With her husband, Hodding Carter, Betty Werlein Carter published the Delta Democrat-Times in Greenville, Mississippi. It was a courageous paper that outspokenly promoted civil rights and other "New South" liberal issues in an "Old South" conservative state. Earlier, in Hodding's hometown of Hammond, Louisiana, they published the Hammond Daily Courier, which stood up against the political machine of Huey Long. Through all of this, Betty Carter raised her family of three sons and played an active role in the family's newspapers. Although rarely a writer, she was involved in many aspects of the papers' development, management, and survival, and she was always a link with the community.
Born in New Orleans in 1910, Betty Werlein was raised in a socially prominent family. Werlein's music store—the original publisher of "Dixie"—occupied a prominent place on Canal Street and was a leader of the business community. Her father, Philip Werlein, died when she was young and her mother, Elizabeth, raised the four children, and was "a frightfully important person" in Betty's life. Her mother was also active in the community and a leading preservationist in the French Quarter. Betty Werlein attended private school in New Orleans and graduated from Sophie Newcomb College, the woman's college of Tulane.
On October 14, 1931 she married [William] Hodding Carter Jr. from Tangipahoa Parish, fifty miles north of New Orleans. They first went to Jackson, Mississippi, where he was an Associated Press reporter covering the Mississippi legislature. Then in 1932, at "the bottom of the Depression," they founded the Hammond Daily Courier, with Betty as business manager and Hodding as editor/publisher. The paper took strong editorial stands against corruption and abuse of power in Huey Long's Louisiana state government, causing them at times to fear for their safety. When Long was assassinated, Betty's first thought was that Hodding might have done the deed.
In 1936 they moved to Greenville, Mississippi, where they started the Delta Star. Greenville's other paper was the conservative Democrat-Times. In 1938 they purchased the rival paper and merged the two into the Delta Democrat-Times. Betty recalled writing only one editorial, but instead devoted her attentions to the paper's management and community outreach. During the Second World War they moved to Washington, where Hodding joined the army and Betty worked for the Office of War Information. They returned to Greenville, where in 1946 Hodding won the Pulitzer and gained national attention for editorial writing. In 1953 he published Where Main Street Meets the River [New York: Reinhart & Company], a personal account of their lives and newspaper careers together. During these years, Betty conducted much of the research for Hodding's many writings. She also devoted her attentions to better education and equal rights for all people in Mississippi.
As Hodding Carter's eyesight failed and health declined, Betty took over more of the paper's management. Hodding Carter died in 1972. Their son Hodding III served as editor and publisher of the Delta Democrat-Times until he went to Washington as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs in Jimmy Carter's administration. His younger brother Philip then became the paper's editor and publisher, but he was torn between his interests in Greenville and in New Orleans, where he published the Vieux Carré Courier. Even after the Carter family sold the Delta Democrat-Times, Betty Carter continued to spend much of each year in Greenville, devoting her time and energies to the community.
[Begin Tape 1, Side A]
Ritchie: Well, first I'd like to say, Betty, that I'm delighted to be here and have an opportunity to meet you and thank you for participating in this project.
Carter: Nice statement, Anne Ritchie. I'm happy to be here and do it for you all and with you. Thank you.
Ritchie: Why don't we start at your beginning and tell me about your early childhood.
Carter: You know there's nothing anybody would rather talk about than their early childhood. So I'm going to go back to two very important people, my father and my mother.
Now, my mother was born and brought up in Bay City, Michigan, and her father was a dynamite manufacturer. Her name was Elizebeth Thomas—Elizebeth spelled by them E-l-i-z-e-b-e-t-h. When she was in high school in Bay City, they all called her Bessie. Mother had a good voice. She went through the Bay City public schools and then went to the Liggett School for a brief time, and her voice teacher said—the Liggett School is in Detroit, still going—her voice teacher said she should go to Europe to study voice. Well, in those days that was a wonderful idea, and her father had the money and they sent her to Paris. She studied at Miss White's and had a dame de compagnie as chaperone. I think Mother just became part of the jet set. But she did study voice. She was engaged to the Earl of Hardwick and she was a big balloonist, hot air balloonist, and her father said she could not get married until she knew America, her home country.
So she came home. She had met a girl in Paris from New Orleans, so she went to New Orleans to see New Orleans. There was a dinner going to be given for her and she had the list of who the guests were going to be. She thought the most interesting-sounding person on the list was Philip Werlein. He had a music store. She said, "Well, I have to have some sheet music because I want to sing." So a friend took her over to Philip Werlein, Limited and there was a man helping—a good-looking young man, he was—whatever age he was, about thirty, I guess—and he was helping someone push a piano, and it was a hot June day. But when he saw the lady, he put on his jacket, which I'm sure was a seersucker jacket, and he went over to meet the girl. The man she was with said that this was Elizebeth Thomas, "we're so sorry you can't come to dinner tonight"—because my father had said he had another engagement. Well, the actual fact was that whether he did or he didn't, what he said then was: "I've changed my plans, I will be there."
So they walked—the friend left and Mother and my father walked down Chartres Street to the cathedral, sat there for two hours, according to Mother's story, without saying a word, just side by side. They were married six weeks later in Bay City, Michigan. She sent a cable to Charles that said, "I'm breaking it all off." This next part I think is a part of the family story. He cabled back, "Do nothing, I'm on my way on the next ship." And then the story is that my father sent a cable that said, "Too late, we're already married." Well, all that's sort of a fun story, but they were married in August in Bay City, Michigan.
Mother came back to New Orleans. Here was a girl who had spent three or four years in Europe, she smoked, and she married into a family of conservative uptown New Orleans people. The family home was on the corner of St. Charles Avenue and Nashville. It's still there, it's a raised cottage. You know, with the steps, a beautiful old house. And it was very difficult for my grandmother, I'm sure, and her name was Betty. I really feel that the two of them were remarkable women to be so different and to have kept—never to have come to an open break. I think it was a measure of both of those women.
I was born in a raised cottage down in the lower Garden District on the corner of Felicity and Coliseum. Race Street intersects right there. And I've always felt that that was a very interesting omen of my future, Felicity, into the Coliseum, and Race, those were all aspects of the thing.
Very soon thereafter they bought a house on St. Charles Avenue, also a raised cottage, right above Jackson Avenue. And I grew up, then until I was about eleven years old we lived there. My father died when I was six and a half. Mother had four children. I was the oldest, and he was thirty-nine when he died. He had been—or he was then or had been president of the American Music Merchants Association. He had been the president of the Progressive League that became the Chamber of Commerce. He was the most active of the young businessmen in New Orleans. He was in everything, and when he died he had to be buried by the Elks and by the Shrine and by God knows who all.
And what did he die of? Probably some form of pneumonia. We have always said the flu but the flu epidemic came the following year. Mother kept us home from school that year, me and the three younger ones, because it was safer. But I don't think they had influenza back then, I think it was just pneumonia. The one thing I remember that I think sort of helps to date part of my life is that my father received a telegram, delivered, and he opened it in the hall and he looked at it with my mother and he said, "This means war." I think that it was the declaration that someone from Washington or New York had cabled, telegraphed it, about unrestricted submarine warfare. I just think the dating figures out that that was probably it, but then he died.
Ritchie: So by the age of 39, he had done quite a bit.
Carter: He was very, very prominent. He was very prominent. The family music company, Werlein's, had been established in 1852 in New Orleans; in 1842 in Vicksburg, and then they'd moved down to New Orleans. The first member of the family in America was a German from Bavaria and he went to Clinton, Mississippi. His name was Philip Peter Werlein and he went to Clinton, Mississippi, taught music, had his violin under his arm. I read something somewhere but I have never researched this that he was the head of a little college there, and there is a little college there but now it's a Baptist college. He married a woman named Margaret Halsey who was from Long Island and she was teaching at the same school. So my German ancestry is Philip—everything else that I can find is Anglo-Saxon, Scots or Welsh.
So Philip Werlein, the first Philip—in our family we have to say Philip first, second, third, fourth, my nephew is fifth—how else would you characterize them? The first Philip composed several pieces, one was a Jefferson Davis march, and right immediately before the Civil War he was, we have always said, the original publisher of Dixie. This is a question now. There is no question but what they published it, somewhere in the first year of the life of Dixie. But my brother says that he thinks he pirated this. Another legend is that he sent a check for $5 to Dan Emmett, but somebody else gave him $10 before the five arrived. I don't know. But we did publish Dixie and I have the Werlein version that was used at Jefferson Davis's inauguration.
My grandmother, who married the second Philip, was a Parham—Bettie Parham—and they had settled in Warren County, Mississippi, coming from Virginia. And her father was Dr. Greenway Parham.
So Mamoo—that was Bettie Parham—married the second Philip but he was much older; he was fifteen or twenty years older than she was. At the end of the Civil War—no, during the Civil War, the second Philip had volunteered for the—we've always said the St. Mary's Rifles—he was in school up near Shreveport in the earliest form of the Louisiana State University. I don't know what the name of it was. We can't find the St. Mary's Rifles today. In the family we know that this man, eighteen or nineteen, went to Avery Island where each of the southern states sent its own small contingent to protect its vested interests in the salt mines because they had to have salt. And, of course, I used to think this was simply because you had to have salt in your food. Well, of course, now I know that was the way you pickled your ham and you preserved the cabbage and whatever you were going to do. So that's where he spent those war years.
The first Philip was true to his American citizenship. He had married Margaret Halsey and he was very much an American. He had been a Catholic. He didn't want to be a priest, back in Bavaria. With his wife, he was now a Methodist, very big in the Methodist church in New Orleans. And his son was a top Methodist Sunday school superintendent for many years.
Ritchie: And his son was serving in the Confederate army.
Carter: Well, the first Philip—I don't know what he did. He was definitely in the church, in the Methodist church. It was the second Philip who was the big Sunday school superintendent at Rayne Memorial. Conservative, good, fine, upright people.
Mother comes in, you see, with all the pizzazz. When she got to New Orleans, she tried to be a real New Orleans type and the big thing to do, they were just getting Kingsley House started, sort of a settlement school in a poor section of New Orleans, and Mother volunteered to teach sewing, of which she knew nothing. So she had her sewing teacher come and teach her in the afternoon so she could teach the children in the morning.
Then our father died, that was in 1917. And shortly after that we got into the war and our home was sort of a headquarters for the French officers' wives and the French officers. During those war years the United States army began to think about airplanes and they wanted to find landing fields for their little airplanes, and Mother had been up in a balloon so she was an expert. The army officers had her going around with them to look at where they could put landing fields.
Then she helped put on the Liberty Loan drive. She headed the women's branch and she made speeches and did everything and she also helped organize the canteen corps. The canteen corps would go down with coffee and doughnuts for the troop trains at night as they went through.
She was very much involved with theosophy which she had learned about from Annie Besant over in England—I don't know if she knew her but that was an interest of her crowd. So here we've been baptized in the Episcopal church and my father's first cousin was an Episcopal minister in Baton Rouge but he would come and christen us whenever the proper time came. His name was Philip, too—Philip Werlein also.
So then we have that and we have the Methodist grandmother who I would go and spend the weekends with, because I was the oldest grandchild, in the house up on St. Charles. Mother was tender, she was absolutely great, there isn't a girl of my generation or our group in New Orleans that didn't just adore her. With us she was absolutely open, she'd talk to you about anything. But she had very firm and strict rules about what you did. And she had no objections about smoking but as we grew up she said absolutely no drinking. She said you have too much trouble handling your hormones anyway. So until you have a husband to change it, who says something different, no drinking.
So we didn't. And there were three of us —Lorraine, Evelyn, and the fourth child was Philip—Philip the fourth.
Ritchie: How close in age were you?
Carter: Well, four of us under six and a half, so she was busy—trying to get a boy. And the story about that is that the first baby was born—me—and she said, "Boy or girl?" and the nurse said, "A darling little girl, Mrs. Werlein," and she said, "Thank you, very much." And before that she had gone to a doctor and she said, "Do you think that smoking could hurt my baby?" And he said, "We don't know but we think so." So she quit smoking, not for her mother-in-law but for her children. So she didn't smoke while she was carrying me.
Then she had the second child and she said to the nurse—of course, everything was done at home in those days, there was a doctor but he'd left—but anyway, "Boy or girl?" and the nurse said, "A darling little girl, Mrs. Werlein." "Thank you, very much."
The third child, "Boy or girl?" "A darling little girl." "Thank you very much." Still not smoking.
Fourth child, a little boy, "A beautiful little boy, Mrs. Werlein." "Thank you, very much, give me a cigarette." And she went back to smoking. But she was a woman of great discipline because if she wanted to not smoke, she didn't smoke. And she had a very good rule which made it possible for her to achieve a great deal—the rule was to do for yourself what nobody else can do for you, and by that she meant rest, eat properly, get recreation, go to the bathroom, the things that you have to do for yourself. After that you can organize and deputize, and she did it.
Ritchie: First you take care of yourself.
Carter: You take care of yourself.
So I had those two influences, my mother with the theosophy—Lorraine, the second child, and I went to the theosophy Sunday school for at least a year down in the Maison Blanche building where we learned about auras and transmigration and reincarnation, I guess. And my grandmother, with her very strong Bible teachings and "Do not read the comics on Sunday" but finally she let us do it.
And for the third strong influence—but not really—was the governess that we had, the nurse, because Mother was so active and thank God she had Mamadee. Mamadee was Elise Wagner, a German woman who came to Mother as her personal maid when she was first married and then she had me. But by the time she had the second child she put Mamadee in charge of the children. And Mamadee was a wonderful woman but really a rather ignorant woman. And she talked French to us because she had been a ladies' maid in Paris. So it was not the best French accent, whatever French accent I got was later at Newcomb, from the point of view of correct.
So I would come in and start teaching Lorraine the creed which Mamoo had taught me, "and I believe in the holy Catholic church." And Mamadee was a Roman Catholic and coming from Germany, where the fight between the Protestants and the Catholics was still going on strongly, and say, "You have no right to teach a child that, you are not a Catholic." And I said, "But it's not the same."
So anyway, I learned from those three women that you do not accept the first thing you hear. You have got to hear the other side of the story because there was always another side of the story. However, Mother's rule was, if you differed with her, you could differ, but when she gave an order, you did it immediately and you could discuss it later. And she was right. If she had four little creatures all rising up, saying, "No, no, no," she could never have gotten through it.
Well, after she was so active with the war, then she became active in the French Quarter in New Orleans, helping to establish the little theater, Le Petit Théâtre. And something else down there.
And in the meantime, early in the 20's, she bought property in the French Quarter—I'm telling you too much about Mother, but it's very important—
Ritchie: She was an influence?
Carter: Oh, Mother was the person. In fact, you should be interviewing her. Ah-ha, but you can't! Unfortunately.
Mother at one point decided she would take the foreign service examination, which she did. Judge Pierre Crabites, the head of the International Court in Alexandria, Egypt, was in New Orleans, and he helped her; he was home on sabbatical. He helped her with her international law. And she had French but she went for the examination and when she saw how awful the man was who gave the oral examination, she just went on and offered Italian which she knew from Italian songs, and Russian. You know, she was a devil, from that point of view.
Well, she didn't pass. We don't know exactly what year it is and the State Department does not have a record of her taking the examination but she took it. And I think it was about '23 or '24, and they certainly didn't want a woman—any woman—but they did take one about the next year. And they certainly didn't want a widow with four children. So she didn't get it.
I went to McGehee's, a private school, Miss Louise McGehee's school where there were no boys. My father came home one day, when I'd been going to Newman, which—well, in those days we called it Manual Training [Isidore Newman Manual Training School]. But I went up there to kindergarten and in the beginning of first grade, he came home and there were boys in the yard and he said he wasn't going to have his little girls in school with boys.
Now also—I have heard this from Bill Hogan. Bill Hogan was the head of the history department at Tulane—you may have known William Ransom Hogan. He was a wonderful guy. Bill says that he heard that why I went to McGehee's is not because there were boys but because there were Jewish boys that I was playing with. My father didn't want his little girls playing with those Jewish boys.
Well, I think he probably had the prejudices of his period. Probably couldn't have a mention of it with being in business on Canal Street and very active in everything. But he didn't want his little girls playing with boys. So I went to McGehee's [Miss Louise S. McGehee's School]. Sylvanus Morley, an archaeologist, spoke at McGehee's. So the first thing I ever wanted to be was to be an archaeologist and go to Mexico.
Then I was supposed to go to Barnard but I got a scholarship for the highest grades in the senior class at McGehee's. And it was 1927 and the times were inflated, and Mother had all her children and she said, "Well, go to Newcomb for a year." But of course, by the time you get to Newcomb for a year, the freshman class president, involved with your sorority, Pi Beta Phi—I never was a big sorority girl, though, I was always out on campus. I made a terrible mistake going to Newcomb from a school where there were twenty-two girls that graduated and here there were six hundred girls, and I figured I could never know all those people by name. So I just went down the halls, aisles, streets and paths saying "Hi!" So everybody said, "Isn't she friendly!" She was friendly but she trained herself not to remember a name, not to try. It was terrible.
Ritchie: Did your sisters also go to the all-girls school?
Carter: Yes, they did.
Ritchie: And where would your brother have gone?
Carter: Well, now, by the time that we got to that—Mother sold the house down on St. Charles, I think in '22 or '23, and for a year we lived in my grandmother's house while we were building a house on Nashville Avenue within that first block where the family had had a pecan orchard, back of the big house. So Aunt Ethel May [Werlein Felder] built one house, Aunt Fred [Werlein] built another house (and my grandmother lived with her) and my mother built another house.
We were in New York one winter, in New York, and I think it's '22, and we went to the Montessori school, which was fascinating. Mother was always ahead. I remember she had all three little girls gather on
her bed one day, and by invitation we came in, and that's where she gave us the facts of life. Nobody does it that way any more, but she was so far ahead to have done it at all. I don't know how I got on to that.
In New York Mother was with this crowd—big financier types—and they were investing in German marks, so she invested in German marks, which was nothing for a widow to do. So by the time that Philip came along, she decided it was more important for the girls to go to the girls' school, the private school, because the boy needed to know how to carry on in the world with everybody, so she sent him to the public school. He also went to camp, to get away from all the girls because, you see, there was Mother, Mamadee still with us, just adoring the little boy and doing everything for him, and the three girls. So it was a way of getting Philip away from all those women.
Ritchie: Was that unusual to have a German governess?
Carter: It's interesting. I've thought about that. Of course, Mother considered her French because she talked French to us. Down in the Garden District, thinking back to it, most of those families had white nurses. They had Irish girls. And I have one cousin who has the most horrible accent to this day—she's about two years younger than I am—and it goes right straight back to the Irish nurse, Nellie. The Whitneys lived across the street, they had white servants. The Bucks had white servants. And an interesting thing, thinking back to it, I don't know anybody in the Garden District who had colored nurses, but maybe there were some, and maybe the white nurses had to sit together so you only knew the children who had white nurses. Maybe.
Ritchie: You went out with them.
Carter: Yes. So Mamadee stayed on and was supposed to be the housekeeper when we were older and she was wonderful.
Ritchie: Your mother was fortunate, then, after your father died not to have to worry about working.
Carter: That's right, she didn't. But she did lose a lot of money. After that she had to worry somewhat. She bought a house in the French Quarter, in about '23, I'm making it up. And she later became—this had nothing to do with the French Quarter—the Sainger Theater phoned her and asked if she would be head of the movies in the South under Will Hays, to do censorship within the industry.
And so for six years she had that title and traveled all over the South because they were putting in—a lot of states wanted to put in—censorship because the movies were so terrible. Looking back on them, they were pretty bad. But also, were they any worse than they are now? Probably not.
Mother was level-headed. She understood what could be done and what couldn't. And she traveled all over. She came to Greenville once—I'll get to that later. Mother had that paid job until about '32, I guess it was, or '31, and then after that she devoted all of her time to the French Quarter. Even earlier, she helped to get the amendment to the state constitution passed by which that section of the city is set up as an historic district. And in the book called Preservation Comes of Age put out by the National Trust and published by the University of Virginia—in the first chapter there's the statement that the most prominent of the early conservationists/preservationists was Elizebeth T. Werlein.
Ritchie: I believe I read in one of the travel books—is there a home in the French Quarter where she owned or lived?
Carter: Yes, yes, right.
Ritchie: And they recognize her as an early pioneer.
Carter: Definitely. And there wouldn't be any French Quarter today if she hadn't worked when she did. She was on the phone every day. She didn't get out of bed until about 11:30 but she had the phone going, to the mayor, to—everybody. She was terrific—and saved the French Quarter, there's no question about it. Today they give a medallion annually in New Orleans, the Elizebeth T. Werlein Preservation Medal, recognizing the outstanding preservationist of the year.
Ritchie: Oh, how nice.
Carter: Yes, that is nice.
Ritchie: So her active involvement in the community had a definite influence on you.
Carter: Well, there's no way to say what it did to me. I think that the Methodist grandmother had a very strong influence, too. I remember that when we were children, sitting around the table at 2228 St. Charles, the house down on the Avenue, and we were discussing what we wanted to do or be, and I said, well, what I wanted to have was an orphanage. Now, I really think that was my grandmother's influence—and I was thinking I would take her house and make it into an orphanage.
Ritchie: The Methodist home approach.
Carter: Yes, probably. And Lorraine said she wanted to have rubies and diamonds, and Evelyn said she wanted a bubble bath. Well, you know, just a bunch full of girls sitting and talking. But in a way, we didn't get exactly what we wanted—Lorraine certainly didn't, but she's a wonderful woman. And Evelyn was a darling woman; and Evelyn never got as involved in the community as Lorraine did, the middle girl, and she still does things. She does things, but she has other problems.
Ritchie: Does she live in New Orleans?
Carter: Out from New Orleans near Pass Christian.
Ritchie: After describing your mother and grandmother, I can see how they would have been very different but you said they never—
Carter: They never had the open clash. I think that after we came back from New York, Mother was really hard up and she had to come to a different understanding with Philip Werlein, Limited, as to her pension and what she was going to get. And my grandmother—no matter who was president of the company—she knew what was going on and she was really the little gray lady in the company. She was sweet and dear and I adored her but she was rather hated, not hated but not loved, by my younger sisters. Maybe they felt that she was unfair to Mother, they had heard that through Mother's sister. But I think she probably was as fair within her standards as she could be.
So anyway, I think that when we came back from New York, my grandmother may have made a very strong pitch that we had to go to Sunday school, no more of this theosophy. So we went around the corner to Trinity Episcopal where we were baptized and went to Sunday school. And I said when I was sixteen, I've had enough of this. I know more than they do, thanks to my grandmother. So I said I would teach but I will not go to Sunday School.
Well, Mother had to get me there. So she phoned the minister and he said I could teach. So I taught and I enjoyed it.
Well, anyway, I did not get to be an archaeologist, and in French—at Newcomb I majored in French, minored in history and Spanish and was going to translate when I was graduated. Monsieur Durel thought that I would be a good translator. But he didn't know that Hodding Carter was in the wings.
Ritchie: In high school and in college did you do any writing? Did you have any journalism?
Carter: No. In high school I sold ads for the Spectator—that came out twice a year. You went to the family, to the father of girls in the school, and sold the ads. Big to-do. But it was a learning thing. And at Newcomb, I was the Newcomb correspondent for the Tulane Hullabaloo so I had to get in a column occasionally about what was going on. No journalism training. And my English training consisted of freshman English, which was required, and I think maybe sophomore English. But I was so busy with French, history and Spanish that I didn't do any more than that.
Ritchie: Did your sisters follow you to Newcomb?
Carter: Lorraine went to New York to study sculpture and Evelyn made her debut.
Ritchie: So all three of you had different—
Carter: Different interests and ways of looking at life.
Ritchie: Do you think your mother favored any one of the three paths that you took?
Carter: No, I do not. If she did, we didn't know anything except that she loved us all and we loved her. And we would go in the summers to Amite, Louisiana, while she had the paid job. We couldn't go anywhere else, it had to be close. Mother would come and we'd be—in college then, not too young—in fact the summer that I met Hodding still—on the dark porch, listening to the frogs and the night sounds, and Mother would sit with us and we'd take turns sitting on her lap! You know? Just sweet, wonderful. But the whole time she was very much in charge of the situation.
[End Tape 1, Side A; Begin Tape 1, Side B]
Ritchie: Was there ever any thought that any of the girls would go into the family business?
Carter: No, no. None of us showed any interest in that. And then, of course, it was dedicated, it was understood from the beginning, that my little brother would, which, of course, he did. So he grew up and he was president. Shortly before he died he became chairman of the board. And his son is not interested in that sort of thing at all; he's into Zen and nutrition. He's absolutely marvelous on health foods. He did not go [into the family business]. But his sister, Philip's sister and my niece, is now president of Werlein's.
Ritchie: Is she the first woman to do this?
Carter: Yes, yes. The first overtly because I feel that my grandmother was there all along. Certainly she controlled that while she was there.
Ritchie: Tell me about when you first met Hodding.
Carter: Whee-e-e! Well, when I was rushed Pi [Beta] Phi there was a girl [Corinne Carter] who came down from Hammond and she was rushed Pi Phi and Kappa [Kappa Gamma]. She was very pretty, big blue eyes. And she went Kappa and I went Pi Phi. But when we got to physics, freshman year, you had to have a laboratory mate. So we chose each other. We were the only people who knew each other. She was extremely
good with the experiments. Each had to do her experiment but you could take the better figures, so it was always her figures that we took. I understood the principles, so I would try to explain the principles and she was doing the experiments and between us we did very well.
But she had a brother who was graduated from Bowdoin and he was at Columbia in the journalism school and his name was Hodding. She says that she telegraphed him "Wire simple ballad collect." So he wrote her a simple ballad, which she only got a "C" on, and she said she could have gotten a "C" without the cost of the telegram, and she also had to knit him a sweater because he'd done it.
He sounded fascinating. He had been head of everything literary or writing at Bowdoin—the yearbook, the literary magazine, the newspapers, the poetry review—everything. So he was at Columbia with the idea that he was doing journalism.
