and determined I was going to do it again. When I began to be a good student, an exceptional student, it began opening up new vistas for me. All the people that I had gone to school with who really encouraged me to go to college were teachers, and so I aspired to be a teacher. I thought I'd be a--.

Donald R. Lennon:

You came to EC assuming you would be--.

Phillip R. Dixon:

I thought I'd be a history teacher and a coach, because those were the people I admired the most. And then I took an introduction to business course and liked it and I thought, well, "You know, business is pretty much in everything. I could be a banker and get to wear a suit every day and dress up and work nine to five. That would be pretty



good." And so I became a business major. And then I took a business law course and one of my classmates was a guy named Henry Gorham, who is an attorney now in Raleigh. His father was an attorney and his brother was an attorney, but his father had not practiced law initially. He came up during the Depression and had done something else for awhile. But Henry told me he was going to go to law school. And I was taking this business law course, and I really enjoyed the course, and I did better than Henry. I thought, "You know, if he can go to law school, I might have that possibility." So I began looking into it, and I applied, and I got accepted to UNC and to Wake Forest law schools. We had a law society here a professor named Wally Snyder formed, and he would encourage people to go to law school. And we'd get to visit the law schools, and we'd go to the [N.C.] Supreme Court, and we'd go up to DC, and he'd host us in his home. I remember going to his home in Lynndale [Subdivision] and it was just a regular ranch style house. It was the nicest home I'd ever seen. And I remember being so impressed, just, "Wow!" Plus he was a very good person. I think so many people touch your lives. And then I was the vice president of the student body, like I say--.

Donald R. Lennon:

Was that your junior year?

Phillip R. Dixon:

That was my junior year I got elected vice president, and it was a twelve-month term. It was the first time we'd had a twelve-month term. We had a lot of responsibilities back then. We were in charge of a very large budget. We did all the entertainment. We booked concerts with Dionne Warwick, and The Fifth Dimension, and Flip Wilson, and Chicago. I mean, we had really great entertainment, but we had all the women here. See there were no women at State and no women at Carolina, so all the guys would come down here to date. So we had a real popular artist series, performing



artist series, and concert series. Football was different then. You'd wear a three-piece suit to the football games, and you'd buy a corsage for your date. It was a very wonderful time. So I had a great time, but I had an office, I had a secretary, and I was in charge of the homecoming parade. We had like 125 entries. Most of the members of the Council of State would come and ride in a convertible. So I had correspondence that I was doing throughout the year and I learned to use dictating equipment and I wrote letters. I sort of managed my little area. I was in charge of the freshman and varsity cheerleaders, the pep band, the cannon--we bought the cannon that year--and so I just had a purpose, I guess. We had a real active Student Government Association. We put the message board up on the corner of 264, by Greenville Boulevard and Charles. We tried to build a set of steps and add a light so you crossed the railroad tracks to get to Minges [Coliseum]. That had just opened. We started the pep band, we started the Pure Gold Dancers--that was my project, by the way--and we started a bus system, we started putting refrigerators in the dorms. We were, you know, it was a very active time.

And Dr. Jenkins was a remarkable president. His door was always open. If you wanted to see him you just walked in and sat down. And he would always get you to do what you were trying to get him to help you do, but he was a very fine gentleman, and he always instilled in everybody this sense of great pride, and sort of "We're number two, We try harder." We were the first four-year class to come here with it being a university, so all four years we were a university from '67 to '71. He had doubled the enrollment by the time I got here. So we sort of welcomed the opportunity to compete with State and Carolina and everybody, and we did real well. When I was Chairman of the [N.C.] State Student Legislature, which is a mock session of the [N.C.] General Assembly, we won



the Best Bill Award. When I was vice president of the student body, I got a letter one day from the Institute of Government, and they were looking for twenty-five students to be state government interns. They were trying to encourage people to go into public service. So I applied for one of those jobs and I got it. And I was assigned to work at the North Carolina Supreme Court. This was the summer before I was going to law school. What a great job. And they would allow you to stay at the Sig Ep house at NC State--I think the girls stayed in a sorority--and then every day you would have lunch with a member of the [N.C.] Council of State, or the Speaker of the House, or the Senate Pro Tem, or somebody big, and he would tell you about his job, or she would tell you about her job. We were taught about how government would work and how we solve societal problems. We studied a lot about the state board of higher education and UNC system back then.

Donald R. Lennon:

Did you already know Robert Morgan by then?

Phillip R. Dixon:

You know he was in my fraternity. I was in Phi Sigma Pi, which was an honor fraternity that Dr. Todd was advisor to. He had spoken at our Founder's Day my sophomore year I guess. But with me working at the [N.C] Supreme Court on the fourth floor, he was on the third floor of the Justice Building, so I actually went down there to see him occasionally, and was very proud to say I was an ECU person. He was a very strong advocate and he did such a great job. He was an unusual attorney general because he started the Consumer Protection Division and it became very popular. He could have easily been Governor. He chose to be senator, but he could have easily been governor. And he came down here a lot on weekends.



So after spending the summer working at the North Carolina Supreme Court, during that summer I got to do research in anti-trust, and the person I worked with, an attorney by the name of Raymond Taylor from down in Washington who was the marshal and librarian of the [N.C.] Supreme Court, helped me write an article. And it was about anti-trust, and it got published in two publications, the American Bar Association Legal Economic News, and a publication called the American Bar Association Student Lawyer Journal. So my first week of law school, I had a published article, which was big. Not many people had an article published this quickly. And the dean of the law school at that time was a guy named Dickson Phillips. Now my name is Phillip Dixon, and I had a girlfriend here, and she would write me every day, and my mail would go directly to the dean. And his secretary would open the letters, put it on his desk, he would read my letters, and then he would say, "Sorry, opened by mistake," and return it to me. And this went on about a week before he summoned me to his office. He wanted to introduce himself. He felt he knew me so well. And he asked me if I would be willing to take a job as one of the editors of the North Carolina Law Record, which was sort of an alumni booklet--it wasn't a magazine--that they would send out to all the grads and it was for the people there in the law school. And so I got to write articles my first year about new professors and new programs and things that were happening at the school, so I got to know everybody pretty well. I also got to know the dean. And I later became the editor of that publication, so that was a great job.

And the following summer I got a job working with Robert Morgan, and he assigned me to work with a guy named Dale Johnson, who is a real fine attorney in Clinton, and he was a special advisor to the SBI, State Bureau of Investigation, and he



was a special prosecutor for the Attorney General's office. In small counties where they would try murder cases but they didn't a lot of experience doing that sort of thing, he would go try the murder case. And we put together the first manual, that summer, for district attorneys on how to introduce into evidence: fingerprint evidence, and blood evidence, and tire track evidence. You know, it was just a manual to help district attorneys out, but it was a great experience. And there was a two-week period there where he got married--he married Miss Duplin County--and he was going to be gone. He didn't know what to do with me, because I was sort of his summer law clerk, so he sent me to the SBI academy for two weeks. I got to ride with an agent and they sent me down to Greenville for awhile. I got to investigate cases and interview witnesses. It was really a wonderful experience.

Donald R. Lennon:

And that didn't tempt you to become an SBI agent?

Phillip R. Dixon:

No, it tempted me to become an FBI agent, and I actually interviewed with the FBI, but I chose not to do that, finally. I had a girlfriend all through school here, Mr. and Mrs. J.D. Wilson's daughter, Julia, and they were really my first normal family situation. I sort of saw what a typical family might be. Mr. Wilson was an insurance agent here and he was president of the Lion's Club. The first night I ever met him he was coming home from the Lion's Club with a big lion on a base that he'd been given for being president of the Lion's Club, and I was so impressed. He was a good citizen, you know, and he was just a nice man. Went to church with the family, at First Christian Church, beginning about 1969, and that was a nice experience too. They had a practice in the church that members of the congregation would invite college students home for



Sunday dinner, so, boy, I thought this was a great church! So I would get Sunday dinner, and I had a lot of families who took me home for Sunday dinner.

Donald R. Lennon:

You mentioned early on that your mother was not too enthused with you coming to college. Did she change her mind about that once she saw how successful you were at school?

