|EAST CAROLINA MANUSCRIPT COLLECTION|
|ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW|
|Congressman Walter B. Jones|
|August 18, 1975|
I was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and was the only child. My earliest recollection of my father was when he returned from the First World War. He was later declared 100% disabled, and as a result of his disability, he died when I was about the age of nine. On the night he passed away unexpectedly, there was maybe a total of $2 in the house. He had been unable to follow gainful employment. The Veterans Administration was not quite as liberal in those days as they are now. He drew little or no pension even though he was 100% disabled. He had been in the process of trying to establish a valid claim for veteran's compensation, but it had never been cleared.
After my father died, I went to delivering papers in the city of Fayetteville at an early age. I made about $19 or $20 a week. I also ushered at the picture show from seven to nine at night where I earned, I believe, the magnificent sum of $5 a week--that included working on Saturday afternoon part-time, too. I sometimes feel society has gone too far in restricting young people from working because I believe it was an invaluable experience to me. It gave me responsibility at an early age I otherwise wouldn't have had. As I
understand the labor laws today, I would not have been able to do both of those jobs--perhaps the paper route, but certainly not the other type of employment due to the hours involved. From the money, I virtually supported my mother who also took roomers in the house--we lived in a boarding house--while she went back to one of these traveling business schools and took a business course. It was sort of a new switch. Of course many wives now work to support their husbands while they go to college. I was not even a teenager and I supported my mother while she went to school. I have been eternally grateful I could.
My mother was such an outstanding student at this school the company hired her to go to other towns to teach the short term business courses. In those days the high schools didn't offer typing or shorthand. There weren't too many business schools which taught these particular subjects. She went to different towns and was stationed in each town for only six months. It was impossible for me to stay with her, because she changed schools maybe two or three times during one school year. As a result, she found an inexpensive little boarding school up in Moore County known as Elise Academy which was operated by the Presbyterian Church of North Carolina. Although I was a Baptist, they still took me and I spent my sophomore, junior, and senior years in high school at that small boarding school. It had about fifty or sixty boys and girls equally divided in the student body. It was also semi-state supported, because it took students from Moore County and served as their high school, thereby avoiding the cost of duplication. We had an enrollment of maybe 250 or 275--somewhere along there--with only about fifty of us being boarding students. It was a very strict school. You had to tow the line. I guess I learned some ideas of discipline, not that I agreed with all of it. It was sort of a rugged schedule we had to follow-- arrive at a
certain hour, be in bed at a certain hour, and so on. Basically we were confined to the campus although we had weekends and holidays. I remember my first two months there. I've always been sympathetic to anyone who is homesick because it's a very serious disease once you get it; I was homesick and I think it's one of the most dismal feelings one can have. Fortunately, people move around more than they used to and I don't think young people are as much victims of homesickness as maybe my generation was. In any event I went on and finished school there.
While I was going to school, my mother went back to Fayetteville in 1928 and took a job with the Cumberland County Health Department, which was just being formed. She became a secretary to the doctor there. They had a great staff of one part-time doctor, one nurse, and my mother--that was the Cumberland County Health Department. The last time I heard there were 175 employees down there so it's grown. We decided that it would be better for me to go on and finish school at this little academy where I had put in two years. Actually, it was unbelievable what it cost to go there--it was $15 a month. Now, I think the average student enrolled at a prep school or university spends more than that for luxuries in a week. So I finished high school there in 1930.
I don't know exactly why, but for some reason I went to N.C. State College. I got a partial scholarship which amounted to a free room; plus, in those days, you could sign an agreement to teach in the public schools of North Carolina for two years and go into the School of Education and your tuition would be free. I secured a job in the dining room waiting on tables, and I did fairly well with that until, about the sixth or seventh month, I dropped two trays of dishes in one day and the head waiter told me my services were no
longer needed. All we got out of that was free meals which of course was an item, but I managed to survive somehow. At the time I went to State College my mother was making the handsome sum of $60 a month, of which she sent me about $15 or $20, I don't know how she lived, but she did.
About this time, my father's sister, whom I loved very much, built a home in the new section of Fayetteville. Aunt Eva and her husband had a daughter, Ruth, about three years my junior who developed diabetes. She had to take insulin twice a day and every ounce of food had to be weighed because of her rigid diet. My mother was a person who was more able to cope with my cousin's diabetes than Aunt Eva. Aunt Eva was more an emotional type. To the contrary, my mother was a very strong character. Aunt Eva insisted my mother go to their new home and live with her in order to help with Ruth. My mother and Aunt Eva were very close--more like sisters than sisters-in-law. Aunt Eva's husband was one of the finest men I have ever known in my life. My earliest recollection of him was going to the county jail on Sunday afternoon where he held religious services for the inmates. Later in his life he established two churches--one church, located in what is known as the Mill Village in Fayetteville, is named for him. The church is the Ashworth Memorial Presbyterian Church. He established another church out in Spring Lake which is in the Fort Bragg area. Both of these churches now have full-time pastors, assistant pastors, social workers, and are first-class churches. I can only conclude what few good virtues I have were taught to me by him. He was more of a father than an uncle. Their diabetic daughter died in 1954, and as a result, my aunt and uncle became closer to me.
I finally graduated from State in 1934. I had the honor of serving as president of the
senior class. I finished in high school teaching with a major in history and a minor in English although I'm sure it doesn't show. In those days you had to go out and practice teach. I went out to Zebulon and taught one day, and that was enough. I just realized I was not cut out for classroom work. I was married during my senior year in college, which was almost unheard of in those days. There were only about three of us who got married out of a graduating class of about 350. I guess the average now is about fifty/fifty in college marriages. Maybe we set a trend which has increased in recent years. After graduation from college, I had what was known as a class B certificate to teach, because I hadn't done my practice teaching. But since that was my chosen profession, I did make applications in different places to try to secure a job in teaching history or English or both. Finally, the best job I could find paid $90 a month for eight months and, in addition to coaching three sports, I would have had to teach a full load. So I went back to Fayetteville and worked at a soda fountain and received a $100 a month as against the $90 a month I would have received as a teacher in the public schools. I ended my teaching career before it ever began.
At that time, I had planned to return to college and study law. In fact, I had been accepted at Wake Forest. About the time I was making my plans to go back to college and get an apartment for my wife and myself--I had someone who was going to lend me the money to go through law school--I found that I was going to become a father at a rather early age. I decided that it might be too complicated to become a father while I was trying to study law on borrowed money--knowing that the impending fatherhood would involve some expense. It might be of interest to you that the local doctor charged $25 for the entire nine-month pregnancy as well as delivering the baby.
About that time my mother brought suit against the Veterans Administration for an insurance policy my father had taken out prior to the end of World War I, but on which he had defaulted on the payment of premiums. A friend, who was an attorney and who was commander of the American Legion that year, came to her and said that he thought, because the policy carried a waiver of premium in the case of complete disability, there was a good case for a jury. She went before a federal jury with the case, and the jury decided that he was indeed disabled and unable to pay the premium and therefore she was entitled to the policy which was some $10,000, a lot of money in those days. I'm getting a little ahead of my story, because that was done my senior year in college. They covered the back payments in a lump sum and the other payments came by each month until the $10,000 was paid out.
Anyhow, I never got to law school, so I borrowed some money. My father also had a small policy payable to me. I took the money and opened a small wholesale business in Fayetteville, specializing in paper goods and kindred items--candies, chewing gum, and so forth, and some tobacco. Tobacco of course involved a very heavy investment, and I didn't get into that too heavily. Mine was mainly the light line in the wholesale end. I did fairly well with it; I was making a reasonably good living. But I hired a gentleman--maybe I should have checked his references a little closer--who in a short period of time had diverted, by devious means, about $8,000 or $9,000 of my capital into his own pocket; and there wasn't much I could do about it. He had nothing, because he had just squandered it away. So that began the demise of my wholesale business; I didn't have enough capital to operate on. There is a strange story in connection with that. While I was in the wholesale
business, I had a nice brick warehouse with a railroad siding. The General Assembly had just legalized beer in North Carolina, and the Papst Blue Ribbon Company came to me and offered me the distributership of Fayetteville, Fort Bragg, and two counties. If I had had the money to finance it and had gone into that business without any qualms, I perhaps today would be a millionaire and not a member of Congress. When the Second World War came along with the phenomenal growth of Fayetteville and Fort Bragg, you didn't have to sell anything; they would just take it away from you. That was one golden opportunity that didn't materialize, but it is a little factor that I've never forgotten. That was an opportunity I had to become wealthy, although I don't regret the choice at this time in life at all. I soon began to see that I didn't have enough capital to operate and that I couldn't compete with the larger wholesalers.
I closed that business out and paid as many debts as I could. I didn't go into bankruptcy--but perhaps I should have--so I found myself left with nothing except a wife and a six-month-old child. All of this was within two years after I had finished college. I then took my wife to Edenton where her parents lived. I went to Raleigh and walked the streets trying to find work. I guess I went to Raleigh because I had gone to State College and knew some people in Raleigh with whom I could stay free. When I say I didn't have a dime, I mean I didn't have a dime. This was about 1936. I managed to survive through the goodness of friends and their charitable feelings. I finally secured a job with an office equipment company, strictly on commission, working around the Edenton-Elizabeth City area. I went on back to Edenton and we continued to live with my wife's mother and father. I would leave Edenton on Monday and usually get back on Friday. I worked fixed routes
once every four weeks. In those days, I averaged about $30 to $32 total commission with no drawing on the account and no guarantee whatsoever. I had to furnish my own car and pay my own expenses. It certainly was a period in my life when I had to forego any of the luxuries and better things. But that too was a fine experience--learning to do without when you had to do without. We stayed in that status for four years. I eventually had an offer from another equipment company in about 1941. They offered me what we called a drawing account--that is a guarantee of $50 a week. I had never made that much with the other company except twice in three years. I immediately accepted that offer and went with that company. I moved to Farmville in 1941. We had stayed with her parents for about four years, and I felt that it was time we moved out on our own and established our own home. So we came here after looking at other towns. The reason we came here was that it was centrally located, and I wouldn't have to spend but a few nights on the road. So that is one reason we came to Farmville; there are many other good reasons, including the many nice people here who were very kind to us when we moved.
I stayed with that company during World War II. I attempted to enlist in the Navy with a commission. They advertised for college graduates, but by some quirk of fate I was turned down due to some doctor's imaginary stomach disorder. I had never had any stomach disorder before or since, but he decreed that I was a potential ulcer victim and therefore would be a bad risk for the Navy. I was quite disappointed, because, if I was going into the service, I wanted to go in with a commission if at all possible--as anyone would. But I was rejected.
About six or eight months after that, they got around to drafting married men with
children who had been exempted. I was among the first married men called. I went to Fort Bragg, and again for some unaccountable reason was rejected medically for military service. They listed high blood pressure as the main factor for my being exempt. It was hard for me to understand because, at that time, I had gotten into the business of refereeing basketball and football because there were not many able-bodied young men around. I was sort of forced into the officiating business. It was a hobby and also brought in a little money, and it was something I enjoyed doing. But be that as it may, those were my two experiences with the military.
I stayed with that office supply company during the war and it became quite profitable for me because they were building bases in eastern North Carolina--Seymour Johnson, Cherry Point, Camp Lejeune--and the contractors were demanding a great amount of office supply equipment to keep their records. My income just grew by leaps and bounds, as many people's did in the war economy.
After the war, I decided that if I could sell this merchandise for somebody else, I could sell it for myself; so I opened up the Walter B. Jones Company in about 1948. I got several good lines--Burroughs Adding Machine, Mosler Safes, and some of the better known furniture lines--and did quite well with it financially. I was my own boss. It was almost a one man operation, but I did have one lady who answered the phone and did some bookkeeping for me. Basically, I was an independent operator, which I enjoyed very much. If I wanted to work, I could; if I wanted to play golf, I could. I even had time off to go serve in the General Assembly. I was responsible to nobody.
That is sort of a thumb nail sketch of my background. I'll now go into how I got into
the political arena. I mentioned earlier I had been president of my senior class at State College; however, I failed to mention, while I was in Fayetteville, I got involved in a gubernatorial race. I was challenged to organize the young people in Cumberland County, which I did. I guess I've always had the political impulses. I was encouraged to run for town commissioner in the town of Farmville. There were eight of us running, and five would be elected. I finished sixth, missing by one vote. The first political race I was in, I lost by one vote. I'll always remember it; the fifth man got 400 votes and I got 399. Of course, I was entitled to call for a runoff, but I didn't feel that that was proper. I didn't even demand a recount. I took it in good graces, because he was a very fine gentleman and a much older man than I. During the interval of the two years, one of the town commissioners resigned, which created a vacancy. The board appointed me to fill the vacancy since I had run sixth in the race. I served out that term.
During the term I was urged to run for mayor which was sort of a calculated risk, because I ran against one of the older families here in
Farmville. I had been here only seven or eight years, and in most communities you are considered an outsider until you have been there at least twenty. My opponent was a fine gentleman who had been on the town board for four or five terms. I guess it was one of the most bitter political races I've ever been in. It split this community wide open, which I regretted very much. It caused one or more people to move their church membership from one church to another. I won't go into details, but that's how bitter it was. I know of two or three clients of a lawyer friend of mine who moved their legal business from his jurisdiction to another lawyer because this particular lawyer supported me. This was about 1949.
The mayoral term was two years, and I served two terms. It was very enjoyable. During that time we had what is known as the mayor's recorders court. The court had almost the same jurisdiction as the county recorders court, but not as much as a district court has today, because of civil jurisdiction. We did have criminal jurisdiction--that is we could try any violation of law which did not carry over a two-year term of imprisonment. I conducted court, and as I've stated before I'm not a lawyer, and I got away with it somehow and did a reasonably good job with it, I like to think. Apparently the public thought so because I didn't get any great complaints.