Ritchie: That was quite a distance for him to go.
Carter: Well, the family, the Carters, had gone to Maine, I think since 1908, for the summer. And that was all done by Grandmother's daughter Lillian [Carter Beit] who had married a very, very wealthy Englishman, Otto Beit. So he took a house for Grandmother, Hodding's grandmother, up in Maine and the family would go up and stay there for a visit. And one aunt, one of Mr. [Will] Carter's sisters, as a second husband married an Army officer who when he retired moved to Camden, Maine, and bought the little weekly paper there to have something to do. And Toto [Robbins], his wife, Hodding's aunt—Toto's son was Hamilton Hall by her first husband. And Ham went to Bowdoin, and Hodding adored Hamilton, they were best friends. And Hodding went to Bowdoin instead of the University of Virginia. And Uncle Otto would put up the money for twenty-two of his nieces and nephews to go to the college of their choice.
Ritchie: How nice.
Carter: Wonderful. Very, very rich.
He went to Bowdoin and then the year he graduated from Bowdoin he went to England—he did a bicycle tour. So he was at Bowdoin and then he went to Columbia after he graduated, with the idea of going into journalism. But the summer that he graduated from Bowdoin before he was in New York, he was in London for the wedding of a cousin. I was in London because when I graduated from McGehee's in '27, that's my year, Mother gave me a trip to Europe, with the Bureau of International Travel, which was a very good group to go with, you had excellent lecturers.
Ritchie: So it was an organized group.
Carter: Oh, yes, and there were only four young people in the group, and the rest were college professors or college-oriented people. But we had wonderful lecturers, the tops, Dr. Lord from Oberlin and Dr. somebody-else from somewhere.
But when I got to London, Mother had told me to get in touch with Marguerite Carter. Well, I did, but she said that she could not receive me because she had a wedding of a daughter but if I would contact her five days later she would like it so much if I would come out but I was not going to be there. Thank God I didn't go then, didn't meet Hodding who would have been right there. I, rather pudgy, braces across my teeth, a very innocent high school private school type, not even a dating type. I went to the junior dancing group, what do you call it, the Junior Dancing Club. About once a month I went to the dance. I certainly was never popular. So I didn't meet him, thank God.
Then he went to Columbia. So then I had my freshman year at Newcomb, and I knew Corinne [Carter]. That next summer we were in Amite, and I telephoned her at Hammond, which was fifteen miles away.
Amite was where we used to go for the summer while Mother had her paid job. An antebellum house with the drop cord light and the bats would come down the middle of the hall, and we'd try to get them with our tennis racquets, never did.
So I told Corinne I was having a birthday party, and to try to come and to bring some men. And she said, well, she couldn't come, she was going to Portland, Oregon, to visit her relatives but that she would try to send her brothers. Only one brother came, Hodding, who was the one that I wanted to have come. Her younger brother was very much dating a girl whom he later married, so he didn't come but Hodding brought another man with him.
I had seen Hodding by then because—my teeth were being straightened—I had to go to New Orleans during the summer to have them tighten the braces. And one day coming back on the train—Corinne was on the train, and she said, "Hodding's going to meet us." So I looked out the window and I saw him. And he saw me. And he asked Corinne, "Now who is that cute girl?" And she said, "Oh, that's Betty Werlein, but there are a lot of girls who are cuter who are Kappas."
He liked me when he met me. And I thought he was very attractive but the trouble is that he sat on the front porch talking to Mother all evening, except he came in and danced with me three times. And then we had a date and he took me to the Deke [Delta Epsilon Kappa] boat ride. And that was so wonderful because it got cool. And he took his sweater off and put it on me. I could have swooned, it was so marvelous.
But that had taken a long time, from July until September, for him to phone me for a date. But he was busy with all these more sophisticated girls.
Ritchie: You were a bit younger than he was.
Carter: Yes, I was three and a half years younger, but very much younger in some ways. The kind of girl whose mother had told her everything so scientifically that when I heard a dirty joke I didn't understand it. And my good friend Virginia had to interpret the jokes for me under the chinaberry tree at McGehee's. They would tell these stories and I would ask the other girls, "What does that mean?" I didn't understand a thing. If they'd used good words like penis, I could have understood, but with dirty jokes, you've got to understand the jargon which I wasn't old enough to do.
So that's how I met Hodding and he dated me all my sophomore year and my junior year and my senior year. And by my junior year I was very popular and dated up three weeks ahead. And I just realized that Hodding Carter wasn't going to wait around for me. If I wanted him I'd better quit all this foolishness. So I quit having dates with other people.
And then my senior year he was working—he taught first at Tulane, thinking he wanted a Rhodes scholarship which he didn't get from Bowdoin because they didn't realize he was as serious as he was, I think that's what they said. So now you had to have an academic connection if you did that. And Cleanth Brooks and he roomed together at Mrs. [Paul] Capdevielle's, she had a place where Tulane students, post-graduates could room. And he and Cleanth were both accepted to come for the orals, to be interviewed for the Rhodes. But by then, Hodding had heard that you couldn't be married if you had a Rhodes. And he had decided, he said, that I would never wait for him.
Ritchie: If he went off for—
Carter: Yes, for two years. Cleanth's girl was Virginia "Tinkum" Blanchard. Cleanth said, well, "Tinkum" would wait. So Hodding drove him up to Baton Rouge and Cleanth got it. So Cleanth has always said that he had me to thank for his Rhodes scholarship.
Ritchie: For Hodding withdrawing from the contest.
Carter: I think Cleanth would have gotten it anyway because Cleanth was the Rhodes type.
So then Hodding and I wanted to get married but there was no question of it, we never even thought of getting married because I was in college and after his year at Tulane as a teaching fellow—
Ritchie: What was he teaching?
Carter: He was teaching English. And he was supposed to be writing his master's on Emily Dickinson; he never finished it. And by then he decided, well, he was going to go into newspapers. So he got a job at the New Orleans Item and the first paycheck—which was pay, not check but money—he went to get it from the paymaster and he said, "I think there's some mistake." Here he had four years of college and a year at Columbia and a year at Tulane and he had twelve dollars and a half, that was his pay for the week.
Ritchie: But it didn't tear him away from the field, did it?
Carter: No, it didn't. That's a good point. He loved it. He loved it.
Ritchie: What type of work was he doing?
Carter: Oh, he was a reporter. And it wasn't actually for the Item, it was for the [New Orleans] Tribune which was the morning paper that the Item put in to compete with the [New Orleans] Times-Picayune. New Orleans newspapers were all in terrible straits.
So he did that. That was my junior year and by then he'd bought an automobile. He was working for the United Press and the United Press had a world service that they would send to the ships at sea, a condensation of the outstanding news. So he had to take that out to some radio shortwave that sent it out to all the ships at sea.
So he would come by and pick me up and drive me out, I'd drive with him. So I'd always have to get home from a date in time to go with Hodding. Mother didn't really approve but she didn't stop me because it was so innocent.
Ritchie: So he was writing the news to be sent out.
Carter: That's right.
Ritchie: So he would do the reading of the different news items and condense them.
Carter: Condense it. Then we would drive out to wherever that was. And what they paid him for delivering it, maybe a dollar or so, that's how he paid for his car.
So he had this job with the United Press. And I was a senior and I was student body president by then. And he used to come and help me do things. And the UP began getting stories that were obviously stolen from the AP. So they tried to figure out where the leak was and the UP manager, as it was finally discovered, had made an arrangement with the switchboard operator at the Times-Picayune. She would hear the stories coming in for the paper and pass the material on to the UP. When he was pinned down, the manager said a reporter at the Times-Picayune, Annette Duchein, whom Hodding had known from Columbia—a girl from Baton Rouge and a terrific woman—the manager said that Annette was giving him the information. He was covering up for his paid informant and Hodding knew Annette wouldn't give AP news to the UP.
So Hodding said, "You are a goddam liar," and he rose up and knocked the manager down. And in the scuffle, the typewriter fell over—oh, and the other man in the office was Hart Bynum from Baton Rouge, also a friend of Annette's whom Hodding had met through Annette. So Hodding knocked down the manager and he ran down the steps saying, "I resign!" And Hart ran down the steps behind him, "I resign!" And the UP manager got up and said, "You're fired!" So we don't know which came first, whether the resignation or the firing, didn't matter, he was out of a job. It was the spring of '31.
So we couldn't get married although I graduated. So then I went to Chunn's Cove Camp near Asheville. I guess that was my second year. And I taught tennis—I never had a tennis lesson but I did play tennis.
Ritchie: Like your mother with the sewing.
Carter: That's right! Only she did take the lessons the night before but I read the book. I would tell the children in my cabin—kiosk, or whatever we called it—I would tell them these stories about my youth, how I had been a Russian princess and how I rode my little pony, God knows what I told them, but they adored it.
And I was in charge of the annual magazine that the school put out. So that was my literary training. And Hodding went out to the farm to visit with Mr. Carter. And he and Hart Bynum were both out of jobs, '31 was the year, a bad year financially for the United States.
So they started writing short stories under the name Carter Bynum. And they would divide the profits. They sold one story which was actually written by Hodding; it appeared in Collier's or one of the magazines. And they got $300 or $500 for it, I think $300.
Ritchie: It was a good price.
Carter: It was very good. And they wanted more stories from Carter Bynum, war stories about Marines in Haiti, but they had gotten materials from an interview with a Marine in Haiti, and there weren't any more materials. So they never were able to write another story about that.
And I was at camp, and we wanted to get married. It was $500, because Mr. Carter and my mother both thought that though it was very, very iffy, we could get married with the $500, live for a year in Taxco, Mexico, where Mother's good friend Natalie Scott was and where Bill Spratling was living. Now, Bill Spratling had been part of Mother's group, much younger than Mother, and he was in the architecture field. Spratling had gone to Taxco, where he revived the old silversmith work and told the Indians to come back to their original designs, not to be making the cheap reproduction stuff.
So they said we could live there for $500 and we were going to do that and Hodding would write. But about that time the Associated Press offered Hodding a job in Jackson, Mississippi, to be their bureau manager. Well, that was a whole lot surer, according to Mr. Carter and my mother. And so the decision was—and that was at $50 a week. Well, that was a lot of money. I mean, a lot of girls I knew were getting married on $25 a week and we were $50 a week. So we were rich.
So we were married on October the 14th, 1931, and we moved to Jackson, Mississippi.
Ritchie: You were married in New Orleans?
Carter: Yes, at my grandmother's house.
Ritchie: A small, family wedding?
Carter: It was supposed to be. By the time we telephoned all the people we simply couldn't not invite, it was about 300. It was ridiculous; we did it all by telephone but we intended it to be just a small family wedding. Mother had too many friends, I had too many friends, Hodding's family had friends.
Ritchie: Was your grandmother living at the time?
Carter: It's a good question. She must have been. I do not remember her that day.
Ritchie: I just wonder what she thought of all the—
Carter: Yes. I'll tell you what. I think that she had built the house back of the old Werlein big family house and maybe by then Uncle Parham [Werlein] was living in that house because he had become president of the company and she felt that he needed the big house. So she was living in this house right behind it with a daughter who had not yet married. So she was with us—I think this is correct, I don't know.
So we were married and drove off into the wild, blue yonder, to Pass Christian, Mississippi, to Bill Weigand's house, he was a New Orleans newspaperman. He lent Hodding the house for our honeymoon. And we were there—I think we were married on a Wednesday but I may be wrong. Maybe we were married on a Thursday, whatever October 14th was, 1931.
Ritchie: Did a minister marry you?
Carter: Oh, yes, Dr. [Robert S.] Coupland from Trinity. It was a pretty wedding. We got to Pass Christian. Well, I'll tell you, I was really the hottest little number before I got married and scared to death when I got married. I don't think honeymoons were made for virgins. You know, they really are scary. And so we were awfully glad on Saturday when the Associated Press notified us that there was going to be a special session of the legislature and Hodding had to get to work immediately. So we went on through Hammond—I don't know why I'm telling you all this.
Ritchie: Well, this is what we want. We want your life story.
Carter: Oh, oh! So anyway, we went through Hammond.
Ritchie: How would you have gone in those days? [Interstate] 55 obviously is new.
Carter: Oh, that's new. Oh, I don't know from Hammond to whatever that highway was, I assure you that the best it could have been would have been macadam, or what do we call that—asphalt. I'm sure it wasn't concrete—maybe even gravel.
And we went through Hammond and then we got up to Jackson on a Saturday, it was the last night of the fair, the State Fair. And we went to that, it was very cold. And before we went to the fair, I think this is correct, if it was not that night, it was Sunday night, and this man I didn't know was having a bath in the bathroom—meaning my husband—and the Robert E. Lee Hotel was very modern and it had piped radio into your room through the transom. So I was listening to that. And here comes Will Rogers and he says America is the only nation in the world that ever went over the hill to the poor house in two Ford automobiles. I wanted to tell this man what I had just heard. But I wouldn't open the door, so I sort of knocked on it. And he said, "What, what what?" And I opened it just a crack and I said, "I've just heard what Will Rogers said that this is the first country in the world to go over the hill in two Ford automobiles."
Well, in a way, looking back on it, that was really the introduction to our lives for the next few years because it was the Depression in a big, big way. And they had this special session of the legislature.
I was terrible; all I did was I went up and would listen, I was introduced on the floor which is something that I'm sure they do in all legislatures, but it's very nice.
Ritchie: You were introduced as a guest?
Carter: Yes, as the wife of the AP correspondent. "There she is, up in the balcony, how do you do?" I went to the—participated in—oh, the Welcome Wagon came to call and they said, "Are you Episcopalian or Presbyterian?" I said, "Well, we aren't going to do much about either church but I'm an Episcopalian and Hodding is Presbyterian." So the Episcopalians came to call and asked me to come to the Guild. They had two Guilds. And one was making a patchwork quilt and the other was playing bridge. So I decided to play bridge which I had done a little of. And with Hodding in the special session, and it was meeting morning, noon and night, in time, sort of near the end of our Jackson period, I was playing bridge morning, noon and night.
And Hodding was covering the terrific session and the major issue was how they were going to pull the state of Mississippi out of absolute bankruptcy. They couldn't sell a bond. The schoolteachers couldn't get paid, nothing. And they were fighting over whether to put in a sales tax. And I believe—and I have not researched this but I've always heard or believed that Mississippi was the first state to put in a sales tax, three percent.
Well, it was a hot, hot issue. A man, a legislator from Natchez, contacted Ralph Wheatley, Hodding's boss in New Orleans, and said that Hodding was writing prejudiced, unbalanced stories. And so Wheatley put on the machine, "Don't file until I get there. Don't send out any stories."
Ritchie: He was coming up from New Orleans?
Carter: Yes. Wheatley used to drink a lot. And several days went by and he didn't come. And here was the UP getting out its stories. And the Commercial Appeal, which was from Memphis, was the big out-of-town newspaper with an agency there—it was filing. The Times-Picayune was filing and here was the AP not filing. So in order to file, there was a man in the office—no, there was a man who had worked for the AP bureau, as a printer, just to punch out the stories. So the issue was so hot Hodding didn't see how he could not file. But Wheatley had said he didn't want that man around the AP office. But he knew how to punch out the story. So Hodding told him to come back and he'd personally pay him to punch out the story so Hodding could cover the committee meetings and the hall talk and all the rest of it.
So Wheatley got there and he said, "You're fired because you filed when I told you not to file and you had this man punch it when I told you not to."
Ritchie: What do you mean by "punch it"?
Carter: That's when you put it on the tape, you know. The story had to be punched onto the tape and then you fed that into the machine and it went to the teletype at the other end.
Ritchie: Oh, I see. So Hodding would write the story and give it to this man to punch it.
Carter: Yes. Yes. Now, Hodding knew how to punch it because if you knew how to type there was very little more to learn. But you did have to know how to do it.
Ritchie: But he was busy covering—
Carter: Covering the committee; he was the AP man.
So, anyway, I don't know if Wheatley came or he sent a telephone call and said, "You're fired." Well, that was all fine and good. On Sunday we went by the post office to see if there was a letter and there was a letter from Kent Cooper. And Kent was the—I don't know what he was, the head of the whole AP or maybe the head of our area of the AP at that time, I don't know. He fired Hodding.
Ritchie: Over this incident?
Carter: Oh, yes. And he said that, the point they were making was that he'd been not balanced in his presentation and with the AP you had to be very careful to make it equal. So Kent Cooper's letter, which nobody can find, said he would never make a newspaperman and that he was fired. But years later Kent couldn't find the letter and neither were we able and he said that he didn't say that, he just said Hodding needed more years to be seasoned.
Well, whatever it was, we were out of a job.
Ritchie: And this was just a short time that he'd been—
Carter: Four or five months after we were married. And it was 1932 and I think that was the bottom of the Depression. And there were no jobs in New Orleans. Because every paper had let off everybody except their top seniority people. They were certainly not rehiring and they were still letting people go.
So we got to Hammond. Hodding said we would park at his father's and not at my mother's. So we parked at his father's and he went into the city but there really wasn't anything there.
Ritchie: And you didn't consider staying in New Orleans?
Carter: No, not with Mother, no. No, but he went in to New Orleans and he talked to all the newspaper people and with Jim Thomson, the publisher-editor of the New Orleans Item, where Hodding had worked. But nobody—everything, the papers didni't know if they were going to make it.
Ritchie: I just wanted to go back one minute to Hodding's first firing or resigning at UP. Don't you think it's interesting that that man blamed a woman, the woman reporter?
Carter: I hadn't thought of that. But it was just the usual thing, I gather. We weren't conscious of our sexism at all.
Ritchie: I wonder if they [women] might have been less able to defend themselves—not as well established.
Carter: Except that Annette was beautifully established, so he chose wrong.
Ritchie: So she survived the ordeal?
Carter: Oh, yes. She did. But the thing that Hodding objected to was that he dared to say a thing like that about Annette, because she wouldn't do that. And he knew she wouldn't do it.
And the UP manager was a friend of hers, too. He was part of this little crowd.
[End Tape 1, Side B; Begin Tape 2, Side A]
Ritchie: So we'll start again talking about your—
Carter: Going to Hammond.
Ritchie: Days going to Hammond, that's right.
Carter: So here we are, out at the Carters. And Hodding goes into New Orleans, he tries to see what in the world he can do. And there really wasn't—there wasn't anything. And we did have $300 or $500 left from our wedding money. My grandmother had given us some money and I bought that Napoleon desk and a sofa, a chair and a coffee table, that's what we got out of it, and had some money left.
Ritchie: Did you buy those in New Orleans? The desk is a beautiful piece.
Carter: Yes, a beautiful piece. Young Hodding says that's what he wants, he's put his name on it.
So what are we going to do? There was a strong, weekly paper in Hammond, the strongest weekly paper in the state, The Vindicatur. George Campbell ran that and his daughter Mildred sold all the ads. And who was Edna? I cannot remember but she was in on it. Maybe she was his wife or his aide. I don't know.
So we couldn't start a weekly paper. And some man, Sidney Williams, had either started or was thinking of starting a mimeograph sheet. And Hodding said no, that it wouldn't be a mimeograph sheet, it would be a paper. So we decided that we would start a paper in Hammond, Louisiana, daily, five days. It was a tabloid. I would be the business manager and he would be the editor/publisher. I can't remember what date we put out the first paper.
Where was our first office? Our first office has to have been around the corner from the theater because I remember that the first dollar we got, we framed, we hung it on the wall, and within days it was stolen. And we pretty well thought we knew who took it.
But nobody had any money. And we started the paper at the height—as the strawberry season was coming in and that community lived on strawberries. And that year, at the strawberry auction, the strawberries were selling at less per pint than the cost of the little cups that they put them in. The town was wiped out that year.
So we started it. And I would get out and sell the ads to whoever we could sell the ads to. It was a community that had been settled—it was on the Illinois-Central and a lot of Sicilians had come in to do crop farming, and that was how the strawberries got their good start.
Ritchie: Had Hodding's family been in the area for some time?
Carter: Yes. Hodding's father had gone to Tulane—he didn't finish, I don't believe; he'd grown up in New Orleans, he went to Rugby Academy, then he went to Tulane briefly, then he went to Natchez where he was in charge of—as a young man either in charge or working with the man who was in charge of an oil mill. An oil mill is where the oil is pressed out of the cotton seed and made into oils later sold as Wesson oil and something like that.
Mr. Carter had been there as a young man and he had met Irma Dutart across the river. And she was very popular in Natchez and was in the Natchez carnival court. And they were married, I suppose, in Vidalia, that's across the river from Natchez. And they bought this property in Hammond because he wanted to be a farmer.
And they started with cattle. And he thought that the milk—that New Orleans was booming and they needed milk for the city of New Orleans for the children. And that cows would be a wonderful thing to do.
So he did cows but the people were used to open fields, no fences, and the only way that you could have cows would be to dip for ticks. So the question was whether you would have fences and dip for ticks or whether you would have an open range and all the cows die from ticks. Mr. Carter was in favor of dipping because he had good cows that produced good milk and they kept cutting his fences, etc.
So he went broke with the milk situation. Then when strawberries began coming up, he went into strawberries and he had all these tenant farmers who were on the place, Italian families. I don't know how many. So he was there as a strawberry farmer. He was also known as a man that could be counted on, in any bad situation.
So we lived out at the Carters. We'd drive into Hammond. I'd find out what they wanted to advertise, draw up the ads, take it back, show it to them, sell it to them, bring it back for proofing, and keep a record of it in the books—lousy books. Kept the record to the best of my ability but thank God Mr. Carter moved in and helped with the books.
And we kept going. And we would need money and Herman Deutsch, a newspaperman from New Orleans, lent us some money at one point, which was wonderful. And a man named Dick Stibolt, in Hammond, lent us some money. And Mother didn't have any money but she had one bond from the city of Shreveport which she said she would give me. And I could use that. So, it was a thousand dollar bond but it was only selling for $810. Well, we sold it and got that.
Then we had to borrow money. So I went into the New Orleans to the Whitney Bank to borrow money and I told Mr. [Victor] Leovy that we were putting the Vindicatur out of business, that there was no question that they would go out of business. And he said, "Well, Betty, I have seen the New Orleans Item about to go out of business for fifteen years." He said, "Newspapers seem to have a life of their own which defies all known rules for why you should go broke, when you should go broke." He said, "I don't think you're going to put the Vindicatur out of business." But he lent us some small amount, a thousand or whatever.
So I learned something about borrowing money at that point. And then—and also we had no columns, we couldn't afford columns, of course. So I wrote "Yum-Yum," and I knew nothing about cooking but I would get recipes from different women and would give one recipe on the Yum-Yum day for a strawberry shortcake or a biscuit or whatever it was, that the lady was supposed to be so good with.
And also I wrote the beauty column. Mother believed in salt. She said if you took a bath and you rubbed salt all over your body, that would make you very soft and nice. So I put that in. And soda was a good thing to have, too, so somehow I had a column on soda. I don't remember what we called that.
So we were struggling. We made it pretty well. And then Mr. [Franklin D.] Roosevelt closed the banks. That would be in 1933. So nobody had any money. But for some reason we had a very small amount of money and it was enough so that we could—oh, the reason we had money was that we only had $5, so in those days we would go in and spend the weekend at Mother's because if you had a tank of gas you could drive to New Orleans.
And another wonderful thing: For twenty-five cents apiece, stopping at Laplace, Louisiana, you could get a martini. And that was the break. Between all the pressures of Hammond and the weekend, where we didn't have money to do anything but we could visit Mother.
Ritchie: So you worked Monday until Saturday noon and then took off.
Carter: That's right. And we wrote checks on Saturday after the—how did that work? I think the banks were open Saturday morning, I think we didn't write the checks, didn't give them until after the banks had closed because they weren't any good, you had to get home to Hammond in time to collect from people who promised you that after the weekend they'd have some money. So then you had to get to the bank at 9:00 a.m. Monday to deposit quickly.
Ritchie: You mentioned that the office was around the corner from the theater. What was the office like?
Carter: Well, that first office and I believe this had to have been the first office. It was, because we had no press and we had no linotype. Now, how did that work? Where did we print it? The first issues may have been printed in Ponchatoula, at the Ponchatoula Enterprise. Certainly they were—how did that work? So, we had a room which was off of the side street and that was our office.
Then what did we do? Then we moved into a little tiny room, smaller than the other, right in the lobby of the Columbia theater, one side had candy and things like that for sale and over here was—it's on the main street, whatever the name of the street was. And that was more prominent. And we went and moved. Hodding bought a press and we brought that in and installed it, second-hand, of course.
That was in that building. And then we would have the type set in Ponchatoula. One day we were coming across the railroad tracks, Illinois Central, and the whole page of type pied so that we had nothing for that page, except one tiny ad which was a classified ad for Hodding's uncle's filling station. He was the mayor of Hammond. So here was Uncle Connie's [Charles Congreve Carter] Texaco station ad. So we put that right in the middle of the page and went back by quickly to tell Uncle Connie not to tell anybody that he hadn't paid for the whole page. Ha, ha, ha.
So after we pied that page, we knew we really had to get a linotype but we didn't for a while. And then after that we—how soon after that, I don't know—we began to buy a building on the west side of the tracks. But that's wasn't why we moved there, it was because the building was available. But by shenanigans Hodding figured out how you do this and how you do that.
But the linotype—we had that now and we had a press now and we had the banks closed. We had no money except the five dollars. But Hodding and I went to New Orleans and we went to Old Southport which was right outside of New Orleans, and that's where all the gambling was. And Hodding said, "I'm going to gamble. This five dollars won't do us any good and I might do some good." So he gave me a quarter and I played the slot machines. And he played craps. There was some man who was hot pitching the dice and Hodding stayed with him. He stayed with him and won $300.