Phillip R. Dixon:

Well I don't think she really grasped--. She was worried about me doing too well in school. I do remember her writing my roommate and saying, "You need to get him out and do some things to have fun, but I think he's being too much of a student." But I really didn't have any money. And so I would really go to class, and I would come back, and I would rewrite my class notes, and I would highlight the book, and I really did study a lot because I really was worried about my making it. During the summer I would work. But I actually caught pneumonia one quarter while I was here--don't know exactly how I caught pneumonia, but anyway I did--and they sent me home for the balance of the quarter. And I tried two weeks later to come back, and Dr. Fred Irons sat me down and told me just how serious it was to have pneumonia. He said, "You could die," and he wouldn't let me stay in the infirmary and go to class, so they sent me home. And so I had to make it up, so I came here one summer. But it was great. I worked as an orientation counselor, and I took a few classes, and that was pleasant. I really enjoyed being here during the summer. I got to know a lot of the people on campus. Dean Mallory was the dean of men but he was the baseball coach. He actually got me the job as the orientation counselor. He was really a wonderful man too.

Donald R. Lennon:

Well how did your athletic aspirations fall through?



Phillip R. Dixon:

You know it actually was very fortunate because--. I broke my collar bone. When I was in high school, I was a snapper for punts and for extra points and things, and I was big, and that was a good talent to have. Not everybody can snap for punts and extra points. And down here they ran the single wing, and so Stasavich sort of liked the idea of having somebody who could snap for punts and things. But I broke my collar bone and that sort of made it look unlikely I was going to be able to play. And sports had always sort of been my salvation because it gave me something that I was good at and helped my self esteem, because I was real self conscious about being so poor. I mean I was really, really poor, and I didn't dress very well, and I didn't have very nice clothes. And when I came to college the dorm was the nicest place I'd ever lived. I could take a shower anytime I wanted to. I thought the food was wonderful. And people laughed at me, but I'd never had a real steak. The only steak I'd ever had was a round steak that was very thin like shoe leather and cooked to death. The only spaghetti I'd ever had was Chef Boyardee so when they brought me the pasta and the sauce separately, I thought, "What the heck was this?" I'd never had cauliflower. I'd never had Brussels sprouts or broccoli. It was just a whole new adventure for me to come and eat here and be here. And then because I had my student activity card, I could go to anything free on campus. The first travel adventure film I went to was about the Polynesian Islands. Not only were there bare-breasted, naked women on the beach, there were all these men fishing, and it was just an interesting film to see. And I went to everything that was free because I didn't have anything else to do. I didn't have any money. Going to those foreign films, and summer theater, and things like that was really expanding my vistas, I guess I'd say, and I really enjoyed it. Like I say, I was just so happy here, and I stayed here even during



breaks from school many times because I didn't have any place to go. And my mother remarried. My mother remarried while I was away at school. And my brother was about eight or nine years old at that time, and I wanted them to have a chance to build a new life together. I didn't want to intrude, and I was certainly independent anyway, so I stayed down here--.

Donald R. Lennon:

So you felt kind of like an outsider.

Phillip R. Dixon:

Well, I felt a little estranged, I guess. I didn't have the same life experiences that other people--. I never went hunting, I never went fishing, I never played golf or tennis, or anything like that. I took tennis when I was here, by the way, first time. But you know I was really happy, because, like I say, it was a nice place to live. People hate the dorm, but I thought it was such a treat to be able to take a shower any time you wanted to. And I thought the food was just wonderful, and even when I had to live--. I mean, I lived off--. You could get a can of tomato soup for a nickel, and if you matched it with water you could make probably two bowls of soup out of it. And I'd buy a loaf of bread and some peanut butter and jelly and I could live on that for a good while. But I appreciated more, I think, little things than most people did. Gosh, we lived off Kool Aid sometimes, and I remember going to the-[snack bar in the Student Union for brunch]. Brunch for me would cost fifty-four cents. I could get two doughnuts, a package of Lance nabs, a vanilla Pepsi, and a newspaper for fifty-four cents. And that's the only meal I had for the-[day]. That was my breakfast and my lunch many days. So by the time supper came I was ravenous. [Laughter] I was really hungry.

I remember doing a lot of studies. They would pay you to do studies. You would be the guinea pig for a psychology study or something, and I remember getting five



dollars for doing that. And I remember going to a place called Huey's: all the food you could eat. And you'd go to Happy's Pool Room, for a dollar or a dollar and a half, huge plate of barbecue, a Pepsi, and hush puppies. You'd go to the Old Town Inn and get a big plate of spaghetti for a dollar.

Donald R. Lennon:

Did Cliff's still have their ham steak for ninety-nine cents?

Phillip R. Dixon:

Well, I don't remember Cliff's, but I do remember the Three Steers had a chicken special and a fish special, all you could eat--all you could eat fried chicken, all you could eat fried fish--and we'd go there, if we could find somebody with a car who could get us out there, and we'd take our coats and we'd fill our pockets with fried chicken. I mean, they lost a fortune on us, I know. But isn't it sad that you're that hungry? I remember the teacher, one of the psychologists who gave me one of those exams one time, asking me had I had anything to eat that day. And I had not, and she was surprised, because it was after lunch, and, "Why not?" I said, "Well, I don't have any money." And they had a student loan program she told me about where you could borrow twenty-five dollars, and you could only borrow it--. You couldn't borrow it a second time until you'd paid it back. But I borrowed it every week, just about, of my life. I mean I would borrow it and pay it back, borrow it and pay it back, borrow it and pay it back. But I was very hard working in terms of selling class rings and doing anything I could do to earn a little extra money. Sometimes I think that wouldn't be all bad for some of my own kids.

But if I wanted something I had to save the money to get it. I remember going to Scrappy Proctor's and buying a pair of shoes. It took me about six weeks to pay for them. I also remember going to Steinbeck's--I shouldn't use names like this--but I went



to Steinbeck's. I wanted to buy a sports jacket so I could have something to wear with a shirt and tie, and he wouldn't put it on layaway for me. And all I wanted to do was: You hold it and I'll pay you five or ten dollars each week, and when I get it paid for--. It was about fifty bucks maybe. And he wouldn't do that for me. I went to George Coffman, and George Coffman gave me everything I wanted and opened me an account and was just really kind to me, and I have been a loyal Coffman's customer ever since. I never shopped at Steinbeck's. Not that--. I'm sure Mr. Steinbeck's a very good man. I wasn't a very good risk, I'm sure, to open an account for, as a student, but I was always impressed that Mr. Coffman was so kind to me.

And you know there's so many people like that. Eastern North Carolina's just full of people who are very kind and generous and nice. But I had a great experience and I think everybody here had a--. It was an exciting time. There was a lot of energy. We were about ten thousand students, and State was only about ten thousand students then.

Donald R. Lennon:

Your fellow students at Enloe, what kind of background did they come from, your friends?

Phillip R. Dixon:

Well, I was at Needham Broughton my sophomore year, and that included the crowd at Halifax Court and the poor section of town. But I was right on the dividing line between the Enloe district, which was the newest high school--brand new, couple of years old--and Needham Broughton, which was like a college. There was like twenty-five hundred students at Needham Broughton, and there was like maybe eight hundred students at Enloe. And Enloe was in a very affluent neighborhood, a very nice section of town, it was brand new. Most of those kids were middle class. I wouldn't say upper middle class, necessarily, because at Needham Broughton they had the really upper



middle class, the people who were very well to do, the old sections of Raleigh. But they had a lot of poor people too. I think I felt much more comfortable at Enloe than I did at Broughton. I think Broughton was much more accelerated in terms of the studies, because when I went over there I had a hard time adjusting to the academics there my first year, whereas when I went back to Enloe with my old class I was right back where I had been before, being a real good student. So I liked it over at Enloe, and I had a football coach there named Len Bauer, who I actually think went to school here. He took me to my first football game, and he was just such a kind man, and he'd been a marine. My student teacher in the ninth grade was [N.C.] Governor Luther Hodges' daughter. She was teaching us in sixth period civics whenever Kennedy got shot, and of course she knew the Kennedy family, because her dad was [U.S.] Secretary of Commerce. I remember that real well.

But I would think probably most of the people who've gone to school here could say, "Here are a number of teachers or coaches who've had a very dramatic impact on my life in some way." You know, I was really startled by this when I got on the UNC [Board of Governors][glitch in recording], they told us that out of every hundred ninth graders today in North Carolina, only fifty-eight will finish high school, only thirty-eight will go to college, only twenty-eight will return a second year, and only eighteen will finish college in six years.