After I had been mayor two terms, I decided I was through with politics. In 1954, after I had been out of the mayor's office for one year, I was asked by a few to run for the House of Representatives. After due consideration, I put my name in the hat; there were five of us running. At that time, Pitt County was entitled to two representatives. Without any attempt of egotism on my part, I led the ticket by a wide margin. One of the incumbents was defeated and one survived. Of course they had to go into a runoff, but I had a clear majority and was not forced into a runoff. I served in the state House in 1955, 1957, and 1959. During that time, as I mentioned, I had my own business and was trying to keep it going while serving. It sort of ran itself, and I was grateful that many of the clerks of the court would save me orders until I got out of the General Assembly. I want to emphasize, throughout my entire life, people have been most kind to me and I'm more indebted to people than they are indebted to me. I've been the receiver more than perhaps I've given.
One thing I was quite proud of while I was in the General Assembly was in 1957 I introduced one of the most controversial pieces of legislation at that time--that was prior to
the ECU Medical School question. It was what is known as the compulsory liability insurance law. At the time I introduced it, only one state had it and that was Massachusetts. The New York General Assembly was considering it, and it was a ten-to-one bet I would never get it through the North Carolina legislature. The introduction came about as a result of my experience as judge of the recorders court. I tried case after case where the defendant had inflicted damage on a second party--either property or personal damage--and would admit his guilt but could not respond financially to the relief of the injured party. That same defendant was having to pay insurance to the finance companies or the dealer who sold him the car to protect the dealer, but he was not offering any protection to the innocent victim of his misdeeds, poor judgement, or improper conduct. So I introduced a bill that provided that before you could get your driver's license, you had to show evidence of having liability insurance. It should be reasonably comforting to know when riding down the highway if some irresponsible driver bangs up your car or causes you some tremendous hospital bill, he can to some degree respond to the injury he has inflicted. I would say that prior to the ECU Medical School, that was one of the most controversial bills ever passed in the General Assembly.
I have often been asked about lobbies and bribes; throughout my entire political career, I was only bribed once by a gentleman whose name I've forgotten. After getting this bill through the House by a reasonably close vote--the liability insurance bill--I was called from New City by a person who wanted to know if a certain gentleman could come to Raleigh and interview me. He was a representative of one of the insurance associations of trade unions. He came to my hotel room in Raleigh, and he was one of the most courteous,
delightful, and complimentary people in telling me what a great job I'd done in getting this bill through the House. The insurance industry had bet money that I would never do it even though he had confidence that I could. However, he said he was a very realistic person and knew that there was no chance of getting it through the Senate, because they had the votes counted over there. He asked me why didn't I quit while I was ahead in a blaze of glory and that he would assure me at least ten or more appearances at state insurance conventions where I'd be paid a sum of $2,000 for each appearance plus my expenses to tell them how I got the bill through the North Carolina House of Representatives. I thanked him very much and told him that no speech I made could possibly be worth $2000 and that it would be a waste of their money. I also told him that I would be willing to bet him even money that I could get the bill through the Senate. He left not quite as gracious as when he arrived.
It seems that the insurance companies would have favored compulsory liability insurance.
The insurance companies didn't want to take poor risks; they wanted the cream of the crop. There were many people who wanted to buy liability insurance and could not. They might have a poor driving record, and they simply wouldn't take them. The bill cured two or three evils all at one time.
In any event, to show you how controversial it was, the bill finally stumbled through the Senate by a one-vote margin on the last day of the session. We actually had to hold up the legislature while the bill was being engrossed over at the engrossing office to be ratified. My first experience in controversial legislation was commonly known as the Jones bill. I received nice editorials from some areas of the news media and some very critical editorials
from other areas, depending on where they were and what their feelings were. But to say the least, it was one of the most controversial bills the legislature ever grappled with. Without exception, the entire insurance industry was fighting the bill tooth and nail; that's a right powerful lobby--money and otherwise. I'm really proud of what I did, because other states have gone to some sort of compulsory insurance or financial responsibility.
In the 1959 session, against the wishes of the governor and the University of North Carolina, I introduced and got through the General Assembly a bill to create a four-year School of Nursing at East Carolina University. This was primarily my "baby"--Bob Morgan who is now a United States Senator co-sponsored it with me. Here again, despite the administration's adamant opposition, as well as the Chapel Hill group, we managed to get that through. It's one of the outstanding nursing schools in the Southeast today and was the highlight of my 1959 session.
I was also the sponsor of the two-year short course in agriculture at N.C. State University. Too many of our young farmers were going to State, taking the four-year course and going to work for Smith Fertilizer or Ralston Purina. The short course gave them the practical training and sent them back to the farm. I think that has been a very successful program and hopefully has meant much to eastern North Carolina.
To get up to the bad part of it, I came home after the 1959 session and several people said to me, "You know our present Congressman is seventy-eight years old. He's a fine man, but it's about time that he be replaced." You know it doesn't take but about three people to convince you to run for a statewide or district office. It will sound like thousands when only four or five have said something. But in any event, I did give some
consideration to running for Congress. Getting back to the fine people in Farmville, I will always remember this lawyer friend who I referred to as losing a couple of clients over his friendship with me. He went out and raised $5,000 and came and gave it to me. He said, "We don't want you to pay any personal debts with this, but we want you to take this and go around the district and live on it as long as you can and see what your chances are." After going around the district, I felt that I had a reasonably good chance of running for the same office the incumbent had. I say that because I have never run against anybody in my life; I run for the office. I ran for the office that was held by the late Herbert C. Bonner, a very personable man and a man who had been there at that time for twenty-five years. Also that year, two incumbent members, Carl Durham of Chapel Hill and Graham Barden of New Bern, retired, saying they had been there long enough. Neither had been there as long as Mr. Bonner or were as old as he. In the beginning, I thought that he might retire, but he didn't; he stuck it out.
We conducted one of the best campaigns I've ever been involved in. The campaign was very well organized, but we were amateurs against pros--it was just that sort of thing. For example, there were some young girls throughout the district who organized "Janes for Jones." They had little buttons printed up. It was just a real fun campaign; and as I look back, I think we were getting along very well with it until the Elizabeth City Daily Advance ran an informal poll or ballot. It showed me leading Herbert where he thought he was the strongest by two hundred out of eight hundred votes. It was so surprising to me that I called the editor--that paper was supporting me editorially and I thought they had fixed it--and he assured me that it was an honest poll and that I was leading Herbert by maybe 150 or 160
votes. Unfortunately, that poll shook up my opposition; it really brought them to their senses. I think that prior to that time they had said, "There's nothing to worry about; Herbert's been there all this time."
After that poll, the pressures were really put on. Sam Rayburn, who was Speaker of the House at that time, wrote a letter to Elder A. B. Harris, the Primitive Baptist minister, ruling elder, and a highly respected individual throughout the district, that said if Mr. Bonner wasn't returned to Congress the world would come to an end and the government would fall or something of that nature. It emphasized how important it was that Mr. Bonner be returned. Of course, Elder Harris didn't write a single comment, but the letter was reprinted in every paper in the district as a full-page ad and signed by Sam Rayburn. In addition, Congressman Carl Vinson, who was chairman of the Armed Services Committee, flew down to Hertford where a base had been in operation during World War II and had since been closed. Vinson left the impression that if Herbert was re-elected the base would be reopened and those people would be re-employed. Of course, it's never been reopened, but nevertheless he left that impression. This was an on-site visit about three weeks before the primary. I was running on the premise that the district, being agriculturally oriented, should have a man on the Agriculture Committee and, if elected, I would go on the Agriculture Committee if at all possible. The idea was catching on with the farmers fairly well. For a climax, Congressman Harold Cooley, who was chairman of the Agriculture Committee, came down to a district Farm Bureau meeting and made a point blank statement that two men from the same state could not serve on the Agriculture Committee. Well of course, I couldn't challenge the chairman of the Agriculture Committee, but that was the
most ridiculous statement anybody has ever made because we now have three members from California and two from North Carolina. Those were some of the pressures that were applied after that poll came out. I couldn't combat them.
We finally got around to the May primary date. I don't remember the figures exactly, but as I recall Herbert beat me about 55% to 45%. I carried Pitt County which nobody had ever done--either against Herbert or Lindsay Warren--although three people had tried. There were thirteen counties, and I carried five of them as I recall. With the last opposition that Mr. Bonner had, he had lost only one county, and that was Gates. But we carried Chowan, Perquimans, Gates, Hertford, and Pitt.
After that, I decided that I was through with politics, and I washed my hands of the whole affair, which made my wife very happy. In 1961, I was contacted by the North Carolina Wholesalers Association. At that time, they were subject to a one-twentieth of 1% sales tax. Of course they operated on a very small margin and a lot of those people are now out of business because there is no demand for their services. But in those days, they were a right formidable group. They hired me to go to Raleigh and lobby for them. I registered as a lobbyist. They didn't necessarily want the tax off, but they wanted the Roses and the A"&"P storage houses, who were performing the same services they were, to pay the same tax or either take it off them. We got this tax removed; it didn't bring in much revenue to the state of North Carolina anyhow. It was more of a nuisance tax than anything else. So that was my first attempt at lobbying.
Then in 1963 I conceived the idea and went over to Channel 9 and asked them if they would consider--if they could find a sponsor--working out a deal where I could go to
Raleigh and stay a couple of days a week and interview members of the General Assembly. I would bring the tapes into Greenville on Friday; we would tape a show, and then run it on Sunday. Channel 9 finally sold the idea to the Tarheel Electric Membership Co-op, which is REA membership throughout the state. One of Herbert's friends and former employer, Mr. Lindsay Warren, was serving in the state Senate at that time. Mr. Warren put out some word that if I was honest, I ought to go on record as a lobbyist. I was on Channel 9's payroll as an announcer, yet I was being paid indirectly by the Co-op. I then went to the Tarheel Electric manager, a fellow named J.C. Bryant, and said, "Since I'm being accused of it, why don't I just go ahead and lobby for you?" He said, "It would tickle us to death." I thought I would be able to be honest about it. I was put on the payroll at $50 a day, plus an unlimited expense account. I registered as a lobbyist for Tarheel Electric. We had a vicious fight that year over territorial rights between the power companies and Tarheel Electric. Again we won the fight. What had happened was the electric co-ops had gone into communities where they were legally entitled to go--those with under two thousand population--and then, by virtue of their being there, would attract industry. If a community grows to four or five thousand, the power companies want to come in. I stayed on their payroll for about a year. They decided to retain me as a public relations man at $300 a month plus traveling expenses. I would visit the REAs and go to the annual meetings and whatnot, all of which helped in the congressional race a little later on. In other words, my lobbying was for a good cause and not against the public interest as I saw it in both cases.
In 1964, I was approached by some of the political leaders of this county to run for the state Senate. At that time, our state Senator, who I believe had served three terms, was
one of the finest gentlemen I have ever had the pleasure of knowing in public life, Dr. Robert Lee Humber. I classify him as one of the five best public speakers I've ever heard. He could absolutely charm an audience, but unfortunately he couldn't do well at the filling stations. He didn't speak the language of the man in the street, but in the hallowed halls of the United Nations or the Congress or the legislature he was very fluent and a very entertaining speaker. He was one of the most knowledgeable men on international affairs that I have known; he should have been in the State Department, and I've often wondered why someone didn't utilize his services. Incidently, Dr. Humber ran against Herbert Bonner in 1946, and I supported Dr. Humber; I was almost his campaign manager in 1946. But as I already stated, he carried only one county, and that was Gates. He ran close in Pitt, but he didn't carry it. He had opposition when he first ran for the Senate, and then he won two terms without opposition. But people were getting a little restless. Dr. Humber would not consort or confer with the county commissioners about their problems. He just was not what we call a practical politician, but I guess in the true sense of the word, he was a genuine and fine statesman.
Rather than hurt his feelings, I went to Dr. Humber and talked to him. I realized he was vulnerable--someone without a really bad reputation could run against him and probably beat him. It got in my blood that I wanted to go back to the legislature--it never got out for that matter. I went to Dr. Humber--I'll always remember it was a cold Saturday afternoon in February--and asked him if he had not had enough service in the State Senate to satisfy himself. He said that he wanted to go back for another term; he had some projects started that he wanted to finish.
I said, "Dr. Humber, I'm your friend and have been your supporter; we're still going to be friends, but I'm getting some encouragement to run. To be quite honest with you, for your sake, I wish you could tell me otherwise--that maybe you have had enough."
He said, "Let me think it over."
I said, "Dr. Humber, quite frankly I almost feel compelled to run. You are the last man that I would want to run against because you have been such a friend."
He said, "Let me think it over, and we'll talk further."
He surprised me a little because on the following Tuesday he announced that he would be a candidate to succeed himself in the state senate. The next day, I announced that I would be a candidate for the same office. So we both ran. At that time the district was composed of both Greene and Pitt counties. That is one victory that I didn't particularly enjoy, but my win over Dr. Humber was by a rather decisive margin; it even surprised me. But as I said a moment ago, he was vulnerable; you could have done it with a number of people. It didn't necessarily reflect any great political strength on my part.