So then we had cash—a Godsend because nobody was going to let us buy newsprint on credit, or ink or anything that you had to spend money out of town on. Then we decided that we would print up these little forms—it was ridiculous, it could have been done by bookkeeping—we'd go in and we'd sell the man the ad. We had these little forms and a picture of Mr. Roosevelt and the amount—a dollar, ten dollars, twenty dollars. And it said, "We Bank on Him." And anything that we had to buy in town and pay our salaries with, we'd give them this script and then they could use that at Mr. Loyacono's grocery store or Mr. [John] Graziano's butchery. And when he had to pay us, he had the script there to pay us.
Ritchie: So you invented a little system?
Carter: We did. It was probably illegal. But it doesn't matter. And it could have been done by the bookkeeping. But it was a gimmick. And we didn't look on it as a gimmick, we thought it was very clever and that this was the way to get money to be able to pay our men. "Our men" were probably two, the linotype operator and maybe the pressman, I don't know.
Ritchie: So you and Hodding were doing everything.
Carter: Well, we were doing all the outside work.
Ritchie: And all of the writing—
Carter: Everything. Everything.
Ritchie: Do you remember when you first hired someone else to do writing?
Carter: The first person we hired which was probably the next summer—maybe that first summer—no, it couldn't have been the first summer, the second summer we hired Bert Hyde. And he was a student at Southeastern [Hammond, LA] which was then called Southeastern College, I think, now Southeastern Louisiana University.
And so Bert used to write this column for us, very juvenile column, but everything was juvenile. The only thing that was steaming up was that Huey [Long] was getting more and more powerful. And Hodding began writing these more and more powerful editorials, very much under the influence of Mr. [William H.] Carter, very conservative.
Now, there were things that Huey was doing that looking back on it we would certainly have endorsed, the free schoolbooks, and I don't remember whether we were there for the poll tax, I think that had come earlier. But I said something, which is interesting, I thought when I saw the Ken Burns thing [film]* and I was talking about Huey Long, and I said, "You know, [Benito] Mussolini made the trains run on time but you wouldn't vote for Mussolini for that." Well, I didn't say [Adolf] Hitler because the person we were thinking of in the early '30s was Mussolini.
And so here was Huey promising all these things but he was a dictator. So I think we were perfectly right to fight him because the more important thing was the way that he was taking over the state and the people blindly going with him. And Hodding's editorials were very vicious and strong and intemperate in many cases. And a lot of our advertisers—we didn't have all that many advertisers but our advertisers were pro-Long. So I'd have to go out and sell them an ad when the night before, the morning before, or whatever the morning's paper was in those days, the [Hammond] Daily Courier, I guess it was a morning paper, it had to be a morning paper because it took a whole night to get it out. I'd have to go but they had just read this editorial about how awful Mr. Long was and here I was, selling them ads. And they were afraid that if they looked as though they were supporting the anti-Long situation too much it might mean trouble for them.
Ritchie: So your job getting the advertising was a hard one.
Carter: It was. It was. Though they were always nice to me. You see, I was a nice girl. And so they'd be nice to me. And I got the ads but also they didn't agree with what was going on in the Daily Courier.
Ritchie: How was the competition doing at the time?
Carter: Well, they got their regular ads, their weekly ads. Now, one thing we had, we got some sort of a wonderful ad for some grocery store opening. And they were going to have a drawing and give away five pounds of sugar or something. I do not understand now, I'll have to go back and think about it, but after we got all those papers printed up, we realized that this was a sort of a lottery and it would be stopped in the
* "Huey Long." 1985. Florentine Films.
United States mails. So we had to go through with nail scissors and other scissors and cut out of the paper every one of those little offers for the lottery. Well, that took a while.
Now, another thing is that our press was an old thing that went like this. [Gestures with arms to indicate press movement]
Ritchie: Closed up and down.
Carter: Yes. And I never did learn to use the press but it was very slow. And we printed page 2 and page 3, then the whole thing had to be turned over so that you could see to print page 4 and page 1. And one, of course, was the last page you'd print. So everybody would have to help with the turning of the pages.
Ritchie: And how many copies would you be printing?
Carter: I don't know. And it was small, just remember, it was small. I'm saying a thousand—I'm making that up. I don't know. There aren't any books, not that I know of. They may exist, it would be fun to find some.
Ritchie: Did you save copies of any of the papers?
Carter: Those papers turned up—Southeastern [Louisiana University in Hammond] has the file. After we sold the paper in 1936, somebody saw those files just sitting there and took them over to Southeastern. We didn't have any—at some point, we got some because I've given those to Mississippi State University. When I finally sold the house, I just phoned Mississippi State and I said, "Come over and get everything." So they took everything. So I'm sure, whatever we had, they have.
Where am I, what do you want me to say?
Ritchie: Well, let's talk about Huey Long for a little while.
Carter: Yes. Well, you see, he would come to town. And when he came to town—well, by then we were in town. We went in, we rented a house—darling little cottage, a little cottage, and we didn't have a stove so the Episcopal rector—they'd been given a new stove so they gave us their kerosene stove. And it didn't have an oven, it had a little thing you put over the top of it. And we didn't have a refrigerator so if you opened a can you had to use the whole thing.
We were a block from the railway station. And people would be riding the rails, so we had a lot of people who came by for a sandwich, including Al Friendly and his brother. And they were out of college and decided there wasn't any point in just sitting there, so they were seeing America and they came to the house. And Mr. Carter gave them a job picking strawberries, which is a terrible job, talk about stoop labor!
So, we were fighting Huey and he would come to town and there was a bandstand opposite the old post office. And he would come and give his talk at the bandstand. And there was no other entertainment except movies so everybody went whether you were for Huey or not. But the main thing is that Huey was fun. You know? He was a good speaker. He was wild.
Ritchie: So it was free entertainment.
Carter: It was. So you would go, but hating him with a passion. And everybody would figure how they would kill him. And I had a good one. I said I was going to get a nail and file it very, very thin. Then I was going to get the chair that Huey was going to sit on when he came to the grandstand—bandstand,
and I would drive it up through the bottom and I'd put a little rabies poison on the end of it and then he'd die like the mad dog he was. Awful. But everybody was thinking how they could kill him.
So he would come and we would listen to all that. The first time I'm conscious of the bandstand, we were endorsing the NRA, the National Recovery Act, so I was invited to make a speech which I did, something from the bandstand to the effect that you don't feel like eating spinach, but what's good for you, you have to do. And that was the NRA.
The thing is that there were two sources of cash in the state of Louisiana. And one was the standard oil, they had some money. And the other was the Huey Long regime. And the Huey Long people were the "deducts," everybody had to give the cash to them. "The ducks are flying," that's what they would say when they would come around and collect from every state employee, "the ducks are flying," so everybody who had cash gave over their cash.
Ritchie: How did he build his power through the state?
Carter: By giving them things which they needed. First by bridges. And the condition of the bridges and the roads was terrible. It was true all through the South. But he managed to give them decent roads and decent bridges. And he did it because in his first statewide campaign he was defeated on a rainy day when people couldn't get to the polls because of the bridges and the roads. He learned his lesson; he knew what was good for people.
And you could see it all happening. We've gotten to the banks closing in '33—and what happened in '34? I don't know what happened in '34. But he began having that long session, those special sessions in the winter of '35, just special session after special session, and in each one the people voted away more of their rights. And they did it like lambs to the slaughter. They just came and did it.
And I remember there was one election where all the anti-Longs said they were going to stand together. And we went to the polls that day. And here were all these people, prominent Hammond families, and the men were standing there with sunflowers. Now, that was Huey Long's symbol that year. Nobody remembers that but me. And they were wearing the sunflower.
And Mr. Carter and Hodding thought that was the most awful sell-out, and I agreed except that those men had children in college, their families were going to lose what they had, they were not going to have any money, they weren't going to have anything to eat. And I had compassion, I really don't want to say I had compassion, that sounds sweet and wonderful, but I really found it sad. The thing is you had to be willing to put it on the line and they weren't. And I'm not sure that—I'm not sure—well, of course, the Carters had it on the line. So, maybe—I don't know. But I could understand those people because what else were they going to do, lose their jobs.
Ritchie: You did have friends who were—
Carter: Oh, everybody was anti-Long. The established community was supposed to be anti-Long but on that election morning they toppled. They toppled.
Now, they came up to put—Huey had called—oh, one of the biggest fights was the Miss Lallie [Kemp] one. Mr. Bolivar Kemp was the congressman from our district. And as a child in Amite, Louisiana, I had written his campaign song to the tune of [singing]—It ain't gonna rain no more.
And this man who had been the incumbent—and I don't remember his name—so the song I had written was something like: Mr. something ain't gonna run no more, dee-dee-dee. Mr. Bolivar was going to win by—well, anyway. And I helped stuff the envelopes. Now Mr. Bolivar was dead and his widow [Miss Lallie]—
Huey Long announced that she was the Democratic candidate for his post. And Hodding's position was—although the Carters and Kemps had been friends for generations—Hodding's position was that in those days when the Democratic nomination was tantamount to election you couldn't say that she was the Democratic nominee, you had to have a Democratic primary.
So, the judge in our area, Nat Tycer, announced that there would be no election, that it was illegal, no primary. And then he said, "It's a poor judge who doesn't see that his rulings will be enforced." So he deputized a lot of people, including Hodding and a lot of them.
So now the press of New Orleans, the AP and UP, all come to Hammond for the showdown. And they'd come by the house, and I'd have supper or hors d'oeuvres or something for them. And the time comes—we heard that the ballots were on their way from Baton Rouge by truck to be put around at the different precincts. And all of them had only Miss Lallie's name on them for this special election. And no other name.
The men all went out. And they went to the bridge down the road, between Hammond and Baton Rouge, and I think they got the truck to turn over. And they blocked that election. And for a long time I had some of the ballots that were burned, you know, charred remains and that sort of thing.
Ritchie: So then, the—
Carter: The election was not held.
Ritchie: —Long forces weren't there to—
Carter: The Long forces had come by truck and were defeated. That whole period is well done by Ken Burns [in his film "Huey Long"]. But for all that we were fighting—
Ritchie: Were there other newspapers in the state that took the same stand?
Carter: Yes, there were some but they slowly had disappeared into the moonlight somewhere. And the Literary Digest said that Hodding Carter was the most articulate of the Louisiana editors—we loved that. Hodding was writing pieces—which is a way of getting cash—for the New Republic. He did two about Long. He did one for some other magazine and then he did one for the Review of Reviews—that was a good name. We counted on that to pay for Hodding our son's birth at Touro Infirmary.
Ritchie: What year was he born?
Carter: Born in '35, April '35.
Ritchie: So you were busy then with the newspaper and starting the family.
Carter: Oh, yes. But I'll tell you, I worked, sold advertising up until two months before he was born, and he was born April the 7th. But by then I was pretty big, I kept walking the streets of Hammond. Now, who sold advertising after that, I don't know. Maybe Bert did. But I did until I couldn't.
So then we had the baby in April of '35. And that was the hottest summer you could ever imagine. And looking back through the Daily Courier which Hodding had to do for some reason once, it was very interesting the two themes were the heat and the mounting tension against Huey—just terrific. You could see it going on. And we went on a picnic for the Daily Courier early in August. And it was 105 and we had our linotype operator, Roy Lamus and his wife and child and Hodding and I. And the little girl, who was a fifteen or sixteen-year-old, a retarded little girl who was in charge of our son—oh, I forgot to tell you, I'll go back to that—and the pressman was there, Mills, and Bert Hyde. Now, that was the organization.
Carter: That was it. But when I went in to New Orleans to have Hodding at Touro—I stayed at Mother's until the day Mrs. Carter died. After that the decision was that we would move back to the farm and give up the house with all the rent and that I would keep house for Mr. Carter and sell advertising and take care of the baby, which I did.
And John Carter's wife had developed tuberculosis and she was in Colorado and her little girl [Jane Carter] was out at the farm, so I had that little girl, too. So I put the baby on a three-hour nursing schedule so that I could feed him at just before nine and feed him at noon and have dinner. Then for the three o'clock feeding it was a good idea to have him on a formula, and then I could be home by six.
That was a period of pretty strong pressure. And the Huey Long situation. Finally we got a letter from somebody that said that they were going to kidnap the baby. So we turned that over the United States Post Office.
And going through the cattle gap, one of the pipes broke and it came up and hit against the window. Hodding and I were both positive we'd been shot. You know, you just live that way. You just know you're going to be shot.
Ritchie: Did Long ever take measures to try to suppress you?
Carter: Well, you know what he did. He got his legislature and they passed a bill setting up the State Printing Board. The State Printing Board—you had to get clearance before you could become a printer for the parish. Now, the parish had to publish its minutes and you got good pay for the legal printing, that had been taken care of years before. And all lawyers had to publish their official notices in the official printer. This was a source of cash; this was the good, good, good—your only hope.
So we were made the official printer for Tangipahoa Parish. And then we couldn't get certified by the State Printing Board, that was what he did against us. We couldn't carry it to the state court because he controlled the state court. So we took it to the United States Supreme Court where they said that it was not a federal matter, it was a state matter, and remanded it to the state.
Ritchie: So they would not give it to you?
Carter: So we knew we were lost.
Well, by then, this had been set up during Huey's lifetime and it started during Huey's lifetime. Now he gets shot on the 8th of September. Hodding had always said he would never leave the state until Huey was dead or out of power. So he was shot. And things were mighty, mighty tight for us, mighty tight.
And in April when I was having a baby and was in New Orleans, Hodding had gone to Baton Rouge for the 75th anniversary of the founding of Louisiana State University and he was invited as a writer, probably because Cleanth was up there teaching. And Hodding had had the pieces in the New Republic and he was a writer.
So he got there and he was on the—it was very, very hot and a man from Greenville named David Cohn—David had moved from Greenville to New Orleans. He was a graduate of the University of Virginia. And he was the head—running a big retail store called Feibleman's.
Ritchie: Here in Greenville?
Carter: In New Orleans. And Mother was—Mother knew all these people through the Little Theater and through all of that. And Dave Cohn was one of the young men just like Bill Spratling. And so he had met me through Mother. Now, the rule at Mother's was children should be seen and not heard. So we learned a lot but we couldn't talk. Maybe that's why I talk so much now.
Hodding and Dave got out on the fire escape at the hotel. And Dave told Hodding, "You're just"—this is in April of '35, "You're just knocking your brains out for nothing, you could never beat Huey, and you ought to come to Greenville, Mississippi, which is the bright spot on the Dun and Bradstreet map." The reason it was was because they were building levees, thanks to the 1927 flood, and the Flood Control Act of 1928. So Hodding liked the idea but he says, "I can't leave Louisiana until Huey's out of the picture."
[End Tape 2, Side A; Begin Tape 2, Side B]
Carter: So Huey—Hodding had heard about this place called Greenville and Dave said—so after Huey was out, Hodding and Dave got together and discussed whether we would come to Greenville. And there was a paper here that was 50, 75 years old, whatever it was, so that didn't sound too good. But the idea was that that paper never took a stand on anything and that it would be good to have a strong paper; because of changing times they needed something, that Hodding was a strong man who could do it.
So Hodding and his father came up to Greenville and looked at the situation, stayed at Will Percy's and met people who might be interested in putting up money. But we hadn't sold the paper; we had no money. But to figure how we would manage to come if we ever did want to.
So then we sold the paper. And now we had maybe $15,000, which was fantastic. That was certainly equity capital that had been built with sweat and tears.
So then, the paper sold, we went up to Maine, what else would a good Carter do? And coming back we went through Bennington [College, Vt.] because Mr. Gray—whose first name will come to me—had taught at Bowdoin and he thought that Hodding would make a good English teacher for Bennington. So we went to Bennington, looked at it, and we loved it. But all the little girls sat around at the feet of the master in shorts, very short shorts.
Ritchie: In the '30's.
Carter: I couldn't see my husband doing that. Very avant-garde. If we wore shorts, we wore them on the tennis court, and they were very circumspect, just above our knees. But here were these cute little things all sitting there, how would Hodding handle that? That was 1935, subtract seven. How old was Hodding? Ought-seven to '35. He was 27 years old. Look what he'd done by the time he was 27. Pretty good, huh?
Carter: So anyway, we looked at the Bennington situation and I was not in favor of that at all. Now we have the money, so we could consider the newspaper, so finally we started that in Greenville. So I guess it had to have been in the fall.
Ritchie: In '36?
Carter: Yes, but this is strange because we moved here in the fall of '36. We must have come in the early fall for the final decision—my first visit. Hodding had decided but I hadn't seen Greenville and it had to have been no earlier than September that I came up because I had a cute little outfit. I had a good-looking skirt and a pretty sweater, and a hat with a big pheasant feather on it. And I still have that. And we drove up and spent—were going to visit, did stay with Will Percy.
And on the way up, the whole South was building roads and Louisiana had built its because of Huey Long but Mississippi was just building its roads. And Arkansas was just building its roads. But they said the thing to do was to come up on the Louisiana and Arkansas side, which we did. When we got to Arkansas there was a place where the road went straight ahead and it also turned to the right. And in the rainy dark, we went straight ahead and turned over in the ditch. So we didn't get to Will's until too late for the dinner party he had for us.
We decided that Greenville was where we would settle. And so we did, with my child and John Carter's little girl.
Ritchie: John is?
Carter: Hodding's brother.
Carter: He came up to be the head of something very new. We were going to have a photography department at the paper and do pictures for the paper. It was a new process that was a lot simpler and cheaper to do so that a small paper could afford to do it. So we did that.
Ritchie: And now that you had the money from the other newspaper—who bought the Hammond newspaper?
Carter: Some people who had been connected with the Huey regime. There was nobody else in the state. And they bought it and they put out a paper called—they didn't call it the Daily Courier, they just took the equipment, the building, whatever we had. And they put it out for a while and they went broke and that was the end of them.
There is a Daily Courier, I think they call it that, in Hammond today. They went back to the name. But we came on up here.
Ritchie: Well, do you think Hodding didn't want to leave until Long was dead or gone because he didn't want it said that Long ran him out?
Carter: That's right. He was stubborn, he wasn't going to let them say that. But we obviously couldn't leave until then.
Now, looking back on it, I never thought of myself as a woman. I just thought of myself as doing what I was doing. And maybe that was what Mother put in us. I never thought of it.
Ritchie: But you did a lot of things and you did them well.
Carter: I don't know how well I did them. If you had to do it, you did it, and never thought about it, and didn't stop to say, "Well, is this woman's work?" To heck with it. I didn't even think about it. You just did what had to be done.
Ritchie: You took care of the household.
Ritchie: And you had the responsibilities at the paper.
Carter: That's right. And Mr. Carter was a responsibility because with his wife just dead—such a sweet man. And he wanted you to sit and scratch his arms—well, that would be half an hour or an hour every evening, scratching Mr. Will's arms, sweet guy.
But they were very sweet to me. And I didn't know I was spoiled, I don't really think I was spoiled but I think I just didn't know anything. I remember writing my mother, she had the letter, that I had bought a dress, the first thing I bought after we were married, the first summer or the second summer and I just had to have a dress and I said it cost 98 cents, "which Mrs. Carter, I know, will never believe, because she thinks I'm extravagant." What was I extravagant on? There wasn't anything for me to be extravagant with. Nothing. It was a good dress, a little blue dress with big white buttons.
Ritchie: And you wore it to work?
Carter: Oh, yes. It was a good dress. You could wear it anywhere. It was before anything was wash and drip-dry.
Ritchie: Hodding's father supported the move to Greenville?
Carter: He thought it was the thing to do. Yes.
Now, he didn't have any money. He was on the board of the bank in Hammond so we were able to borrow money once or twice, small amounts to pull us through but not much because they knew too well how awful everything was.
I'll tell you, we never had any money until some time—and I guess it must have been about 1960, and Hodding came in on a hot summer's afternoon and I had not been out that day, I don't know what I'd been doing. He said, "Well, I went by the bank and paid up the last of the note." He meant our personal note. And I said, "I think I'll buy me some bath powder." Bath powder! Why? I don't know, except that bath powder is something that people give you when you are sick. You would never think to buy bath powder.
I remember that is something I said and I remember that Will Rogers thing. And I remember also when my father died and we children had to come to the library the evening after the funeral and Uncle Parham [Werlein], my father's brother, told us that my father had died. I went crying out of the room and I said, "At least there's still a Santa Claus." Well, I think, you know, those are little things that summarize things for you, in a way.
So we got to Hammond, got to Greenville, and we brought Mrs. Fielding with us, she was a white woman, I don't remember how we got her. But she was very good and she stayed until she had to leave, I've forgotten why. And I had Hodding and I had Jane. John Carter had a room or an apartment but he couldn't take care of the little girl.
And I'll tell you, getting a paper started is impossible, absolutely impossible. Three times we had the paper ready, all the ads sold, everything ready, and it was to be printed and going to come out in the morning because the other paper was an afternoon paper, and we'd work all night long, and you just couldn't get it out. You couldn't get it out. Don't ask me why. Three weeks later, the same equipment, the same manpower, you're getting it out. But when you start, you can't do it.
Ritchie: So it was like starting all over when you moved here, setting up—
Carter: Oh, yes.
Ritchie: First time.
Carter: And I can't remember, did we have a reporter? I don't know if we had a reporter. We got one soon, though. We got one very soon because that first winter Hodding had a mastoid and they operated in those days, and took a big chunk out of the back of his ear. By then, we had Bob Brown, who went on and got a Pulitzer later and we desperately needed a reporter. And Hodding read or heard that there was a man over in—I think Meridian, maybe Hattiesburg, and he'd seen his ad maybe in the Mississippi press paper. So he wired him, said would he be interested in coming and what did he want? I don't know whether he said $60 or what it was. And Hodding wired back and said, "Per week or per month?"
So Bob came and he was our reporter. After Hodding had had his operation, I came into the office. And we were in the process of putting out an extra. I said, "What for?" A very prominent man who had the Pepsi-Cola bottling plant had driven his car into Lake Washington. Our extra said, "Eisenberg Commits Suicide," or some awful thing like that. I didn't even take the phone, I ran back to the house—which we had rented, the downstairs of a house. I said, "Hodding, is that correct, do we put out"—he said, "My God, stop it, stop it. You don't say it was suicide, my God."
So I had to run up and down the street and find our one little newsboy and get every copy back that we could get.
Ritchie: Pull them back.
Carter: And that was the end of that edition. Could have been the end of us, too.
Ritchie: That must have been costly, too.
Carter: Well, we'd done the printing, that's all we'd done. Well, when you say you got them back, you mean you ran up Washington Avenue and grabbed them as the boy went into the stores, wherever he'd gone, I tried to get ahead of him so that I would catch him before he got to these [stores] and picked up what I could. And so we stopped that.
And then I had to go over to the family. And Hodding was sick and I had to go and apologize because—you know, that was just terrible. And they were very sweet, to let it go.
Ritchie: Who did the editorial writing when Hodding was ill?
Carter: I don't know. I guess—
Ritchie: Did you do it?
Carter: No, I never did. I only wrote one editorial in all the years that we had the paper, any paper. I did not write editorials. I'll tell you the one I wrote was when they were considering putting in a new hospital. It was before air conditioning and the property that the town was considering was right next to the baseball park. And in the summer, baseball far into the night and all the windows open in the hospital. That was terrible. Those sick people wouldn't be able to stand all that noise. And I said, "I'm going to—what I'm going to do is go down in front of the King's Daughter's Hospital and just sit with my hand on the horn to show you what it's like." Well, that was the end of it.
Ritchie: So you felt strongly enough about that issue to write an editorial?
Carter: Oh, very much so because that was utterly ridiculous. That's a minor thing but believe me, I remember when my father was sick, in New Orleans, they put up signs in those days if there was sickness in the block and you couldn't blow horns and you had to be quiet for a half block ahead, and that block, and half a block below. So I was conscious of that. And to put a hospital with open windows next to a ball park which
had yelling far into the night! Also, I had once had intercostal neuralgia—don't ask me what that is but it hurts like mad. A little boy across the street in New Orleans had a bicycle that squeaked and I have never heard anything like that. So I felt that issue personally.
Ritchie: Do you remember what year this might have been?
Carter: No, I would have to see when they were discussing the new hospital. Then when they did put up the hospital, it was put up later, air conditioned, windows closed, and I think by then the ball park had collapsed.
Ritchie: When you mentioned your news boy delivering papers to the stores, did people subscribe at home then?
Carter: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. The way we did that was that we put on contests for who could sell the most subscriptions. A Mrs. Ely, Ruby Ely, she was the one who got out and sold marvelous subscriptions. And whoever sold the most would get a living room suite. Well, that was a sofa and a chair, that's two pieces. It was sort of canvas—not canvas, sort of straw that would have been very nice on somebody's porch but a little bit less impressive than the advance notice that we put out—because you had to repay for that with advertising in the paper.
We opened in the fall. The first Christmas I worked like a dog to get the principal retailers in town. Tenenbaum was a very nice high-priced women's wear store—they still operate under that name, the son-in-law runs it. I finally got Herb Tenenbaum to give me an ad, a full-page ad for his post-Christmas sale. And I got it in, I laid it out, everything was set. Hodding and I went to Hammond for Christmas. There was still Prohibition in the state of Mississippi. The sheriff had picked up some bottles of whiskey—half pints in cases and he gave some of those to Bob Brown, our reporter, and we gave those to our staff as Christmas presents.
Well, the press man had gotten his present and he was dead drunk when Herb Tenenbaum walked in to check his ad. And the press man threw the bottle at him, threw a second bottle at him, took a broom and said, "Get out of here." The ad ran with whatever errors were in it. But that wasn't important, the important thing was that it took months to get Herb Tenenbaum back into the paper.
Ritchie: And that was your job.
Carter: That was mine. And I'll tell you. When I first got to Greenville, Hodding had had a gentlemen's discussion with Mr. Smith, who was the editor of the other paper, the old paper that was there. Mr. Pink Smith, that was Pink Smith. So Mr. Smith very kindly had given Hodding his advertising rate card, which Hodding gave me. So I go out and sell advertising. Well, it was quite obvious that nobody is paying according to the rate card. Well, I've got to compete. I've got to see what is the rate that is the going rate.