Donald R. Lennon:

That's scary.

Phillip R. Dixon:

It is scary, but think about what it must have been then. And I never considered anything other than four years of college. I just assumed you came, you did your four years, and you got out, and if I could have gotten out sooner, I would. But I



enjoyed the course work, and I really enjoyed being here, and I was really excited about being here. And you know I'd never had nice clothes to wear. I'd never had [much of anything]. [Laughter], you know--. It was very interesting to me. I just had a wonderful experience all four years, which is why, I guess, I was so comfortable with Greenville and happy to get back here.

But after spending that summer working at the Supreme Court of North Carolina, and a summer working at the [N.C.] Attorney General's office and the SBI, they were also studying the police information network at that time: first time they used computers to transmit warrants, and a lot of issues about how that would be handled. And I had a lot of really good investigations I worked on. But the senior year, the girlfriend I had here, Mr. and Mrs. Wilson's daughter, Julia, she had always lived in Greenville, and lived at home and went to school. And she wanted to move to Raleigh, and I wanted to come to Greenville. But I took a job clerking for a judge on [N.C.] Court of Appeals, which was a great job, I was lucky to get it. She couldn't get a job there. The next year I got a job in Greenville and she got a job in Raleigh, so it just never worked out.

When I went to interview for the Judge on the [N.C.] Court of Appeals, there was a judge I had discovered who was from Wilson. Her name was Naomi Elizabeth Morris. "Peanuts" was her nickname. Her parents had been peanut farmers, and she was only about five foot two. And she was in a man's world, she was the only lady judge, and they very affectionately referred to her as "Peanuts." But her parents--. She'd become engaged to be married. She was a professor of English literature, she had her master's degree from Atlantic Christian Teacher's College, and she was teaching English literature there. And her fianc� got killed in a car wreck, and he didn't have any family here, so



she worked with the law firm of Lucas, Rand, Rose, and Meyer--Justice Meyer's firm, used to be on the [N.C.] Supreme Court--and they were so impressed with what she did in helping them with that estate, they hired her away from the college, paid her more money, and made her the office manager. Now today that would be a paralegal, or a legal assistant, because she was very good at writing, well read. She was an excellent office manager, I'm sure. They were so impressed with her, when she was thirty-nine they sent her to law school, paid for her to go to law school. Now she was not only one of the few women in law school at the time, she was much older than anybody in law school. She became the mother hen. She was well regarded. And when she got out she got appointed to the [N.C.] Court of Appeals. And she used to refer to Governor Hunt as "Little Jimmy Hunt," because she knew him when he was so little. But she was a very proper woman in that you didn't go in her office without your jacket on. You didn't go in there without a coat and tie on. You didn't go in there with your shoes not polished. And you never went in there without saying, "Yes, ma'am," and "No, ma'am," and speaking the proper king's English. If you said "kids," "Kids are billy goats--'children'." I made the mistake one time of saying "alumni" when she said I should have said "alumna," and Lord, if you ever messed up "lay" and "lie" in writing an opinion, you were in trouble. But when I first interviewed with her, I had very good credentials: I did well in law school, I was very active, I was on the Honor Court, I was the editor of the "North Carolina Law Record," I had real good summer experience, I did well academically. So I thought I had a pretty good crack at one of these clerkships, and I picked her out as the judge I wanted to work for because she was from Wilson. And she was well regarded by the law clerks and research assistants as being a real nice person. When I sat down



with her, the first thing she said to me is, "I don't think much of your school." She said, "Everybody I hear refers to it as 'ECTC'." And I really was so disappointed at the time, because I thought, "Here's a person who's not even going to give me a chance, and is jumping to lots of conclusions." And I didn't get angry about it, but I was pretty firm in saying to her in no uncertain terms that I had had a wonderful experience here, that I had gotten a very good education, that when I went to law school I competed very well against the others, that most of my professors were PhDs whereas most of my friends at Chapel Hill and State had graduate students teaching them, and, by God, I welcomed the opportunity to compete with those folks, and I was sorry she felt that way. Well she reared back and started laughing. She said, "When I went to Carolina law school, they teased me about going to ACTC [Atlantic Christian Teachers College] and about being from this little hick town in eastern North Carolina, and it was very demeaning and demoralizing to me." And she said, "But I think I got a great education at Atlantic Christian," and so she said, "You're hired." So to my great surprise, I get hired. And I was the first ECU student to get a clerkship, because most of them are tied into, you know, the judge went to Carolina, or Wake Forest, or Duke, and he hired somebody from there, so I felt very fortunate. And she was the hardest working judge on the [N.C.] Court of Appeals because she had to be, because she was the first woman and she had outdo everybody. But she really worked me hard. Her mother was quite ill during that period of time too, so I got to write a lot of opinions. She would certainly add her part to it, but I got to do a lot as a law clerk.

Donald R. Lennon:

That's what you were there for.



Phillip R. Dixon:

Right, to help her and to write opinions. They bring you copies of cases that were decided by a lower court and you had the whole record that you had to read and review, so I did a lot of reading, a lot of writing, learned a lot because she was a stickler for detail, and it was a wonderful learning experience. And you're very na�ve as a lawyer, when you first get out of law school especially. You want to correct all the injustices in the world, you know? I remember a case where a young black couple with two small children stopped at a Gulf station on the interstate, and it advertised, "Clean rest rooms, Gulf." And they stopped, and they got out, and as the father and mother--. [Pause] As the father and mother were tending to getting gassed up and doing those things, one of the little girls went around to the rest room. Well there was a big stack of firewood back there with a sign that said, "For sale," where the man was, on the side, selling firewood. And he had a big German Shepherd dog chained up out there to protect people from stealing it. And that little girl goes to that dog, and that dog just eats her alive, just about: rips her face open, scars her badly, just awful. And the suit was against Gulf, because the man who was really operating the business, the dealer, he didn't have any money, but this was really not related to the operation of the service station, this sort of side business he had.

Donald R. Lennon:

It was on their property.

Phillip R. Dixon:

But I said to the judge, "Judge, they've invited these people to stop here. They said, 'Safe, clean rest rooms,' and they should be able to assume that when they go there with their children that they don't get beat up by some German Shepherd." And she said, "Gulf didn't do that, the man did that, and they have a right to sue that man." I said, "The man doesn't have any money. This little girl's had three operations. Who should



pay for that? Gulf should pay for that. They're able to pay for that. They can spread that risk." She said, "No. Just because they're big and they have money doesn't mean they should pay it." So it was a reality check. And I understand it better, I mean we're not socialized so we're not going to provide a remedy for everybody who's been wronged, but it was an interesting dialogue to have with the judge. And we did that with lots of cases. It was very interesting to talk to her and see both sides of the case.

So I had a great job clerking, and when you are working for a judge on the [N.C.] Court of Appeals you see all the attorneys across the state come before the Court of Appeals and you see who the good attorneys are and who the bad attorneys are. And Louis Gaylord, from here in Greenville, very fine attorney. Ah! As good as they come. He and Cliff Everett, Sr. argued a case. It was as good as you'd ever see argued. They were the best. Mr. Gaylord was a great orator. When he offered me a job I jumped at the chance to come down here. I had a couple of job offers down here but I came with him, and he was an insurance defense lawyer, a really fine man, everything an attorney ought to be. So I had a grand experience working here with him for a couple of years. Then I went out on my own. I opened my own shop. I got married at Thanksgiving, and I opened my own office January 15.

Donald R. Lennon:

Wow.