I served in the 1965 session as state senator. Dan Moore was then governor. During his campaign, Governor Moore had emphasized the need for some type of treatment for alcoholics and, if elected governor, he would try to set up some specialized institutions. I noted in the governor's State of the State address to the General Assembly, he made no mention of this particular problem. I realized this problem when I was serving as judge of the recorders court. At regular intervals, I would try the same man for being drunk. I would send him to the roads for thirty days or twenty days. They would send him back, and on the twenty-first day, he would be drunk again. It was a vicious cycle. It did him no good to be
sent to the roads and it cost North Carolina money. It gave me no pleasure to send them to the roads, but for their own sake you would have to send them so they could get sober. But I always felt there should be a better place than the common jails for those who are victims of alcoholism. The more I heard about it, the more I realized that it is a disease, and they are not necessarily criminals. I also noticed in the budget message the governor made no mention of these institutions to treat alcoholism.
It's hard to say what motivates a man or causes a man to think in a given direction, but one night it occurred to me we could increase the cost of whiskey. Now Moore had pledged in his campaign that there would be no new increase in taxes. He had kept drumming that and that is one thing that elected him, I think. It occurred to me the thing causing the problem ought to be the source of the revenue to combat the problem. I called the chairman of the ABC board the next day--he was a friend of mine--and I said, "Do me a favor. Find out how much a five-cents-a-bottle tax would produce in North Carolina in a year." He called me back, and I was amazed when he said it would be over two million dollars, which back in 1965 was a right good sum of money for budgetary purposes. I immediately dashed down to the governor's office and I said, "Governor, I remember your campaign promise of some special institutions for alcoholism treatment, and I've got the answer for you."
He jumped out of his seat and said, "I can't approve that because it would be an additional tax."
I said, "Governor, I respectively disagree, because the price of whiskey changes from day to day and from town to town. Five cents a bottle is not going to materially affect
the sale one way or the other."
He said, "I can't support that bill."
I said, "Well, it's one that no one in the General Assembly can vote against once it's introduced." Of course it was; it was one of those bills that whether your fellow members approved or not, they couldn't oppose it. It was like arguing against motherhood.
I introduced a bill to provide a five-cents-a-bottle price increase --I didn't call it a tax--for the purpose of building three alcoholic centers: one in the central part of the state, one in the west, and one in the east. It sailed through the General Assembly without too much problem. We had a few votes against it. The state ABC association and the county association opposed it, and of course the liquor companies opposed. Out of that, I think, of all the plus factors in my life, maybe that has done more good than any other one thing at the state level that I have ever done.
A rather interesting little factor is that I was appointed chairman of the committee to select the locations. The bill provided the centers should be located in the near proximity of a hospital in case of a violent illness, and it should also be accessible to as much public travel as possible--near an airport, near bus service, and be part of the main highway arteries. I was chairman of a five man committee to select the sites. In the interval, I got elected to Congress and I resigned because I could not fly down to North Carolina to meetings. But when I left, I had it pretty well established that the center for the east would be put in Greenville; I was sort of in control of that committee. I learned that the gentleman from this county, who had been appointed in my place, was not quite as concerned about the center being placed in Pitt County as I was.
I ran into Governor Moore down at Manteo at a presentation of some sort, during which we retired to a mutual friend's home. I then really insisted that the governor use every influence of his office to see that this center was put in Greenville. We were about to lose it to Wilson. They wanted to take the TB sanitorium and remodel it. I told him if he didn't--it wasn't a threat exactly--help us get the center in Greenville, I would then have to publish his adamant opposition to the entire idea, which I had never done. I said, "Governor, that is no threat, but as hard as I worked for this thing, it's my idea and I think you owe it to me to put it in Greenville."
I flew back to Washington that night and called the four gentlemen and begged them--they were about to make their decision--and I got three commitments that night that it would go to Greenville. Most of the people on this committee were reformed alcoholics, and they were very sympathetic to the whole idea. I think the chairman of the state ABC board was on there, but he was a very good friend. Modestly, I take credit for the Jones Center being in Greenville and not in Wilson.
When Bob Scott was governor, I received a call from the chairman of the ABC board at that time--a fellow named Byrd from up in Marion with whom I had served in the General Assembly. He wanted to know if I would have any objections to their naming it the Walter B. Jones Alcoholic Center. I said, "Well, let me think about it. I don't know why I should have any objections." He said, "I wouldn't think so. Governor Scott has approved it. We don't ordinarily name buildings after living people, but in this case he is willing to make an exception." So they did. It was a very touching event when I flew down to dedicate the Walter B. Jones Alcoholic Center. Nothing ever falls into place easily; you
always have to do a little maneuvering.
Of course by the time the center was built, I was then a member of Congress. I think that is the best thing I did for humanity in my entire life. Person after person has told me--and you would be surprised--they are from all walks of life, not just what you would expect. A prominent lady from a prominent family whose name would shock you if I named it was sent to the Keeley Institute, sent to Duke, was sent everywhere. She spent three months over there [Jones Center] and to my knowledge has not had a drink in three years. She had a very heavy, acute drinking problem.
I have one question, You commented on being caught up in political activities in the gubernatorial campaign while you were still at State. Was this in 1932?
No. It was in 1936, the first time Ralph McDonald ran. Somehow he caught my fancy. He was the underdog--anti-establishment I reckon is the word. Maybe I hadn't been out of college long enough, but anyhow I got awfully involved in that campaign down in Cumberland County.
Both that and the 1932 election were very interesting.
Yes. I always figured that in one of those two races, he got out counted; I don't know anyone could ever prove that, but I do know that some election law reforms came out of that.
[End of Part 1]
|EAST CAROLINA MANUSCRIPT COLLECTION|
|ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW|
|Congressman Walter B. Jones|
|September 16, 1975|
In October, 1965, the incumbent Herbert C. Bonner who had been there since 1940, for twenty-five years, passed away with terminal cancer of the kidneys. Under the United States Constitution--as many people don't know--a member of the United States House of Representatives cannot be appointed but must be elected. The Constitution says simply in one sentence: "The members of the United States House of Representatives shall be elected by the people." There are no qualifications or exemptions so it cannot be filled by appointment; it can be filled only by a special election. The then governor of the state, the Honorable Dan Moore, was very reluctant for some reason to call a special election. I went to him immediately after a decent period of time had elapsed after Mr. Bonner had passed away. I had decided that I would like to be a candidate. I asked him if under the United States Constitution and the laws of North Carolina, didn't he have the right to call a special election. He answered that he was reluctant to do it due to the expense involved. I then pointed out emphatically to him that Mr. Bonner had been in this terminal condition and
had been hospitalized from April to October and had not been able, certainly, to render full service to the district. No one could blame him for it, but unfortunately he had spent most of that time in Bowman Gray Hospital and Bethesda Naval Hospital, back and forth. Governor Dan Moore had it rather firmly in his mind to wait and go through the normal process of a May primary and then the general election in November, which, as I pointed out to him, would have made about a year and a half during which this district would not have a voice in the Congress or effective representation. That did not seem to move him too much.
I came back to the district and got the chairman of the Congressional Executive Committee of the First District to call his committee together. They unanimously petitioned the governor to call a special primary and election to fill the vacancy for the sound reason that the First District had already had a year and a half with no representation.
Somewhat reluctantly the governor did call a special primary on December 18. Under the law I think he had to give forty-five days between the time he announced it and the time the election could be held. So he set the special primary on December 18 and the special election on February 8 of 1966.
In the primary there were five of us as candidates. In addition to myself, there was a lady of the minority race named Mrs. Sarah Small of Williamston; a gentleman named Roger Jackson with whom I had served in the General Assembly back in the late 1950s and who later had become part of the Terry Sanford administration in an administrative position; Mr. Don Langston, president of the Bank of Winterville; and Dr. Pittman, an optometrist from Ahoskie. Modestly, and very gratefully, when the votes were counted, I
received something around 22,000 votes. Mrs. Small ran second with approximately 5,000 votes. The other three together received about 8,000 votes, which gave me a clear majority; so there was no second primary.
I think one of the most interesting things about the primary was the account in the New York Times a couple of days after the primary. They spent about four paragraphs mentioning the fact that this Mrs. Small, a member of the minority race, had run second in the First District of North Carolina. There were four paragraphs about her, and in the final paragraph they said that the race was won by former state senator Walter B. Jones. I got one sentence out of that story. They did not mention the margin of victory either, but they made a great to do over the fact that a member of the minority race had run second, which I guess in the South at that time was a little unusual. Of course, that has been changed now because we have two or three members of the minority race from the South in the Congress itself. There is one from Georgia, one from Tennessee, and I believe one from Texas--Barbara Jordan. So we survived that, and I've always commented that it is very difficult to run against Santa Claus on December 18; people just aren't interested in an election at that particular point in time.
The special general election was held on February 8, 1966, at which time my opponent was Dr. John East, a very affable, very personable, and very able man, who was a member of the faculty at East Carolina University with a PhD in political science. I didn't realize at that time that he had the strength he had, but history will record someday, I think, that it wasn't his strength but the animosity that Southerners had toward Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society. It was a little more of a cross to bear than I realized. When the votes
were counted--I believe then there were only fourteen or fifteen counties in the district--I had actually lost two of the counties, one of them being Beaufort, which had had the congressman since 1924 continuously. Yet, that county went Republican by about two hundred votes. We also lost Washington County by about one hundred votes, but we survived in the others. Dr. East got about 39% of the votes which was a relatively heavy vote for a Republican candidate due to their light registration. I like to interpret it as an anti-Johnson vote because it was at about that point in time that forced integration was taking place, and there was a great amount of animosity toward the national administration that was reflected in that race.
But we did survive and I was sworn in as a full-fledged member of Congress on February 10, 1966. Of course, I had to run the following May and November for the full term. In May, I had minimal opposition; I've forgotten who the opponent was, and I didn't take it too seriously. But in November again Dr. East put on a very vigorous campaign. I recall he had billboards that said, "A vote for East is a vote against LBJ." That was his slogan, and it was very effective at that time, because with all due respect to our dearly beloved departed President Lyndon Johnson, he was not very popular in the South then.
To offset that, the only thing I could do was to take a sample ballot and go on TV and look at it carefully and say, "Nowhere on this ballot do I see the name of Lyndon B. Johnson. Let me assure you, my friends, he is not a candidate for Congress from the First District, but I am." We managed to get away with it, and when those votes were counted in November, 1966, we had reduced Dr. East's margin to about 33%. On that occasion we carried every county in the First District. Some were by a reasonably close margin and
some were by a better margin than the first time. I had established a rather conservative image, I think, and about that time the Congressional Record came out and announced that of all the freshmen congressmen, Jones of North Carolina had voted against Johnson's Great Society programs more than any other freshman member. So I publicized that a great deal for political purposes. Also about that time, the Americans for Constitutional Action, a very conservative group, awarded me the Watchdog of the Treasury award for the year, as being a conservative vote for trying to save the taxpayer's dollars. Since that time I have had the public approval of the ACA (Americans for Constitutional Action) each and every year for my semi-conservative vote. So that gave me four races in eleven months, and I think that is some sort of record.
Again in 1968, I had primary opposition, as well as general election opposition. I was opposed by a Republican named Reece Gardner from Kinston, a real nice fellow, but not too well known politically. But from December, 1965, to November, 1968, is about twenty-five months which meant I had run six times in that period of time. I've always contended that that is some sort of record. Anyhow we survived Mr. Gardner. Since that time, I have been very fortunate not to have major primary opposition. I had some people, all of whom were very nice but not too well known, who didn't pose any great threat in the primary. In 1968 and 1970 I was opposed by a friend of mine with whom I had served in the North Carolina General Assembly. He had switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. His name was Frank Everett from Martin County. He was a very affable and nice fellow. But during that campaign Frank had a massive heart attack, which I regretted very much, and he had to curtail his campaigning. His very charming wife moved
in and took over the TV spots for him. I think he got about 29% of the votes. These figures are off the top of my head, but I'm trying to give them as accurately as I can. So we survived that during 1970.
In 1972, a young fellow named Jordan Bonner, who claimed to be kin to Herbert Bonner and who also claimed to have been a Democrat all of his life but had been converted to Republicanism, was offering himself as a member of both parties. Somewhere in the proceedings he also managed to find some kinship with Lindsay Warren, the former Comptroller General, which is sort of farfetched because Herbert and Lindsay were in no way related except in an employee/employer relationship. But we survived that one by a pretty good margin; I think he got 24% or 25% of the votes.
In 1974 we were confronted by another young convert to the Republican Party, a rather wealthy and very nice young man named Harry McMullan III whose grandfather ironically had been the North Carolina Attorney General as a life-long Democrat and had made a very fine one. His father, strangely enough, who had passed away sometime prior to this 1974 election with an unexpected heart attack, had always contributed rather generously to my campaign and supported me openly. It was sort of a shock when he filed, but nevertheless he did file. I think he got 21% of the votes--I don't recall exactly.
Speaking of that election, didn't you find his television publicity rather offensive?
I heard all sorts of rumors, and one was that he hired this New York advertising firm, which had handled Senator Jesse Helms's successful campaign, to handle his campaign. I feel like it might have been a little too sophisticated for me and most of my friends. He had one TV ad where he walked out on this pier over this body of water and
took what is known as a johnny seat and threw it into the water. I knew exactly what he was trying to do; he was registering a protest against the Occupational Safety Health Act of 1970 where the enforcement had really gotten ridiculous. I had to agree with him on that. OSHA came into this district and, for example, went into packing plants, and one of the things they would do was to force them to either raise or lower their toilet seats two or three inches if they weren't the correct height from the floor. Finally, in Congress we got to jokingly calling it the "johnny seat bill." So he capitalized on that, but I don't think the average person realized what he meant by it, because the average person wasn't involved with OSHA. Of course, the small plant owners were; they understood what he meant, and I understood what he meant.