So I got to the Goyer Company, which is the big organization that sold to the commissaries out in the countryside and Mr. Edmund Taylor who owned that was one of our supporters, not a major one but an interested one—a very good supporter. In his office was a fine man named Billy McGehee. So I went to Mr. McGehee to sell him an ad and the Goyer Company was supposed to take a nice big ad. So I suggested the price that Mr. Smith had told us was the going price. And he said, "Not at all; we don't pay anything like that."
Well, I talked and I talked and finally I got down to where I heard what the price was, and I came down to that. And he said, "Now, listen, I'm going to give you the ad and I'm going to pay you what we've agreed to. But if you were working for me, I'd fire you. And what's more, I'm going to tell your father on you." He thought Hodding was my father. He'd heard that this new editor had come to town.
Well, I was simply trying to see what the price was. What I discovered was that the card rate was close to twenty-five cents a column inch. In some companies—Buick and Chevrolet not Cadillac—the national advertising agent would pay half the price of the ad and the local man had to pay the other half.
Ritchie: I see what you're saying.
Carter: Yes. So what we would do is we'd find out what the national rate was and then we'd run it for half of that without any local contribution. Well, we got money out of it. Of course, the national people hated it but they probably knew what was going on. You had to sell those ads and if you didn't sell, there wasn't [a paper].
That first winter that we were here, we were here—we came in the fall of '36. And that was the winter, that Christmas was when the press man threw the bottle at Herb Tenenbaum. In January, February and March it rained. It rained perpetually, continually. Very hard to walk from store to store selling ads when nobody's going to be going out in the streets to buy anything.
Also, Greenville had its terrible experience with the 1927 flood which had come after the rain rained, January and February and March and weakened the levee. Now, ten years later we're going through exactly the same thing. Scared everybody to death. So it was hard to sell advertising those months but you did what you could.
On a typical day there would be no less than twenty-one contacts and an average day would probably be twenty-five contacts. On a really exhausting day you'd make about twenty-nine but that was almost more than you could take. And I forgot to say that at the end of that, when spring of '37 came—we came here in '36 and in the spring, Jane Carter went up to Maine to be with a great-aunt up there, Toto [Cora Robbins], a great-aunt that they all loved. So I didn't have her back after that because she went to—her father remarried. When she came back she went to live with her father and stepmother.
Then there was another child. When he married Margaret [Taylor Franks] Jane came back from Maine to her father. But anyway, Margaret—that was the second wife—and John had a little girl named Joan. And Margaret took Joan down to a dance for little girls twelve years old and Margaret had an aneurysm and she was on her bed for twelve years unconscious. And that poor little girl.
So Jane had gone back to Maine by then—I don't remember why she went back but she did.
So then at that point I had Joan in my custody, too, but that was much later. I never had a daughter, but in a way, not Jane so much, but I do feel close to Joan. Her mother didn't die which was so terrible.
Ritchie: So you took care of her.
Carter: More or less. Her father kept an eye on her, too—very much so. I just wanted to have that child be able to lose her mother in a clean break. Not to be able to cry, because her mother wasn't dead, but her mother wasn't living.
Ritchie: For twelve years—that's a long time.
Carter: Yes. At least twelve. And she died.
Ritchie: In addition to selling the advertising, you were writing for the paper?
Carter: I would write stories as they came up, but not in that period. Primarily I was in advertising. I was the only advertising director at first. And then after a number of months we hired Herman Cohn, who was Dave's nephew, and he came to work as my assistant and so we had him for a while.
Then the only thing Hodding ever did, that looking back on it, really hurt. We decided the time had come that we really needed a really good advertising man, that a man could take over and I'd be his assistant, I'd keep on but he would do it. We got this very good man from Bowling Green, Kentucky, and we ran this front page story. And the story was all about the coming of Rodney Defenbaugh, which was simply great. But nowhere in this story did it say he takes over from Mrs. Carter who has done such a beautiful job. [Laughter.] It really hurt me.
Ritchie: Because you're the one who built up the contacts.
Carter: Oh, it really hurt. It really hurt me. Because I'd done it. Neither one of us really thought of it at the time but when it came out in print and no mention of—usually when you put in the new person that takes over you say something about the person who they're taking over from. Well, that's the only time I felt Hodding ever did me a dirty trick but he didn't do it. It just happened. But it was tough.
Ritchie: Did you often read things before they went out?
Carter: Oh, what he wrote, definitely. And if it were really—I had a rule that he had, too. I said, "Look, you've got to make your point but you don't have to make collateral people angry. You can make them angry some other day." So you'd read it carefully to see if some other ox was going to be gored. So I think that was a good thing I could do. Everybody worked very closely together.
Now, I wasn't really the business manager at that point, I was simply the advertising manager. I can't know that I was ever really the business manager because when we came back from the war, I wasn't. But I, in a way, always kept an eye on the thing.
[End Tape 2, Side B; Begin Tape 3, Side A]
Ritchie: I thought we might start now with your telling me a little bit about what the town of Greenville was like when you first arrived.
Carter: Well, I'll tell you in terms not of my first view of it which was coming into Will Percy's house that night after we had turned over in the ditch. He was so nice; he was waiting up for us. We had to ask at the police station how to get to his house, Hodding wasn't positive and at that hour nobody was awake. We went on to his house and he waked up, walked to the door, opened it and said, "Come in, you poor children."
The next morning Adah Williams came over. She was a very good friend of his. She said, "Oh, I'm so glad to meet you," and I said, "I'm so glad to meet you." And she said, "I've heard so much about you," and I said, "I've heard so much—" and Will said, "Come on, now, that's enough of that, let's get on with it." And so we became friends. She was older, considerably than I was, but a nice, very attractive woman.
So what was Greenville like? Well, really, the most important person in that period was Louise Crump because Hodding was about to hire her as—by then, it couldn't have been then, it must have been after we had decided to come and were here and we went to Will Percy's house—now I'm going to tell you what I saw, in those days.
Before the paper got started, Louise would pick me up and take me for a Coke, Coca-Cola, that was the thing to do at about ten o'clock in the morning. This has to have been before I actually went to work because I had time to go have the Coca-Colas. And you would go to Buehler's Fountain Terrace and you'd sit
in your car and the nice girl or nice boy would come out and take your order for a Coca-Cola. And the next car had women you knew, and the next car—it was the rendezvous.
Louise showed me the city and she was very interested. At that time she was going with a man who was the head of the health office here and the big project was to get rid of mosquitoes because Mississippi had malaria so terribly. And she would show me the bad puddles all over.
Another big thing that she showed me was the squirrels in the trees. They were destroying our great oak trees and a lot of people thought the police should get out and shoot the squirrels. That was a major topic—should you or should you not shoot the squirrels?
Then she took me through the streets of Greenville, good and bad areas, and many houses had lean-to's attached to them, about ten—about five by eight, maybe five by ten, with drop windows, the drop wooden panels that were windows. I said, "What is that?" She said, "Well, that's for the person in the family who has tuberculosis." And there was so much tuberculosis in the area and there was no room in the state hospital, so people were in the—they were simply isolated at home.
Ritchie: A form of quarantine.
Carter: It was. It was the quarantine for them. That made a big impression on me.
Mother came up to visit at one point. The train arrived at night from New Orleans; it got here around ten at night—no, it has to have been later, it must have been one. And so she said, "Now, what do we do tomorrow?" And I said, "Well, this is Greenville, so we will go out for a coke at ten; we will go out for lunch at twelve; we're going to tea at four; cocktails at five; and dinner at seven or 6:30." She couldn't believe it. She'd come to a country town to sit on the front porch and rock.
Well, here was a way of life. But that just lasted for me for two or three weeks while things were getting settled in. And interestingly, as we would go by the Goyer Company, which I told you was where the man said he was going to fire me—but as we went by there, every time we went by Louise would say, "And there's the Goyer Company." I couldn't understand why but of course I learned why, it was because Mr. Taylor, every time anybody needed any money for anything, Mr. Taylor gave it to them. It was a wonderful institution.
Ritchie: Small philanthropy.
Carter: Absolutely. They were in business but they gave money for the good causes.
So that's how it was. The girls who would have to go out raising money for this, that and the other. Louise had helped some of the women to organize something called the Junior Auxiliary, patterned after the Junior League. It had been established several years. Eventually she put me up for membership and I became a member.
Now, that couldn't have happened in the very first year because I was much too busy. I have a feeling none of that really happened, none of the—the Junior Auxiliary thing has to have happened later because very soon I was selling the special edition for the opening of the paper and every other edition that came out after that.
But what was Greenville like? You never went home without going up over the levee at Main Street to look at Lake Ferguson which had been the river. In the 1927 flood, people had lived on the levee waiting for the boats to come, boats to come and take the white people to Vicksburg and the black people stayed on the levee, in tents, put up by the Red Cross. And you just went to see—no matter what it was,
like in New Orleans, you used to go to the French Market for coffee before you'd go home. In Greenville you went over the levee to look at the river—well, Lake Ferguson.
What else about Greenville?
Ritchie: What was the political climate like?
Carter: Well, Greenville was very conservative and in Mississippi there was one party, the Democratic party. So it all revolved around the courthouse, with the courthouse crowd trying to—and in the community there were two cliques, there was Will Percy's law firm and Billy Wynn's law firm, and those two were both on our board and the people who put up money. Billy was more the industry side and Will was the old planter side.
So we heard both of those but we were more under the influence of Will Percy because we stayed with him the first four to six weeks when we came to town. Having breakfast in bed at his house, the black man would bring you in a tray, a silver tray with your juice and your coffee. Then that was removed and another silver tray came in with your bacon, eggs and biscuits. And then another tray came in, I don't know what came on that. But you were just getting beautiful tray after—well, that was very much in the old planter tradition, much more glamorous than most planters ever had, I assure you.
Ritchie: Did he live in a family home?
Carter: He lived in the house that his father and mother had built and I think they built it either late in the teens or early twenties. It looked like that to me because it was that style. [It was] torn down later, after he died. He died in '42, it was inherited by his cousin's children, who were his adopted children, and nobody could afford to heat it and cool it and all those things.
What was Greenville like? Well, there was the white part of town and the black part of town, never the twain shall meet, except in your kitchen, where you certainly expected to have a maid or two. And in Jackson, Mississippi, I'd had a maid, when I first moved to Jackson in '31. She came five or six days a week, until after midday dinner. You paid her three dollars a week. I'm sure that I didn't pay much more than that here. But I did have a maid and Mrs. Fielding was there at first with the children.
There were no supermarkets then. There were one or two groceries where everybody knew the family well, and leading citizens, very nice people. And all of downtown was—downtown was where the retail merchants were, many of them Jewish, most of them Jewish, and you could depend on them for supporting community projects which you certainly have none of today. There's nobody on Main Street with any money at all. They're all representatives of something else, bottom-liners.
So, what else do you want to know about Greenville? Later on I learned a lot of things but I didn't know it then. For instance, I didn't realize that five times as much was being spent on the education of the white child as was spent on the education of the black child. I didn't realize that a classroom of third graders might have one teacher and seventy-five children. I don't know how they were supposed to learn anything but we didn't know that. We didn't know any of that.
We came to Greenville in '36 and of course what we were struggling to do was to defeat the old paper and force them to let us buy them. And as time went on, they were either going to put us out of business or we were going to put them out of business. So we kept on struggling with that.
Now I must say this, the race issue had not become the issue in the thirties. I think survival was the principal issue for everybody, just trying to make the wheels turn. They had a lynching over in Duck Hill—I've never been to Duck Hill, I don't even know if that's the correct name but I think it was. It's in one of Hodding's books. Will Percy telephoned Hodding about 6:30 in the morning and said, "My God,
you can withdraw my subscription, what did I put up any money to bring you here for?" And Hodding said, "What are you talking about, Will?" He said, "I got up early in the morning to go out and see what your editorial would be about that lynching." And Hodding said, "It's there, Will." He said, "No, it isn't, I've looked." And Hodding, "Did you look? Look on the front page." Hodding had put it on the front page.
So that was the first editorial we had that had anything—well, it had to do with lynching which was justice. And Hodding's whole pitch all along was equality under the law and getting the vote and at no time did he come out for immediate full integration of the schools.
And at one point, on the jacket of one of his books the publisher had had the publicist say that Hodding was the foremost integrationist in the South and they sent us these copies of the book, advance. Hodding got on the phone and he said, "You recall every one of those or I'll sue you so you don't have a sign of anything to live on, because that will destroy me." And so they had to recall the books they had already sent out and change the book cover or jacket.
Ritchie: So Will Percy and your other friends and backers were in favor of the type of coverage that Hodding—
Carter: Yes, they were, they were. They were in favor of decent relationships, good relationships. Now, I want to say this, that Will Percy died in '42 while we were away at the army, at the war, and I think that by '45 when we came back and the black soldiers were coming back, maybe '46, I don't think Will could have stood it because he was used to dispensing justice and being the decision-maker. If there was a case of—what do they call the thing—I can't think of the word, where two men get together in a back lot, what do you call that? Come on, come on.
Ritchie: I can't answer.
Carter: If you have a homosexual relationship. Well, if the police came in and told Will a thing like that, he would simply say, "Well, just tell so-and-so to get out of town," and that was the way that the justice was taken care of. And Will would see to it that it was done.
By after the war, that kind of thing could not have happened, and I think that it was—from the point of view of his happiness, I'm glad he died when he did. Because the first black soldier who had come in to him and spoken as man to man without saying "please, sir" he would have been very upset by that.
Ritchie: How did the staff of the newspaper change in the early years?
Carter: Well, you see, during those years we were all just putting out a paper. Remember then, we went off—Hodding got the Nieman in the fall and we went off to the Nieman in January 1940. And we didn't in actual fact do much about coming back except the period I'll tell you about, until after the war was over.
As far as my life as a newspaperwoman is concerned, the hardest part of it was right there getting the Delta Star going. And in the summer of—we came in '36—in the summer of 1938 we were about to take over the other paper. I had a miscarriage with twins and I had puerperal fever and I was frightfully sick, right at the time that Hodding had to be negotiating for the takeover of the old Greenville Democrat-Times. And I heard them say I had 107, so I said to the nurse, "Get Hodding here, get him here at once."
So he came out of the meeting and came back to the hospital, hurrying. And I said, "I've got to write a will this minute and leave everything to you." He needed my little stocks that I had to protect the investment of all our time. I don't remember whether we did write a will or not at that point but it was all very touch and go right there. Hodding signed the papers and we took over the Democrat and we put out the first issue of the Delta Democrat-Times on September 1, 1938.
Well, I had worked by then, you see, for practically two years on that, from the fall of '36 until I got sick. After that I had to stay in bed two months, [then] we decided that the thing to do was to get pregnant as fast as I could. So I did and then promptly began to try to lose the baby, so I had to stay in bed a lot. Then we had the baby, then we went off to the Nieman.
And so who was selling the advertising and running that part of it? Well, the man that we had brought in, Rodney Defenbaugh, who was excellent, really good. I don't think I worked during that period. We went off to the Nieman and we came back for a few months. We were here and Hodding had signed up for the National Guard. He did it when Munich occurred. When he went off with the National Guard to Camp Blanding I stayed here, to keep an eye on the paper and to work as Woman's Page editor because I was too fragile—ha!—to get out and pound the pavements the way I had done. So [I] just had to see that everything went all right.
We had a young man in charge of circulation, John Gibson, and we had an advertising man, Rodney. We had a good staff of young men that Hodding had put together on the editorial side. We went along, we did pretty well that winter.
In June or maybe May, he was taken out of the 114th Field Artillery and taken to Washington to be in army public relations. He said, "I don't care if we lose the paper. You and the boys have got to come." So at that point, off I went to Washington, D.C., with the two boys. That summer [I] did the research for him on a book called Civilian Defense of the United States. Horrible book— patched together, just pieced together.
And the paper was left here for the war years with Hodding's brother theoretically keeping track of it.
Ritchie: The one who had come to be the photographer?
Carter: Yes. Right. And John wrote us these letters—[there was] not so much long distance in those days, and of course you didn't have the airplane flying back and forth, they did but we didn't—he would tell us about how things were in terrible shape. Eventually he was drafted or volunteered, I don't know. John Gibson remained as the circulation manager.
Hodding met a man in Washington who had other newspapers, Don Reynolds, captain in the Army. Don entered into a contract with Hodding that he would take over the paper and run it and own 49% and we'd own 49% and two percent in escrow. His staff, his supervisors would see about it. John Gibson sort of kept an eye on it for us while these other people were in charge of the paper.
Ritchie: They came and ran it?
Ritchie: Well, it must have been a time when other staff members had to leave, too.
Carter: Oh, they did. They did.
Ritchie: So you went on and you couldn't be certain that they would be back.
Carter: You didn't know, you didn't know. John Gibson was wonderful because he kept an eye on the whole thing and when we came back and had to buy the paper back, he put up some money and ended up as a 25% owner, and a very good business manager. So I never was business manager again.
Ritchie: Tell me what types of events you wrote about for the women's page.
Carter: Nothing much—just day-by-day society. The other thing that interested me was, I told the community that we ought to have a water pageant that would be something like—because you see, Lake Ferguson was new and people were beginning to put boats out there. They were putting—floats.
Carter: Pontoons, you know. All right, that's what they were beginning to put. I said we should have a water pageant like a parade in New Orleans and it would celebrate—maybe it was the hundredth birthday of Greenville, I don't know what it was to celebrate. We really were getting it beautifully organized and the material I was putting out had to do with all the wonderful things we were going to have. Hodding said he didn't care, come on, so that was the end of that [but] by then we had it organized. What's more, we had done something that I don't think was all that good. We got the people who had been here to put on the Junior Auxiliary Follies and they came and put on the pageantry and had somebody do the text of the show. And I wasn't here, so I don't know. But that was the principal thing I felt I did for the good of the community.
Ritchie: On the women's page, would you have covered issues like health issues?
Carter: No, no. We didn't cover a thing but the stupidest stuff you ever saw. As Louise said, I left her with all those Baptists, meeting in circles. Well, to broaden the interest in the paper, the important thing was to get names—names, names. The Baptists had circles that met and you'd run the names of everybody who met. You'd have that and you'd have the Methodist circles. Always in writing up a party you'd try to find out what it was that the hostess liked most. If it was her refreshments, you tried to discuss that and give the menu or give some idea of the kind of cake she had served or if flowers were the important thing, you described the arrangements. I must say there was no consciousness of any depth to it at all.
The only thing I had done that I think was fairly good was in the summer before Philip was born, that would be the summer of '39, I was a stringer for the Christian Science Monitor and the Times-Picayune. No depth, just gave them stories that were appearing in the Mississippi papers. And certainly nothing of any depth was appearing in the Mississippi papers. Nobody paid any attention. I don't know where we all were.
Ritchie: But every paper had a women's page.
Carter: Oh, yes. Horrible.
Ritchie: And then Louise carried on?
Carter: She came back after I went off to be with Hodding, she took it back. And you see, whoever had the women's page also sort of pushed the artistic and the little theater. You wrote a lot of publicity for them and tried to stir up the arts and the whatever. Those were women's interests.
Ritchie: So Louise had been on the staff?
Carter: Oh, she was the first person Hodding hired. She set the tone for the women's page and was the—well, I'll tell you, when you think back on it, I don't think we were anything special, one way or the other. But Louise was because she knew the whole community. Together we would put out the stuff about the big little theater production that was coming or some musical event, we'd build that up. We really wrote the publicity.
Ritchie: Now, would the paper at this time have covered any black news?
Carter: Not any at all.
Ritchie: Nothing in the black community?
Carter: Nothing, nothing. And of course we had some Chinese, never would cover anything like that. A very limited—you just didn't cover those things.
Ritchie: But if there was a major issue, say, as the lynching and—
Carter: Well, but that was over—yes, then you'd write the editorial, Hodding would. And I can't think of any major issues we were involved in, in that period before the war. I think that the Nieman fellowship was a very important development in our lives. However, it was after the Nieman fellowship that we came back and I did the woman's page. I was carrying along in the usual way.
So then we went to Washington for the war and I guess whatever the Nieman had done for me and whatever it had done for Hodding—but Hodding was way ahead of me because he had demonstrated for Sacco and Vanzetti—well, I never thought of doing anything like that. But I think that the war sort of opened up a lot of things.
After Pearl Harbor came, I had done that stupid book for Hodding which he had done with Colonel [R. Ernest] Dupuy who was his superior. So the book is by Dupuy and Carter. Hodding had had trouble with his eyes at Camp Blanding, a palm frond did something and he didn't have direct vision in his right eye after that. He was about to be put out of the Army when Pearl Harbor came but he fudged it and was able to stay. We had more notes at the bank than he was making as a second lieutenant so we knew that I had to go to work.
So I went out and got a marvelous job with the Office of Facts and Figures, which a few months later became the Office of War Information. And worked with a fantastic group of people. I was a researcher. The writers were people like Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Milton MacKaye who did a lot of things for the Saturday Evening Post, McGeorge Bundy, William McNeill Lowry who did—is still, I think, alive and was working with the Ford Foundation. The researchers were all great girls. They had come from Time and Life and they were referred to as the [Henry] Luce women. So when I came, they had to call me a Luce woman, too, although I had never worked for Luce, and for fun we changed the spelling to Loose.
Archie MacLeish was the head of the Office of Facts and Figures but they threw him out. Congress thought he was too liberal. They converted it and called it the Office of War Information and Elmer Davis came in.
Ritchie: So you would research—
Carter: I did a lot. I wrote speeches and I did research.
Ritchie: On what was happening with the war?
Carter: Yes. In the Office of Facts and Figures, they assigned you a certain topic and I was assigned to Nations United. My deputy was Chris Herter. In doing some reading to try to find out what to do, I read where the Dutch were the first to salute the American flag. So I said that since that was true, we should salute the Dutch and we should have Princess Julianna come aboard a ship of the line and be piped on as a sign that the Netherlands fight on and they were not alone, that we were all still fighting, together.
So I told that to Chris Herter and he said yes, so he had to get permission. We went down to the Philadelphia Navy Yard and went on board the South Dakota. We got a half column in the New York Times. They had to say "at an eastern port a ship of the line," they couldn't say which, "had saluted Princess Julianna in honor of the fact that the Dutch fight on." We talked to Captain Thomas Leigh Gatch (later Rear Admiral) and he said, "Well, what do you want done on the ship when she comes."
I said, "Well, you have to pipe her on and you have to have all of your seamen up on [deck]." He said, "How many?" I said, "How many do you have?" and I think he said 1400, whatever he said. I said, "Well, I think 1200." So he put them all out on deck and they all saluted but I wasn't there, I was too low in the—you know, it was all arranged but it was very exciting. So I felt that was a pretty good thing to do.
I also did some good work for the Norwegians who were also fighting on. And I did some work for the—you know, brought out little history things that I would find out that we could show how they had helped us and that it isn't helping us but helping a cause that is bigger than us.
Ritchie: So it was a PR type of job.
Carter: It was, it really was. When Ethiopia was going to sign the Declaration by Nations United at the White House, they all signed saying, "We will not withdraw, we will all fight on together." Ethiopia decided to come in on it at the last minute and the writers weren't there, they'd gone for something, some vacation, so I had to write the little blurb about Ethiopia that would go into the little booklet about Nations United. So I enjoyed doing that and years later I saw Ethiopia but it wasn't quite the way I'd described it but I'd gotten it out of every book at the Library of Congress.
And [I] wrote speeches. Never for anybody higher than an assistant secretary of something, Navy or something.
Ritchie: In doing this, was your work ever censored?
Carter: No, no.
Ritchie: Were you aware of censorship?
Carter: You see, we were doing it, we were on the domestic side, that was important. No, it wasn't. I worked along with that and Hodding was doing what he was doing in the War Department. They sent him over to Egypt to start Stars and Stripes. I think they sent him over there to start Yank and when he got there, General [Lewis] Brereton asked him to do an area Stars and Stripes, so he did that, too. So I was just taking care of the two boys and commuting in daily from—not commuting, but from Silver Spring where we were staying.
Ritchie: I would say that was a lot more than "just." It must have kept you busy.
Carter: Oh, it did. It did.
Ritchie: Did you come in contact with any newspaper people then?
Carter: Well, you see, all those writers were the principal people that we saw, not newspaper people so much. When Hodding got back, he was doing psychological warfare and that type thing—and intelligence and propaganda, because he'd had a course in propaganda at Harvard when he was there which looked very good. Propaganda was a brand-new topic at that time.
While Hodding was overseas there was a major breakup. A woman came in to the advertising department, they didn't call it the advertising department, of OWI. She was getting ready to put out all of these posters. She came from either—she didn't come from Saks, she came from one of the other big stores. Her idea was not to tell women to walk because we needed to save the rubber but "walk to be beautiful." The writers really blew up on that. They said that the American people couldn't be fed that pap.
So that was part of the different point of view which led a lot of them to resign. Now, I didn't resign. I went over to see Elmer Davis and I said, "Look, I've done advertising." And I said, "I don't object to getting people to doing the work any way you can do it. But you can't tell them, when the levee is breaking, to fill the sandbags to make your waistline trimmer. You've got to tell them it's to save the levee."
So the upshot of that was that when my group all broke up, then I hate to tell you I was put over in the—I don't know what they called it, the public relations department. I was in on security of information with Ken Beirns. He went on to be a big shot for Revlon and married the sister of one of the big movie actresses, Rosalind Russell.
I enjoyed doing the security of information. Then I did radio programs for children before TV, not programs but fact sheets regarding war work for children—helping with the saving-fat publicity, writing the fact sheets to send out to all the radio stations about that and how the kiddies could help. Saving the fat and we had a big one on—good Lord, what was it?
Well, what had happened was that they couldn't get kapok from Southeast Asia because it was cut off by the Japanese, so how were we going to make our life jackets for our brave soldiers, sailors and marines? They told the kids of the Northeast, to gather milkweed floss because someone in the Department of Agriculture had discovered that milkweed floss made a wonderful substitute for kapok in life jackets.
