Richard Tillman Fountain Papers

Manuscript Collection #129
Fountain, R. T. (Richard Tillman), 1885-1945
Physical description
6.94 Cubic Feet, consisting of correspondence, reports, clippings, newspapers, campaign material, a scrapbook, speeches, pamphlets, and photographs
Preferred Citation
Richard Tillman Fountain Papers (#129), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Papers (1864-1958 undated) of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, lawyer, judge, legislator, and gubernatorial candidate Richard Tillman Fountain consisting of correspondence, report, clippings, newspapers, law practice documents, letters, pamphlets, photographs, clippings, scrapbooks, and reports.

Biographical/historical information

Richard Tillman Fountain was born in Edgecombe County, N.C., on 15 February 1885, the son of Almon L. and Lousie Eagles Fountain. He was educated in the public schools of Edgecombe County and the Tarboro Male Academy before attending the University of North Carolina from 1905 to 1907. Fountain was admitted to the N.C. Bar and began a practice in Rocky Mount in 1907. He was vice president of the N.C. Bar Association (1922-23), served as president of the Bar Association of the city of Rocky Mount, and held membership in the American Bar Association. He was appointed judge of the municipal court of the city of Rocky Mount in 1911 and held the office until 1918. He was also a trustee of the Rocky Mount Graded Schools (1917-1935), secretary to the Board of Trustees(1917-1921), and the chairman of the Board (1924-1931).

In 1918 Fountain was elected to the State Legislature where he served five unopposed terms and was named speaker in 1927. From 1929 to 1933 he served as lieutenant governor. As a candidate for governor of N.C. in the 1932 Democratic primary, Fountain was defeated by J. C. B. Ehringhaus in a runoff election. From 1934 until 1942 Fountain edited a newspaper, the Rocky Mount Herald. In 1936 and 1942 he ran unsuccessfully in the primary for the U.S. Senate against the incumbent senator, Josiah W. Bailey. He was also a trustee of the University of North Carolina, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Eastern Carolina Training School for Boys and author of the bill establishing the school, chairman of the State Board of Equalization, and a member of the State Park Commission. Fountain was married to the former Miss Susie Rankin of Gastonia and had a son and three daughters. On 21 February 1945, Fountain died in Rocky Mount at the age of sixty.

Scope and arrangement

The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence. Early correspondence from 1903 to 1925 deals primarily with Fountain's law practice; his early political activities, including his support of E. L. Daughtridge for governor in 1916 and of Angus W. McLean in 1924; his own election to the State House of Representatives in 1918; his interest in founding a training school for boys; and family matters such as his brother's letters from school and letters from Susie Rankin to Fountain before their marriage in 1918. Letters from 1926 to 1928 deal with Fountain's successful campaign for Speaker for the House of Representatives and requests by representatives for appointments to various committees in the House. Other letters discuss various views on legislation before the House, especially concerning workman's compensation, taxes for education, and adoption of the Australian ballot. Letters of 1928 through 1930 deal with Fountain's campaign for lieutenant governor, his election to that post, requests for jobs and appointments to positions, opinions on bills before the State Senate during the 1929 session, and invitations for Fountain to speak at various functions.

A majority of the correspondence deals with the period of 1931 to 1932, during which time Fountain was running in the Democratic gubernatorial primary against J. C. B. Ehringhaus and A. J. Maxwell. These letters include public opinion on various issues, especially on prohibition, a sales tax, centralization of government, and questions on schools; invitations to speak on various occasions; charges of misconduct against Ehringhaus supporters during the first primary in June, 1932; advice on calling for a second primary; and the organization of the second primary campaign. Also of interest for this period are Fountain's county campaign files, which consist of correspondence to and from various county leaders and Fountain's campaign headquarters. These letters give a complete picture of the organization of the campaign down to the precinct levels, the financial problems faced by Fountain's campaign, and the issues most of interest to each section of the state in 1932. Each county's records usually include a list of registrars and judges for the county, listings of possible supporters, and predictions of support in the primary. It is interesting to note that there are no files for Clay, Dare, and Gates counties.

Correspondence for the years following 1932 consists of letters on Fountain's health following the 1932 campaign, six letters on his senatorial campaign in 1936 and one on the 1942 campaign, his interest in the Eastern Carolina Training School for Boys, his law practice, and his interest in Cameron Morrison's campaign for the Senate in 1944.

Also included in the correspondence is an 1864 letter written to Richard T. Eagles by his son Theophilus, informing him of the death of a brother, Lt. L. Dow Eagles, who was wounded at Spotsylvania and died shortly thereafter.