One ad he had was when he used the shotgun and shot the gun control act.
He used that, and it was hard for the average person to understand. I think he pitched a campaign that was just a little too sophisticated and subtle, even for me to understand some of it. Yet, he was a very personable young man. I recall with some degree of humor that in the early summer prior to the election, I ran into him in Greenville. I didn't recognize him, but I did recognize the young man with him and shook hands with him. I said, "I'm Walter Jones."
He said, "Yes. I'm Harry McMullan, your opponent."
I said, "I'm glad to see you."
He said, "I think its only fair to warn you about what I'm going to do."
I said, "That's real nice of you. What are you going to do?"
He said, "I'm going into every county and challenge you to a debate."
I said, "Well, you go right ahead, and just as fast as you can challenge, I shall decline. The incumbent has nothing to gain from a debate. My record is clear; I can't deny it or change it. You can make all of the weird promises you want and nobody holds you accountable. That is one thing that as long as I stay in office I shall refuse to do--that is to debate an opponent-- because I'm convinced from what political experience I've had there is nothing to be gained by the incumbent. He makes himself expendable."
Of course, as you recall, we survived that race, and what's coming next, I don't know. I haven't heard of any rumblings within the party--any threats of any major primary opposition. There may be some threats of which I'm not aware, but it hasn't surfaced as yet. I'm sure the Republicans will probably offer a candidate for the sake of appearances if nothing more. I don't mean to belittle that, whoever they offer might win, because I have no guarantee that I will be re-elected. But I feel like we've established a pretty good base in the district, and we've attempted to give service as rapidly as possible. I'm grateful to say that whatever else may be said about me or my staff and office the fact is you always get an answer. We don't ignore anyone regardless of how ridiculous the request might be; we attempt to give each person a reply.
You probably have one of the best reputations in Congress for service to your district.
I believe Ralph Nadar said, in his very critical analysis about a year and a half ago, that of all the Congressmen he interviewed I was more constituent-oriented than any of the others. Incidently they gave a pretty good report on me compared to some.
You said a few moments ago that you had the endorsement of the Americans for
Constitutional Action, the ACA, and it seems on the opposite side you have the approval of Ralph Nadar and Jack Anderson.
I can say only I'm grateful for that. I was at that annual Democratic rally down at Morehead City this past weekend, and the chairman of the party in one of the counties in this district gave his analysis of me as a Congressman at a hospitality room with eight or ten other people. It went something like this. He said, "You know, no one will ever beat Walter if he wants to run and keeps his health."
Well, obviously, that sounded real good--of course realizing that he is a prejudiced friend. Then he said, "I'll tell you why. He's conservative enough not to offend the conservatives, and he's liberal enough not to offend the liberals. Therefore, he walks down the middle of the road, and nobody can get mad with him."
That was his analysis, and maybe it answers your questions; I have a little leaning both to the right and the left, but basically I have adopted this philosophy throughout my career and try to live by it. I believe it was Thomas Jefferson who said the best government is that which governs least, and I still believe in that, although the trend of the federal government at this time is to govern more and more with restrictions and controls over the lives of everyday citizens. I deplore, resent, and try to fight a restricted government at every turn, although at the present time I'm outnumbered within the halls of Congress. I guess that county chairman phrased it about the best I've heard. I'm not sure he's absolutely accurate, but if he wants to think that, it's all right with me.
One area in which you have been the strongest and have had a great interest in is the area of tobacco, and agriculture in general, with your activities as chairman of the
subcommittee on tobacco within the agriculture committee. Is there anything concerning this particular aspect of your work that you would like to bring out?
I think I need to state this and get it into the record. I don't care who you are, to be effective as a member of Congress, you almost have to specialize. In other words, I can't be an expert on foreign affairs and at the same time be chairman of the tobacco subcommittee. I can't be an expert on, for example, military appropriations; I have to leave that up to the Military Committee to deem what is best. You will find that members of the Military Committee know very little about the agriculture committee and, more specifically, the tobacco problem.
When I went to Congress, I felt there were two areas where I could be of greater service to this district than any other two I could think of. One was to become a member of the House Committee on Agriculture and second was to get on the Committee of Merchant Marine and Fisheries. Now, as you know, since you have been here in this office this afternoon, I have gotten a call about the Coast Guard's enforcement of their rules and regulations. Merchant Marine and Fisheries has jurisdiction over the Coast Guard, and I'm on the Coast Guard subcommittee. We have jurisdiction over the Panama Canal, jurisdiction over certain fishing territorial rights, jurisdiction over the Maritime Commission, and jurisdiction over the Merchant Marine Academy. I felt getting on those two committees would put me in a position of greater service; and with some degree of modesty, I think that has been proven.
For the last three or four years I have been chairman of the subcommittee on oil seeds and rice. That is sort of misleading; but when you say oil seeds, you are talking about
peanuts and soybeans, which are two very vital crops to this district. We had quite a hassle in the last Congress over Secretary Butz's determination to terminate the peanut program. Despite his adamant opposition to the present program, it's still in effect. The administration had several bills introduced to radically change the program--reduce the supports of certain amounts of acreage--but we resisted those efforts. We have managed to resist Secretary Butz's efforts through conferences and agreements to compromise.
This might be interesting to show you some of the problems we have. While I was chairman of that committee in 1974, after many months of hearings and compromise, we came to a meeting of minds between our subcommittee, the chairman of the full committee (Bob Poage of Texas),and the USDA. The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) drew up their own bill according to the terms agreed upon. Mr. Frinke, who was the administrator of the ASCS program, and an undersecretary, whose name escapes me at the moment, came to my office. With the chairman of the full committee and with his attorney and the agriculture committee's attorney, we went through that bill word for word--fine tooth combed it completely--and all left in complete agreement. The bill was a compromise between Butz's extreme position and the present bill. It was acceptable to most of the peanut producers in every state, ironically, except some in North Carolina. I was prepared to go ahead with the bill, knowing if he could, Butz would sooner or later terminate the program. This is going to be difficult to believe. We scheduled a full committee meeting to report the bill out, and the hearing was scheduled for the Tuesday following a Monday holiday.
I returned to Washington on Monday night. On Tuesday, the day we were supposed
to consider this bill before the agriculture committee and report it out to the full House with the blessings and agreement of the USDA, I received a call from the chairman of the full committee, Mr. Poage. He said that something had happened.
I asked him what he was talking about.
He said that Butz had withdrawn his support from the bill.
I said, "You must be kidding."
He said, "No." He had been in my office the previous day and I asked him if he and the department and the Republican leadership would resist any amendments to this bill. He had said, "No."
Poage said that Butz told him he was not satisfied with the bill and that they had given too much.
I then called to try to get hold of Mr. Butz, but he was not available, so I talked with Mr. Frinke, the administrator of the ASCS. I said, "Ken, is it true that the department has withdrawn their support?" His answer was, "Yes. As much as I hate to say it; I'm afraid so." He said, "Can you cancel your committee hearing?"
It was scheduled for 2:00 p.m. I said there was no way to do that; people had flown in from all over the United States--from the Southeast and even California-- to testify at the hearing. I said, "I'll tell you what I want you to do. I want you to have a representative here this afternoon when I convene my subcommittee, and I want him to be able to tell our committee just what the secretary has in mind for next year in the absence of this legislation."
Here comes the unbelievable part of the sequence of events. They sent a very fine
gentleman from Georgia named Bill Lanier, the administrator of the peanut and tobacco program under ASCS, a rather responsible position, supposedly, with the authority to speak for the department. Believe it or not, I recognized him first. I said, "Mr. Lanier, I would appreciate as chairman of this subcommittee that you explain in vivid detail what the secretary has in mind to do next year in the absence of this or any other legislation."
He said, "Thank you, Mr. Chairman." He started reading a prepared statement which apparently had been prepared a week earlier, endorsing the bill before us on the part of the USDA.
I interrupted him and said, "Mr. Lanier, when did you last talk to your superiors?"
He said, "Well, this morning. They told me to be over here this afternoon."
I said, "I think, sir, that you have not been in contact with your superiors for the last twenty-four hours." It happened that the chairman of the full committee was in attendance, and I turned to him. I said, "Mr. Chairman, would you please repeat to me what you told me over the phone this morning?" He then repeated the fact the USDA had backed off in support of this bill.
I've never seen a man more embarrassed than Mr. Lanier was at that moment. Mr. Poage then excused himself from the committee room and went into an adjoining office and got Butz on the telephone. He then sent word for Lanier to get on the extension. That was the first time Lanier had been advised that the department had backed off from their promised support. He came back and apologized profusely to me, to the committee, and the audience. Really, I've never seen a man much more embarrassed. So since this Republican administration has been in, this is what we have to live with. They tell you "yes" today, and
What was the rationale behind Butz's opposition to peanut support?
Secretary Butz is a very brilliant and able man who handles himself well in public. But I think you must understand that he is agri-business- oriented and not farmer-oriented. He's greatly concerned about our exports. Well, I'm concerned about exports and balance of payments, certainly, but I'm more concerned about the farmers of eastern North Carolina or South Carolina or Georgia making a decent return on their investments than I am on exports. I think that is the first priority. But not Butz. What's good for Ralston-Purina is good for the country! That just paraphrases what Charlie Wilkins said about what's good for General Motors is good for the United States. And the farmer be damned!
This is his same attitude on tobacco and other agricultural products.
If he had his way--and he's pretty well done it to some extent--he would either radically change or eliminate all possible government participation in agricultural programs. In 1970 we changed the whole concept of wheat, grains, cotton, and some other commodities from what is known as parity to what is known as a target price. That was the only compromise he would make. The target price means that if the price falls below the stated price, then the government would pay to the farmer the slight difference it might amount to, to assure him a break even cost of production. I have very high regard for Mr. Butz. I was real glad that he came down to North Carolina this past week and criticized me for getting that tobacco bill through because I think he re-elected me with his criticism. I intend to use it repeatedly, because I don't think at the moment that Mr. Butz is the most popular man in North Carolina with the farmers.
Doesn't he remind you somewhat of the Secretary of Agriculture during the Eisenhower administration?
You're talking about Ezra Taft Benson. He has somewhat the same philosophy: Leave it alone and it will work itself out. Of course, the farmer goes broke in the meantime, and that's his hard luck. I'm of the old school that believes we must assure ourselves of continuing production in order to have food and fiber enough to feed this nation in abundance, and as cheaply as possible. We also must feed the rest of the world that depends on us to prevent complete starvation. But Butz would remove all controls--survival of the fittest I guess. We would probably lose 100,000 small farmers in the process--at least that's my fear.
Is there a future for the family farm?
I think there is a future for the family farmer. I am sometimes surprised at the man who comes up to me and says he is a small farmer. Actually, there is no such thing anymore as a small farmer; the man who tried to survive on a couple or three acres of tobacco has pretty well vanished. He simply can't make it. We are moving into a period of mechanization which is a necessity due to lack of and high cost of labor. As in the merchandising of groceries, we are moving, whether we like it or not, into bigger operations and, to some degree, corporate farming. Already, in this district Georgia-Pacific has bought I don't know how many hundreds of thousands of acres. Another group has bought a rather large portion in three different counties-- massive corporate farming.
That was my next question. What do you think about the movement toward the massive agri-business in your district--in many cases by foreign interests?
In Morehead City we have some Italian interests, and, I believe, the Japanese have bought some land in Hyde County. I have no objections to that as long as they realize they have to live with the American system of agricultural laws and be governed by our export laws and pay their property taxes. But, somehow, I fear we will move into complete corporate farming and the person who will ultimately suffer the most will be the housewife. The smaller farmers are not organized and are at the mercy somewhat of the economic structure. It's the only profession I know that doesn't set it's own prices. The farmers say, "What will you give me? What will you pay me for my beans and corn?" They don't set their own prices. But if we get into this wholesale corporate farming where they control 80-85% of the total production of corn and soybeans or whatever it might be--and they well could, just as Standard Oil and the rest of them have set the price of gas at their own convenience and profit--they can set their own prices. But I also see the plus side of it: added production and modern methods and maybe conservation of our resources as it relates to water and air. But here again I see an inherent danger of controlling the price beyond where the free market will have little effect or control.
This danger is very real in the dairy business, isn't it?
Yes. They are pretty well organized. You've got the milk trust and certain committees' investigations have found in the last three or four years that certain of their activities have been very questionable in relation to political campaigns and in relation to pressure to cause President Nixon--which some have alleged--to increase their support price which in turn increased the price to the consumer. Let me clarify this a little. I think the dairy farmer, the tobacco farmer, the cotton farmer, whoever it may be, must through
necessity have a fair return on his investment of time, labor, land, money, and other things. But here again I think at the same time we have to look at the consumer. It's a very thin two-edged coin here. We have to protect them both--one from the other or collectively. If the consumers organize, as they did with the beef strike a few months back, then it reflects; it depressed the price a great deal. So this shows what can be done. By the same token, if the producers should ban together and say, "You are going to pay us `x' number of dollars;" if they are not reasonable with it, it will act adversely on the housewife and the consumer.