Ritchie: It had the right consistency.
Carter: So we put on a big campaign. I really learned my lesson because we put on the campaign and the kids gathered the milkweed floss and they had to hang it on fences in summer and over clotheslines to dry.
Ritchie: Because it has that white liquid.
Carter: Yes, and they had to get it to dry. Then school was about to take in and what were they going to do with the milkweed floss. Well, they couldn't do anything with it. All over the Northeast they were telegraphing in, "What do we do with it?" They hadn't made the proper arrangements to gather it in. So that was really a flop.
And about that time—I don't think it was then but I'm not positive when—Mary Lou Mickey had been a researcher. She went to work for Bernard Baruch as a confidential researcher. Her husband was hurt on the Franklin when the Kamikaze came and went right straight down the funnel and blew up the ship and so many were killed and they went limping back to port. And she wanted to be with Bill.
[End Tape 3, Side A; Begin Tape 3, Side B]
Carter: So she wanted to be with Bill when he came in to the West Coast and she recommended me to Mr. Baruch. So I went [and] because that was deemed war service, I was able to resign from OWI and went to work for Mr. Baruch as confidential researcher. Any question that he had, he would never give an answer until he had the facts. And believe me, that makes a difference.
I came to hate Clare Luce with a passion because she would answer, "No, that's globalony." Well, that's a beautiful line but she hadn't gotten any of her facts correct, at least from my point of view. And I thought that—whatever her first name was, Chase Smith, the senator from Maine—
Carter: Margaret. She was wonderful. She always researched and she'd say, "I'll tell you that tonight," or "I'll tell you that tomorrow," and she'd put her staff out to get the facts.
Ritchie: So you were doing this type of thing—
Carter: That's for him, for him. Simply so if he had a letter he could get the facts before he wrote the letter, the answer.
Ritchie: Do you remember any of the issues?
Carter: Well, the principal issue that we got into was post-war aviation, whether it should be—whether America should have a single company that would be like the British Airways, that would be the government-sponsored thing or whether we would have competition. That was fascinating. There were hearings on it and I had to take all that material and reduce it so that he would know who said what.
Then he was in New York and I went on up to New York for a conference with him. Well, he was actually out on Long Island at one of the Guggenheim estates that he had rented because his own place he had already rented to somebody else. We stayed out there for a few days. I went up to stay maybe overnight, so I'd put a nightgown in my purse, and I put a toothbrush and some cold cream [in] and stayed out there. The maid would wash the nightgown and spread it so beautifully over the bed. By golly, you've never seen anything look like that.
We worked on this question and then he decided we'd better go into New York because there were people we had to see. So we went in to New York and we stayed at the Waldorf Towers and we had a talk with all of the big aviation people. But we were waiting for Juan Tripp, who was supposed to fly in from the West Coast. And he never did get there, as far as I'm concerned.
So then—it seems to me my life has always ended before it ended. It was the year of a polio epidemic in Washington and my sister had come and taken the two boys to Florida. We'd put the dog in the kennel and the fleas were attacking Hodding. It might be funny but it wasn't. He'd phone and he'd say, "The fleas are terrible." And I'd say, "Well, get some flea powder and put it around." So the next night he'd phone me and say, "The fleas have taken the place, I've got the whole bed surrounded but they're jumping up." So the next night the fleas were on the bed and he said, "Listen, either you come home and get rid of the fleas or you and I are through."
Well, when he said a thing like that, he was just—he could have meant it, you couldn't tell. Maybe I knuckled under too easily, maybe. But I don't know—I knew that man pretty well. I told Mr. Baruch I had to go back to Washington, even though we were still waiting for Juan Tripp. And I said, "Well, you will see him, so you'll be able to ask him those questions."
I went back to Washington; promptly discovered that I was about three months pregnant which I hadn't known and was in the midst of feeling terrible which I had not realized was going to happen. But on my two gallons of gas, I did ride up to the top of the hill and mentioned at the Gulf station there that the fleas were eating up the house and that my husband was going to leave me and the Gulf man said, "That's easy." He said, "Buy this spray, Gulf Spray." Well, I bought a can of Gulf Spray, sprayed it all over the place, the fleas went away. I think it might have had the earliest DDT. I really think it may have, I don't know. I ought to ask the Gulf people if that was true.
So that was the end of me and Mr. Baruch. I must say I enjoyed that period. I was in OWI one day, went by to see all the crowd and some of those men in the hall out there by Elmer Davis's office, they said, "Look, we're trying to put together an office of something that will be—we're going to have it in Australia, the first one. It will be an office for American information and people will be able to come in and get books—"
They said, "We think you'd be good, would you take it?" And I thought, "Good God, I'd love it." But I also knew that I had a husband and two children. I said, "I'd love it but I can't possibly."
Ritchie: And the war was over at this time?
Carter: The war was not yet over but they were getting ready. Everybody knew in the long run it would be over. And we didn't know anything about the Manhattan Project but Hodding knew about it. But I never knew a word about it. It was over in the War Department. He knew, because he was in intelligence or something like that. But I didn't know anything about it. And the only thing I ever came near it on was that we got a memo that said, "Under no circumstances discuss heavy water." I didn't know what heavy water was and I certainly wasn't going to discuss it. I didn't. But after the Manhattan Project was known, then I began to understand.
So, I didn't go to Australia. I was in bed, I'd just had Tommy—
Ritchie: He was born in Washington?
Carter: Yes. He was born March the 28th, 1945. Mr. Roosevelt had just died. My second sister was up there and she took the children to see the funeral parade. And all of the crowd went out to San Francisco for the founding of the United Nations. So I felt very close to all that although I was not there.
The Army had told Hodding that his eye was in terrible shape and that he had to get out, that he couldn't work any more, and that he should go down and spend his life on the beach in Florida. Well, he didn't like that idea but we went up to Maine and we were up there that summer.
Well, what had happened was that his superior officer, Jack Stanley, who had been his superior at Yank in the Egypt days, wanted to have a vacation and Hodding had said go to Maine and see Ham Hall, Hodding's cousin. And while he was up there he bought a little house from Mrs. Bok, Mary Louise Curtis Bok, who owned a lot of property up there. She owned the Saturday Evening Post, of course. When Hodding's eyes were so terrible, sometime late in that winter of '45, he went up to Maine to see Ham on a vacation. He bought a house, Hodding did. The first house we ever owned was in Rockport, Maine, right next to Camden, and right next to the house that Jack had bought.
So now comes Hodding's being put out of the Army. We don't know if we're coming back to Greenville or not and we didn't know if we could, if his eyes would be good enough. We went on up to Maine and lived in this darling house that was fully furnished, thank God. We certainly couldn't have furnished it. Hodding came on back down to Greenville to see about the paper and how we could get it back and ran into all this to-do. Don Reynolds had bought new presses and lent the money to the paper to buy them, so we would have to buy him out on that in addition to his half of the paper, his 48%—49%.
Ritchie: So while he made it possible for the paper to continue during the war years—
Carter: Yes, he was going to keep it. The only way that Hodding got it back was that Hodding outsmarted him in a poker game. Not actually. What he did was that he—until the last minute the deal was set up, whoever made the offer, I could buy your part, I would offer to sell—how was that, maybe buy or sell, and you either buy me at this price or I'll buy you at this price.
Well, that was fair except that we would still owe Don all this extra money that he had invested. Hodding had to pretend that we weren't coming back so that this man would make the price low enough so that we could come back and could buy him. And Don did. We were able to scrape that money together and come back down. We came in the fall, in time for the beginning of school, and had to buy a house, bought the house there on Arnold and got settled there.
At first Hodding thought that I would be—he didn't want me to work, really. He wanted to be—take over, do it without me. But the way I got back was I began writing things about art and that type thing. We started a book page, which was a lousy book page, but we started it. And that's how I got back to the paper.
Pretty soon I was doing advertising in special editions. The one I really took the greatest pride in was a special edition in—I think it was '48, now you see it's terrible not to know. But it was the beginning of the pesticides and herbicides and the mechanical cotton picker had been invented and in good shape just before the war and they couldn't make it during the war because of the steel shortages. So now the mechanical cotton picker came in. And this whole special edition of the paper—many, many pages—and every single ad and every bit of copy had to do with land use and the proper land use and what were the latest ideas.
Ritchie: That certainly is important in this area.
Carter: Oh, it was. And the man who had the experiment station at Stoneville and later was head of Mississippi State University, he said it was the best piece of agricultural promotion that had ever appeared in the state. Well, that isn't to say much but it was a nice compliment for the little girl. So I consider that the best thing, one of the best things I did.
In the meantime, Hodding was trying to get better pay for the cotton pickers because not everybody had the mechanical cotton pickers yet, they were just coming in. Here were these men coming back from the war and from industry or wherever they had been during the war and they weren't going to work for whatever it was they'd gotten before. At a very period when mechanization was coming into the plantations which made an industrial revolution on the plantation, we had the beginning of the civil rights movement. The people came back and they weren't going to take it the way they had had it before.
Hodding wrote wonderful editorials during that period and he won the Pulitzer for one he'd written up in Maine before he ever actually got back here. Well, he'd been back here but he wasn't in Greenville when he wrote it, the one they cited. I recently reread that group of editorials but the ones that he was writing that I think were far superior and were very long were telling the white leadership to do what they knew was right and to come on and do it. He was saying for the ministers to step out, for people to try to take a stand for greater equality.
Ritchie: And this was in the immediate time following the war.
Carter: Absolutely. And that was in the fall of '46—or when did the war end? '45. All right. In '45, all of that fall and all that time. And he was writing these editorials about—but people weren't getting mad because—white people weren't getting mad because he was saying this is the best, this is what the good people of the South have always believed. Well, he hoped that he could lead them that way and that was what he tried to do throughout.
The big moments of the bad period began with the Supreme Court decision about integration of the schools. And then it began to get hot. Anything he said they absolutely construed as being communistic and wrong and dangerous. "They"—who are "they"? They were the power structure. I'm sure that the poor black people, a lot of them didn't read the paper but they knew who was standing for them.
Ritchie: "They" were the people who would be affected by the changes.
Ritchie: And they saw those changes as adverse ones for their economic situations.
Carter: Oh, yes, a very economic situation. So that went on. And what was I doing at that period? I was president of every organization in town that a woman could be head of. I think the theory was that I would prove that we were home and that we didn't have horns.
Ritchie: And that you were really part of the community.
Carter: Part of the community, very much so. As president of the Junior Auxiliary, I made a stand for what we would have as our major project. I don't know what they wanted but I decided we should have, work for a day nursery and we voted to have it. We had a very good day nursery, all white.
About that same time Ruth Brent—[Tape interruption.]
Now, I learned a lot from the day nursery—and also I want to go back to Ruth Brent. What I learned from the day nursery was that these were all white children from very poor families, they didn't know one thing. They didn't know about toothbrushes, they didn't know washcloths, some of those children came from homes outside the levee, on the river side of the levee, where they went to the bathroom on the floor in their homes and then the mother would just put the food on the floor for them, there's no telling why they didn't have everything in the world. But we taught those kids a great deal, they learned it. And the second year was a lot easier—we had a paid woman in charge, a very good young director.
Now at the same time that we were doing that—well, we got that started by the fall of '46—in about '48, Ruth Brent, a good Methodist over at Trinity, tried to get a day nursery started, or day care center for the children of black families because, she said, "We want those women to work for us but they have to have a place to leave their children." It was a very good, sound, conservative way of putting it.
There was enough money available in the state to have one that would get a little federal subsidy. She went ahead and couldn't get anybody to help with it. First she thought she had her Trinity Methodist crowd—but black children? Then she thought she had the Junior Auxiliary but they showed interest but not to go and work. Finally she got it going and the Greenville Day Care Center was the first nursery for black children in this area.
Now, I had nothing to do with that. But Ruth was my friend, became more and more my friend, we became friends over the years. And she did that. And we went to—there was about that time, there was an organization called—and there is an organization called Church Women United. Have you ever heard of it?
Carter: Have you? Well, at that time it was—it wasn't Church Women United, they twisted the name later to Church Women—it was under the National Council of Churches. Ruth was active in Church Women United. It was a white organization and I was very active in it.
After the '54 Supreme Court decision—the National Council of Churches took positions on things and the organization was ready to collapse in the South from the point of view of the white participation. But we already had a few black people participating and they said they would go right on meeting. And Ruth said she had no objections to meeting for the worship of God with anybody, so she continued and I continued. And I think that Ruth held it together, and I helped. And we kept Church Women United going.
And in those days, the first time in Greenville that I can remember—it was not a Church Women United meeting but Ruth was trying to drum up support for the day care center and we went over to Josephine Haxton's—she's a writer who writes under the name of Ellen Douglas. We went over to her house, a group of
black and white women, and Josephine passed Coca-Colas in bottles. She carried the tray around, and the black woman took the bottle and the white woman took the bottle. Now, the next white woman looked to see whether it was all right to take the bottle of Coca-Cola, and she did. That was the first time that I know of in the city of Greenville that uptown type women sat in a room and had a Coca-Cola with black women. It's unbelievable. We don't remember what steps we've taken since then. We don't realize it.
Ritchie: So some women didn't want to continue in the group because it was becoming integrated?
Carter: Oh, yes, integrated. Definitely. So it became an integrated organization. We would meet and kept right on meeting. Never very strong, really, but we made a big to-do about it, said we were stronger than we were. Two years ago, they organized the Greenville Foundation, the men got it started, with women, too, but the men thought it up. And it's supposed to be balanced—black, white, male, female. And the men say, isn't it wonderful that we are sitting down together for the first time—ha! Ha!
They don't remember back, to about seventy-something, I was on the Chamber of Commerce education committee and a young man who's now on the State Supreme Court, Jimmy Robertson, he and I together put on a big, two-day to-do called "Quality and Equality of Education." By then the Washington School had started. The word the private school white people put out was you couldn't get quality education in the public schools. We put on a big conference. We got a thousand or two thousand dollars from something like the Endowment for the Humanities, if that was then endowed. We met at the library and we still had the paper, and boy, did I write some publicity for that like mad.
That wasn't enough. I made 600 telephone calls and got 150 people to that conference and had it balance, so that we had blacks and whites, male and female, parochial, private and public. It was beautiful. Our Church Women United sat at the registration desk and registered the people. Oh, it was really a great occasion.
Ritchie: So you've seen a lot of changes.
Carter: Yes, definitely.
And you don't know what your part had to do but you know that all the little things that go together help to hold a situation, make it either come through or not come through. And sometimes you just—you know, you don't see where you've done anything but when you see the changes, there's no question but what the federal government had to do it. There was no power on this earth strong enough to break the eggs that had to be broken.
Ritchie: Certainly the newspaper in town could play an important part.
Carter: Oh, it was. It was. And it was, you know, coming out editorially every time for each thing it needed to come out for. Then in '62, I guess it was, that Hodding was in residence at Tulane doing—maybe it was before that because nobody was here, meaning I wasn't here, Hodding wasn't here, and young Hodding wasn't here. He'd gone off on a Nieman fellowship by then and we were down at Tulane where Hodding was in residence doing things for journalism down there.
And so at Christmas we had a family conference. We didn't like the way the young man who was the editor was handling the paper. So they said, "Well, Betty—Mother, you will just have to stay in Greenville and just get the paper back in shape."
So they went back to Harvard or back to New Orleans and left me here. The first thing they told me to do was to get rid of the editor. Well, in the history of the Democrat-Times, nobody had ever been fired. But here I had to do it. Well, I didn't but I told him that I just couldn't keep him as editor, that I would love
to have him as a reporter but that we had to have a different editor. So he resigned. What would you do? So he did.
So then who was my editor? I looked around the newsroom, who would I choose as the editor. So I had to work that one through. And I'll think of his name in a minute. Foster Davis. So I said, "You're the editor." Well, that was like on Saturday. And on Monday morning I came down to the paper early to see how things were going and how my editor was taking over. He wasn't there. And I said to the girl on the desk, "Sally, where is Foster?" She said, "Oh, he's at the air base. There's a group of blacks who have taken over several of the buildings out there."
Well, the air base had been given up as far as being an air base but all those buildings were there. Throughout this section of the country the planters were saying to the tenants on their places, "You either work at the price that we'll pay you or you get off the land, we don't want you on the property, you've lived on the property as a tenant but you're not a tenant, get off."
So they had no place to go. Unita Blackwell had organized a group and they planned the whole thing. On Monday morning in the cold night, dark, they went out, they broke the lock on a gate and they went in and took one of the buildings and they were in that building. So I rushed out there. Well, by then, Foster was getting the story for the Democrat but nobody knew anything. All we knew was that there was a group in there that had taken it over. We put it on the wire and immediately the press of the world converged on Greenville, Mississippi. Bishop Moore arrived, and everybody arrived so it was a big to-do. Then the question was how to get them out of there without bloodshed. It all was worked out finally. They went out and had to find a place to stay and they went down south of town and developed what they call Freedom Village.
But anyway, so my being editor—well, I wasn't editor, I was publisher at that point—started under difficult circumstances, so that was an exciting period.
Now another thing that I did that I think—you're talking about my life as a newspaperwoman—it really had a lot to do with using the paper as a tool. [I] felt that education was so important. Governor [William] Winter had these ideas for improved education. We got out and we put on a mass meeting at the new convention center. We had about a thousand people. The temperature was about five below zero, it was unbelievably cold. We had snow and ice on the ground, Mrs. [Elise] Winter was supposed to come but how would she get here—and she said she'd come by helicopter if she had to. Well, she got here.
And the school band couldn't make it but the Head Start children were put into a bus and they were brought. The band didn't come, how were we going to have any music? And I looked around and I said, "Can you play the piano?" and she said yes, whoever she was. And I said, "What march can you play?" She said, "Oh, I can play the 'Battle Hymn of the Republic.'" So we got two little boys to carry the American flag and the Mississippi flag, took them off of the stage, Mrs. Winter on the arm of the mayor, and all the little Head Start children behind, and we all stood up and marched in to the tune of "Mine eyes have seen the glory."
We had wonderful speakers, which I had rounded up, and we had every legislator from this area. Governor Winter got his program through because he built a groundswell and we were part of the groundswell. The legislators said, "Well, he can call a special session and we have to go, but we can end it without doing anything." But they got there and they couldn't. So we got a good educational reform package.
Ritchie: So once again you used the paper as a tool for community change.
Carter: Right, right.
[Begin Tape 1, Side A]
Ritchie: Well, Betty, I wanted to backtrack just a bit this morning and talk about Hodding's political career in Louisiana.
Carter: Oh, that was hot stuff. Well, you see, they felt that they had to have somebody run for the legislature, an anti-Long, and so he ran. He really loved it, running. In those days they went out with sound trucks and they'd go through the town and announce that, either Long was coming or we'd hired our truck and the loudspeaker blares out that "Hodding Carter will be at the crossroads or at the drugstore or whatever it is at 6:00 p.m." Everyone turns out and you have little handbills, six by nine, pink/yellow dodgers that you hand out.
He went and he made the talks. He kept going back to Kentwood and I said, "Why do you keep going back to Kentwood?" He said, "It's 'cause they like me up there." It's ridiculous. Of course they did. They were an anti-Long community.
He went out to Pumpkin Center and he got there and he made his talk, and there were, I think, three or five people standing there. After he'd made his pitch this man came up to him, he had been standing there with his wife like Grant Wood types, and he said, "Now, son," he said, "I don't agree with a word you're saying but I'm going to come and vote for you because you had the courage to come out here." So he recognized his courage, and Hodding did get two votes in the town. It was a man and his wife, so that was nice.
But he was badly eliminated in the primary—they had an election but the primary was it. So he was badly eliminated in that. And it was the beginning of—it was a big fight between Mr. Roosevelt and Huey Long. So Hodding was given all these work forms and you'd give that little slip to somebody and then they could go work in the mattress factory that the federal government had, the WPA or maybe it was the PWA, remember, the names changed in there. The mattress factory—you brought your old mattress and they took out all of your ticking, all of your insides, and cleaned it and put it in fresh ticking. That was a job that the government could give that didn't require materials, except for the ticking, I guess.
So, you were supposed to say to the man who you gave the little work form to that you expected him to vote for you. But Hodding couldn't do it. He said, "That poor devil, I know he's a Long man," but he couldn't do it, he'd just give him the slip, anyway. So I don't think Hodding was any asset to Mr. Roosevelt, either, although we were for Mr. Roosevelt. But he couldn't do it. He wasn't a politician.
Ritchie: Did he ever consider politics here in Mississippi?
Carter: No, oh, no. No, no, no, no. And Mississippi is so conservative, how could he have done it?
Of course, young Hodding came and broke all of that. He was very, very influential in getting the Democratic party in the state of Mississippi changed so it would be the Democratic party of the national party. And that was good. We worked all along for a two-party system, we thought that would help to be one of the ways that the state could change and go ahead, because nobody had to pay any attention to Mississippi. The Democrats because they had it, and the Republicans because they couldn't get it. That was why when Mr. [Jimmy] Carter came to Greenville it was the first time a presidential candidate had ever come to Greenville looking for the nomination. He didn't come as a candidate, he came looking. But it paid off and we knew it would pay off for Mississippi. But no, Hodding didn't run for anything.
Ritchie: Did you support candidates?
Carter: Yes, but we would only do it in the election, not in the primary. They had, the Democratic party—who did it? The state cut the legislature—how did that work? There was something there that said that you had to promise to support—if you were going to vote in the Democratic primary—and you had to vote in the Democratic primary because that was where the decisions were made. If you voted in the Democratic primary, you had to swear to support the candidate when he got to the election. Now, is that correct?
Hodding said nobody was going to tell him who he was going to support when he went into a booth and voted quietly and privately, as guaranteed by the Constitution. He went with his lawyer, and everybody knew that he wasn't going to vote for the candidates when it got to be the presidential or—presidential, I guess—that he was going to vote for who he was going to vote for. And he said, "Now I'm going to vote," and he said, "I'm going to vote for whoever I please—vote for in the election. And here's my lawyer to take down everything you say," and they let him vote.
I'm confused on exactly how that was. But that was the whole theory there. You see, and we did not vote for Mr. Roosevelt in the third and fourth election because Hodding said even if it was wartime he felt it was dangerous for the commander-in-chief to be reelected for a third term. So we didn't vote for him. And it seems to me we voted for [Wendell] Willkie and then for [Thomas E.] Dewey, God help us. But we did. I rather liked Willkie. I thought he had good ideas and he believed in one world, which I believed in.
Ritchie: Well, so the paper, Hodding would support candidates after the primary.
Carter: That's correct. That's correct. And always against [Theodore G.] Bilbo, from the beginning of the first moment, he'd be against Bilbo, and that was a hot, ridiculous campaign with both Bilbo and Hodding—Bilbo from the stand and Hodding from the editorials, just calling each other every name they call each other. And I don't remember whether the county went for Bilbo or not.
About then comes [Dwight D.] Eisenhower and unfortunately, we had been at the American Society of Newspaper Editors convention and Hodding had made an early commitment to help. Now, Hodding was having lunch with Senator—he was a Bowdoin man who was the senator from Illinois [Paul Douglas]. And Hodding had a long-standing luncheon date with him. So right after General [Douglas] MacArthur made his speech in the Congress, Hodding went to lunch at the Senate Office Building and this old friend of his said, "Now the only man who can save America and bring everybody together is Eisenhower."
And Hodding having been moved by the horror of MacArthur's arrival on the white horse, practically, decided that was true. So he went to the telephone, immediately left the table in the Senate Dining Room, and dictated an editorial which because of the hour difference we were able to get into the paper that day, coming out for Eisenhower. Having done that, along comes our good friend Adlai [Stevenson] but we couldn't vote for him because we'd already committed to Eisenhower. We were sad over that.
And we carried the congressional district for Eisenhower. But our congressman, Frank Smith, didn't want to say that we had carried it for Eisenhower because he needed the support of the Democratic party. So he juggled some figures that somehow proved that per district we had gone Democratic. We didn't, we went Republican.
So, I guess that was a political victory in part for Hodding but we didn't really like it in many ways. It's funny how you get what you pray for but it ain't always what you want. [Laughter.]
And let me tell you about that election. There was a girl that we had had out to lunch, her husband was at the air base. We'd had the Stehlis to lunch, and she was having a baby. So I knew she was in King's Daughters Hospital four blocks from the courthouse which was her voting precinct. And she was in labor and
we needed every vote. They said no, they couldn't bring the books to her but could she come to the courthouse. And I said, "Well, look, if I phone you and say she's on her way, can you march her right through?" So I said, "All right, now, how fast are your pains?" And she said, "Fifteen minutes, pretty close." And I said, "We're going. So you get ready, the minute this pain is over, we're going." And we went over and she voted. Her daughter became Hodding's—my son Hodding's researcher in Washington, that little baby girl. Isn't that cute?
Ritchie: Oh, my.
Carter: Well, anyway, that's just a little side story.
Ritchie: Well, local elections would have brought in advertising revenue for the paper.
Carter: Oh, well, we did that. We were delighted to get the advertising revenue and did that. Then they passed, the legislature passed a law that said that you couldn't charge more than a certain amount for ads for candidates, political candidates, and John Gibson brought to Hodding's attention that this was a control of the press. We had to not accept political advertising after that. Because the right to control what you pay for an ad is a way of control—and of course, it was those legislators that just didn't want to have to pay the—
Ritchie: Their money.
Carter: Yes. And so that was the end of the political advertising in the Delta Democrat-Times.
Ritchie: So it was no longer accepted.
Carter: Un-un. He was right, it was a philosophical point, there were very few philosophical points that we agreed with John on, but we agreed on that. And of course, I don't know any other paper in the world that agreed with that, it had to only be Mississippi. I don't know if it was every taken to the Supreme Court or not, but everyone accepted the advertising revenue that they were permitted to charge, but we didn't do it.
Ritchie: And that would have allowed the politicians to get more advertising for their money.
Carter: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Ritchie: They could spread their money.
Carter: That's right. So I don't know, it had two sides, I'm sure.