Phillip R. Dixon:

It was a struggle. The secretary, our first month--me and one other attorney--the secretary made more money than we did the first month. We made $246.00 gross our first month. And we had an office two flights of stairs up, above [Attorney] Nelson Blount Crisp office. But after a couple of years we built our own office and things moved along. But I was one of those people who, when I was at Halifax Court, I'd have



kids from N.C. State who were in fraternities come and they'd do parties for underprivileged children. They'd take me. I had a big brother in the fraternity who taught me lots of things that a father should teach a son, I guess, and was there to answer my questions. So I guess I always felt there were a lot of people who did a lot of good deeds that needed to be repaid. And early in my practice my wife here got cancer. Our son was just eighteen months old. In those days if you got cancer it was a death warrant and you weren't going to survive. She had a mass in her chest about the size of a grapefruit and the doctor said, "We can't operate. It's in the heart and lung area, and so she's got about three months to live." We had a seven-year-old, an eight-year-old, and we had an eighteen-month-old. I had a great plan if I died first, but I had never considered her dying. She was probably early thirties, thirty-two, thirty-three, and that was hard. And the good news is that she survived it. It was a surprising thing because--. They had just opened a cancer center here. Up until that time you had to go to Duke [University] or to North Carolina Memorial [Hospital in Chapel Hill]. I would take her here for treatments and the radiation and chemotherapy was awful, but it melted like butter--melted from the size of a grapefruit to the size of a plum--and they burned it up. But she went from 128 pounds to seventy-four pounds. I mean I could carry her around like a sack of potatoes. And her parents came and lived with us and helped take care of the kids, but it was tough. Financially, it was tough too. I was really enamored with eastern North Carolina already, but we had a list of sixty-eight families we kept who would bring us food, cut the grass, rake the leaves, take the kids for the weekend, just do nice things for us. We had to buy an extra freezer to keep all the food. I told my wife, I said, "We ate better when you were sick." But I played "Mr. Mom" for a number of



years there. But we still kept that list. And you know it's surprising, because half the people on that list we didn't know very well. But I think here in eastern North Carolina there were so many people who felt they needed to sort of help each other because they didn't have anybody helping them. That was just the way it was. And they didn't expect any payback for that, they just sort of expected you to pay it forward and help others when you could.

Donald R. Lennon:

And a lot of churches here in Greenville--.

Phillip R. Dixon:

Oh, listen. My wife said she never realized what a card, or a letter, or a phone call, or a visit would mean. And now they call her a lot to go to the hospital when they have a young mother with cancer. And you never know whether the doctor is telling you everything, and now with somebody who's been through it they can say, "This is not pleasant, but if you keep your head screwed on straight you can make it through this, and you owe it to your children to do that." So I think it's been therapeutic for her too.

But I was always very grateful to ECU, which was one reason I got involved. And I was always grateful to all these agencies with United Way and in the community that really helped me when I was struggling and my family was struggling. So I've always been real active in the community, maybe to a fault, but I really enjoyed that, and it served me well. I think I met some wonderful people that way, and it gives you sort of meaning and purpose, and a real direction, and a rudder in your life.

Donald R. Lennon:

You had an opportunity to have insights into the University and to the public schools--.

Phillip R. Dixon:

And I'll tell you, the really interesting thing to me is I came down here--. When I was in law school, most of the classes you take--. I had 223 in my graduating



class, so the classes are relatively small. They have amphitheaters, they have five amphitheaters, they seat about ninety people in each class, and so you don't have that many classes, but you're allowed to take one class that's a small section with twenty-five people. And mine I took was estate planning and estate administration. So I had a real good knowledge of wills and trusts and estates and that sort of thing. And so when I came down here, Mr. Gaylord was the local counsel for Wachovia Bank and he was on their board of directors. And I'm on their board of directors now, which is real special to me, because I sort of followed in his footsteps. Mr. Gaylord paid for my rehearsal dinner when I got married. Now, we had the Candlewick Inn down here, sort of Williamsburg style inn. I don't know if you remember it, wonderful place. And I remember for thirty people it cost him three hundred dollars, so that was a long time ago, '77. But it was so special, because I didn't have anybody to pay for my rehearsal dinner. I just thought he was just a wonderful, wonderful man. But I remember him giving me the check and it had "Wachovia Bank Board of Directors" and I thought, "Wow! That's a big deal." [Laughter] But anyway, he and his wife were just special, real special people. I had a great experience, and really enjoyed that part of it. And I think Mr. Gaylord was probably one of those people who inspired me too. His wife taught the Sunday school class for junior high and high school students for nineteen years in our church. Now my wife and I did that for a year. It just about killed us. And then she taught handicapped children class. There are special people in this world that really do remarkable things, and it's remarkable to me what one person can sometimes do. You just never know how you touch somebody's life.



When I first came to Greenville, I was the Guardian ad Litem for neglected and abused children. One of my best friends was Ed Harper. He was the attorney for the [Pitt County] Department of Social Services, so we worked together, but I represented the child. A lot of times when kids were neglected or abused, I would represent the child. One day they bring this young girl over to my office and she's fourteen, real cute, and they pull her blouse up--now she's sobbing hysterically--they pull her blouse up and you can see the outline of an iron where they have burnt her body ten times. She'd been ironing clothes, her mother did not think she was doing a good enough job, held her down, and burnt her with an iron. Now it took me forty-five minutes to get her calmed down enough to even talk to her. My office was in the Bank of America building downtown right next to the courthouse, so I was convenient. They brought her over. And the first thing she told me was her eight-year-old brother was being burned with a Bic lighter. To punish him they would hold his hand out and they would light the lighter and hold it under his hand and burn his hand to teach him a lesson: Don't do something. So I got a secure custody order from [District Court] Judge [E. Bert] Aycock and got both those children out of the home and put them in foster care. But I was her confidante. I mean I was the only adult she trusted. She became very promiscuous when she was about fifteen. She would have sex with anybody because she was starved for affection. Through counseling though, by the time she was sixteen we got her a car, got her a job at Hardee's, and had her in a good foster care placement--she went through three or four of them before she finally settled in one that was good--and she survived all that, sort of straightened her life out. Fast forward about four or five years and she called me one day, and she said, "I'm getting married. Can you give me away? I don't have anybody



to give me away." Now I have three sons. I'll never do that again. But I'm thinking a little backyard wedding, right? No. It was a nice wedding. She married an engineer with TRW, and forever she came to my office every year with her and her two little girls, before she got transferred with her husband, and she'd bring a pie or a cake or some cookies or something to me and let me see her little girls. And she got counseling that entire time because she was fearful she would be abusive herself. But now that was real special. And occasionally I will still see--. I will be at the courthouse and some big soldier will walk up to me and say, "Mr. Dixon?" I'll say, "Yes?" and he'll say, "You don't remember me, but when I was about fourteen you represented me." It's real sweet to see they've turned out well, and there're some that don't turn out well.

You would go into homes and you would see no running water, no indoor toilet facilities. You'd peel back wallpaper and see nothing but bugs. And you'd see cracks in the floor, and the only way they'd heat the house is sometimes the oven or a wood burning stove, and you had children that would fall against the stove and get burned. I mean it was really a sobering experience to see. And in my practice even today about one in five people I see can't read and write. They're functionally illiterate. And they walk in and they'll have a huge growth on their neck. You'll say, "Oh my God! You need to see a doctor." And they say, "I don't have any health insurance," and you say, "You still need to see a doctor."

But you know people don't realize how tough it is out there for so many people. I mean I don't how they make it, which is why it seems to me that we have such a wonderful situation here because we offer a lot of hope for people in the region, and kids especially. Children are very precious to people and it's really an opportunity for them



for the future. But you know, I guess I'm a good example. I mean gee, I was real lucky to get here and to have a lot of people who sort of took an interest in me when they didn't have to, and happy to get back here. And when I came here--. I told you I came here and I was sort of an estate planning guy. Mr. Gaylord got me the job doing most of the work at Wachovia Bank in trusts and estates and wills, and they did a lot of that work back then. They were sort of the premier bank in town. When I went out on my own, Bank of America picked up--I think we were called NCNB or NationsBank at the time--and I ultimately moved my office over there. But I did all that work for them, which was a great client, and Miles Frost, who was the trust officer, was on the school board. He was on the Greenville City School Board, and he said, "We need an attorney. The attorney we've got is both the attorney for the county and the city school boards, and we need our own attorney. Would you be interested?" And of course I was interested in any new work I could get, because I was just starting out. So they hired me, and then they passed a law called the Educational Handicapped Children Act where they began mainstreaming disabled children. And so I had an explosion of work that I began doing, and I did so much work in that area with handicapped children that they appointed me to be a judge. I was the Local Due Process Hearing Officer and then the State Hearing Review Officer. I'd go all over the state hearing cases involving children with disabilities being denied or granted the rights to an education. And so that became sort of a specialty for me and it ultimately led to me representing not only the Greenville City and the Pitt County Board of Education but the Martin County Board of Education and about twenty-one other school systems I've done work for. And then that led to me representing about five community colleges and the North Carolina Association of Community Colleges trustees.