We have many problems that relate to agriculture; it's not just as simple as it seems. I think one of the problems is that far too many people feel like the Winn-Dixie or the A "&" P stores grow and can their beans right there in the store, and that's where it all begins. It is just like they believe that Sears "&" Roebuck manufactures their shirts in the back room of their retail store. Well, that isn't true. That shirt at one time was a boll of cotton in somebody's cotton field, or a chemical they used for making synthetic shirts, or whatever the case might be. What we need to educate the American public to is that it is a collective sort of thing and that the consumer depends on the farmer and the farmer depends on the consumer. Since becoming chairman of the tobacco sub-committee I have, in public hearings we've held as well as every committee hearing, always announced that I deplore the number of congressmen who attempt to pit the tobacco companies, against the farmer and the farmer against the tobacco companies because one is dependent on the other. Without the farmer, the tobacco companies could not exist; their need for the continual supply of raw materials is perfectly obvious. Without the buying companies, the farmer would have no one to sell his tobacco to. So I try to strike the happy medium between the
consumer and the producer, which is very difficult to do because you wind up by appearing to be prejudiced on one side or the other when that isn't my intention at all. I try to keep--if there is such a thing--a happy balance between the two.
It's been a very unhappy year for the farmers with the quota situation.
It's been a negative year; that's the best way I can describe it. It's been a negative for these reasons: one, the first mistake was Secretary Butz increasing the allotment 15%. With a back-to-back increase of 10% and then with the 15% compounded, it came to about a 37% increase and obviously it produced 37% more undesirable tobacco from the lower stalk. In fairness to Butz, I don't think he anticipated a decreased foreign demand, which is now evident. Britain now has an $18 per pound import tax on American tobacco. It was $13, but within the last year they've added $5. The Parliament did that.
What were their reasons for this?
To raise revenue, I guess.
They have no other source of tobacco; they don't grow it themselves.
There is tobacco grown in other countries--South America, Canada, Rhodesia, and so on. Of course, we have the Rhodesian embargo which to me is absolutely ridiculous, because I know that every pound of tobacco gets out of that country somehow either through Red China or some other way. That does not worry me. You always hear, "What if Rhodesia sells all of the tobacco it has stored?" They don't have any stored. I have reason to believe that every pound they produce gets into the market through some device.
But getting back to why Britain increased their tariff, I can't answer that. I feel sometimes a little miffed that we don't retaliate by increasing the import tax on Scotch
whiskey--slap them back in the face if you will. Also, this year, the Germans, who have been very strong customers of our particular type of tobacco (flue cured), have withdrawn to some degree from the market by reducing their reserves. They just are not participating in the purchase as heavily as they have in the past. The Japanese, in fairness to them, are buying as much.
Unfortunately by all criteria, this is one of the poorest crops, quality wise, that we've had in years. I've heard this from farmers and warehousers, as well as buyers. I had a man tell me this morning that in forty years he had never seen a crop of such poor quality. We got the rains when we didn't need it and the sunshine when we didn't need it; then we didn't get the rains when we did need it. As a result we got a bad crop. Now, we've got a decreased foreign demand and we've got too much tobacco due to Butz's action; all of those things are negative. I'm pleased to see in recent days the increase in the average daily sales--that is the price. It's now climbed up to about $1.08 or $1.09. Not being a tobacco expert, as far as growing it is concerned, I'm still amazed that with the quality being offered on the floor the farmers are getting even what they are. Hopefully, when the season is over in November or December, if the farmers average $1.00 or $1.02 for the entire year, they are going to be extremely fortunate. I think--as we say in the South--they will be able to "pay out" or pay their bills due to the extra poundage they've had. Hopefully, the Secretary--and he's indicated that there would be--will allow some reduction in the allotments next year. To me that is one answer, along with the little increase of the export price, because of the tremendous increase in the cost of production.
Is there beginning to be a strong feeling in Congress for removing price supports
from tobacco since there is so much opposition up North to tobacco for health reasons?
I would say not. There is always an undercurrent of anti-tobacco sentiment--always has been--but more so in recent days due to HEW and the Surgeon General and some very unfounded statistics that absolutely defy the positive programs which the scientific world is called upon to make from time to time. But to say a strong feeling, I would say no. I will give an example. We have a very affable, able, black lady member of Congress, Mrs. Collins from Chicago. Her husband, a member of Congress, was killed in a plane wreck a couple of years ago, and she was sent up in his place. This year we had a bill on the Agricultural Appropriations where we knew an amendment was coming up from the gentleman from New York to delete all appropriations for the administration of the tobacco program. Well, of course that would kill the program if we didn't have money to administer it. I want to say, however, that it costs the taxpayers very, very little for the tobacco program. It is one of the cheapest of all the farm programs to administer. Actually, it produces a profit through stabilization from year to year. But I knew this amendment was coming up and just to test her, I said, "Mrs. Collins, I hope you can vote with us today to defeat this amendment which would delete all funds for administration." Bear in mind now, she is from the great city of Chicago and there is no tobacco raised within five hundred miles of her. She said, "Indeed I will. If we destroy the tobacco program, we will displace hundreds of thousands of blacks from their income in the South." I was quite surprised by that answer, but I was gratified by it. Of course, that was sort of a race issue with her--protecting her own race. So we pick up a little support here and there for different reasons to carry on the tobacco program.
I don't foresee any immediate trouble, and I think that's evident by the fact I was able last week to get a bill through, which I have been accused of being a little underhanded about. But I did not violate a single rule of the House. It was all in good order; we just happened to call up the bill when we knew some of the opponents of the tobacco program were not on the floor. I think that is smart, and we managed to pass it by a voice vote. Under the rules, if a single person had objected, then the bill would not have been voted on. But there were absolutely no objections. Then I was completely surprised to find that Senator Herman Talmadge was able to do the same thing in the United States Senate on Monday. So the bill has now passed both houses and is on the President's desk.
To show you how thorough I try to be, I spent twenty minutes this morning talking to President Ford's second in command, Max Friedersdorf. I was trying to convince him that it would be in the President's best interest not to veto the bill, both for political and economic reasons. Whether I convinced Max or not, I do not know. But he said, "You make sense; I'll say that." I said, "Well, he will have Butz begging him to veto it. It is a question of whether the President wants to listen to his Secretary of Agriculture or the United States Congress." It is a never ending job, we get our bill through and then go to the White House and beg them not to veto it; it is just a vicious circle.
During the past two administrations--Nixon and Ford--apart from Andrew Jackson who gained some fame from vetoing bills--they have done more vetoing than has been traditional.
I think maybe that is true because you have an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress and a Republican administration. I think party politics may be involved as much
as logic, that may force him to do that--to put the monkey on someone else's back. But I would agree; I think Ford in a short period of time is now somewhere up to about his thirty-sixth or thirty-seventh veto, which sets an all time record. He's gotten away with it pretty well. I think we have overridden him five or six times, and they were very sensitive bills like the Hill-Burton Hospital Act or the education bill of last week, which had the support of every educator and many parent/teacher associations and unions throughout the United States. I sort of think he expected it would be overridden because the normal procedure on an override is that you will be called by the White House--eventhough you are a Democrat as in my case--and they will say they hope you will be able to vote with them to sustain the veto. Well, you are honest and say, "Maybe I can," or "Sorry, I can't." Then there are no hard feelings. That is the name of the game. But on this educational veto, nobody got a call.
One other danger to tobacco that you hear discussed from time to time is the idea of synthetic tobacco. Does that pose a real problem?
It would be difficult for me to answer that. It's has been tried. I have smoked tobacco made from lettuce leaves, and last week, I smoked some cigarettes which some committee members had brought back from Red China. It was absolutely horrible, believe me. The Red Chinese cigarettes had no resemblance to the American cigarette. At this point in time, there is not much concern about the synthetics. I think the filtered cigarettes solved some of that. It permits the companies to use low grade tobacco, and those of us who smoke can not tell the difference. They treat them with a little good tobacco, but mostly it is cheap tobacco. It might be the synthetics will cost even more than the cheaper
grades of tobacco.
It seems somewhere that I heard of a company developing a cigarette out of a cellulose fiber, no tobacco at all.
I have heard that; that has been done. But here again, the person who smokes usually smokes from nervous energy or for personal enjoyment. I think I smoke because I enjoy it. But I still insist my cigarette have some flavor, some taste; I don't want to smoke a piece of cellulose, or lettuce, or cotton, or whatever the synthetic might be.
It seems to me that would have a greater health hazard than anything they could tie to tobacco.
I would think so.
When we were discussing foreign imports and tobacco trade, I thought of the problems of the cotton industry and the fact that every time you go to a store now and look at a garment, you find it was made in Hong Kong, Formosa, Taiwan, or somewhere else in the Far East. What is this doing to the American textile industry?
Of course, textiles have had to convert to part cotton, and part dacron to compete, which has adversely affected cotton production in this country. I think I can best emphasize this by telling you about a member of Congress from a cotton producing state who attempts to wear 100% cotton made shirts. He priced them in Washington, D.C., about a month ago, and the cheapest all-cotton shirt he could find was $27, according to his statement. But that is what happened to cotton. I do not know what the overriding reason is; but it has gotten itself in a non-competitive position, not only with the foreign imports of clothes, but with some of the synthetics in this country. There is one thing about cotton that many people do
not consider, and that is the food value of cottonseed oil. You very seldom hear that mentioned in debate. But it has gotten to be a commodity very much in demand.
There's money in cottonseed meal, too.
Yes. The meal and oil, the two by-products which might become the main demand for the product. Many people don't ever mention that; when you think of cotton, you think of spinning it into a shirt or a sheet or something of that nature. Cotton has other values, particularly in a world faced with a food shortage. I understand that the price of those two by-products has now reached a very respectable level, but as to what the figure is at the moment, I can't tell you. But it is worth being in that business so they tell me.
I was thinking particularly about the problem of our labor trying to compete with the cheap labor of the Far East.
That is the problem as it relates to the price competition, but some of these emerging nations are now finding labor problems similar to some of ours. For example, inflation is one thing. Another thing, they tell me now that ten years ago, the Japanese could manufacture those little transistor sets at one tenth of the cost of this country. Their cost of living has now become so enormous, however, they now are having to pay their labor at a rate almost commensurate to what we are having to pay. If that day ever arrives where the labor of the emerging nations becomes price competitive with our labor, then I think that will solve many of the problems of the cotton industry and every other industry. I predict that if we live long enough, we will see that. That is one thing that has caused the food shortage; people in the foreign countries are demanding a better standard of living than they have ever known. That may be a plus factor out of the OPEC countries; those countries
have now become so wealthy because of the stupidity of the American public that their people are going to demand a better living and therefore it will make the labor forces of the two more equal.
There has been a great deal about our sale of grain to the Soviet Union and China in the last few years, and I imagine this has been a major factor in the change of our balance of payments from a deficit to a positive for the last couple of years.
I see no objection to doing business with Russia in the sale of grain if we have a surplus of grain. The one place I differ with Butz is that I think, we should try to control the cost for the well being of the American people. We should keep an adequate reserve of the necessary food stuffs and fibers--either in government or private storage without the government being named and having scandals created out of this operation--for our self insurance. But beyond that, if we had a surplus, I think it would be sheer stupidity not to sell it, whether it be to Russia or Red China. Where I differ, I somehow feel it should be government controlled and not channeled through private enterprise, where the private enterprise makes all the profits and the farmer doesn't get his fair share of the mark-up. To me that is a weakness of the program. There has been some thought that we exchange our grain with Russia for some of the surplus oil they have. I assume they do have a surplus; the papers say they do. I think that sort of arrangement would appeal to me a great deal, provided we could inflate the price of our grain as the price of oil is inflated. Whether we can do that or not I don't know.
That was my question in regards to selling grain. Are we getting a fair market price for this grain sold to the Soviet Union? I remember seeing somewhere a claim that the
government was subsidizing the sale to the extent that the Soviet Union was paying a price far below that of the exporters.
I think the 1973 transaction, the first big Russian grain deal, smacked of arrangements and deal on the part of the USDA. I will be honest with you; I have every reason to believe that. For example, one of the undersecretaries left the USDA and became a vice president of Cargile Incorporated almost overnight while these negotiations were in process. We examined him before our committee, and he denied any connection whatsoever. But he never did quite convince me that he told all he knew. However, on this last transaction, which has had all sorts of problems including George L. Meany's dock strike, as well as the department saying no more exports--I think it has been handled in a more honest, business- like way. Of course, here again it has been the private grain dealers who have handled this, but hopefully, under the supervision of the State Department and the USDA. Somehow I feel that since these private dealers are dealing with government--that is the Russian government, or the Chinese government, or the Japanese monopoly--then perhaps, as much as I deplore bureaucracy, it would be the better part of wisdom if the government would do the negotiating direct. You would have a better inventory or accounting of what stocks you have left on hand--a better monitoring service.
The average American would be better served.
Yes. Out of the grain deal of two or three years ago there were a few who made just untold fortunes overnight by paper transactions. I don't think we can permit Russia any extended credit; I don't think they can be trusted that much. There is not a nation in the world that does not owe us untold billions from one war or another, and we can not collect.
I think any transaction with the Communist countries--for that matter I am almost convinced any other nation--ought to be on a cash basis or an exchange of merchandise, one or the other.
You mentioned the Merchant Marine and territorial rights a moment ago. Fishing in American waters by Russian, Chinese, and other foreign vessels has become a problem. Is this proving a threat to our fish population and to our own fishing industry?
I am convinced that it poses a mild threat, because they have nothing to gain by careless handling of the catch or abusing the normal practices of the American fishermen. I'm pretty sure this Congress will enact legislation. We waited two or three years to see if the International Conference on the Sea Treaties couldn't work out something where each government would observe the rules and punish their own violators, but that seems to have fallen by the wayside. So I am pretty certain that out of the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee will come this year legislation extending our territorial rights. Only in the last few weeks have we been assured by the Coast Guard that they have enough expertise to enforce it. That has been my reluctance in the past--how were we going to enforce it. But the Coast Guard now says that they can follow scientifically where the accumulation of fish are at a given time and then can move in there and enforce the territorial limits. It might well be going to two hundred miles, I don't know. That seems to be the proper figure at the moment. Many nations have that.