Ritchie: Was the paper ever accused of being controlled by a group or a faction?
Carter: No. If anybody'd said anything like that, they knew Hodding would go up and bip 'em in the chin.
Ritchie: And he did that on occasion?
Carter: Well, I don't know that he ever really did. No. But people knew that he was not just words, he would be action. Now, how they knew that, let me figure.
I don't know. The only bad time was—they were having the fundraiser for the building of the new church and they went up to Cottingham's Lodge up on Lake Washington, and the men all had plenty to drink, that's the way the Episcopal church raises money. The president of one of the banks, Conwell Sykes and Hodding just plain disagreed on every issue. So they disagreed on some issue at the bar at that party and Conwell said something and Hodding hit him. The Episcopal minister was very upset over that and of course
it was the talk of the town by coffee time. It sounded terrible. He came to Hodding and he said, "Now, you all have to make up, you have to be seen publicly shaking hands." So they had to go in front of the post office at about nine or ten o'clock in the morning and publicly shake hands, which they did. Now that I remember. Any other time that he hit anybody, I don't know.
Of course, there'd been the time when he hit Barry when he resigned from the United Press.
Ritchie: That was earlier in his career.
Carter: Oh, much. But I'll tell you one time—this is nothing political. This was when Philip was about ten or eleven and we were out at the big house and we were having dinner. Philip was sitting on the edge of his chair, sort of like he couldn't really sit down, and his father said, "Sit down!" And he said, "Well, why? Why can't you sit down?" He said, "Cause my bottom hurts." "Why does your bottom hurt?" "Well, 'cause Coach licked me."
So his father said, "Come with me." They went to the bathroom and Philip pulled his pants down. The skin on his bottom was broken. That was enough for Hodding. He went to the telephone and telephoned the man and he said, "You get out here as fast as you can get here," and I've never—you've heard about blowing your top, well, I just saw the blood going up to the top of Hodding's head and I thought, "There's death ahead for this man."
Well, he came, he came as fast as he could get there, he got there in half the time I would have thought it possible. And Hodding just told him—I really thought he was going to kill him, but he didn't touch him. And he said, "If you ever touch a child of mine again," et cetera, et cetera. And that was the end of that. But I'll tell you—and I think that's one reason that people didn't actually come to the house if they said they were going to come to kill Hodding Carter. I think they knew that Hodding Carter would be there and wouldn't fool around. I really think that that reputation was what saved us.
Ritchie: That he wasn't afraid.
Carter: Wasn't afraid, wasn't physically afraid. And he was going to back up what he had to say. I don't know, but I think that reputation was very good. And of course, we encouraged it, I'm sure. I don't remember encouraging it but why not?
Ritchie: So it was his character.
Carter: Absolutely. He would—he got very mad, very fast, and when he did, there wasn't much that could hold him in check, you just had to watch it, and say, "Well, now, come on, why don't you relax a little bit here."
Ritchie: Well, at work in the newspaper, would he have gotten mad?
Carter: Never at anybody like that. Hodding was remarkable because he saw people as human beings and he would certainly not want to—what is the expression? —he wouldn't want anyone to lose face and he was conscious of the humanity of each person. So he wouldn't do that.
No, he was easy-tempered, easy-going, and you could do things that you would think he would get furious about but if you did it—I'm making him sound awfully intemperate an awful lot—he wasn't. It was just that if an issue came up that was really something, you could expect him to get very upset over it.
Ritchie: Well, I think that someone lashing your child is something to get upset about.
Carter: Absolutely. Absolutely. But I'm trying to think of the political thing. He wrote one editorial that was marvelous about the legal eagles, the legal eagles that roost in the Weinberg Building. That was one building that had all the lawyers. And that was in the campaign when Frank Smith was running for Congress. A man named Oscar Wolf who was very conservative and he was running for Congress against Smith.
I said we didn't come out for candidates in the primaries but we certainly came out for Frank Smith in the primary. So maybe I have to take that back. Maybe it was in the local elections that we didn't take—that's probably what it was. We certainly fought for Frank Smith all the way down the line. And that editorial about legal eagles—the lawyers hated it because they sort of hated the idea that they were classified in a group, in a roost in the Weinberg Building.
Ritchie: Yesterday we talked a little bit about your involvement in the community with the Junior Auxiliary.
Carter: Oh, it wasn't just that. Within the first five years when we got back, maybe it has to be—well, anyway, I was president of the women of the church, I was president of the Carrie Stern PTA, then I was president of the junior high PTA, eventually the president of the senior high PTA, we moved to the country, I was president of the Trigg PTA, and I was president and organized the PTA Presidents' Council.
They organized something here—well, they had it nationally—called the Altrusa Club, I was organizer and first president of the Altrusa Club. In the meantime, there was the Pilot Club, women, and they got me. So I was a Pilot, I never was president.
When I'd left Greenville for the war, I'd been a member of the Alice Bell Garden Club, which was a very good and very active garden club. But I hadn't been active in it, it was just a nice thing to have been invited to belong to. [I] came back and the Greenville Garden Club, which was the older club, invited me to membership because by then I had been a citizen for two years, with the war intervention, still two years. The Greenville Garden Club asked me to be a member and I thought, "Well, I'll just quietly not pick up my other membership."
But Mrs. Wetherbee announced they had saved my space, so I'm still a member of the Alice Bell Garden Club. And wrote their Arbor Day ceremony when I was supposed to plant Arbor Day trees. Mary Effie Parks and I—she was in charge of getting the trees, I was in charge of setting it up. There was no Arbor Day ceremony, so I wrote the Arbor Day ceremony, and we got a national honorary mention for the Arbor Day ceremony.
But I went on to be president of the Greenville Garden Club. And of course I was president of the Junior Auxiliary. Now all of this is taking place in about six years, maybe five.
Ritchie: When returning from the war?
Carter: Oh, from the war. So it was a period of really emphasizing that we were here. And the whole time working. The worst thing was that Hodding decided—well, we both decided but he decided that we were going to go ahead and build out in the country. Well, I said, "Hodding, have we got time to do it?" Not asking have we got the money to do it. We didn't. But he said, yes, we would find the time. Well, that takes time, to think what you want to do.
Ritchie: To oversee it all.
Carter: Absolutely. So we did that, we actually broke ground. We built the little house, I designed the little house and the builder who built it for us, I think he had a plan, and I said, "How many square feet?" and he said a thousand. And I said, "Well, I just don't like what you've given us at all, it's a terrible plan. You have to go through the master bedroom, everybody has to go through to get to the bathroom, the one bathroom."
And so he said, "Well, we're going to pour the concrete on Monday morning." This was Saturday. I sat down and struggled with it. And he took it and he said, "Yes, that will do." And he won a prize with the floor plan. It was good. And that's that little house you've seen out on the place.
We built that and we moved out there in 1950 and the big house was not finished until '51 because it was about a fifteen months' period and the Korean War was going on, supplies would not be available and we didn't have the money. That's about the time that Hodding began going out as a lecturer. And he decided that if we were going to build the big house, we would also build the south wing which was where the big playroom was. So he would go out on these lecture trips and say he was building the south wing, which he was.
I remember he went out on this big lecture trip. He was going to be at McAllen, Texas, and he'd been gone for about four or five weeks and he said I had to come and meet him, bring the car. So I got in the car and went out to meet him.
The fascinating thing about that trip was that while we were out there I was able to see this little Mexican girl. Right after the war, Greenville had a new secretary of the Chamber of Commerce. Some little girl from McAllen, Texas, wrote a letter to the Chamber of Commerce. She said she was in the fourth grade or the fifth, and that her class, they were all writing to get information about the towns. So she wanted a little brochure or something. And he said, "Wouldn't it be wonderful to bring this child to Greenville, Mississippi, and show her the town and show her the state." Big excitement, they did it by telephone. He phoned and invited the child to come. Nobody knew that she was in a retarded class. But here she was, she wasn't really retarded, probably. She was Mexican-American, the only time she'd ever been out of the state was that she'd gone to Florida for the lettuce picking with her family on the truck. She was oversized for her age, no cute figure or anything, and the school quite marvelously chose to take a teacher, who was not her teacher but who had done work like Girl Scout work, and they asked her to take over this situation and accompany the child.
They came to Greenville and they had arranged for her to go to Jackson and be greeted on the floor of the legislature, which she was. The best thing was when they took her to the local radio station here and asked her what song she would like for them to play, what music, she said "God Bless America." I really thought that was fantastic. Whether she knew ahead of time, whether Faytine Zumwalt coached her, or whether it came spontaneously, it was the perfect answer.
Anyway, on that trip to McAllen I was able to go by and see the child. It was now a year later and she met me, I went to her house with Faytine and she was wearing the faded dress that they—the McAllen Chamber of Commerce—had bought for her. She was wearing that dress but it had been washed so often, all the life was out of it. She'd gotten bigger. The house was a shack and her little brother came out in the Mexican fashion with the little short shrift that came above everything so that if he wet, it wouldn't wet anything. Poor, toothless mother came to welcome us. The wash tub fastened on to the outside of the house. And when we left, the little girl cried.
And I often wondered whether they should have done it or not. I was talking to the superintendent of education here, Mrs. [Norma] O'Bannon, and she said, "Well, at least she's had that." She said, "It is something that she has had." And she said, "I think it was all right." I was worried about it. And I was worried about my part in it because I'd helped to publicize the whole thing, and helped to whip up the—boy, you've got to know a lot more than you ever know before you start. But you start and there you are, you've got the situation and you helped to create it. But Norma O'Bannon said she thought it was good for the child. I hope so.
Then we come back from that. Hodding's been out five weeks, maybe six, but anyway—he had to go to Jackson for a big luncheon given in his honor by the head of the office supply company which was also the school books supply, Boyd Campbell. Boyd Campbell was an enlightened businessman and I guess it was while we were away on the Nieman he had had—oh, God, the Metropolitan opera singer, the black girl,
black woman from Laurel, Mississippi—Leontine Price. And he'd had her come to sing at the high school auditorium, Bass Auditorium—we weren't here for that.
Now he was having this luncheon in Jackson for Hodding who was a Pulitzer prize winner, therefore that was the proper thing to do and a lot of people turned out for it. And we ran into—well, Rodney Defenbaugh came, his wife came to the luncheon, and that was the man who had been our advertising manager, who took over from me, and they had two little boys. And he was now the advertising manager for one of the Jackson papers. Grace said that she had this problem and that they were considering going into business for themselves in Grenada. And she couldn't decide what to do. And what should they do? And she said they just didn't have time to think, with the children and with all the problems, and I said, "Well, look, I'll take the children and we'll bring them with us to Greenville."
Out of Jackson, after the die was cast, and the children were coming, I telephoned the house and David Brown, then a reporter and later editor [Tom Karsell was editor then]—David Brown and Sue, his wife, were staying with our children over on Arnold Avenue while I went off on the trip. I phoned the house and I said, "Sue, everything okay?" And she said, "Yes, but the children have chicken pox." And I said to Grace, "It's all right with me but the children have chicken pox." She said, "Well, we'll just have to take a chance on the chicken pox because this is an important decision for the whole family."
Then we arrived at our house with the two children, in the house with the chicken pox. So there was confusion already. And as we drive up, there was an old Essex that I recognized. That Essex had appeared in Rockport, Maine, the first summer that we were in Rockport—I guess it was the second summer—you see, the dates are confusing. And I had telephoned from the country club where I was putting on the children's annual party and said to our maid, mother's maid, it has to be '46 because Mother had died by then and I had Sophie [Phillips] for that summer—and I said, "Sophie, is everything all right," because Ben Ames Williams and [his wife] Floss were coming to have dinner with us, maybe spend the night, I don't know. She said, "No'm, it isn't all right." And I said, "What's the matter?" She said, "Mr. Carter's got two people in there and he says they're staying at the house." And I said, "Well, do we know them?" She said, "No, ma'am, you don't know them." And I said, "Well, just add the places to the table and I'm on my way as soon as I can."
When I got home I found the guests were a young Dutch artist and her husband. They stayed six weeks. They had no place to go. We eventually had to buy a few pictures from them which we couldn't afford to do but we did. There was no other way that they could have left.
So here I arrived with Hodding, the house in confusion, and here is the Essex in front of the house. And Hodding was due at the Hebrew temple at the seven o'clock service where they were going to drink the Kaddish in his honor, where you go up in front and they take the goblet, et cetera. And I hadn't planned to go. Not but what I wanted to go but I thought I had enough to do to straighten. But when I saw that car, I knew I had to go, I had to have time to think.
We walked on in and welcomed them, and I said, "Look, I'm so glad"—well, I was lying, but it was all right, another time where you build up people's egos, you cannot destroy people. So I said, "Well, it's so good to see you, but you can only stay one night, you can see this, and you're going to have to sleep on the sofa in Hodding's study. The two of you are going to have to sleep there." And I said, "But do that." And I said, "And I have to go to the Temple."
I went to the Temple with Hodding and that gave me time to sit and figure how I was going to take care of the chicken pox, my children, and the visiting children, and have breakfast and get—what was her name? Cock von Ghent and [her husband] Arrie. They would reappear through the years. And I don't know what's happened to them. I think she did fairly well; she had some pictures in the Cleveland or Cincinnati Art Museum.
Well, that's all beside your point. But then we were still on Arnold. So then, I don't know what date, how I got off for a week, I don't know, but I did.
Ritchie: Well, who took care of the paper when Hodding was gone?
Carter: Well, you see, when he'd be gone, whoever was the editor. That was Tom Karsell at that time. And as far as the actual running of the financial, paying and doing all that, that would be John Gibson, who was a partner and the business manager. And we had an advertising manager. So I was just a supernumerary who came in and filled in wherever the responsibility was for the moment. And doing a lot of just public relations and writing up things that needed to be written up.
At some point later I became Farm Page editor, which I enjoyed. That was when David Brown became editor, I guess, and that was once a week. I really learned a lot about that because, strangely, back at McGehee's in high school some American Chemical Society or some such thing held a national competition for essays on chemistry in industry, chemistry in agriculture, chemistry in something. It was the beginning of chemistry in a big way in the twenties. So I wrote on chemistry in agriculture. Well, I didn't win, I got an honorary mention, in Louisiana, and a girl I knew who didn't go to McGehee's but I knew her, she got it nationally. And she wrote on chemistry in industry. Well, all those years my chemistry in agriculture had been lying fallow. That's why, I think, who knows what is relevant. Everything is relevant.
Ritchie: So, was the Farm Page a new page?
Carter: No, David Brown had been doing the Farm Page. But then when he became editor, somebody else had to do it so I was doing it, and I loved it. And I can't remember whether it was before or after that that I brought out, I did the land use edition.
Ritchie: Which would have tied closely—
Carter: Absolutely. And I can't remember the sequence there.
Ritchie: So you would have written about local issues concerning farmers.
Carter: Oh, yes, on the Farm Page, and mostly you were picking up material from the county agent and looking the material over that came in from the various sources on farming and the latest things.
Ritchie: Cotton and soybeans would have been the main crops?
Carter: And you see we had a period where we were struggling with trying to get cattle going. We thought that took less labor but it rains too much through here and the soil is too wet in the winter for cattle. So that did not become a big agricultural asset.
And along about the time of the Cuban missile crisis, we were in Washington for ASNE [American Society of Newspaper Editors] and they had a panel on the government printing and how much they were printing that had absolutely no meaning at all. And one man held up this pamphlet on the care and feeding of catfish and he said, "And this sort of thing." I went up to him afterwards and I said, "I just want you to know that catfish may well be the economic salvation of the Mississippi Delta, and it's not for nothing that the government is printing [this].
Of course, I was right. But I knew enough about the agricultural situation to know that we were—and the other thing that we worked on here was rice and Wade Hollowell had worked on rice and put up some money at the bank to put a well in that they had to have because you have to have a lot of water for rice.
Ritchie: So there was too much water for the cattle but not enough for rice?
Carter: Exactly. Because you have to put the water into the rice field when you need it. And that might not be when you got the rain.
Ritchie: Had rice ever been a crop here?
Carter: Not in this area—across the river in Arkansas, up by Stuttgart, that's one of the big rice areas. We have rice here now. And you'll see the rice fields as you drive, perhaps. You'll see fields that have very low ridges, plowed ridges, little levees, and that's so that the water can be flooded to that height, whatever it is.
Ritchie: Keep the water in.
Carter: Oh, yes, and you flood it when you need to. And then you have the catfish ponds that are rectangles, you'll see them.
Ritchie: And those are controlled areas where catfish are raised?
Carter: Oh, yes. And you have the people—on those places you'll frequently see that there's a little trailer near by. And it's really, it's gotten to be that the rustlers come and just steal your catfish. So you have to have somebody out there to protect your pond.
Carter: That's the point.
[End Tape 1, Side A; Begin Tape 1, Side B]
Ritchie: I'd like to talk a little bit about your involvement with the educational system—
Carter: Always, always interested in the education. And you see, the PTA's were a way to get into the schools. I didn't look at it as the way to get into the schools, you went into the schools and you learned a lot from that. And then you learned a lot from the day nursery and you learned a lot from—I don't know, I just always was interested in education as the way that you might build the community and people would—of course we learned about that, all the education in the world won't do it, you have to have the right heart back of it. Because look at the people that were running those horror chambers, a lot of those people were very highly educated. So education isn't going to do it. That's the tool. But the motivation has to be something else.
Ritchie: It's a combination. When you first arrived in Greenville, the schools would have been—
Carter: They were completely segregated, of course. I remember taking an out-of-town guest over to the newest school, Webb, a black school, and we got over there, and in the hallway they were ringing the bell for the change of class. They hadn't put in an electrical system to ring the bell and this was after the war. I don't think that's important. It would probably be a lot better if all the schools just rang a hand bell That would be a reminder that you weren't just going to spend money on things you didn't have to spend money on. But the teachers couldn't get mimeographs and for multi-choice questions, horrible, how could you put out multi-choice questions?
And they needed a piano. They didn't have a piano. We went over to Carrie Stern, white school, they had seven pianos, everybody had given them their old piano—a lot of them were not usable. But here they had
all this and these had nothing, and I think I told you before, the public black schools getting one-fifth as much funding as the public white schools. That was just downright wrong.
Ritchie: Would this have been throughout the state or was it just—
Carter: Oh, in the state it was far worse. The state would be worse. We were fairly bad [in Greenville]. I can't say fairly good. But it was terrible.
Now, on education—well, I think organizing the PTA presidents' council was good because that was a way—we didn't have black PTAs. If they existed we didn't know about them. They didn't participate in that, they were not in at all. Now people wonder why the PTAs are so weak. Well, in the integrated school you don't have the background of PTA work.
What else did I do for education? Oh, I had the Cub Scouts. Ah, ha. And what else?
Ritchie: Your boys were going to—
Carter: Public school.
Ritchie: Walked to public schools?
Carter: Yes, they walked. It was wonderful, until we moved out to the country. And we moved out there in '50 and at that point, I guess Hodding was in college—well, he was somewhere, he was either at Exeter—oh, he was at Exeter the year that we moved out there. And we built a two-bedroom house and had double-deckers so that when Hodding was home for Christmas he had to sleep in one of the double-deckers.
I'll tell you, the thing I think was the most very, very valuable to this community was when the big house got built and Hodding had been off to Southeast Asia for the State Department and the State Department began channeling people through Greenville. So from '51 on, we just had people coming through so fast, and it was good for the community. That was about as educational a thing as could have happened because there were lots of—they came to see about diversified agriculture and cotton, and they'd go to the Stoneville experiment station for that or they'd go up to Scott Plantation to see the project, that big cotton plantation up there. And they'd talk to Hodding about race relations and they would sit and I would say we had company five nights a week. And they would be from all over.
And the children, unless it was a dinner party, they'd be sitting there so that they learned. Now, at that time, at the beginning, we did not have any black Africans but we had quite a few people from India and some of them tend to be quite dark.
Ritchie: In the community or visiting?
Carter: Oh, visiting. So they would come and I remember this very attractive girl that Hodding had met in Delhi, she was the top political woman commentator/ columnist in Delhi. So Raj Chawla came and stayed with us. In the morning, she was in the guest room, and Hodding and I were having breakfast in the kitchen when Martha Collins was there, our maid, and I'd fixed the tray and I said, "Now, you just take that in to the lady."
She came back and she came and stood by me. And I said, "Anything wrong, Martha?" She said, "Yes'm." I said, "What?" She said, "Is she going to eat in the dining room?" She was dark. And she could see that I sent her the tray, which we did to all the guests, keep them out of the way for a while in the morning. "But is she going to eat in the dining room?" So the house had to learn certain things, which they learned.
And then there was a very black man from Bombay. I would take these people quite deliberately into the stores and downtown so that people came to see that you didn't have to be lily white or even sunburned white. You could be black and be dark.
But it was not until into the sixties that we began having black Africans. We went to South Africa in '59 on an exchange and were down there in Capetown for four months and made our way back via Cairo. We came back and after that, I guess, there would be an occasional black African that the State Department would send.
Now, frequently they would stay at a hotel, which came to accept them. But frequently—and I don't remember having any black Africans until later staying at the house. But as Hodding's eyes got worse and worse, and in '64 after he lost all reading vision—after that it was simply easier for us to have the out-of-town persons stay at the house rather than me have to take them back in to the hotel at 10:30.
Ritchie: Right. Run back and forth.
Carter: That being out on the highway wasn't the most—so it was easier for me to have the people in the house and we did that.
We had quite a nice group of young people, Hodding's age and older, who got very used to meeting and mingling with people of all types. It was good. I remember a man that came from Yugoslavia, and we took him out to the country club and one of the planters said, "I knew Hodding Carter was a Communist but I didn't know he'd be so brazen as to bring a Communist to the country club." But nothing came of it. And the others accepted it because by then they'd gotten used to what they were going to see with the Carters, I guess.
So I think that was about as educational a part of my relationship with the community as anything. And then arranging for these people to go into the schools to see what was going on and tell the schools what they did in their own country. Or to arrange for them to go to the Corps of Engineers and talk about the waterways and take them down and show them the levee and explain the alluvial plain to them.
Ritchie: So, in addition to establishing yourselves here in the community, Hodding made the community known.
Carter: Oh, very much, through his magazine articles and books. Part of what got him into trouble with the state, in addition to his local material, was that he would write, I think, a well-tempered piece about conditions in the state—one such he did for one of the magazines, and the name that they put on it was "A New Wave of Terror Threatens the South," which was an inflammatory headline, and then had a picture of a burning cross and Ku Klux Klansmen. The article was about the founding of the Citizens' Council. It had nothing to do with the Klan. The Citizens' Councils were backed by the same mentality as the Klan but they didn't do the overt things. It was a jump that the magazine headline writer and picture man took which really got us into a hell of a lot of trouble.
Ritchie: Was that the time that the state legislature censured Hodding?
Carter: Yes, that's right. That's right. And then when Hodding made the talk at Brown, at the women's college at Brown University—
Carter: Pembroke. And he gave, I'm sure, a very temperate [talk]. Hodding's theory was that he was interpreting the South for the North and the North for the South. That's really what we thought was our job. And really to open communication between people and get to know each other.
So anyway, he made this talk and then on the fifth question they said what do you think about Oliver Emmerich at McComb? (The editor of the McComb paper was a friend of ours and somebody didn't like an editorial he'd written. So when he was in front of his building, they hit him so hard that he fell into the windowpane on his office and cracked it.) Hodding replied, "Well, if the local authorities can't control it, then you should bring in the National Guard. If they can't control it, they should bring in the marshals and if that won't work, bring in the Marines." Well, he was thinking about his friend. So, the Jackson Daily News, which knew better, had a headline that said, "Hodding Carter Says Bring in the Marines."
Well, that Christmas—I was not president of the garden club but I was in charge of decorating Christmas trees or something minor, and I was over at Mary Read Harbison's and we were wrapping presents—wrapping bricks to look like presents to put under the tree. And John Carter phoned me—oh, I phoned the house and I said to Martha or whoever was the maid, the evening maid—we had to have a morning one for cleaning and an afternoon one for cooking all that supper. And I said, "What's going on?" I always say, "Is everything all right?" That's just my question.
Ritchie: And then you wait to hear—
Carter: Yes. And sometimes it would be that one of the children had let a snake loose upstairs.
She said, "No'm." I said, "What's the matter?" She said, "I don't know," but she said, "The chief of police and Mr. John Carter are out on the front lawn talking." And I said, "Well, get me Mr. John." So Mr. John came in and I said, "What's up, John?" He said, "Well, there's a posse coming from"—he didn't say `posse.' "There's a group, there's something coming from Glen Allen down on Lake Washington and they're going to hang Hodding in effigy and they're going to meet him at the airport when he gets in from Brown, Pembroke." He said, "Don't leave there, I'm coming, we'll go out together," because I was going to drive out to get him. So we went on out to the airport.
Well, the thing that's great about Greenville is that throughout there was a fine judge here, a local judge, Emmett Harty, and his theory was that the police had to do their duty and then it was up to the courts to decide who was right and who was wrong. And that was a marvelous thing. So John and I rode out and there was the sheriff. Now he wouldn't have had anything to do with the city court but I was just giving you that as the way that we looked at this community leadership, conservative leadership, [we] looked at it that way.
There was the sheriff. And I said, "What are you here for?" He said, "Here to meet a friend." Well, he was there to meet Hodding and to be sure that Hodding got off the plane safely. So we went on home and the group did not come up, and they burned Hodding in effigy down at Lake Washington without coming up. But it was something that Hodding had said, way off in Providence, Rhode Island, you see. And the distortion—you talk about how the press covers the news. I know this, and you probably do, too, that you read a story and if it's an involved story, it means there's something there that you need to know but it might not necessarily be what you're reading. And what you ought to do is to read five versions at least. Unfortunately who has the time to read five versions.
And I know this, that in writing a story that I tried to make as clear and put over these difficult facts and you do the very best you could, honestly, and the press would be rolling and you'd learn one other thing that just meant that everything you'd said was not in proper perspective.