It began a domino. I did the Greenville Utilities Commission, and the towns of Ayden, and Pine Knoll Shores, and Cape Carteret. I just started doing a lot of public body work. That's very interesting work, because you're not elected, but you're sitting at the table, and so many times when they're doing something very important that's going to leave a footprint, they turn to you and say, "What do you think?" So I've had the advantage of sort of being actively involved in some public body discussions without having to be an elected member, and that's been wonderful. And it's interesting to see when you--. South Central High School: I was there when we acquired the land, entered in the contracts; I watched it being constructed; I supervised all that stuff being done. There are a lot of things you can do and see.

The school board actually put me on the community college board of trustees as a representative to be a liaison between the two, and then I became the vice chairman of that and the chair of that. Then I got on the ECU Board of Trustees, and the reason I'm on the [UNC] Board of Governors, really, is because I've sort of got the perspective of the public school, the community college, and the university, and they all are intertwined. It's like a spider web. They're all connected.

Donald R. Lennon:

The expertise you got from one--.

Phillip R. Dixon:

[Former UNC System President] C.D. Spangler made this great speech one time about "brushing the web." He was talking about the interconnectivity of all the campuses and how if you brush the web on this end it reverberates and affects everybody. And I think that's the way the community colleges and the public schools and the universities are. And we have a very good relationship with community colleges. We have a wonderful university system, perhaps the best one in the country, and we have a



very fine community college system-- although we underpay our people terribly and we've got to find a better way to support [their capital needs] --but, boy, our public schools, we've just got to do something about it. It's just awful.

Donald R. Lennon:

I don't know what we're going to do with the public schools.

Phillip R. Dixon:

Well we're trying to tackle it. We're trying to tackle it ourselves at the university level some. And you know ECU is the blue collar campus. We're the ones providing more teachers than anybody, more allied health professionals, more nurses. It's really wonderful to see. And what we've done with distance education, we do more than everybody else [in the university system] combined. It's just remarkable what we've done. I wish we'd get more credit for that sometimes, but you know we've got a better place at the table than we've had in a long time and with the growth is going to come a lot of money. And the dental school's big and the expansion of the medical school's big. It's amazing to see the metamorphosis here.

Donald R. Lennon:

I was just thinking the other night how Leo Jenkins' plans from the '60s just led to so much.

Phillip R. Dixon:

Well I remember reading about how Dr. Jenkins got very discouraged sometimes, but it's amazing to see how those alliances that were built accomplished so much. You know, they used to have a North Carolina Board of Higher Education that [Dr.] Cameron West headed up, and we were in that group. And then you had the consolidated University of North Carolina system, but that was only UNC, North Carolina State College, and Women's College. And in a effort to undermine what we were trying to do, because we were being pretty successful with the general assembly, they added Charlotte College as UNC-Charlotte, Wilmington College as UNC-



Wilmington, which had just been a two-year college, and Asheville-Biltmore College as UNC-Asheville.

Donald R. Lennon:

That's basically how Charlotte had been.

Phillip R. Dixon:

Well, that's exactly right, but they had all the political clout, Wilmington and Asheville. I mean it was a smart move politically. But we persevered through all that.

Donald R. Lennon:

Yeah, called their bluff.

Phillip R. Dixon:

Well they did, and then when we moved and said, "We meet the Carnegie requirements for a university. We want to be called a university," they tried to give that to everybody thinking that would shoot it down, but how can you vote against it if you live in Boone, or you live in Wilmington, so everybody got it. It's been a rocky road, but it's fairer now than it's ever been. But you know I look at the thirty-two-member [UNC] Board of Governors: there are four people east of Raleigh. There are five alone in Asheville on the Board of Governors. I mean that's hard for us when we're trying to get something done, because if you need seventeen votes, if you're up at Asheville, you've already got five votes to start with. If you're down here, man. Two of the four--.

Donald R. Lennon:

The east used to have a lot more political clout--.

Phillip R. Dixon:

Well, the senate especially, the senate especially I think. But you know I think we'd still be startled with how bad off so many people are. And education offers the greatest opportunity to get out of that. Walter Williams here did a great thing when I was Chairman of the Board. I asked him if he'd do this. I said, "I need $25,000 a year, and what we want to do is we want to go to twenty-five high schools. We want to ask them to identify their five student leaders, their five best student leaders. Not the best students, but the kids who get things done that the other students look up to and respect



and admire. What we want to do is we want to recognize each one of those as a Chancellor's Fellow, let's call it, a Leadership Fellow. And the one we pick out of the five we want to give a thousand dollars to if they come to ECU. We want to give them a chance to participate in our leadership development program. But if the other four come to ECU, they don't get the thousand dollars, but they get to participate in our leadership development program." And that gives you potentially 125 people in your leadership development program who are strong leaders. And we want to make a part of their structure--sort of like the Boy Scouts' Eagle Scout program--that they have to go back to their community one summer and do a special project. But in return for that they're getting four thousand dollars, plus they're getting leadership development and they get invited to all these functions at the Chancellor's home, and they get to meet a lot of people in leadership positions. And it has been a wonderful thing. I hope we can do more with it. If we can build a new College of Education/College of Business building and connect it with that BB&T Leadership Center it will be even better, because we can build that education/business partnership. See businessmen would not allow us to have a [public] school system like we have. They would ensure that we have quality facilities, and quality personnel, and well-managed facilities, and I think it would change a lot of things. A principal can make a big difference in a school.

And you know I think Greenville has been somewhat the oasis in the desert down here as well. I had so many of my friends who came other places in eastern North Carolina who felt very much they were outsiders and they would never let them in, because it was like if you weren't born in Washington, or your grandparents weren't born in Washington, you were a carpetbagger.



Donald R. Lennon:

Or New Bern.

Phillip R. Dixon:

Or New Bern, or Tarboro, or Rocky Mount, or Washington, or whatever, but Greenville was a sleepy little tobacco town, and they always had the college so they always had an influx of new people and they always welcomed them and were excited about them being here. I think there was a certain excitement about things that were happening here too, and I think we see what's happened. I think when you come here you've always had a chance to get involved and participate and help make decisions affecting the community. Look at downtown. You can see it coming back. It was a very vibrant downtown when I first came here. You had Proctor's and you had Belk's and you had J.C. Penny's and you had Blount Harvey's and you had nice restaurants downtown. The county offices are downtown. The school board offices are downtown. But I see it coming back, and I think that's been remarkable. Of course any community our size, if they had a new industry that was going to invest twenty or thirty million a year and hire a hundred people they'd be turning somersaults, and we get that every few months here. So with us moving from twenty-six thousand to thirty-seven thousand students, the expansion of the medical school and the dental school, the family practice center, and the heart institute, we've got a lot of stuff going for us. It'll be nice. It'll be a nice community. And then you've got this balance. I always think that you don't want to be too liberal or too conservative. You want to sort of be in the middle. And I think the dynamics of our community are that we have a lot of businessmen/developers on one side but we have a lot of college professors and people who are more sensitive to the environment on the other end, and we sort of keep it in the middle sort of where it belongs. It seems to me that a lot of people down east look to us. They come here to



shop, and they come here for plays, and concerts, and films, and lecture series, and healthcare. It's just a larger community than it appears. And most of the developers--I do a lot of work with developers--between tidewater Virginia and Raleigh and Wilmington, we're sort of it. We're the place people want to be. And it's a nice community, a nice place to live: "Sports town USA," good recreation programs. And like I say, I've just really enjoyed it here. And I think, something that has really impressed me, I have a son in law school who's just finished law school. He's coming down here to practice this fall. He could have gone anywhere he wanted to go. I'm just real proud he's coming here. I think he thinks it's a good place to come, to be.

But I think they're so many people--. I remember seeing a "Tecoan"--which was the campus yearbook--article and it showed sort of a country bumpkin young girl from the farm as she entered college, wearing a straw hat and a calico dress and just country come to town, and then they showed a lady at the other end who was a very sophisticated flapper from the '20s leaving campus. I sort of felt that way, I guess, when I came here. There are all sorts of things--. I remember having a terrible cyst on my cheek. It was a pimple that I mashed too hard and it got bruised and it just got worse, and worse, and worse. It became this huge knot on my cheek. It bothered me all through high school. I was very sensitive and shy about it. I was a gawky kid and I was real thin. They used to call me "Zipper" I was so thin and skinny. But I went over to the infirmary one day, and I said, "Can you do anything about that?" And do you know what the doctor did? He put me down in a chair and he cut it. [Laughter] He just [Sound of snipping], and then he cleaned it up and he put a little gauze in it to allow it to drain and within a week or so it was gone.