Miscellaneous campaign literature constitutes a portion of the collection. Among these are mailing lists used by the Fountain campaign headquarters in 1932. These include lists of railroad employees, voters by counties, and precinct chairman and committee members for Columbus County. There are also random surveys of Fountain's strength for 18-23 April and 24-30 April 1932; a listing of his speaking engagements for May; broadsides and handbills giving his views on various issues; and a tally of the final votes in the first and second primaries. Other literature includes notices on the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and publicity from the 1944 gubernatorial primary between Ralph McDonald and R. Gregg Cherry. Speeches and news releases by Fountain include those used in the 1932 campaign to define his platform, to attack the State Purchasing Department, and to attack Ehringhaus and the machine. Others deal with the question of women voting when the adoption of the 19th Amendment was discussed in the N.C. General Assembly, the U.S. flag, his opposition to Josiah W. Bailey for the Senate in 1936, his support of Cameron Morrison in 1944 for the Senate, and his concern over the administration of East Carolina Teachers College.

Pamphlets included in the collection consist of The Remarkable Flora of the Great Smoky Mountains; An Open Letter to the Public: The Champion Fibre Company and the Proposed Smoky Mountain National Park; Conservation and Industry; The Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Economic Values in Regulation of Stream Flow, Water Supply and Hydro-Electric Power; The Annual Report of the Caswell Training School for Mental Defectives; A Report of the Stonewall Jackson Manual Training and Industrial School; A Report of the Eastern Carolina Training School for Boys; A Special Report to the Governor on the Condition of the State's Prison by George Ross Pou; The North Carolina Orthopaedic Hospital; Small Loan Legislation: Progress and Improvement; A Report of the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment; The Story of the Institute of Government; An Act to Raise Revenue (1927); The Advance Sheets of Cases... in the Supreme Court of North Carolina at Raleigh (Fall Term 1926); and a Bulletin of the North Carolina College for Women (1926). Other printed material consists of the House Rules for 1925 and 1927, the House Committees for 1925 and 1927, and the Senate Committees for 1929.

Also included in the collection are Fountain's Speaker of the House file and his Senate file. The House file consists of lists of committee appointments desired by various representatives, the assignment of committee posts, and page appointments for the 1927 session of the General Assembly. Another section of the file consists of the bills brought before the Legislature. Among these are bills to levy gasoline taxes in various counties, regulate work on public highways in Madison County, amend charters and previous bills, improve methods of county government, and establish the Eastern Carolina Manual Training and Industrial School for Boys. A complete listing of all House Bills for the 1927 session is also included. Other information included in the file pertains to reports of the various committees on legislation, a list of the members of the House by occupation, and an undated copy of the House calendar. The Senate file contains several bills, one to nominate candidates for county commissioners and members of the Board of Education in Edgecombe County, one to amend the Great Smoky Mountains Park Act; and one to promote efficiency in public service. There are two reports: one from the committee appointed to consider differences between House Bill No. 60 and the Senate version of the same legislation, and the other from the committee appointed to investigate the Divison ofMarkets. Other items of interest include a list of elected and appointed state officials and their salaries, a list of employees of the North Carolina Park Commission, a list of nominees for the 1931 General Assembly as of June 1930, and a list of the members of the 1931 General Assembly.

Legal papers contained in the collection include the final accounts of the estates of Mrs. Sarah L. Fountain by Richard T. Fountain (1916) and of L. L. Davenport by J. C. Mayo and his wife, trustees (1929); a petition pertaining to the annexation by Rocky Mount of Rocky Mount Mills (undated); deeds for land in Rocky Mount (1908, 1914-1915, 1923); and a notice of nonpayment on an insurance policy (1927). Of particular interest are copies of an investigation by the Grievance Committee of the Rocky Mount Bar Association in 1927 of a charge that R. T. Fountain tried to influence a witness to lie on the stand to protect a client. Also of note is a copy of the 1835 will of James Scarborough of Edgecombe County.

Financial papers in the collection deal primarily with Fountain's personal finances for the years 1914 to 1944. These include accounts of the Fountain and Laurence store (1915-1916), records of payment of tuition for Benjamin Fountain (1915-1916), records of the purchase and mortgaging of property (1919-1923), records of taxes (1929-1932), some cancelled checks, notes for loans, records of insurance payments, and accounts of household and automobile expenses. For the year 1932 there are a few items dealing with campaign expenses. These include an invoice for paper at the campaign headquarters and hotel bills. Other financial papers include a 1917 financial statement of the North Carolina Railroad Co. and a 1928-29 budget for the Rocky Mount City Schools.

Another section of the collection consists of newspaper clippings. The earliest ones (1924-1929) deal with Fountain's activities in the General Assembly, his appointment as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee #1 in 1925, the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the lieutenant governor's race in 1929. Those for 1931-1932 concern the Democratic gubernatorial primary and Fountain's campaign for the nomination, his platform, and his work to reunite the party after his defeat in the primaries. The remainder of the clippings concern Fountain's attacks on Senator Josiah W. Bailey beginning in 1933 and continuing through 1942, Fountain's candidacy for the U. S. Senate in 1936 and 1942, and the obituaries at Fountain's death in 1945. Also of interest are clippings from several West Coast newspapers concerning the 1939 Rose Bowl Game in which Duke University played.

Four scrapbooks are also a part of the collection. These contain newspaper clippings from 1913-1944 pertaining primarily to family news items and Fountain's various political campaigns.