Ritchie: You do the best you can.
Carter: You do the very best you can, but you know that what you're doing is not the story. The reader must know that that is not the story. And I read these boys in the Democrat-Times today—well, their use of adjectives, their use of nouns. They talked about a woman who was doing fine things with her art and had a good deal of notoriety. Well, they didn't mean notoriety at all. I'm sure our boys did the same thing.
But we knew them and we loved them. We paid them very little because we didn't have it, but also because we paid for their mistakes. So that was one way of looking at it.
Ritchie: I'm curious about one thing that you said earlier about education, that young Hodding went to Exeter.
Carter: Hodding had had an honorary degree from Bowdoin and from Harvard. He was up there at a lunch with a lot of college presidents, and he said, "What if you have a young man in your family and he seems to have unusual ability, do you think I should send him away to school and if so, where?" And they said, "Well, if he's getting the stimulation that he needs, we wouldn't send him off. But if he has to have more stimulation, then the best"—they conferred, the president of Harvard, [James B.] Conant, and the president of somewhere else, and they said, "For a small school go to Deerfield, for a big school go to Exeter." Hodding decided that maybe we couldn't get him in to Deerfield, anyway, but we tried for Exeter and he went for his ninth and tenth grades.
Well, by then we were building the big house, we were in the little house, and that summer of '51, I guess it was, Hodding said did he have to go back to Exeter, that he might never be able to live in the big house, that he would have to go away to college, he might have to go away to make his living, and he'd like to be home. And his father said, "Well, if you stay home and go to the public school, and we see that you're not letting up, that's fine. But if you let up, you go back."
Well, he didn't let up; he came and he worked very hard. He was elected to everything that he could have been elected to and he was a speaker at the graduation and he was on the state high school debating team and he was on the state tennis team—I think, I don't remember about that, but he played tennis and he was good. And he was senior class president which was the highest honor he could get, not knowing the rest of the student body. We felt that it was absolutely right that he came home.
Then Philip came along and we felt that he needed the stimulation and we sent him to Episcopal High and he stayed the whole—I think four years, but three if not four.
Ritchie: And where is that located?
Carter: That's at Alexandria, Virginia. It's a good school. So he went there.
And then came Tommy's turn and for some reason my husband decided that—I sound sort of critical, don't I? But anyway, Hodding as a child reading St. Nicholas had seen the ads for Culver and he thought that would be good for Tommy. It would be different from what the other boys had had and he didn't want any of them following in the footsteps of the other, each to do his own thing.
But any Carter to go to a military school, looking back on it in retrospect—how could you put a child who came from a home where we would talk about so much, where he had so many window openings and experiences, into the discipline of such a place? He didn't like it but he stayed and graduated. So that was his experience with the thing and the whole time he wanted to be at home—he was not homesick or anything like that but he would have preferred to be at home. I don't know.
So, the children did go away in high school and when the integration thing came, Catherine, the oldest of the Carter children, Hodding's children, stayed all the way through high school here. Finn, however, went off, they sent her off to a prep school which had a lot of the dancing which she wanted. That was why she went. Then Hodding IV—they sent him off to Lawrenceville. Hodding and Peggy got divorced and Margaret stayed with her mother and did not go off to school—they moved from here and went to Baton Rouge and then to New Orleans and that child went to McGehee's and couldn't stand it, they were too cliquish. Then she went to Newman and liked it very much.
So now, what else did I say?
Ritchie: So the integration of the schools came after your boys went to college?
Carter: That's right. That's right.
Ritchie: You weren't actively—
Carter: And the integration, I don't think we were here, I don't think that my boys were involved with that because the Supreme Court decision was in '54 and they had something here called freedom of choice which lasted, and if we'd had that—it would be not like a magnet school but something like it. You chose the school you wanted to go to.
But the court came in and said we had to integrate. And that blew the thing wide open because it would be court-ordered integration and no choice at all. And that was when the private schools—the Washington school—took the scene.
Ritchie: So this would have been in the early '60's?
Carter: Yes. It was hard on the families that chose to stay with the public schools. That would be Hodding's children. Because the children that they would normally be playing with, the snide remark was, "Well, we don't want the children to play because if you have the Carter children over and then you go to their house, how do you know, you may have black children there?"
Ritchie: Because they were going to school with black children.
Carter: Yes, yes. So that their social relationships were cut down, it wasn't good.
Ritchie: And the schools today are predominantly black?
Carter: Ninety-two percent black public schools. I think we're going through a tremendous upheaval right now in the public school system. I don't know what's going to come out of it. If there were any way to get those white families back into the public schools it would still be overwhelmingly black but if they could do it throughout the country, if you could hold it to about 65% black, you have a workable mix. I don't think it's because they're black, I think it's because of the economic background from which so many of those children come. I don't know that that's true everywhere but that certainly is true here.
Ritchie: You mentioned last evening, speaking of education, in the early days here in Greenville there was a Chinese grade school.
Carter: Yes, and that was over near where Trigg School was, now called Jessie McBride after integration came. They built a new white school and called it Trigg and changed the name of the old Trigg to McBride, who had been a very nice black woman, a friend of mine, a teacher.
Right near there was sort of a shotgun house where the Chinese children went to school and the public school system paid for their education, I think up through the eighth grade, and the Chinese community provided a Chinese teacher who came in and taught Chinese in the afternoons. When they got to high school, they were going up to Cleveland, Mississippi, to go to a school there that had a lot of Chinese kids. But the school system saw that they were going to have to provide public high school for the Chinese children and they couldn't afford to do it because there were too few of them to put in all the labs and the necessary specialized teachers that you have to have in the high school. So they knew they were going to have to integrate the Chinese and the question then was how would they integrate.
So the City Council put Hodding on the school board to fill an unexpired term, knowing they could get rid of him at the end of that time. And the purpose of putting him on was to figure what they'd do with the Chinese children. He and a committee worked it out with the Chinese community leadership. If the Chinese—who were not permitted for so long to bring their wives in—if they had black wives the children were black Chinese; that was one category. If they had white wives their children were white Chinese. Then there were the Chinese who did have their wives with them and who had Chinese children—so they had three categories: the black Chinese, the white Chinese, and the Chinese Chinese. And they said that the black Chinese would go to the segregated black school and the white Chinese and the Chinese Chinese would go to the white school. And that's the way it was up to the time of integration and then all Chinese came into the public school system.
Ritchie: How did there happen to be a Chinese community here?
Carter: The Chinese came in, a lot of them were Cantonese who came in to sell to the Chinese who were working on the levee. The Chinese who were working on the levees either died or went back or disappeared. But the Cantonese remained and they have run little grocery stores, in the black community, primarily. There's one down on Broadway now, Bing's which is a Chinese family. That is a big supermarket that does very well and everybody, meaning the white community—you know, it's horrible how the habits of your childhood—anyway, so everybody, meaning the white community people, goes down to Bing's. The Chinese local stores—as a whole those little stores are pretty tawdry things, selling to a very impoverished group in the population.
Ritchie: And you also mentioned that there was a considerable Irish community here?
Carter: They came in, I'm not exactly positive when, but they certainly were here in the days that the steamboats were important. They had the bars, the saloons, and I don't know what else that the Irish—but they did and they became quite prominent in some ways. By the time we got here, there were several families that were known—or into the power complex.
Ritchie: Was there an active Catholic church?
Carter: Definitely. There was a Catholic church and in the yellow fever epidemic of 1878, there was a tremendous death toll although everybody who could, left. And the man who was the clerk of the City Council—I think in those days it was aldermanic—in the minutes of the aldermanic board, he took a page and he put an inch-wide black ink border all the way around solid in memory of the members of the city government who died in the yellow fever epidemic of '78. He named the mayor and the three aldermen, and he said, "I alone remain," and he named the clerk.
Now, there were three ministers, there was the Episcopal church minister, the Presbyterian minister, and the Catholic minister. What other churches were here, I don't know, but these three were here and they didn't go, they stayed to take care of the sick. So I know that there was a Catholic church here in '78. They've had it as a history of that church, too, which the Washington County Historical Society has had its talk on but I don't know anything more about it.
Oh, I do know one other thing. The Catholic church in 1907, I think it was, not the church but an order came in here and established a school for black children, Sacred Heart School. They also were training priests. And they had nuns that they brought in, white nuns, different branches, maybe the women of their order—and that was a good school, probably the best school for the blacks in this community up until integration.
Ritchie: So it stayed open until—
Carter: It did, until integration. After that I guess that they saw, too, that they couldn't compete with all the things that were being offered. So the Society of the Divine Word moved down to Bay St. Louis where they are still operating, I believe training priests but I'm not sure of that, also I believe they have a school.
Ritchie: Well, it's evident that your involvement in the community—you've been very active in many areas. The Carter family is important in this community.
Carter: I believe it. I believe it. I believe it because we were involved and we tried to be and we tried to get all groups together. I don't know. Of course, young Hodding picked up right where his father had ended, in that when I say "where his father had ended," I think each generation has to take the step and I think that we took a terrific jump. But I also think that young Hodding did fantastic things with the Democratic party, changing it, and getting the blacks into the political structure and getting them seated at the national convention. Really he's the one who'd had the closest involvement with the blacks on terms of citizenship equality. Because our position was more to try to get them involved but his was they are involved.
Ritchie: Of course he was doing it after you had laid the foundation.
Carter: That's right. You only can do—I never get furious with the people who had slaves. I don't know what the things are that we shouldn't be doing today but I am sure that there are things that we are doing that later generations are going to say, "Weren't they terrible?" And it may be that they're environmental things that we're doing today that are just unbelievable.
But I think that you do the best within the system that you're living in until it comes time to break that system wide open which is what the government did for us with the integration situation.
[Begin Tape 1, Side A]
Ritchie: Well, Betty, it's nice to be here again with you. It's been several months since our last meeting and interview session. At that time we talked about your family and your early days. And I'm impressed by your mother's influence on your life. Could you talk a little bit about your mother?
Carter: Well, there's no way not to talk about Mother. Because she was an influence, she was a frightfully important person in my life. I think mothers always are. But Mother was such a dynamic woman and very much ahead of her times in so many ways so that a lot of problems that women of my generation had to solve for themselves, Mother had solved and passed on the solutions to us. It was good. And there were some things that I feel now that she needed to grow still about but she achieved so much and she had rules for life that were—if it needed to be done, do it. If you could deputize it, deputize it. But the things that you have to do for yourself, do for yourself. And those are the things that are simple things, like getting enough rest, getting up, eating properly, sleeping, going to the bathroom. And those are things that nobody else can do for you. But beyond that, the organization of time is very important and she taught us that.
Ritchie: Did she have any influence on your later career in writing and journalism?
Carter: She just adored anything that her children did. She felt—she was so proud of us and whatever we did. She had really thought that I should be going into the diplomatic service because she was one of the first, if not the first—she was one of the first women to take the foreign service examination. And she had decided that would be a good career for me and I was perfectly willing to go along with that. And because of that, at Newcomb I took a lot—I majored in French, minored in Spanish and history. You can say, "Well, what good is that going to do to you when you went into journalism with your husband?" Who can ever say what will be worthwhile, what will be useful? But Mother saw to it that we had full childhoods with many, many windows opened at all times.
Ritchie: You grew up here in New Orleans as Betty Werlein.
Ritchie: And when did you meet Hodding Carter?
Carter: Well, I met him the end of the summer—let me think. I graduated from McGehee's in 1927 and went on to Newcomb. That summer I could have met Hodding Carter because we were in Europe, some girls and I with a chaperone, and I had a letter to Hodding's aunt in England. And she couldn't receive me at that time because one of her daughters was getting married and she was very busy. Well, her nephew, Hodding, was there. Thank God he didn't meet me then. I was a roly-poly little high school graduate with braces on her teeth and he a sophisticated Bowdoin graduate. It would have been hopeless.
By a year later, I had met Corinne, his sister, at the rush parties for Newcomb. And she'd gone Kappa [Kappa Gamma], I'd gone Pi [Beta] Phi. Then that summer, I phoned Corinne and I said, "Could you come up to a party we're having?" at Amite, Louisiana, where we were for the summer. And she said, well, she couldn't come. And I said, well, could she send some men. And she said she would send her brother.
Well, she'd talked about him so much during the winter that I was ready to meet her brother. And he was very cute. He liked me. But he sat the whole evening on the front porch with my mother instead of coming in—danced with me twice, I think. And it was not until the Deke [Delta Kappa Epsilon] boat ride in the fall that we began dating. And that was in the fall of '28, I think.
Ritchie: And you dated for several years and then married in the early thirties.
Carter: Oh, yes. You see, in those days you couldn't get married until you were—at least we didn't consider getting married until you were out of college, if you were a girl—in my group, I didn't. And besides that, he had to have enough of a job to support me. After his teaching at Tulane as a fellow working towards an M.A. which he didn't stop to get, he went to work for the New Orleans Item-Tribune at twelve and a half a week. We weren't going to get married on that, even if I had been out of college, which I wasn't. And don't ask me how we did it in those days but we managed and finally got married in the fall of '31, which as it turned out was the beginning of the bottom of the Depression.
Ritchie: Yet Hodding had a job.
Carter: He got a job with the Associated Press in Jackson, Mississippi. So our first married life was as a young couple in Jackson where we were for five months. Then came all of the—the state of Mississippi was completely broke and the big fight was over the sales tax and whether they would have a sales tax or not. And as I remember, Mississippi was the first state in the Union to adopt a sales tax. But whether it was the first, it was one of the very first. And in the controversy, all of it developed and Hodding was fired and we went back to Hammond to be at his family's. He said if we were going to be out of a job, we were not going to stay with my mother in New Orleans, we would stay with his family in Hammond, which we did. He was looking for a job in New Orleans but they were letting everybody go because it was the Depression.
Carter: '32. That was '32 by then. But we had a little money left over from our wedding so Hodding decided that what we'd do would be to start a daily paper because the strongest weekly in the state was in Hammond. So we started the daily paper, the Daily Courier, in Hammond, Louisiana.
Ritchie: And you thought you could make it, even though it was this time.
Carter: We had to make it. We had to make it. There wasn't anything else to do. And we stayed out at the Carters for a while. And then when things got a little bit better—I don't know why they were better but we did think they were better—we went and rented a little house in town, that was a darling little house. And then we had the five-day-a-week paper and we would—well, it was a tough time, if you want to know the truth. And you had to figure about how you were going to do anything. We'd come down and visit Mother on the weekends. If you had five dollars, you could fill your tank with gasoline, you could stop at Laplace, Louisiana, and have a martini for twenty-five cents apiece. And that sort of broke the horror of the week. Then you went on to Mother's, go back up on Sunday night because on Monday I had to go out and collect the money from everyone who promised it to us because we'd written checks to our people after the banks closed on Saturday at noon. And we had to get enough money in to cover those checks before the banks opened at 9 a.m. on Monday. It was tight but we managed, as I've said before.
Ritchie: So you and Hodding went into this venture together and you worked at the newspaper.
Carter: Oh, I was there from morning until far into the night. I was advertising, feature writer—not much features—special columns. We couldn't afford columns so I had the Yum-Yum column—I didn't know how to cook but I got a recipe a week from different people who were very good cooks. And one recipe came out calling for a cup of sugar—I meant a cup of sugar and I had in a cup of salt which was obviously wrong.
Ritchie: I don't think the readers would like that.
Carter: No, it was ridiculous but everybody recognized that that was a mistake.
And then we had the beauty column. And Mother was a believer in—I think it was salt that was so good. You could rub that on your body and that would make you soft. So that was one of my columns about the use of salt. And I had soda for something else. I don't know, we made up everything.
Ritchie: Did you also cover community events?
Carter: Oh, of course. And of course, selling the advertising, which was usually my job with that paper and then at the beginning of the paper later in Greenville. I went one day to see about beer ads. They had just begun to have near-beer, I think it was, which was just before the legalization. And my nice Pabst man said—no, Schlitz, don't get those mixed—and so he said, "Well, you always come to get my ad but you've never had a beer with me." I said, "Well, you've never asked me." So we had a beer then and there. Then I had to go to the Catholic ladies' spaghetti luncheon. And I went. Believe me, that was a problem, with beer on my breath, and all the ladies coming up and saying to the sweet little thing, "How did you like the spaghetti, Betty?" Here was a lady—and I'd say, "Oh, it's delicious." I couldn't look at her because I didn't want her to breathe what I was fuming forth.
Ritchie: Who were some of the other advertisers that you had in Hammond?
Carter: Oh, well, we had Mr. Graziano who was big—he had a big butcher shop and grocery, very nice man. And Mr. Kelly Labue. Now, Kelly wasn't as good a prospect. He went on to be much more prosperous but he was very canny, too. So you had to be—everyone was a little bit worried as the years went by and we were more and more anti-Long. They became nervous about giving too much support to this anti-Long newspaper because while our congressional district was anti-Long, that didn't mean it was safe to be openly anti-Long.
I can't remember who the other—oh, the two drugstores and Mr. Donaldson's department store. And Mr. Penney came to town, with the opening of the J. C. Penney store, and he was a darling old gentleman. So those were our principal advertisers.
Ritchie: How much would an ad have cost them?
Carter: Very little. Probably twenty-five cents an inch, a column inch.
Ritchie: Did you actually do the ad composition and write the text?
Carter: I wrote the text. And I really enjoyed doing it because I felt that the man had something, the merchant had something that he wanted to sell. Now, he didn't know how to say that. He didn't know what pitch to give it to make it sell. So I enjoyed going out and trying to talk to him and find out. Lots later than that, in Greenville, when we were trying to encourage house-building, I would go out and interview each new house, interview the lady of the house, and she would point out to you, "Well, we have hardwood floors." Well, when I wrote up the story, I would make it important that they had hardwood floors because that to her—or maybe she had moth-proof closets.
Now, when you sell advertising, you try to find a thing that the merchant is trying to communicate. It's the same thing. So they would tell me what they wanted to achieve and then we tried to help them. Of course, I was the only girl ever to graduate from Miss McGehee's without a unit in art. And one of the problems was that I didn't recognize in printing that the letter "N," for instance, mine always looked sort of like a "Z." But you're supposed to do a straight line and a straight line and connect it from the top to the bottom. Well, when I had to do my ads for my advertisers, it was a good thing they were set up in type, not photographs, because they were awful.
Ritchie: So you did the actual writing and the layouts.
Ritchie: And how did you produce the newspaper?
Carter: Oh, we did it at our own plant. At first we didn't have anything. Let me think. The first thing we got was a little press. We had that. But we would take the copy to Ponchatoula, Louisiana, where it would be set on their linotypes on the weekly there. And then we'd bring the page of type to Greenville where it would be put on the press.
Ritchie: To Hammond?
Carter: To Hammond. Did I say Greenville?
Carter: Oh, dear. And coming across the Illinois Central track one day, the whole page pied—that means that we hit the track too fast and it shook the thing up and the type went out and there was nothing left together except a little classified ad for Hodding's uncle's Texaco station. So I said, "Look, the only thing we can do, we can't re-set the page, we've got to get the paper out, so we'll just run that Texaco ad right in the very middle of the page, all white all around." And I had to rush to Uncle Connie and tell him if anybody asks him about that ad, say, "Of course, I took the whole page." Ridiculous. But after that, we realized we had to get a linotype. So we bought a linotype.
And every time, it was "how were we going to get the money to do these things?" because the four hundred that we started with didn't last long. And we had—Mr. Stibolt lent us some money and I guess Herman Deutsch lent us some money at one point. And these were just good friends that had faith in Hodding—and me, too, I guess, but mostly Hodding because he was the newspaperman.
Ritchie: How many copies of the newspaper did you print?
Carter: I have no idea. I have no idea. Now, shall we say a thousand? I'm sure that's too much. It was tiny.
Ritchie: And would you have home delivery and then sell them in stores, also?
Carter: Mostly home delivery. Home delivery.
Ritchie: How did you get new subscribers?
Carter: God, I don't know. I guess we had at least one contest. When we went to Greenville, we had a wonderful contest. And that, of course, was in '36. And we would give a prize. We were going to give a set of living room furniture to whoever sold the most subscriptions. And I suppose we did something like this in Hammond.
And Mrs. Ely was simply wonderful. She sold the most. In fact, everybody else gave up when they heard how wonderful she was. And she sold all the subscriptions. But when the time came to give the living room set, we couldn't find anybody that would trade out a really expensive, good living room set. So the living room set turned out to be sort of a wicker sofa with nice cushions. It would be very nice on a porch, with two chairs. Well, she liked it, it was all right. So what did we give in Hammond? I don't remember.
Ritchie: And who did the home delivery?
Carter: We had a boy on a bike.
Ritchie: So Hodding did the writing of the feature articles—
Carter: And the business side. And his father—at first I kept the books. Well, I knew nothing about keeping books. So Mr. Carter would take over and help me with keeping the books. But Hodding was writing the news and the editorials. And we didn't have AP or UP, so—
Ritchie: So how did he get the news?
Carter: We'd get it off the radio and rewrite it. And that's how we heard about Huey Long being shot because we were— eventually this nice young man, Bert Hyde, a student at Southeastern, came and he was our first reporter. And he wrote a lot of stuff about Southeastern. And he married a girl who was a dancing teacher. They had an apartment upstairs so we'd go up there, on Sunday night especially, to get what Walter Winchell was saying. And out of that you could make your Monday morning news. And there it came, that Huey Long had been shot. [Tape interruption.]
Carter: —Depression. What we were doing was just surviving. And everyone in the state of Louisiana was trying to survive. There was no money anywhere except the state had this money and Huey used that money to accomplish what he wanted to accomplish. Nobody dared go against him. And I remember the day that the janitor from the Hammond school wanted to be confirmed as janitor of the local school. He had to go to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to get the okay to get the local janitorial job. That's how completely Huey had achieved power in the state. I think that's why we hated him so.
Now, looking back, you can't help but having been for him when earlier he'd gone to eliminate the poll tax. Also he wanted free school books. He had done a wonderful job with highways and bridges. All of that is good. But achieved at the cost of what rights and what freedoms. How much of this would we have received, would we have achieved, in the course of the next five or ten years, anyway. It was a situation whose time had come.
Ritchie: Were other newspapers coming out against him?
Carter: Oh, they had all started against him. But they went over. We were about the only one left. And the Literary Digest said that the Daily Courier was the—I don't know if it said the Courier or if it said Hodding—was the most vocal of the Louisiana editors. Well, the others had all shut up. We hadn't been bought. We were still fighting.
Ritchie: Did Long try to suppress you?
Carter: Well, the way that they tried to get us was—they had passed this thing, the legislature, setting up the state printing board. And to be—the only money that you could get, cash, was if you were the county—the parish in Louisiana—official printer. Now, the official printer had to publish the entire record of everyone
who was tax delinquent. Well, that was good cash money. Every lawyer had to publish his official notices in the official journal. And that was cash money. So now by setting up the state printing board—you couldn't get that unless you were okayed, you couldn't get this good contract with the local people.
So we had been elected the parish printer, official printer, and the printing board wouldn't okay it. So there wasn't any point in taking it to the state supreme court because we had fought the state supreme court when Huey packed the court. So now we took it to the federal court and they said it was not a federal matter, that it had to be turned back to the state. Well, when that happened, we knew that we were dead ducks. But that was before Huey was shot. And because of that, we stayed on, because Hodding said, "I will not let it be said that Huey drove me from this state." So we stayed on until Huey was dead. Now, actually, the state printing board action came after Huey was dead. But what he had set up was the thing that got us. And prior to that, before the state printing board, we could feel it in our advertisers who sort of knew that it was not the thing to do, to advertise with us.
Ritchie: Did your advertisers ever try to influence what was written in the paper?
Carter: No, they did not. And I'll tell you, Mrs. [Eleanor] Roosevelt asked that question once when Hodding was a Nieman. And the advertisers—I guess they knew that Hodding was too independent for that and they didn't. No, they did not.
Ritchie: When Hodding was writing his pieces against Long, would you read them and comment with him?
Carter: Oh, yes.
Ritchie: Collaborate on them?
Carter: Not collaborate, read. And of course, then and later, but mostly later, because at that point the only issue was Huey Long. Later, in Greenville, for instance, there would be collateral issues of one type or another. And when he would write an editorial that was very hot, I would like to read it first, not to keep [him] from saying what he had to say, but what is the point in irritating a collateral group of people that you may have to go after later but in the meantime they may be supporting the same ideas that you have with regards to putting more black policemen on the force, with regards to having a better school system? Why irritate those people when you're going after this target, whatever it is? So he would usually let me get away with that. And occasionally, occasionally, you could correct it after he had sort of thought not to do it but he wouldn't re-read it later. So you could quietly take it out when it was absolutely outrageous, when you knew that it would make the sky come falling down. I don't think I did that but once or twice but I've confessed.
Ritchie: He did allow you to read—
Carter: Oh, yes.
Ritchie: —and to ask you to read.
Carter: Oh, yes. Well, it wasn't even ask, it was an accepted thing that if I came in and was ready to read, I read. And if it was a hot issue, I was there.
Ritchie: Even more so.
Carter: Oh, definitely.
Ritchie: What were some of the hot issues in Hammond after you finished with Huey Long?
Carter: That was it. That consumed the whole time and energy that we had. And getting out the paper and that was it. And then Hodding ran for the state legislature in Louisiana and he did it because no other anti-Long person was going to run.
Ritchie: Was Huey still alive at the time?
Carter: Yes. So he went to Kentwood, Louisiana, and he went back to Kentwood, Louisiana. I didn't go with him but the first time. And in those days you talked to your electorate constituency from the back of a pickup truck with a loudspeaker. And so he went back and I said, "Why do you keep going back?" Well, that was an anti-Long area. And he said, "They like me there." Well, that wasn't going to get him any more votes.