Yes. We have gotten into trouble off the coast of Chile for that.
Yes. They confiscated many of our vessels and caused some strained relations between Chile and some of the other South American nations.
One of the problems with our fishing industry is the fact that much of our fishing is done by rather small, independent fishing companies without the giant vessels and equipment of the government-owned fishing trawlers of the Soviet Union.
Yes. That is absolutely right. More important, locally, one thing that disturbs me is we catch our own shrimp, fish, and scallops and they invariably find their way to Baltimore and are then shipped back down here. This doesn't make much sense; we need to process them locally. Of course, you are talking about an international problem, and I am talking about a local problem.
To come back to your question, I am equally troubled because at one time we had the finest Merchant Marine and fishing fleets in the whole world. We are now in either seventh or eighth position. For some unaccountable reason, our government--of which I'm a part--has not seen fit to appropriate money or make money available for loans or grants to keep our Merchant Marine fleet in the first class shape it should be. Now, we have taken remedial steps to try to rebuild our Merchant Marine fleet by financing and building so many ships per year for a period of the next ten years. As I understand it, the average age of vessels we have in the Merchant Marine is twenty or more years. Without modern equipment and other things, obviously, we can't compete. One thing that many of our American citizens overlook when we get criticized for subsidizing the Merchant Marine fleet is it is a very vital part of our military operation in the case of confrontation or war on foreign shores. In both Korea and the Vietnam fiasco, had it not been for the Merchant Marine fleet--even as deteriorated as it is--we would have been in terrible shape. It has a very definite military value. Actually, when you say you are subsidizing to build a fishing
vessel, it is the same thing as subsidizing me to build a ball park or a dance hall or something to some people. But it is not the same, because of the defense value of a strong Merchant Marine fleet.
Back to the local level. You mentioned the lack of processing facilities. That reminds me of last year when they had the tremendous shrimp catches on the coast. Within twenty-four hours after they were caught, they were long gone from North Carolina. Are there any other points on this that you would like to make?
No. I would conclude by saying that it looks like sometimes I am snake bitten. I told you early in the conversation that during the last term of the Congress I served as chairman of the committee on oil seeds and rice. I do not think the committee had met in four years until I got to be chairman, and all of a sudden I inherited the animosity of Earl Butz and the USDA trying to change the program, so I had to fight that battle. By the same token the sub-committee on tobacco which I assumed this year--for years and years it never met. With the depressed prices and negative season, there were just all sorts of bills introduced. It seems like everything I become chairman of suddenly becomes a very active committee.
It seems that both of those would be very important, both to agriculture and to the economy.
Well, it is. Oil is very important for its protein and other purposes, and tobacco is the major source of income for all of North Carolina. I think the furniture industry at one time surpassed it, but with the decline at the present time of that, I am certain that tobacco is the number one economic factor in the state of North Carolina. That is not just necessarily
the farmer and the buyer, but the manufacturer too.
I would think that soybeans, peanuts, and these other crops that come under oils and seeds have almost unlimited production potential due to the world food shortage and the fact that it is going to get worse.
Well, it does. Of course, soybeans is a relatively new product in this part of the country. In the past eight or ten years I think it has become the second largest source of income for the North Carolina farmer, with tobacco first. The point I was trying to make is that in years past these two committees of which I've been sub-committee chairman at different times for the last four years--every time I get to be chairman problems arise. Prior to then nobody is rocking the boat.
Do you foresee here in your district, which is so heavily into tobacco, the future diversity of crops such as soybeans and cattle displacing tobacco as the major crop?
Not displacing tobacco as such, but certainly they will develop as a supplemental income. Tobacco, soybeans, or whatever the product is, should be grown where it can best be grown. As it relates to climate and soil, it so happens that the district I represent is ideally situated to produce the best possible tobacco. For that reason, if for no other, I don't see tobacco being displaced completely or even in part as the dominant source of income to agriculture. In the Middle Belt where they do not raise quite the same quality as we do and are more heavily industrialized, up around Winston-Salem and that area, we can already see a decline. Many of those farmers are not planting their allotment; they are letting it go by the board. There are two reasons: One, is that they have small allotments. Second, they can do better with the soil in raising other crops such as corn, soybeans, or grains than they
With tobacco, labor costing what it does, it is almost necessary to mechanize and with a small allotment, you can't mechanize very well.
So the individual screams and cries for more allotments. That is why sooner or later--although it is not very popular to say --we are going to have to permit leasing across county lines. But the people are not ready for it yet, and I haven't got time to get on every wagon tongue in the district and explain to them why it should be done. So, although the bill has been introduced, it is going to stay in committee this year; we are not going to bring it out. But to the contrary the hearings were held out in the burley section--those people are ready for it; the people want to lease across county lines. Of course, they live under different rules, anyhow.
Doesn't this make it possible for the agri-business corporations to take over tobacco production?
No. Not with the bill we have before us. As long as I have any muscle on the thing, I will always insist on these safeguards. The first safeguard is that you lease only in the adjoining county; then there could not be a second lease from county number two to county number three, piggybacking across the state. You confine it within a given area. People seem to feel that even with this as a safeguard that sooner or later, if you started this, then the next thing you would be leasing statewide and then the next across the state line. I do not foresee that. But here again, so many people felt that way and entertained that ingrained fear that you don't try to convince them, because if they don't want to lease, they don't want to lease.
There is the fear that someone like First Colony could go around and buy up allotments and go over all of the state and plant 10,000 acres to tobacco.
I don't think they've thought that far ahead with their fears and opposition. I think the whole problem was the differential in the rates paid for leasing. For example, I think that Beaufort County averaged twelve to fourteen cents; Pitt County was twenty-two cents and in some cases twenty-five; Lenoir County ran in the twenties; and maybe down in Jones County it was eighteen cents. The price differential for leasing seems to disturb people more than anything else. One thing that is concerning Butz is that he wants to phase out the leasing of allotments. He said in a conversation I had with him, "There is no way a man can pay twenty-five cents a pound for the right to raise tobacco, and make money." Of course, those who are paying twenty-five cents a pound say they can. But Butz is determined--if he stays there long enough--to terminate leasing. He says it is not wholesome, not a part of the program. If a man does not raise his tobacco, he can give that allotment to someone else. I can not argue with it too much. But here again the leasing has been of benefit to some people like widows and those who could not physically plant their allotment.
[End of Part 2]
|EAST CAROLINA MANUSCRIPT COLLECTION|
|ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW|
|Congressman Walter B. Jones|
|October 17, 1975|
In our previous interview, you talked about the tobacco program, agriculture in general, and various other aspects of your congressional program--merchant marines, fishing rights, etc. Since that time there have been some new developments or problems in the tobacco area. Would you like to start off by referring to that?
You are referring specifically to HR 9447. Would you like me to go in depth as to how we got the bill through, and how we were later criticized by Secretary Butz for being devious and underhanded?
Well, the House number given that particular bill was HR 9000. It provided for approximately a 10% or 11% increase in the formula under which the tobacco support prices were calculated. The former price support program had been in effect since 1958 and 1959 with no change; yet, there had been a radical change in the cost of production and method of farming and so forth. All other farm programs, with the possible exception of peanuts, have had their price support programs changed. So this HR 9000 was introduced in late July, and from late July to the middle of August, the price situation on the Border
Belt and in Georgia and South Carolina became rather chaotic. The price was averaging maybe $.80 to $.81, which by all criteria according to the agriculture economists from State College and Clemson was below the cost of production. So we decided to try to do something. We had all sorts of remedies, and legislation had been introduced ranging all the way from demanding 90% of parity, which we knew was totally unreal for tobacco due to its unpopularity in the Congress, to a bill introduced by a member from this state to require that Secretary Butz for the 1976 crop year reduce the crop by 25%. In my opinion those bills were rather radical, and they would have created even more controversy than the one we did pass. So in an almost unprecedented action, on August 13, I called my tobacco subcommittee together; we flew from different parts of the South back to Washington to consider and hold testimony from the USDA and others on this HR 9000. As a result, the subcommittee, on that very day without a dissenting vote, reported the bill to the full committee for favorable action--that is we approved the bill as written.
After the August recess, the Congress reconvened on September 3. Sometime during the first week of September, I brought this to the attention of the full committee, asking for a favorable report to be reported to the House of Representatives on HR 9000. On a voice vote, without a dissenting vote, the committee reported the bill out favorably. Now in all candor, the only thing I told the committee was that it would change the support price and gave some examples of going from $.91 to about $.99 for the current average, and that all we were doing was changing the original formula from the word calendar years to marketing years. That would give the secretary of agriculture a six-month later period to get a more realistic appraisal of the cost of production. As it stood then, and now, since the
President vetoed it, he was bound by the last three calendar years. The last three marketing years would have given him a six-month later period--that was the secret of the whole thing. Well, the bill was reported out of the House Agriculture Committee and sent to the Rules Committee.
The only way we can handle controversial tobacco legislation at this point in time in the United States Congress--because so many of them do not understand the value of the tobacco industry--is to bring it out on what is known as a suspension calendar. That means you make a motion to suspend the rules and pass HR 9000. The correct language on the part of the Speaker is, "Without objections, Congressman Jones moves that we suspend the rules and pass HR 9000." If there is a single objection, it demands a roll call vote. To suspend the rules, it takes a two-thirds vote, not a simple majority.
HR 9000 was resting over in the Rules Committee for about a week or so, and some of us who were very concerned and interested in this bill decided to use a perfectly legitimate approach to get this legislation through. We considered it an emergency--at least psychologically for the farmers of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia who were so depressed at that time about the prices they were getting. Two other members and myself advised the Speaker of the House of our emergency situation and asked his approval to take a shortcut--to be candid about it that's what it was--and use a procedure which is used quite frequently on emergency legislation or release legislation that doesn't effect the future of the nation greatly one way or the other. He agreed--that was Speaker Carl Albert. We then went to the parliamentarian and received proper instruction as to how to proceed. All of this conversation took place on Wednesday, September 10, with the parliamentarian,
the Speaker, the majority leader, Democrat, Tip O'Neill of Massachusettes, and the Republican minority leader, John Rhodes of Arizona. Both agreed that there was absolutely nothing unethical or immoral or wrong about this approach. So on Wednesday afternoon, we introduced HR 9447. It had the identical language of HR 9000 which had traveled the normal course of hearings before the subcommittee and committee. We had an agreement with the Speaker on Wednesday, September 10: When we introduced the bill, rather than his referring it to a committee, since it had the identical language of one that had already been approved by the subcommittee and the full committee on agriculture, he would hold it on his desk.
On Thursday, September 11, I rose to my feet on the House floor and was recognized by the Speaker. My motion went something like this: "I move, Mr. Speaker, we take from the Speaker's desk HR 9447, and suspend the rules for consideration, without objection for its immediate passage." Thereupon, the Speaker said, "The gentleman from North Carolina is recognized." I then explained the bill to those present. Admittedly, there were only about thirty-five members present at that time, since it was about 12:05 and the session had just begun. It was about the first business taken up that day. I told them all the bill did was to change the formula under which tobacco support prices were calculated by changing the language from the last three calendar years to the last three marketing years. I moved for its immediate adoption. The Speaker looked around and said, "Are there any objections?" He then paused four or five seconds and said, "Without objection, the bill is passed." Now, that was not without precedent; it has been done many times before. I failed to mention it before, but I also explained to those members present that the identical bill had
traveled through the process of being heard by the subcommittee and the full committee, that it was an emergency matter necessary for immediate passage.
That was on Thursday. Well, on Friday the twelfth, we recessed for Yom Kippur. Surprisingly enough, on Monday September 15, the Senate found itself in session and without the bill going to the Senate Agriculture Committee, it was called up and passed in a similar manner. Admittedly, this brought up some criticism from Secretary Butz that we had shortcut the legislative process. This is not altogether true, because the bill had received full treatment in the House committee and the in Senate committee on agriculture had earlier discusses a similar bill. The Senate committee was headed by the very able gentleman from Georgia, Senator Herman Talmadge. But to give everybody due credit, it was guided through the Senate by Senator Hudleston from Kentucky, which is a great tobacco growing state. Since the increase was for flue-cured and burley tobacco, Senator Hudleston was very interested. The bill had passed unanimously without a dissenting vote, although admittedly maybe we took a shortcut in both the House and Senate. My office called me and I couldn't believe it; I thought surely the bill would go to the Senate Agriculture Committee and be discussed. I think one reason it didn't was because early in the year, back about January or February, the Senate had before it a bill to increase the tobacco support prices to 70% of parity against the approximate 61% of parity that it now carries. They had testimony on the same question, but not with the same language.
We began a long mournful period. I asked the Speaker, if at all possible, not to send the bill over to the President too soon so we could plant a few seeds and try a little propaganda in order to urge the President of the United States not to veto the bill. We fully
knew that Secretary Butz's opposition was adamant and had been clearly stated.
On Friday, September 19, the Speaker of the House signed the bill--the President of the Senate had already signed--and it went to the White House. Under the Constitution, the President had ten legislative days in which to act--either sign, veto, or do nothing on the bill. This made the magic date, Wednesday, October 1. On Thursday, September 25, a delegation of Southern congressmen, including the chairman of the Agriculture Committee, the Honorable Tom Foley of the state of Washington--all of us pro HR 9447--met with the President for about an hour and a half. We had a very delightful conversation. Of course, he had Secretary Butz there, who again expressed his opposition and his fears that it would adversely affect the export trade down the line. He argued that it would be popular to sign the bill now, but over the long haul it could be detrimental to our exports. He made one or two other objections, which between Congressman Foley and myself, I feel we answered satisfactorily. I am convinced, at that point in time, the President was inclined to sign the bill. I say that because of some of the questions he asked and some of the statements he made in rebuttal to some of Secretary Butz's statements.