A bound volume of copies of The Rocky Mount Herald from 26 January 1934 to 9 December 1938, is included in the collection along with loose copies for 19 January 1934; 13 January 1938; 16 February and 23 August 1940; 26 September, 3, 10, and 17 October 1941; and 17 April 1942. Other newspapers in the collection are the Danbury Recorder (18 May 1944) on the Sales Tax and Corruption, The Prison News (1 February 1929) and the Courier Journal (16 February 1934). All the loose newspaper issues are found in the oversize folder.

Other printed materials include three issues of the National Historical Magazine (January 1942, June 1944, and August 1944); the Civitan (September 1929); the State (18 November 1933); the Chapel Hill Alumni Review (February 1945); the Tar Heel Boy (March 1945) and A Brief History of Rocky Mount (1 April 1950).

Miscellaneous items in the collection include biographical information on the Fountain and Rankin families, a report on a trip to the Rose Bowl Game in 1939, three address books, printed programs from various functions, post cards of Rocky Mount and "The Grove" in Halifax, N.C., photographs, copies of the resolution passed by the General Assembly on the death of Richard T. Fountain in 1945, and other family papers.

Mrs. Fountain's papers are also included in the collection. There are numerous expressions of sympathy on the death of Richard T. Fountain in 1945. Other items of interest concern Mrs. Fountain's activities in the 1956 Democratic Presidential campaign. Her papers include campaign literature and the Democratic platform for 1956. The remainder of the collection consists of Mrs. Fountain's activities in the Daughters of the American Revolution. There is correspondence for the years 1939 to 1955, copies of memorial services given while she was state chaplain, notes and clippings on the activities of the Micajah Petway Chapter for 1940 to 1943, minutes of the State Executive Board for 1941 to 1944, prayer books, and data sheets of information from various chapters of the D.A.R.

Administrative information
Custodial History

June 8, 1970, 4 cubic feet; Papers (1914-1945) including correspondence, reports, clippings, newspapers, campaign material, a scrapbook, and miscellaneous material.

December 5, 1970 (addition) ca. 500 items; Correspondence, clippings, scrapbooks, etc. Gift of Mrs. Richard T. Fountain, Rocky Mount, N.C.

September 30, 2019, (unprocessed addition 2), 0.25 cubic feet; Addition (1918-1945) includes photographs, a scrapbook of newspaper clippings and a few documents related to Richard T. Fountain's activities and the Fountain family, and newspaper issues related to political activities. Transferred from Braswell Memorial Library in Rocky Mount, N.C.

Source of acquisition

Gift of Mrs. Richard T. Fountain

Transfer from Braswell Memorial Library, Rocky Mount, N.C.

Processing information

Processed by L. Hardy, April 1972

Encoded by Apex Data Services

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Key terms
Personal Names
Fountain, R. T. (Richard Tillman), 1885-1945
Corporate Names
Daughters of the American Revolution--History--20th century
North Carolina. General Assembly. House of Representatives
North Carolina. Office of Lieutenant Governor
Lawyers--North Carolina--Edgecombe County
Political campaigns--North Carolina--History--20th century
Politicians--North Carolina--Edgecombe County

Container list
Box 1 General Correspondence, 1892-1925
Box 2 General Correspondence, 1926-1927
Box 3 General Correspondence, January 1928 , January 1929
Box 4 General Correspondence, 1 February 1929 - 3, July 1931
Box 5 General Correspondence, 1 August 1931 - 2, May 1932
Box 6 General Correspondence, 21 May - 3, December 1932
Box 7 General Correspondence, January 1933 - February 1945, undated
Box 8 County Campaign File, 1932, Alamance - Carteret Counties
Box 9 County Campaign File, 1932, Caswell - Greene Counties
Box 10 County Campaign File, 1932, Guilford - Iredell Counties
Box 11 County Campaign File, 1932, Jackson - Mecklenburg Counties
Box 12 County Campaign File, 1932, Onslow - Stokes Counties
Box 13 County Campaign File, 1932, Surry - Yancy Counties
Box 14 Campaign Literature
Box 15 Speeches, Press Releases and Printed Material
Box 16 Speaker of the House and President of the Senate Files
Box 17 Legal Papers, Address Books
Box 18 Financial Papers
Box 19 Clippings
Box 21 Mrs. Richard Tillman Fountain Papers
Box 22 Mrs. Richard Tillman Fountain Papers
Box 23 Scrapbook
Box 24 Scrapbook
Box 25 Scrapbook
Box 26 Scrapbook
Box 27 Rocky Mount Herald
Folder os1 Newspapers
Oversize Folder os2 Photographs: 1931 N.C. Senate members; 1927 N.C. House of Rep. members; Feb. 6, 1929, photograph of Park Commissions of N.C. and Tenn. and their Congressional delegates delivering deeds for the Great Smoky Mountain Park to the Secretary of the Interior (2 of Fountain's daughters are identified in the picture); ca. 1907 photograph of Fountain and [probably] the law class at UNC-Chapel Hill, N.C.