Donald R. Lennon:

Was that Fred Irons?

Phillip R. Dixon:

It wasn't Fred but it was somebody--. But Fred was one of my favorite people. But I can't tell you what it did for my self esteem. You know it was just a big deal, and it took him five minutes to take care of a problem that had been bothering me for years. I also remember going to [Dr.] Jay Collie, who was a dentist here, and I'd never been to a dentist until I was twelve and I was scared to death of dentists, just scared to death. But you know when I was working here and I finally went to the dentist I had a chipped tooth. And Jay Collie, he goes over to the adding machine and goes [Sound effects] and he does all this stuff. And he gives me this list, and it's like two thousand dollars. And of course I didn't have two thousand dollars and I was just startled by it. He said, "No, no. I'm not talking about you have to pay that now. These are the things you need to do over a period of time." I never did get all those things done [with Dr. Collie], but I did a lot of things with him. And then when I went to law school I became a guinea pig for the dental school. You pay two dollars and let them do anything you want to have done, so I had a lot of work done. When I came down here I actually had that tooth finally fixed, and it just made a difference, to have that chipped tooth--. I wasn't so self conscious anymore.

Donald R. Lennon:

It broke my heart when Jay retired.

Phillip R. Dixon:

And I'll tell you something else that happened. I was poor and I was shy and I didn't have very good self esteem. I took a speech course here with a wonderful lady in our theater department, and I must have given the worst speech you could ever give. I mean I got up and I was falling to pieces. She wanted to me to stay after class and I thought, "This is not good." And she said, "Where are you from?" I said, "Raleigh."



She said, "Well, tell me about Raleigh." I said, "Well you know they've got all these colleges there: State and Meredith and St. Mary's and Peace. And they're sort of a banking center. They've got all these banks downtown." And I told her about the capitol and all the state government [buildings], you know, and she said, "The next speech I want you to give, I want you to give a speech about Raleigh, your hometown." So the next assignment was everybody had to talk about their hometown. Well that was easy for me to talk about, because I knew all about it. I remember the girl in front of me got up to give her speech and she was from Bear Grass. And she said, "I live in Bear Grass. It's so many miles from Raleigh." So when I gave my speech I got up and said, "I live in Raleigh. It's so many miles from Bear Grass." And everybody laughed, which put me right at ease, and I gave my little speech about Raleigh which was something I knew, and she changed my life, because--.

Donald R. Lennon:

Who was that?

Phillip R. Dixon:

You know I wish I could think of her name. I just don't remember. I do remember Miss Betty Congleton , who was a history professor, who was really great. I remember Dr. Price, Charles Price, who was real good. I loved history. Of course I remember Dr. [Richard] Todd. But this lady told me, "What you need to do--. The key is to talk about something you know, and just pretend you're having a conversation, essentially." And it served me well as time passed. But it's just remarkable the little things that make a difference. It's just surprising to me. And then I think I get excited about things, or got excited about things, that other people took for granted. Like I say, the first time I told you I had broccoli or Brussels sprouts I thought this was the coolest thing I'd ever seen. [Laughter] And you know nobody would get



excited about that but me. And I remember H.L. Lewis, who was the Clerk of Superior Court here, his son was in my fraternity, Phi Sigma Pi. And he was an older student, non-traditional student. He was twice as old as we were. And he was celebrating something that happened in his life and he invited about ten of us to have a steak at the Beef Barn. Now I'd never been to a steak house, and he took me there and I got a steak that was really a real steak. And I remember thinking, "This is the best thing I ever put in my mouth." [Laughter] So it was a real interesting thing to me. Like I say, every day was a new adventure, and I bet we have a lot of kids who are like that.

Donald R. Lennon:

Let's see if there are a few points that I may have written down that we didn't get to.

Phillip R. Dixon:

Didn't talk about the [ECU] Board of Trustees.

Donald R. Lennon:

That's right. [Pause] Most of these points we touched on in one way or the other.

Phillip R. Dixon:

Well, we had twenty-six thousand students when I came--twenty-six thousand citizens, population--now we got about seventy-two. And we had less than ten, I know, because I remember when we went over ten. State had 10,500 students, we had 10,400 students, but with the governor being in office for four terms, Governor Hunt, for sixteen years, it sure changed that campus.

Donald R. Lennon:

It really did. One thing I meant to touch on: When you came to Greenville--left home and came down here for the first time--did you ever get homesick?

Phillip R. Dixon:

I really didn't.

Donald R. Lennon:

Were you ever concerned about being away from home?



Phillip R. Dixon:

When I came here, I remember, I came to Five Points, which was very confusing to me, where State Bank and Trust was. I remember coming in on Dickinson and the smell of tobacco was everywhere. And we stopped at the Riggs House and had a meal. And we came downtown, it was really confusing, and we made a wrong turn and we went down to the river. And it was the slums. It was the black section of town and it was just really in bad shape, before re-development. I was real startled by that. But I finally got on track and somehow ended up on Tenth Street, not Fifth Street, in front of the Blount House, which was a private residence--.

Donald R. Lennon:

Now you came on a bus, didn't you?

Phillip R. Dixon:

Well I came on a bus the first time for my class, but the orientation, when I came down for orientation, first time I ever set foot on the campus. I came down and we parked in front of the Blount House, and it was a private residence then, and the arboretum was back there then, which had been a lake at one time. But I remember there was a bridge, a plank bridge, with a lot of azaleas and dogwoods in the spring. And I remember there was a boy and girl leaning up against the bridge kissing. "Oh wow, this is strange." They were right there with a blanket, studying or something, and I thought that was pretty cool. And there was a big smokestack and the laundry plant. We were right there. And I remember walking around the campus and I just felt very comfortable here. It's really interesting. And I didn't visit any other campuses. I mean this is the only campus I visited. And it's because I had a lot of friends who were coming here to school and a lot of teachers who'd come here to school. And there was something exotic about--. I thought I was going down to the coast, you know, I thought, Pirates, and coast. I didn't know how close I was to the water really. It's funny. My wife, she was a



violinist, a very good violinist, in the Shreveport Symphony when she was growing up, and she went to Centenary College to take some courses in music and two of her professors were ECU grads. They were so impressed with her, they sent her tape of her performance up here and they offered her a scholarship to play in the orchestra. And Florida State offered her a scholarship. But she had come up here during the summer to study music and strings at Brevard, North Carolina, up in the mountains, and when she got the offer from us she thought that was Greenville, South Carolina, and thought she was going to be in the lovely mountains of North Carolina, or South Carolina.

Donald R. Lennon:

That's happened before quite a few times.

Phillip R. Dixon:

And she arrives here and says, "Whoa, what's this? Flatlands." But I wasn't that way. Like I say, I was just so happy to be here. I can't tell you how happy I was to be here. And I didn't get homesick at all because like I say, home was not very fun. Home was not very nice. Home was a lot of unpleasantness, and not because I didn't have a loving mother, I think I did, but she was just really poor, and she was always struggling, and she was always having a hard time trying to make ends meet. I mean she really struggled. It was hard. And here there was a comfort zone. Everybody was living in the same place and you had a new start. You had a fresh start in life. I remember being so embarrassed by--. [I remember when I was in high school] I was at a track meet and I was coming home and I said [to the driver of the car I was riding in with my teammates], "Let me out here," and he insisted on driving to my house. And I was just humiliated. It was such a terrible place. It was just awful, just an awful place. You didn't want anybody to know you lived there. It was just bad. How sad that is. So I understand these kids who come out of poverty and they just, they want [respect], I guess.



But I remember when he stopped he said, "You live here?" And I said, "Yeah. Surprised, aren't you?" But I remember getting out of the car. It was a knife to the chest. It was just one of those things. So like I say, I had a great experience.

But the [ECU] Board of Trustees thing, let me mention that one thing.

Donald R. Lennon:

Please do.