I think we made a pretty good case, for the simple reason we kept emphasizing the bill would not cost the taxpayers any money because the price for average three successive years and with the projected price for next year, the average price paid by the tobacco companies would likely exceed the support price. For example, if this had been enacted on October 1, the support price for flue-cured tobacco would have gone immediately from $.915 to $.99 per pound, but currently--if you follow tobacco prices--the average has been $1.00 or more for all of it. So this would just have been a psychological pat on the back for
the farmers, to let them know that someone cared about their increased costs.
In any event, there was much speculation that the President would sign it and speculation that he wouldn't. On Monday, September 29, the President invited the opponents of the bill to come over. In that group were some people who knew absolutely nothing about tobacco whatsoever, including a congressman from New York, Peter Pizer, who is very anti-all agricultural programs. He is consumer oriented and knows nothing about agriculture. I understand that Senator Brooke from Massachusetts was there, and I also believe Senator Javits was there. There was a small group that opposed it.
Speculation was running wild on the twenty-ninth as to what the President would do. Interestingly enough, I was advised by the second-in-command of the President's advisers, Max Friedersdorf. Word got out on the House floor late Monday night that the President had already vetoed the bill. I called the White House to check with Friedersdorf, and he said, "No, I assure you on my word of honor that he has not. As a matter of fact, he has on his desk a statement of why he vetoed it and also a statement of why he signed it. He's absolutely undecided." He had until midnight Wednesday, October 1, to act or not to act. Many of us speculated he would exercise a pocket veto which means he would neither sign nor veto it, but let it become law without either his approval or disapproval. I was rather encouraged to think that was what he would do.
Incidentally on Tuesday, September 30, the President and Secretary Butz, unfortunately, flew together on Air Force One to Chicago for a speech and appearance. They left Chicago and flew to Omaha, Nebraska, on the morning of October 1, and I'm convinced in my own mind--which I can't verify--that in midair someplace Butz convinced
President Ford to veto this bill. The first call I had was from Max Friedersdorf who called to tell me the President had asked him to please call me and express his apologies that, as much as he regretted it, he would have to veto the bill. Also, that same afternoon, I received a call from Secretary Butz from Omaha, Nebraska, where he and President Ford were appearing at some farm program, to tell me how sorry the President was and what a good fight we had put up, etc. I felt somewhat relieved, however, because in this conversation, Secretary Butz assured me that there would be a 15% reduction in poundage and acreage for flue-cured tobacco for next year. I think every farmer and everyone connected with the business felt we should have this reduction. This was the first time we had had a definite assurance that Butz would take that course of action.
Another plus factor came out of the veto of the bill. It has been an historical fact that for years tobacco has been included in PL 480, under which the nation exports certain agricultural commodities such as soybeans, wheat, corn, cotton, and tobacco to foreign countries, where we would then use their currency in payment for these products in order to pay our expenses for our troops and embassies in the country involved. It is a bookkeeping transaction, and yet it saves this country money. Pending at this point in time was a trade agreement under PL 480 executed by the State Department to the nation of Egypt where they wanted to purchase approximately $15 million of flue-cured tobacco. But according to the information I have, Secretary Kissinger, for ten or eleven months, had not approved the inclusion of any tobacco in any of these foreign transactions. However, President Ford insisted tobacco be included in the Egyptian trade deal, which is still being consummated at the present time to the tune of some $15 million. So these two plus factors did come out of
the veto of the bill. It might well be, over the long haul, if we can keep tobacco in the 480 program, we may have done a far greater service to the tobacco farmers than the 10% increase in the price support. Now, whether this is a permanent inclusion of tobacco in PL 480, I can't answer, but at least it is a breakthrough in contrast to the practice of the last ten or eleven months. Add to that the promised reduction in acreage, which everybody wanted but without the assurance from Butz were not sure we would get until this came about. As best I can explain it, that is the birth and death of the tobacco price support bill.
Is there very much of a glut this year as a result of the increased acreage and poundage?
There is a glut to the extent that Stabilization, which is the quasi-government corporation which buys tobacco the companies don't want and is not acceptable to the foreign purchasers or anybody else, has bought more than they have in any recent years. Their purchase of the total crop last year was maybe 2% or 3%, whereas this year it already appears that it is going to be 25% to 30%, which is not good for the overall trade. What happened to the whole tobacco program was that Secretary Butz on three successive years increased the first year 10%, the second year another 10%, and the third year 15%. Well, you compound those and you get about 36.5%. From this year, you had 36% more of the less desirable lower stalk tobacco than you had three years ago due to just production itself. Therefore, that caused Stabilization to move in and buy this. Had the 15% not been included for the 1975 crop year, you would have had 15% less that Stabilization would have bought. Basically, they get the sorry tobacco and not the better upper stalk tobacco which goes to the domestic manufacturers and more affluent foreign nations who import our
tobacco--Japan, Germany, and to some degree Great Britain. To answer your question, the 15% did cause sort of a glut in a way. If it did nothing else, it is going to pull down the average by the increase of the additional amount of the sorry, less desirable tobacco.
For the record, what ultimately becomes of this tobacco that is purchased by the Stabilization?
They have a pretty good track record. At one time--maybe five or six years ago--they had approximately a billion pounds of tabacco in storage. Prior to this 1975 crop year, they had reduced their inventories to something less than 100 million pounds, or an almost 90% reduction in their inventory. They process and store this tobacco just like a private corporation, and then at some point in time you might find that R. J. Reynolds may need some of the tobacco Stabilization has and will proceed to purchase this tobacco. Of course, they have to pay what Stabilization has invested, plus the storage and processing fees. Stabilization is almost a self-supporting quasi-government operation. For example, during the calendar year of 1974, they had one transaction where they derived a $15 million profit. Of course, they are rare instances.
Of all the governmental programs--this is very interesting and I used it with the President--the tobacco support program has been in existence since 1938. During this entire time, the cost to the taxpayers of this nation has been one-seventh of 1% of all the monies for support programs for all agricultural products. Translated into figures, this is approximately $10 million a year over the last forty years, or a little less than half a billion dollars. Now, to some people, half a billion dollars spent on tobacco would be sinful and a shame; however, what they fail to realize is that tobacco now produces $6 billion a year in
taxes at all levels of this country--that is through the federal tax, the state taxes, and the municipal taxes. In addition, it is sometimes our third or fourth leading export. For the fiscal year ending in June, 1975, the exports of tobacco came to $1.3 billion which is very sizeable as it relates to the cost of the support program. In other words, I contended to the President, the press, or anyone who wanted to listen that the investment on the part of the taxpayers had been returned a hundred-fold in the form of taxes which has relieved the taxpayer from having to pay the tax in another form, to say nothing of the value of our exports and imports.
Tobacco has certainly done its part for the balance of trade.
Yes. That has been true through the years. There were many foreign nations after the Second World War whose first choice in the lend/lease program--which we instigated at that time to reconstruct these countries-- was tobacco. It became almost a medium of exchange. Currently, we are receiving five or six letters a day asking us to try to override the presidential veto, but I am realistic enough to realize that as unpopular and controversial as tobacco is in both the House and Senate, we would have about as much chance of getting a two-thirds override vote as we would electing me as president of the United States next year; there is just no way it can be done.
It is really too late in the season to do the farmer any good this year.
Even if Ford had signed the bill--as far as flue-cured tobacco is concerned--it would not have helped us this year. Of course, it would have helped the burley that is coming in. All it would have done here--as I've stated publicly many times--is that it would have given the farmer a little better support price next year.
Moving on to another topic. I believe you have been rather outspoken in your position on foreign aid programs. Do you have any thoughts concerning that?
I not only have thoughts, I have firm convictions. The foreign aid in its original conception looked extremely good. Basically, the idea of the foreign aid program was to take our surplus foods and help feed the starving people: India, Africa, and the other overpopulated countries that could not feed themselves. We would offer some expertise in trying to teach them how to become self-supporting in agriculture production as well as the manufacturing end of the spectrum. But somehow according to the study I've been given, foreign aid has run into the billions and has failed to achieve the purpose for which it was created. Nobody can convince me the starving people of India or wherever it might be... that the money has filtered down to the betterment of the people it was supposed to help. What has happened is the government officials have diverted these funds, in many cases in an entirely dishonest manner--certainly in a questionable manner--to build armies and to buy arms and ammunition in order to perpetuate themselves in office. Until the formula is changed, I just don't see this nation attempting to be big brother to the rest of the world, unless we are accomplishing the purpose for which big brothers are supposed to stand--that is helping their little brother. I just don't think it has done that, and nobody can convince me that it has.
Another thing I think foreign aid was designed for to begin with was to cement friendships with some nations who might not have been quite as friendly and who we might need later on strategically in case of a conflict. But somewhere down the line I became convinced that you can't buy friendship, so that was another objection. The last time we
considered the foreign aid bill before the House floor--I can only quote the chairman of the committee and can't verify these facts--there was approximately $14 billion in the pipeline that had been appropriated in previous years and hadn't filtered out for usage. Yet there was a request for another $7, $8, or $9 billion for another fiscal year. Without any apologies and certainly not trying to be unhumanitarian, I just simply could not vote for the continuation of the foreign aid program in the manner in which it has been administered since I became familiar with it. When this administration or some future administration changes its course, then I will be happy to support foreign aid. But I am convinced it has not done what it was intended to do in its original form.
Is there any way to get a foreign aid program that would bypass the corruption of the officials and help the masses?
It would be possible; it would have to go through some international agency. If the United Nations was as effective as it should be, perhaps they could administer a foreign aid program. But another thing concerns me. At one time, we prided ourselves on being the most affluent nation in the world--I like to think we still are--but we must be mindful that perhaps there are other countries such as Germany and Japan that have become almost as affluent as we are and enjoy almost the same standard of living. Yet, they do nothing in this area and expect the United States to do it all. I point my finger with suspicion at the British nation; at one time they could have done some of this charitable work, but they have refrained. I just keep convincing myself and find more and more reasons why I should not vote for foreign aid until the whole thing is reorganized. It could be administered by something like the International Red Cross if they had the personnel--which they don't. It
gets interwoven with government and it is hard to define a clear-cut course. You have got the USDA involved, you have the State Department involved, you have got the administration itself, and your foreign embassies. I simply don't see any way you can set up a formula which would be satisfactory to me in order to cause me to vote for it.
Occasionally, we hear horror stories about how thousands of tons of wheat and corn are rotting in warehouses and being eaten by rats and never get to the people for whom it was intended.
That is my firm conviction at the present time on foreign aid.
Closely related to that is our military presence in Europe. How do you feel about the lack of financial support given by the European community, yet they are maintaining that we should keep a force there?
Need I remind you that the German nation has only a symbolic army. During the course of a year, I doubt their defense appropriations are more than $15 or $20 million, whereas ours is in the billions. That was a part of the peace treaty out of the Second World War when NATO and this country would join together and protect Germany. Now Germany, in my opinion, is large enough to take care of itself. I was in Germany in the summer of 1974 and I was appalled by what I saw. The esprit de corps of the American troops over there is almost minus. At that time, we had some 400,000 men over there. To compound that about half of them have their families there. It has become a tremendously expensive item in the defense budget. As I traveled around Germany--not being a military expert--I talked to the general in charge, I believe his name was General Davidson, and I'm not sure he liked what I had to say. I asked him, "Just how effective would these ground
troops be, scattered as they are from north Germany, south Germany and west Germany?" Much of the equipment was antiquated, and I was in the Mainz area which was one of the strongholds of our European forces. He could not answer my question very well. He said, "Well, we have plans."
On the contrary, I was most impressed with the Air Force activity in Germany. I came back--either rightly or wrongly--convinced if we indeed had to keep "x" number of troops in Germany for a period of twelve to fourteen months, it would be far better for this nation to leave the families here. I know that sounds unkind. Give them a concentrated training period in defense of the German nation--its terrain, rivers, etc.--then return them to their families in this country. I am convinced it would cut the cost at least 40% to 45% and accomplish the same thing. You would also have a much greater esprit de corps at the Armed Forces level. At the same time, we should firm up and keep in the best shape possible the status of our Air Force. After all, if there was a sudden invasion, I'm not sure just how effective these low morale, scattered American troops would be in repelling the Russians or anyone else.
Wouldn't it be just as effective and much less expensive to keep less troops there and in case of invasion just airlift troops there from the United States?
That could be done. Of course the argument against the reduction of troops is that we are bound by the NATO treaty, and we must abide by it. But this NATO treaty was signed thirty years ago, and we have outlived it; it is no longer the effective device it was.
Do other NATO members maintain troops on that level, or is it only the United States?
We bear the brunt of the burden just as we do for foreign aid. The others have symbolic forces there. It is sort of a deal where we are supposed to be getting something in return, but we are paying a dear price for what we are getting--both in manpower and money. Another thing that concerns me about the stationing of our troops in Europe is the plans for evacuating their families in case of an invasion. That is ridiculous; they are supposed to all be immediately deployed down to Spain or Portugal or some neutral country, but I am frightened to think of what might really happen, in the ability of our men to respond, should the Russians invade West Germany for example. I am just not convinced that we are doing the right thing by keeping an enormous number of men over there on a three- year rotation period. To me it is an exercise in futility; I feel we would do much better by beefing up our Air Force defenses over there--which I think are adequate. I am not criticizing the Air Force. I was quite impressed with General Jones, the commander of all the Air Force troops in Europe. He convinced me that they were ready, willing, and able to respond on a moment's notice and were prepared. I found an entirely different spirit among the Air Force enlisted personnel than I found among the Army enlisted personnel. Even at this late date, the German economy will not accept the American GI. They are rejected. This has nothing to do with race; it is just across the board. It is like two different worlds living in the same community.