Phillip R. Dixon:

When I came on the Board of Trustees it was a big exciting day in my life because I really loved the University. I'd been president of the Alumni Association and president of the Pirate Club. I'd been actively involved in about anything I could, and when I got on the Board of Trustees it was really exciting. After I'd been on the Board of Trustees for about a year or so, about a year I guess, they announced in one of our meetings a nominating committee had been named. They named it right there in the meeting. And I said, I slipped a note to one of the people on the committee--there were only like three people on the committee--I said, "I'd like to be considered for the post of secretary," and she looked at me in horror. It was Lyda Teer Mihalyi, I think was her name. She was from Durham, Nello Teer's daughter. She looked at me like it was not right for me to be slipping her that note. So as soon as we took a break I said, "What's wrong? I'd just like to have my name in the hat," and she said, "Well that slate's already been decided." I said, "Well they just named the committee. How can it be decided?" She said, "Our pattern has always been the chair would always pick who's going to be the next chair and vice chair and secretary." I said, "That doesn't sound very fair. I think we all ought to be able to stand up and say, 'Here's why I'd like to be secretary, here's why I'd like to be vice chair,' and vote us up and down. Vote for whoever you think will do a good job." Well my little enquiry changed the way we started doing that, and they



sort of made a more open process. And ultimately I got elected secretary the next year, and served two years as secretary, two years as vice chair, two years as chair, you sort of move up. And I had a wonderful experience with [Chancellor] Dick Eakin. We would have lunch every Wednesday. We had no agenda. There were times we had something special to talk about, but most of the time we didn't have anything special to talk about, and we'd just talk about the state of the University and what we could do to make things better. And I really enjoyed that. That was a very intimate time. And it was very interesting, little things that would come up. We were just trying to make things look better and clean things up and beautify the campus and do more planning.

Donald R. Lennon:

He was really big on that.

Phillip R. Dixon:

Yeah. And I really did enjoy my term with him. Then when I rotated off the board, I felt like we'd done a good job and things were going well and a lot of positive things had happened. When I wanted to get on the [UNC] Board of Governors, it was a very demeaning process. I mean, members of the general assembly don't want to talk to you. They don't want to speak to you. You walk in their office to see them and they get up and walk you to the door, or they won't see you. I thought I had a pretty good background: I'm a construction lawyer; I'm a utilities lawyer; I'm an arbitrator and mediator; and I've got this background in education that I think is an interesting perspective. And I've got some ideas that I'd like to see. For instance, I'd like to see us give low interest loans to teachers to buy houses, because I think if you get them entrenched in the community with a house, they're not going to easily sell it, they may stay. And I'd like to have out-of-state students be granted in-state tuition if they agree to teach here for five years. Forgive their debts--.



Donald R. Lennon:

politics of it.

Phillip R. Dixon:

Yeah, well you know, that was the surprising thing I guess, because I would have assumed they'd look at the candidates and look at their qualifications and look at what they bring to the table, but it wasn't that way at all. The year I got elected to the board, there were fourteen people being considered for two spots. And they told me now, they said, "Look. There are twelve white guys and two minorities. One spot is either going to go to a minority or a woman. So there are twelve of you vying for this one spot." Well, you know, what are the chances that you are going to get that one spot? And I don't know how I got it. I have no idea. And I've really been a good board member--if I say so myself--so far, but you have no idea if you're going to reappointed or not. I'm in my third year. Next year will be my last year. But you can get reappointed for two additional four-year terms. It did carry some weight when I showed them there were only four people out of thirty-two east of Raleigh, and two of those were Wilmington. Bunny Saunders over in Roper is the mayor there, a black lady who's really a sharp lady. I really like her a lot. She's another choice.

Donald R. Lennon:

That's really sad that it's gotten--.

Phillip R. Dixon:

Yeah, it really is, but there are neat things that happen too. We had twelve or thirteen votes for the dental school. We had to have seventeen. That was on a Sunday night. By Thursday we had the seventeen. And then the whole board voted in favor of it. But it's hard--. Some of these things don't stand the light of day. The first board meeting I went to of the [UNC] Board of Governors, very first meeting, they're announcing the new chancellor at UNC-Charlotte. And they're getting ready to hire him at a salary that's thirty-five thousand higher than [ECU Chancellor] Steve Adams' salary. And so, I'm not



real comfortable, it's my first meeting, but I say, "I don't understand something. East Carolina University has a larger enrollment than UNC-Charlotte. [We had a doctorial program before they did.] We have a medical school, which UNC-Charlotte doesn't have. We have a Division I football program. And our chancellor's been here a year longer than the new chancellor at UNC-Charlotte. How would you justify paying the chancellor at Charlotte more money than you pay the chancellor at Greenville?"

"Motion to increase the salary of the chancellor at ECU by thirty-five thousand dollars." They raised the salary immediately. And I'm thinking to myself, "Why should I have had to do that? Why wasn't it taken care of long before now? And how would you be giving a thirty-five thousand dollar increase to this one and not this one?"

And there are other things that came up. They were trying to expand the medical school at UNC. Here's what they said, they said, "North Carolina faces a huge shortage of doctors." And they said, "ECU's done the best job of recruiting and retaining physicians in North Carolina, and Duke and Wake Forest and UNC have had less success in recent years than they had formerly when they were really focusing on doing that. We've got to something to increase the number of doctors, so we propose at UNC to expand our medical school from--"let me see how many--"from 160 to 230. And we're going to place those students in Charlotte their third and fourth year, because Charlotte is the largest city in the United States without a medical school."

Now, I don't think it's rocket science. I say, "If East Carolina does such a good job of training and retaining doctors, why wouldn't we be expanding the medical school at ECU?"



"We're going to talk to the folks at ECU about that." That's what they said. The next meeting they come back again talking about again just the medical school expansion at UNC, and now they decide they're going to put students third and fourth year in both Charlotte and Asheville.

"What about Fayetteville, and Wilmington, and Elizabeth City, and Jacksonville?"

"We're going to talk to East Carolina about that."

Third meeting, they have a report--. And they're going to take it the UNC Board of Trustees concerning the expansion of the medical school at UNC in January. "Have you talked with the folks at East Carolina?"

"We're going to be meeting with them December 17."

Donald R. Lennon:

After it's too late to--.

Phillip R. Dixon:

After it's too late to do anything. I said, "I'm having real trouble with this." I said, "If you've got two medical schools in North Carolina, why wouldn't you be expanding both? And we've got seventy-two students. We've been trying to expand to eighty--we've got room for eighty--for twenty-five years, and we can't expand. And here you are expanding--. And you're looking at Charlotte and Asheville? How did Asheville get included in this mix?"

"They asked to be included."

I said, "Well I'd like to ask that Jacksonville and Wilmington and Fayetteville and Elizabeth City get included." So I wrote a letter to Erskine and I say, "I'm concerned about this," and he got upset over me writing the letter: public record--.

Donald R. Lennon:

Got upset at you?



Phillip R. Dixon:

Yeah. He's a very good president. I mean, he does a great job. But he got upset because the News & Observer can find that letter now and it looks like I'm concerned and I'm complaining.

Donald R. Lennon:

And you were!

Phillip R. Dixon:

I was. But guess what? At the next meeting there was a plan for the expansion of the medical school at both places.

Donald R. Lennon:

Well now, placing the ones at Charlotte and Asheville and what have you, are these for residency purposes, or--?

Phillip R. Dixon:

Yeah, but it allows the expansion of the medical school and the replacement of those facilities up there too. So now what we're going to do, they're going to give us 150 million dollars for construction here. They get more like 200 million up there. They're going to expand their medical school from 160 to 220, I think it is, and we're going to expand ours from seventy-two to 120. But now I don't think I was responsible for that necessarily, but I think somebody needed to say something. And it just seems to me that--.

Donald R. Lennon:

And unless it's someone like you--.

Phillip R. Dixon:

Well it's got to be somebody that at least stands up and says--. And that's what Dr. Jenkins did. He stood up and said, "We need highways. We need a medical school. We need things." But I think--. [Dr.] Emmett Floyd told me this one time. Emmett Floyd was a lobbyist, essentially, for the University, and he said, "I was at Raleigh at a committee in the [NC] Senate and there was an announcement there was going to be an appropriation of seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars for the study of problems facing senior citizens, a geriatric study. And the money was going to UNC and



NC State." And he said, "What about East Carolina?" They added East Carolina's name to the mix and we each got two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. All it took was bringing our name up. The first time I went to the president's home--Molly Broad was the president then--the first time I went to her home for dinner, you go in her dining room and one whole wall is a pastoral scene of UNC [campus]. One whole wall is a pastoral scene of N.C. State. And the small wall is a pastoral scene of all the other campuses. There's a little picture of Wright Auditorium this big on there. And I thought, "Hmm. [Laughter] This is strange." But, you know, it's better now. I think a lot of progress has been made, and we were the third largest campus in terms of resources, and I think they're beginning to recognize and respect good things that we're doing. What I say to them is, "There is an impact that we have down here with our campus." But you know, I've visited all the campuses now, and every campus has something wonderful to say about it. They really do good stuff. We have a wonderful university system. But I say, recognize that every campus is a jewel in the crown of the system and they all do good work. And sometimes I think there is an arrogance and a narcissistic attitude that, "Only we can do this. Nobody else can do it." And I do think it's becoming more collaborative, and I think you'll see campuses working more and more together. It makes no sense for me for us not to see Charlotte and us working, Greensboro and us working together, A&T and us working together, and State and us, and Carolina and us working on different things. It worked real well with the dental school expansion. It worked real well with the medical school expansion.