They won't accept them; yet they demand that they be there.
Yes. I feel like we ought to reappraise our situation. I don't pretend to be a military expert, and I didn't feel this way until I went over there and saw first hand. For example, the Mainz base which I toured, I was a little depressed about it. The unmarried GIs are using
barracks which were used by the Germans prior to and during World War II--thirty-two years ago. There are leaks in the roofs, cracks in the walls, broken windows. It is unbelievable. A colonel was in command of the Mainz base, and protocol demanded that I visit his office. I went into a wooden building with steps that looked like what you find in a barn in Pitt County. His office was maybe 6' by 8' or 8' by 10' at the largest. It was absolutely most depressing, it gave the impression that we were second rate. We are not putting up a very good face in Germany.
Are we supposed to furnish the physical facilities for the Army or is Germany?
No. All the equipment over there is United States equipment. Germany has no equipment.
I was thinking of physical facilities such as buildings.
They were buildings we captured or got after the peace treaty.
It seems Germany could provide the buildings for the bases that are on their soil.
I think they have the financial as well as moral responsibility to at least do that since we are paying for their protection.
One question that has just about been worn out nationwide is Vietnam.
That was a mistake this nation made that I think history will record as one of the greatest military mistakes we have ever made. To begin with, other nations had tried to supervise both the North and South Vietnamese at one time and had failed. I think the French are a classic example of that. They learned their lesson and got out. I think our mistake was amplified by the fact that we received little or no help from any other nation expect possibly a few troops from Turkey and a few from Australia. But our general allies
of France, Britain, Canada and some of the other nations we consider friendly just sat back and folded their hands and said, " Well, it's your ball game; you play." I'm not arguing our right or obligation to be there. The thing that disturbed me so much was the people with the military expertise--the generals and colonels who came back from there--would come to me wringing their hands and would tell me off the record, "Now don't use my name. But we could have conquered North Vietnam in thirty days if we had been turned loose." We were fighting that war sort of like a boxer in the ring with his hands tied behind his back. That is exactly the way our military operated over there.
Vietnam worried me a great deal. Of course, I supported it and was known as a hawk for my first four or five years in Congress as it related to the Vietnam appropriations. I did that only for the protection of the American boys who were there--for their best interests--and not because I approved of the involvement, that wasn't it at all. But in the final days I found maybe the only way we could get those boys back was to refuse to appropriate any additional funds. There is no way I can honestly sit here today and tell you what the cost of Vietnam was in manpower. I don't know how many disabled veterans we have--boys, men, and in some cases women--who will live miserable lives with the loss of limbs and sight and other infirmities as the result of our being there. I believe it is estimated to be around 55,000 casualties. Of course that is most important, but second in importance is the billions of dollars we poured in there which accomplished nothing as you look back.
There is no peace in Vietnam, despite Kissinger. What they are doing over there now, nobody knows. Everything is censored; you don't get any information out of there. It probably taught us a lesson--at least it did me, as one member of Congress.
A couple of weeks ago I voted "no" on the Sinai monitoring group who were supposed to go over to the Mideast to enforce the treaty. As I stated publicly at that time, the reason was because it is exactly the way we began our involvement in Vietnam. Even as far back as the mid 1950s, under President Eisenhower, we were sending logistics experts to advise. We sent in a few troops and the next thing we knew we were totally involved. I just didn't want to run the risk of this nation becoming involved. Once you get over there and you get forty or fifty Americans killed by the terrorists--I know the emotion of this country--you would have a certain group of our citizens, who I have great regard for and who are very powerful in shaping the policy of this country through the Congress, whose emotions would get all stirred up. The first thing you know they would make some public demand we should protect ourselves over there. I just simply did not want to run the risk of getting into even that much involvement. I don't approve of Kissinger, who, with no official authority from the Congress of the United States who is responsible for providing funds for these deployments, has made tentative commitments without first consulting the Congress. We have become a case after the fact and not before the fact.
This is reflected in some information that came out not too long ago that the military and the administration blatantly lied to Congress concerning the battle situation in Vietnam prior to the Tet offensive.
Yes. Truly that was one of the greatest mistakes in the history of this country--militarily, economically, and in the relationship between the legislative and the administrative branches. The relations became very strained, and I am not sure they have been completely restored to where the administration has the regard or respect for Congress
that it should. Perhaps the Congress has not restored the respect and admiration for the administration it should have.
As one of the men charged with the responsibility for running this country, how did it make you feel when you found out that you had been given complete misinformation?
Well, being human, my reaction was that I questioned from that point in time on anything else they told us. You looked at it as, "Well, is this true, or are we being misled again?" It dampens your respect, your enthusiasm to support the administration in Vietnam or whatever it may be. There is a breakdown in trust.
How can it ever be resolved?
Through candid, honest rapport, regardless of how unpleasant it might be or regardless of how serious it might be. But to try to minimize the situation involving the lives and futures of this country--either domestic or international--breaks down not only the relationship between legislative and administrative branches, but also on the part of the American public. There are many reasons why at the present time in the popularity polls Congress has reached about 16%; I believe we are right below the TV repairman or some such place. Maybe we are responsible, but I don't think we are altogether responsible. It is many of these things--Watergate, the misleading information from the State Department to the Congress during Vietnam--that has caused many people to not regard the legislative branch and to some degree the presidency itself with the same high regard they had at one time. We need to restore that--not for my sake because I don't suppose I'll be here too much longer--because to me the Congress is the nucleus of a true democracy. You change presidents every four years or every eight years.
You have a Supreme Court that is a judicial branch and is far removed from the people. I think it has been proven in the last twenty years that they have lost touch with what the majority of people want. I am not criticizing the Warren Court necessarily or some of their decisions--maybe they were right and I am wrong--but many of their liberal decisions made it seem like they were shedding tears for the criminal and caring nothing for the innocent victim or the breakdown of law and order in this country. When you take your three constitutional branches of government--the legislative, administrative, and judicial--beyond any question to me the legislative is the nucleus or the basis of a true democracy.
Has the office of the presidency grown so much in the past decade that it has thrown the balance of power out of kilter?
Yes. Government is far too big; we've created a monster through the bureaucracy at the request of the administration. Being a loyal Democrat I guess I'd have to be honest and go back to the days of Roosevelt. At that time, maybe many of these things were necessary. Unfortunately, too many emergency programs which are created to provide a solution at a given point in time become permanent programs which lose their effectiveness. They become sort of cancerous as far as cost and certainly produce no results. It was the proper thing to do at that time, and it was needed at that time, but somewhere down the line in the 1940s or 1950s we didn't realize the emergency was over, and we continued some of these programs. We went through another period of time--the Eisenhower-Kennedy-Johnson era--with the social revolution. Maybe some legislation at that point in time was necessary to accomplish what those in power wanted to accomplish. I'll give an example. Here in the South--I have never exactly approved of it--eleven or twelve states were subject to what is
known as the Civil Rights Voting Act to assure our minority friends would have the right to vote and not suffer any discrimination. Well, ironically, the Civil Rights Voting Act has come up for renewal twice since I have been in Congress. To my knowledge in the last ten years, I don't know of a single black person who has been refused the right to vote or been intimidated in any way. I can't speak for other states, but certainly not in the state of North Carolina. There may have been isolated single events here and there but no mass movement to block the black friends from voting. However, it is still believed by our government that we need the Civil Rights Voting Act. Actually we don't. We've accomplished what it proposed to do. So that's an example of what I mean: There may be a certain point in time when you need certain areas of legislation for (or to do) certain problems, but when you outgrow the need, it is my candid opinion that you ought to discard that particular program and get on to something else. That is one that may be farfetched, but it is a description of the problem as I see it. You have too much legislation still on the federal statutes that we've outgrown, that we don't need. Yet we still have the Civil Rights Commission in operation up there, and we add to that another layer of government.
When I say government is too big, there is no reason for it being as large as it is; it could be contained by re-examination of where we are from time to time. But the Congress refuses to do it and the administration doesn't want to give up their power of appointment and political patronage and that sort of thing. I am afraid we are getting completely out of hand with it. We need to reverse the trend in some manner--have a fire sale or that sort of thing or just take the whole book and start over again. Of course, that's impractical and that is sort of a wild statement, but I think you get what I mean. We are going to devour
ourselves is what it amounts to. Since I went there in 1966--this is off the top of my head--I know that approximately 110 to 115 new departments have been created. For that matter we have gotten three or four new cabinet positions in this period of time--HEW, the all powerful Environmental Protection Agency which daily effects the lives of the citizens of this district as well as the United States, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. All of these things sound good, but when you put them into practice, they become a sort of albatross around the necks of the American citizens. I think they are beginning to resent it, to rebel. Hopefully, some members of Congress are beginning to see this. We probably will have before the end of this session what is known as the Consumer Protection Act, creating the Consumer Protection Agency. That sounds real good--protecting the poor consumer. But are you protecting the poor consumer or are you adding another layer of red tape to industry and to our economy? I don't intend to vote for it, because it is an idealistic sort of thing which is going to bring nothing but confusion and harassment into the lives of the average citizen and merchant. It is my theory that instead of making government bigger, let's reduce government.
That reminds me of something indirectly related to that of a few years ago--urban renewal, to tear down complete sections of towns with federal money and rebuild them. I read in the paper that they have changed this concept completely because it uproots people. So they've decided to fix all the houses that are there or just tear down selected houses that are beyond repair.
Well, it sounded real good when they started out with urban renewal. You are going to take these substandard houses and give the poor people--both black and white--a decent
place to live. Nobody can argue with that, but in the process it has developed that more graft and shortchanging of the government has occurred than in any program in a long time. People who were in the contracting business--I am not condemning any one individual--took advantage of the situation, and the government did not get what it expected to get. So after three or four years, the poor people we were trying to help were in worse condition than they were before we tried to help them. That is an example of another program in which we've now completely changed direction.
Talking about excessive spending beyond your revenues, there is this one particular item--if this was the only one, it wouldn't be too bad--in that you have all sorts of expansion of government, and they have to be quartered somewhere, so we are acquiring more and more real estate. I believe it is now estimated one person out of five is on some government payroll--either local, state or federal--and sooner or later if we don't stop the trend we are going to have more people working for the government than are paying taxes. Then where will it end, I don't know.
I have noticed that you more than most congressmen seem to run your own office, rather than relying so heavily on administrative assistants. With many congressmen, you deal with the administrative assistant rather than the congressman. Is this by design on your part to take more off the load?
The administrative assistant, fine gentleman that he is, has not been elected by the people. In the broader sense he is not responsible to the people, although in my case, mine is. Not that I mistrust my administrative assistant--I have the highest regard, respect, and trust for him--but there are some decisions I have to make. He is not responsible for my
votes. I have to explain my votes; he doesn't. Therefore, I try to keep myself informed as to what I think the majority of people want, which I think I can interpret better than he because he has never run for public office, and I have many times. In addition, honestly and very candidly, I have a genuine interest in people and their problems. Therefore, I don't slough them off to a second party and say you attend to it and then find out later what happened. Also there is a point in time in government--sometimes in individual Social Security cases, veterans cases--in order to get the answer we desire, a call from the congressman's aide can't do it. I hope you will accept this in the manner which I mean. In other words, my voice is much louder in Washington than his, although he takes a lot of the load off me for which I am very grateful.
I don't work too hard; I just like to know what is going on in my office. I understand by rumor that there are some congressmen who perhaps only go to their office at about 5:00 in the afternoon and sign their mail and that is it. I mean they don't dictate their own letters; they relegate that to both male and female secretaries. I would be less than honest to say that I read and dictate an answer to every letter that comes into the office; I don't, but I do read every answer that goes out, unless it is a petition or something. In every case--regardless of how insignificant or important it might be--I do read the answers, and if I have any questions I will call the person who dictated the letter and ask him to bring me the original letter so I can relate it to the answer. I do that in order to have rapport when I am home. For example, last night I was in Pea Ridge, North Carolina--if you can believe there is such a place--which is at the southern end of the Albemarle Sound Bridge. I was addressing the Ruritan district lady's night affair. The Ruritans are a rural organization in
which each unit usually has twenty to twenty-five members; its a very fine little group. There were about one hundred people there, and during the evening three people came up about something they had written to our office. I don't remember everything--I don't pretend that I do--but it so happened that having analyzed the answers to the letters, I was able to converse with each of the three about the subject of which they were talking. For example, one was the mayor of Roper who was trying to figure out what to do with his raw sewage. A couple of months ago we got into some question about his coming over here with the city manager of Plymouth, only to find that he hadn't done the preliminary work. There was nothing that I could tell him at that point in time. Well, last night he said, "We've decided what we are going to do."
I said, "Yes. You are talking about your sewage problem, and you want to relate it to the town of Plymouth. When you wanted to come in August you had not perfected your application and therefore, we just wasted your time and mine. But now that you've perfected your application, whenever you want to meet with me, we'll get together and see what we can do." So that is the reason--I guess a selfish reason to try to get re-elected--to have at least a vague knowledge of what is going on in my office.
That is very wise, and Richard Nixon might still be in the White House had he not delegated all of his responsibility.
Yes. He isolated himself from what was going on, and I always said that was his gravest mistake.
[End of Part 3]
[End of Interview]