Donald R. Lennon:

It's been amazing the last few years the collaborative--.



Phillip R. Dixon:

Yeah, and Erskine brings a business approach to the table, which is sort of nice too, instead of it being sort of summarily dismissed. And I think you're going to see--. For instance, he's looking at things like utilization of space on campuses. We've got so many campuses, they don't have any classes before 10:00 or 11:00 in the morning and they don't have any classes after 2:00. That makes no sense. And he talked about adding a third semester so we'll have during the summer. If you want to go three semesters a year, you can do that.

Donald R. Lennon:

That's for the convenience of the students so they don't have to get up too early.

Phillip R. Dixon:

Well, but, damn, I guess I was used to getting up early. I always had 8:00 classes. I liked to be finished by 1:00. But it doesn't make any sense. It's too costly. We've got two hundred and eight thousand students. We're moving to three hundred thousand students. But the community colleges have eight hundred thousand students. It's going to be interesting to see what happens. Well I appreciate you taking the time to let me vent a little bit. But it's a great experience.

Donald R. Lennon:

You've had some wonderful things to talk about, and I think, unless you wanted to say any more about any of the chancellors you worked with from Jenkins on?

Phillip R. Dixon:

Well there is one thing I want to say about [Dr.] Bill Muse, I guess. I've been on two chancellor search committees. The first chancellor search committee, I was the president of the Alumni Association. I was the president of the Alumni Association when Tom Brewer got fired as the chancellor. And Tom Brewer came in here after Jenkins and he was--. You know he fired a lot of people, made a lot of changes. And I don't think he planned to be here very long. And you may recall that he was a finalist for



a job elsewhere and the [ECU] Board of Trustees got excited about it and said, "Are you going to be our chancellor, or are you looking for another job?" And he said, "I'm here. I'm going to be here." Then he was a finalist for the Louisville job and they fired him, because they didn't think he was loyal to the campus. Well it had been tradition that the president of the Alumni Association and the chairman of the Faculty Senate and different groups and constituencies were represented on the Chancellor Selection Committee. Well if you look at the list, I was half the age of anybody else on the board. I was like thirty-two years old. The editor to The Washington Daily News, Ashley Futrell, didn't want me on that board, on that selection committee. And [Dr.] Bill Friday came down and met with me in my office. Now I'm a little attorney with one other attorney in my office and one secretary on Evans Street mall where [the insurance offices of] Goodson and Flanagan used to be, and I've got Bill Friday sitting in my office. I'm the one intimidated. He said, "Son, you're going to be on the Chancellor's Selection Committee, but this is good advice for you: Listen, learn, gain their trust, and participate, but don't go in there and upset the apple cart. Pay your dues." And it worked well, and Ashley actually got to be a very good friend of mine--.

Donald R. Lennon:

Why was Ashley opposed to it?

Phillip R. Dixon:

Because I was thirty-two, and everybody else, the youngest person was sixty-four, sixty-five. They were much older, just much older people. But Bill Friday said something to me that day that I thought was very revealing. He said, "You know, when the medical school was proposed down here, I was in opposition to it. Didn't think we could afford another medical school. But once the decision was made, we supported it well, and it's a very fine medical school now, and it's done everything they proposed it



would do, and it just came along at the right time. It was the right niche medical school: primary care, family medicine, rural medicine, telemedicine. It was really a spectacular success story." I was really impressed that he said that.

And then the second Chancellor Selection Committee I was on, Bill Muse was the chancellor down at Auburn. But he was having real trouble with his board of trustees at the time and they were sort of running roughshod over-- [him]. They were cutting PhD programs to put more money into football and he was really having trouble with that. But he had been the dean of the College of Business at Appalachian. And he had a place down at the coast [here in N.C.] that he liked to go to. And he loved baseball and barbecue--big Detroit Tigers fan--and he really was excited about the chance to come back down here. And when we got him, I thought we really had a coup. Molly Broad even said, "Man! That is a coup for us to get him." But he was very independent in the way he ran Auburn University. He was used to making decisions. And when it came to the telemedicine program here, we had a guy who was really cutting edge. I think his name was Bauch. That was his name, if I'm not mistaken. But anyway, he said the people that he wanted--. He knew who he wanted to bring in to do the telemedicine stuff, and he knew the equipment that he needed, and he didn't go through the RFP's and he didn't go through proper channels for recruiting people, and it got him in trouble and it got Bill in trouble. I'm not sure I completely understand what happened when Bill got sort of axed here after a short period of time, because he was doing what we were asking him to do and that was to be aggressive in terms of getting some things done. But I grieved over us losing him because I actually thought he was a very fine man. But I don't know what all happened there. But I think it's a different campus because the



region identifies so much with us and we identify so much with the region. So it's more than being a chancellor. It's being a leader and a spokesman for the region.

Donald R. Lennon:

Well that's something that Dr. Brewer couldn't comprehend.

Phillip R. Dixon:

I think you're right. I don't think he ever got it.

Donald R. Lennon:

He came from Texas Christian [University], which was a small school in a big city.

Phillip R. Dixon:

And I just, I think to this day that this is a real special opportunity for somebody. I told [Dr.] Steve Ballard this. I said, "What a great opportunity to leave a footprint, to do something special." Who knows what the future holds, but it looks to me that we're going to get more resources. The growth is going to give us some opportunities we haven't enjoyed before. For a long time it seemed to me we were building "shoeboxes", Spartan facilities, and we're now beginning to do some things that are aesthetically pleasing and something you can be proud of. I look at Brewster Building--poor Dr. Brewster. I loved Dr. Brewster. He was a wonderful client. But that building doesn't really offer a lot to me. And the Tyler Building--ah!--I think that is the ugliest building I've every seen, the Tyler Dorm. But anyway, we just keep working on those things and make progress, but we'll see.

Donald R. Lennon:

[Laughter]I'll give you a comment after we finish.

Phillip R. Dixon:

And I'll tell you, I do think we probably have a pretty good board [of trustees] right now in terms of good people who are providing some good leadership, have some good clout. They just need more people on the [UNC] Board of Governors. I don't know if I can maintain that position or not because there are a lot of good people out there who are most deserved of getting selected. But if you could get a second term



or a third term, you might be able to make some difference. You just never know. There was a real fine member of the Board of Governors from down in Wilmington, Bob Warlick, who was a CPA and a UNC-Wilmington grad. He wrote a two hundred dollar check to a campaign for some candidate, and for that reason he didn't get re-elected to the board. I just don't understand that. That just makes no sense to me.

Donald R. Lennon:

It's all politics.

Phillip R. Dixon:

Well, you know, it's hard to figure. It's just hard to figure. I don't understand it completely. And another guy down there, [Dr.] Al Roseman, who's an endodontist, he told me that the speaker [of the house] called him in and said, "Would you like to be on the [UNC] Board of Governors?" He never aspired to be on the board of governors. I told him, I said, "I worked for three years to get on the Board of Governors, busted my tail. Spent all this time up at the [N.C.] General Assembly shaking hands, talking to people, visiting and telling them why I'd like to be considered." And I said, "You didn't even ask, and you got put on." It's just strange how it works.

[Sound of buzzer] That's probably my office killing [calling] me. Hold on a second. Let me cancel this and I'll wrap things up with you. All right, well that's all, I guess, I can tell you. It just gives you some insight in the times. They were good.

Donald R. Lennon:

It's been a great session and I thoroughly enjoyed--. Let me hit the pause button here.

End of Interview

Transcriber: Deborah Mitchum

Date: May 15, 2008



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