And we went to Pumpkin Center, a little crossroads town somewhere between Hammond and Baton Rouge. And we got out there and Hodding made his talk. There were only about five people in the "assembled multitudes." And this man and his wife—and we had been told that it wasn't a good place to go to because they were so pro-Long. So Hodding went on out there and I went just to listen. And this man and his wife were there and after it was over, the farmer came up to Hodding and he said, "Now, listen, son," he said, "I don't agree with you." But he said, "When the votes come in from Pumpkin Center, you're going to get two votes, me and my wife, because you had the courage to come out here."
Ritchie: So he recognized—
Carter: He did, you know. And I think a lot of people recognized that in Hodding. And believe me, that's what—you know, people can't help but respect courage.
Ritchie: At what point did you decide to leave Hammond?
Carter: Hah! When we were dead-broke and saw that there was no future and that we weren't going to get any more printing board money. And Huey was dead, so now we could go. And before that, in the spring before Huey died, there had been a seventy-fifth anniversary of LSU and they put on a big hoopla for writers. Hodding was invited to go over there and I was in the hospital here having—in New Orleans where I am today—having, about to have—waiting for, I wasn't in the hospital yet, I was waiting to have our first son, Hodding.
And my husband Hodding got to talking—it was a hot April day—and he was talking to David L. Cohn out on the fire escape of the Eola Hotel in Baton Rouge. And Dave said, "There's no use in you all just batting your heads against a stone wall. Come on to Greenville, Mississippi, my home town, where they need a good paper. And I think we can get someone to put up some money to help you." And so, that's how we heard of Greenville, Mississippi. Hodding said, "I can't leave until Huey's dead." Well, little Hodding was born. That following September Huey was shot—I will not say assassinated, he was shot, because I don't think it was an assassination, I think he was killed probably by one of his—the bullets from one of his guards ricocheting. So anyway, after that, then we were free to sell the paper if we could and move.
Ritchie: So you moved to—
Carter: To Greenville, Mississippi, in the fall of '36. And coming up to Greenville, it was—I'll tell you to try to get a newspaper functioning is unbelievably difficult, just the mechanics of the thing. And so three times we had said that we were going to come out on—and I'm making up the dates, I'm not sure—October the 1st or October the 12th or—[but we] could not get that paper to rolling. Three weeks later with the same staff, the same equipment, we were able to get the paper out.
Well, I had sold all the advertising for the Grand High First Issue. And that had been interesting because one of our stockholders was supposed to be going to be a strong supporter. And I went to see the Goyer Company about a nice, big ad. In the meantime, I talked to—actually, I say "I," this is incorrect, Hodding had talked to the editor of the old paper and he'd given him his price chart and that was what we thought we would stick to. When I got to the Goyer Company, I realized that the price that their ads were going for was nothing like what we had been told. So I came down and was talking to Mr. McGehee and I talked on and I'd go a little lower and I'd go a little lower and finally he said, "All right. I'm going to take the ad, at the price you told me first and I'm going to tell your father about you." He had heard—so he thought Hodding was my father. Well, I got the ad. The interesting thing is that even though these men were our stockholders, when it came to actually buying ads, you couldn't count on them.
Ritchie: When you say stockholders, these were people who invested—
Carter: Yes, right. And we put up half the money and they put up half the money.
Ritchie: How much would it have taken then to start—
Carter: Well, we put up for around $15,000.
Ritchie: And you bought equipment and hired people?
Carter: That's right. And went ahead. And I guess it was really more than $15,000 because what we had was $15,000.
Ritchie: Where did you get $15,000?
Carter: From selling the paper. And that was sweat-equity, if you ask me. You know, from $400 in '32 we had built the thing up to where we sold it for that. And that was sweat because there was nothing else there.
Ritchie: What was the competition like in Greenville?
Carter: It was a newspaper that was the old established newspaper, very wishy-washy editorially, which is why this group of local leaders felt they needed something stronger. And for instance, they had an editorial that we considered symptomatic. They talked about the boys coming to the matinee at the movie and throwing peanut shells down on the people from the balcony. And they said, "This is pretty reprehensible. But then boys will be boys." You know, just sweet. Well, that wasn't what we went to Greenville to do. It doesn't mean we didn't do that, too, but we wrote the stories and tried to get the facts.
Ritchie: Were Greenville and Hammond about the same size?
Carter: No, Hammond was about 8,000—if that, counting Southeastern which was just beginning. And Greenville was about 22,000, I guess by then.
Ritchie: Quite a bit larger.
Carter: Oh, yes.
Ritchie: Would you have considered doing a weekly paper?
Carter: No. No, with that size town, it had to be a daily. And we were used to a daily and they wanted a daily, so we put out the Delta Star. And we had it two years. In '38, in the fall of '38, it was either we were
going to go under or the old Greenville Democrat-Times was going to go under, it was impossible, for us both to go on. I was in the hospital having a miscarriage with twins and Hodding was negotiating for buying—taking over the other paper.
Ritchie: So you had established your paper.
Carter: In two years we had. And I was the advertising manager for the first year of the Delta Star. And then we realized that we needed assistance. We brought a man in to be the advertising manager and I would be the assistant advertising manager.
Ritchie: Why did he get to be the manager?
Carter: Because he was a man and because it would make more of a splash. Now, the thing that—and also he was a professional which I had just come up through the ranks to be.
Ritchie: It's a good way to learn, though.
Carter: I think so, too, looking back on it. But the only thing that really hurt me, I think the only thing that Hodding did—well, there were others but this was professionally. And here I was, I had done all the advertising, gotten it to the point that we needed a man to be in charge. And they wrote a wonderful story about the manager coming in. He didn't say, "Mrs. Carter, who has done so much for the paper, will continue as assistant." Didn't mention me. Now, that was not intentional but it's the way things happen. I said, "Hodding, how did you do it?" He said, "Of course, that's ridiculous." Well, it was ridiculous.
Ritchie: Well, he knew that your time and your efforts were important.
Carter: Well, he did. Oh, and the thing was, we didn't think about it that way. This—we were in this together.
Ritchie: Do you think it would have been easier for a man to sell advertising, to get the advertising?
Carter: No, not at the beginning. Not at the beginning. I remember I went in to see a man who had a big men's wear store. And I went in to see him. He turned out to be a very nice man but I didn't know that. So he kind of—I was talking to him—and I was a cute little thing. And he sort of pinched my cheek and said, "You're going to do very well," and sort of winked. And I took my hand and I said, "You're doing well, too." And I pinched just as hard as I could. I never had any trouble with him.
Ritchie: Did you get the ad?
Carter: Yes. And I'm not sure that I would have had trouble with him, anyway. Maybe he was just being the way that an older, Southern gentleman was going to treat a cute girl. Maybe that's all there was to it. But I just couldn't have it.
Ritchie: So you sold advertising and did you have other responsibilities at the paper?
Carter: At the paper. Let me think. Not with the Delta Star. It wasn't until later that I did other things. When we came back from the war, that's when I did things like the farm—oh, yes, I did society at one point, women's page and cultural things. And that would be before—after we'd taken over the Democrat-Times which we changed from Greenville Democrat-Times to Delta Democrat-Times.
Carter: That's it.
Ritchie: And you covered social events and community activities.
Carter: Right. Right.
Ritchie: So you would actually go to them or—
Carter: Oh, yes.
Ritchie: —they would call you about them.
Carter: Well, mostly with social events you just did it by telephone. And that was also the period of stimulating housing by writing up a house every week. Many's a house I look at today and think about how happy the housewife was to have an inserted cabinet where she had lighting for her dishes and things. You know, the thing that made the difference. And in writing up—it's ridiculous but I've always felt that human beings have to be supported in the things that they're doing. And even if it's a flower arrangement—and that's a major thing—on your table for the party, describe it. I don't know, maybe that's minor but I think that the main thing we've got to—oh, I'm awful. I'm so terrible.
Ritchie: No, no, no. No.
Carter: No, I really do. I think that's important. I don't say it's the most important thing.
[End Tape 1, Side A; Begin Tape 1, Side B]
Ritchie: I wanted to ask you a little more about the women's page that you worked on. What types of activities—
Carter: It was lousy because all that we really did was we covered the clubs, we covered the church meetings, the women's church meetings, we covered parties, brides to a fare-thee-well, and as Louise Crump said, who was our woman's page editor before and after, she said that when she took over from me, I left her with all those Baptists meeting-in-circles. Well, they had at least five circles—six circles—and I thought every name that you get in is important. So we would give the reports on what the ladies had done at the circle meeting and the principal thing was to get the names in, which we did. So people were clipping it and putting it in their scrapbooks and taking it to the state convention to "Look at all the publicity that we got." And the PTAs, we did cover that very thoroughly. Principally the PTAs that I went to, of course.
Ritchie: Because you were there.
Carter: Because I was there so I could cover that.
Ritchie: Was Louise the first woman that the newspaper hired?
Carter: Oh, she was, and she was a great woman, just really great. And Louise—when we first came to Greenville, one of the major problems was malaria. And she was going at that time with the county health doctor. He was in the malaria campaign and so she made a big to-do of every tin can that you had. You had to put a hole in the bottom and you had to step on it so that there could be no water accumulating for the malarial mosquitos. That was her major campaign.
And the Democrat's major campaign, the editorial—well, it wasn't editorial—the news column campaign, the news campaign was the syphilis control. And Hodding had these stories running like mad about syphilis,
what it was, and the incidence in Washington County was very high. And Bob Brown, our first hired general reporter at the Democrat who later went on to get—his paper got a Pulitzer eventually. But anyway, Bob answered the phone and some lady phoned and said, "This is perfectly disgusting. I have to cancel my subscription. I've never had anything come into my home with all this stuff about syphilis." And Bob said, "Lady, Madam, we're going to keep on until syphilis is on the tongue of every woman in Washington County." It was a horrible thing to say but he meant that he wanted the women to talk about it. And he was right.
Ritchie: Would this have been a subject that wasn't discussed in—
Carter: Oh, it was not discussed. Oh, that was really breaking into a new world. Another was when we got back from the war and this very nice wife of a doctor came in to see Hodding and said that she thought that when we wrote up the activities of black ladies, we should use a courtesy title of "Mrs." And Hodding said, "I can't see any reason why we shouldn't do that but I will consider it." And he went and talked to the news staff and he said, "Look, this is ridiculous." They all said, "Yes, this is ridiculous." So after that, we began doing it. We were way behind what the Northern press was doing but we were way ahead of what the Southern press was doing.
Ritchie: So in covering activities of the black community, you would just use their name, not any prefix.
Carter: In fact we didn't cover any of their social activities. We covered church meetings, if it was sort of a major church meeting, not what they did weekly, which of course the papers do now, only to at least announce them. But the big break in the whole way that things were handled as far as black and white was concerned came after World War II, because that was the period after World War II when the soldiers were coming back, they had learned an awful lot about things. It was also the period of the development of full mechanization, the industrialization of the farms. And the people were being thrown off the land—the planters deny this—if you were not going to work for them at the price they were willing to pay, they would say, "Well, I give you this house to live in, but you're not going to live in it any more because you're not working for me."
So in '66, I guess it was that we had the big—well, when the people came back [from the war] and mechanization began and the mules all went out in '48, '49, then came the big throwing of people off of the land. And you had the two revolutions, the industrialization of the farms and the civil rights coming at the same time. That was the winter of '65-'66, I guess it was. And young Hodding was off at the Nieman; Hodding my husband was down here [New Orleans] and I was with him, supposed to be going back and forth and seeing about the paper.
And then that Christmas the consensus of opinion was that I had to get back and stay there with the paper. And I did. And I had to get another editor because they didn't like the way that the young man was handling it. The young man was right. He was against the Vietnam war and every front page was the Vietnam war [story] in the right-hand front. And my husband and my son didn't want the Vietnam war, they thought it was over-emphasizing, and we had the local scene to emphasize. So we got another editor and they put me in charge. Nobody had ever been demoted or fired in the history of the paper. So I had to go in and say, "Now, we like your work but we don't like your editorial slant. Now, you can be a reporter but you can't be editor." So he quit and I don't blame him.
Ritchie: So you wanted him to have the tone of the paper that Hodding would have had.
Carter: Yes. Exactly. That's exactly correct. So then I had to name an editor. And this was like on a Saturday. So I looked around the room and I wasn't going to be the editor on Monday morning. I wanted an editor and there was Foster Davis, a young man who was in the newsroom. I said, "Foster, you will be the editor." So come Monday morning, I go in early to see how my editor is doing and my editor is not there. My editor is out at the air base. "Why is he at the air base?" "Well, a group of people have just gone in and broken the lock and taken over one of the air base housing units and they're in there and they said they're going
to stay there because they want land." Well, the whole press of the world was in Greenville within twenty-four hours. And so here is my baptism by fire. And Bishop Moore came down from Washington. And the girl in charge who ran that whole thing was a woman from Meyersville, Mississippi, named Unita Blackwell. Well, we had no contact with them inside the building so we just did what we could. And I must say that Foster's story was very sketchy, the first story. But you had nothing to go by at first. But that was the strongest protest that we had during that particular period in the community.
Ritchie: You mentioned having to fire someone and then appoint a new editor. What were some of the other things that you did during the time that you were in charge?
Carter: Mostly that was the thing, to get that thing straightened out.
Ritchie: Would you go there on a daily basis?
Carter: Oh, every morning and stay until three or four, just to see what everything—and what stories were coming in and how we were handling them. Earlier than that—this is a good one. Two things, earlier than that, David Brown was the editor at that point and I was in charge. So I had decided that we ought to have milk put into the public schools, that students could put a nickel in the slot and get milk. I finally got the school board to say that was a good idea and we came out with an editorial which I hadn't seen in which David said that was the worst thing he'd ever heard of, brainwashing the children not to let them have Coca-Colas! I could have died.
And the other thing that happened about that same time, I took the man from Mississippi State to lunch at the marina—this has to have been after the war because there was a marina by then—and I said that I didn't think I was for a veterinary school for Mississippi, that we needed more hospital beds. And I really gave him the feeling that I was not going to support him. I came back, David had come out with an editorial supporting the veterinary school. So that shows how light my control was.
Ritchie: Well, but for the most part, you had control.
Carter: I had control. I did.
Ritchie: And you certainly worked with Hodding on the community aspect.
Carter: Oh, always.
Ritchie: And he was well-known for being a leader in the field of civil rights.
Carter: Oh, yes.
Ritchie: A native Southerner—
Carter: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. And don't forget that—you see, Hodding had a two-fold role. He was interpreting the South to the North and trying to speak to our constituency which was only 14,000 circulation and say, "Look, keep your shirt on. Let's work this thing out." And he never came out for immediate integration of the schools, ever. But his position was that we can work it out if we work together because we have worked together. We worked together in the Delta, we went through the floods, we went through yellow fever, we went through major catastrophe after catastrophe, and we can work this thing out. He was a fighting moderate, if you ask me.
Ritchie: Now, you say he was a spokesperson interpreting the South to the North. And this was through—
Carter: Through magazine articles and through speeches and trying to explain. And one of the hot minor issues was when he spoke, I told you this, at Pembroke College. And at that point, Oliver Emmerich in McComb had come out for something. And Oliver was close to Hodding in many positions. So he had come out for—Oliver had had this editorial and he was walking along outside of his building when someone hit him and knocked him into his plate-glass window and broke it. So Hodding came out with an editorial—no, Hodding at Pembroke said, in answer to the fifth question, "If you can't keep law and order locally, then you ought to bring in the National Guard. If you can't do it with the National Guard, bring in the marshals. If you can't do it with the marshals, bring in the Marines." At that point, the Jackson Daily News, which couldn't stand one thing about what we were saying, said, "Carter says bring in the Marines to desegregate the schools." Well, all hell broke loose when that happened.
Ritchie: That was selective reporting.
Carter: Absolutely. It was not good at all.
Ritchie: In Hammond, you were a newspaper very much—or in the state of Louisiana—on your own. Did you have colleagues in Mississippi?
Ritchie: That agreed with your point of view?
Carter: Well, now, you see, Oliver Emmerich was down at McComb and he was on the moderate side. A girl who did a great deal was Hazel Brannon Smith. Hazel never intended to get into the thing. None of us intended to get into anything, we just wanted justice and we wanted equal opportunity and Hazel wanted equal—there was a bad case and a man had been shot and the sheriff wasn't taking the proper steps and she said things about it. From then on they were cutting off her advertising and her printing and everything else. She had a hard time. But she didn't intend it. We didn't intend it, either.
Ritchie: Were your advertisers ever reluctant to continue with you when major issues such as the civil rights came in?
Carter: Yes, certainly. And when the citizens' councils formed in sixty—let's see, the school desegregation decision was in '54, so I guess it was '55 that the citizens' councils were organized. I hope that's the right date. Well, that was a period of anti-Carter agitation. Now at that point in '55, I wasn't doing too much at the paper. I may have been doing the farm page. I can't remember when I was doing the farm page. I loved the farm page.
Ritchie: What did you write about on the farm page?
Carter: That was once a week. And you went to see the farmers and you went to see the county agent, you got the hand-outs from Mississippi State University and you tried to—our biggest industry was farming. So you tried to talk about the latest things. Then we brought out one issue, the land-use edition which had come out earlier than the farm page and I really loved that.
Ritchie: So you worked on a special issue also.
Carter: Oh, yes, frequently.
Ritchie: So you felt that this was an item of concern to the community.
Carter: It was basic. Basic. If you didn't have a healthy agricultural economy, that was basic to the entire life of the community. So, yes. And the other thing that we were fighting for in the early fifties was industrialization, bring industry in.
Ritchie: Wasn't there a large out migration from Mississippi—
Carter: There had been. Men came back and then they started flowing north again.
Ritchie: Looking for work.
Carter: Jobs, you see. And Hodding's position was that with industry and farming, too—no jobs, no people, no subscribers. You know, if you want to look at it from the point of view of self-interest—which is kind of where we are today with regard to education in the state of Mississippi because if you can't get people educated, you're not going to be able to—they're not going to be able to have jobs. No jobs, everybody loses. I don't know. I don't know how fast we can do that. That's beside the point of your talk.
Ritchie: You mentioned a moment ago that in the mid-fifties you weren't too active in the paper. You said, "I wasn't doing much at the paper." Were you doing anything at the paper during that time?
Carter: During the fifties, beginning with—see, in '51 we moved to the big house. In '52 Hodding went to Southeast Asia for the State Department so I went to the paper every day during that period, supervising, keeping in touch with the whole thing. And also planting the place. He left a list, four pages single-space, and I'd done every single thing while he was away.
Ritchie: Would you write editorials?
Carter: No. Never. I never wrote an editorial but one. And that was early when they were talking about a new hospital and they were going to put it up next to the ball park—at that time we had the baseball park—no air conditioning. And they were going to put the county hospital next to the ball park, with no air conditioning, the windows would be open, the cheering would come through and people would just have to listen to all that. And I couldn't take it. I told you that story. Ridiculous. That's the only editorial I ever wrote.
Ritchie: You felt strongly enough to write an editorial.
Carter: Absolutely. That hit me in the gut.
Ritchie: And Hodding allowed you—
Carter: Oh, I could have done anything. You know, I wasn't—he was the editorial writer. I'll tell you, I think that—I really feel we had a real partnership so that anything he achieved, I feel I helped. And I know that he thought anything I achieved, he helped me.
Ritchie: Well, in addition to his newspaper writing, he wrote several books which I know you did a lot of research—
Carter: Oh, I did a lot of the research, you see. During the early fifties, I was working on that history of the Episcopal church. And then came a book about a road that went through from Saltillo to Natchitoches, Louisiana, called Doomed Road of Empire: [the Spanish Trail of Conquest. New York: McGraw Hill, 1963]. Then I wrote—he wanted to write the book about why the Heffners left McComb, but he couldn't write, that was the summer of '64. [So the Heffners Left McComb. Garden City: Doubleday, 1965].
Ritchie: Betty, did you ever disagree with a stand that Hodding took?
Carter: Never. The only time that I did was when we were in South Africa. And the very last night, we were staying with people who had become friends, and Hodding made an extremely intemperate speech to them, to their assembled guests, about what he thought they ought to do. And I was really embarrassed because while all of it was true, they were in no condition to receive that information, to receive it. I think he just felt it was his last shot to do it and he did it. But I just—I really didn't like it at all because it was embarrassing to the host and his wife. It was also imperiling their position in South Africa, to have harbored us. And I thought, is this achieving what he really wants to achieve?
Ritchie: Would you and Hodding have talked about this?
Carter: No. Oh, ahead of time, that evening he started telling me what he was going to say. And I said, "I wouldn't do it. I wouldn't do it. It's too hard." I'm afraid I'm a soft person. I don't want to hit too hard on a thing. I feel that you chip around it and eventually you get what you're working for. I don't know.
Ritchie: In our earlier interview you spoke of the time spent at Harvard in the Nieman fellowship. And I believe you said, "when we were awarded," so really that award went to both of you.
Carter: Oh, always. And I'll tell you the truth, I could never have said to you, "Yes, I will do this, I will do that." It was "we." And I think he did that, too. I think we just each got from the other that particular element of strength which the other needed.
Ritchie: And in winning the Pulitzer prize for his—
Carter: Right. Well, he had done that. He actually wrote that editorial probably up in Maine, in the summer of '45. And then it appeared here in Mississippi. And then he was awarded the prize in May, I guess it is, the first Monday in May in '46. And his editorials that he wrote that fall in Greenville, after we had actually gotten back to the paper, he had written that having gone back to the paper—I hadn't gone back to the paper yet. I had the new baby, Tommy. He was born at the end of April. And so I was in Maine for that summer.
But by the time we got back to Greenville, I think Hodding's editorials were so strong and so good. But they're not the ones that were submitted to the—he was calling on the people of the South and of Greenville to go ahead and do what he knew they ought to do and what, he said, was in them to do. And what I was supposed—I wasn't going to the paper during that first year at all. I was at home with the baby, I was in New Orleans with my mother who was dying of cancer, I was going to PTA meetings and getting elected to all sorts of things, sort of to prove that we were home and that we were part of the community, because we didn't want to appear to be Northern agitators. It was very important to be part of a community, boring from within.
Ritchie: In looking back over your career and your time you spent at the newspaper, were there other decisions that were made that you had an active role in, a vocal role?
Carter: Certainly whatever was decided. I don't remember specifically.
Ritchie: If a new person was hired—
Carter: I would have an input on that. But I must say that it took me longer to make up my mind on people. Hodding always seemed to—I can't say intuitively but close to intuitively would be able. And I remember the first man he hired like that was right after the war. And Tom Karsell had written in and asked for a job and Hodding asked him to come for an interview. Years later I saw that letter. I said, "Hodding, how in the world
did you know to tell Tom Karsell to come down for an interview?" I would never have known it. But that was his strength, that he understood people.
Ritchie: What about changes in format or—
Carter: No, I didn't do that. No.
Ritchie: Hodding would have done that exclusively.
Carter: Well, he and the editor. He would say, "Now, look, this won't do any more. We've got to do this." And then they would get together and have the discussions.
Ritchie: I know that over the years the women's pages changed a great deal.
Carter: Oh, ours was just stupid.
Ritchie: But did it change with the times?
Carter: Oh, yes, finally, finally. And of course now it's a very different thing—I hope.
Ritchie: As Hodding's health declined, did you assume more responsibility at the paper?
Carter: Yes, to some extent. But remember, by then young Hodding was there so he was taking on more responsibility. And taking care of a sick man is a very full responsibility. Plus constantly people from all over the world at the house, every day, every day. Beginning in about '56, I guess it was, we had to have Phalangea Word, a wonderful woman who came to us after school was over [where] she was in charge of the cafeteria. And she would cook and serve dinner and we couldn't have pulled through without that. She was a remarkable gal.
Ritchie: The international visitors were a result of Hodding's writing and trips abroad?
Carter: That's right. They were State Department people that were clearing through, people who wrote and said they wanted to come to see him—educators, civil rights workers from all over the world. And they'd just come on and there they were.
Ritchie: We were talking a little earlier about Hodding's other writings, his books that you did so much research for. Did you ever actually sit down and write the words that went into the books? I mean, you gathered the research material, but—
Carter: Well, it would end up that I did, without intending to. For instance, that church book Hodding and I wrote, [So Great a Good; a History of the Episcopal Church in Louisiana and of Christ Church Cathedral, 1805-1955. Sewanee, TN: University Press, 1955], the three paragraphs that are quoted—excellent, the best. It's the difference between research and writing. And the Doomed Road of Empire, the chapter on the Alamo, it's perfectly beautiful, the only thing he wrote. So the Heffners left McComb, he couldn't write it at all because that was the summer of '64 and he was in no condition. Maybe it was by the winter of '65 that I was writing that. And so yes, I did do some writing.
And then along about '67, I guess it was, we went off to Canada to do some articles, just nothing articles that Dan Guravich, a photographer in Greenville, needed someone to write the article so he could sell the pictures. So we went off and did that and Hodding sold a few light articles and I wrote those. And later after Hodding got worse, Dan said, "Well, look, come on and you write them," which I did, mostly on salmon conservation and I don't know, things in the Pacific Northwest.
Ritchie: I believe there was one published in the Smithsonian magazine.
Carter: Yes, with Dan's photograph of spawning salmon on the cover. After Hodding died in '72, I got involved with the history of the mule throughout the world. The Smithsonian editor encouraged me but didn't run the piece when I finished it. The only piece on the mule that got published was in '76 in The American Heritage, "The Mule in the Delta." I wouldn't have had to have gone one inch from home to write it.
Ritchie: To do your research.
In talking about the Hammond paper, you mentioned how you got the news. How did the news come to you in later years or how did you get the news?
Carter: AP. AP or UP.
Ritchie: When did the wire services come in?
Carter: I think there was a short period in Hammond when we were able to afford an AP service, maybe not the full wire but something else, because I remember I came down to New Orleans and represented the paper with all those men editors. It was fun. I have a picture somewhere. So I think there was a brief period that we had the AP, some kind of a service. Then when we got to Greenville, we used UP because [it was] cheaper than the AP and the old paper [Democrat-Times] had the AP.
Ritchie: So you wanted the difference—
Carter: We had to. I don't think we could have done an AP paper there in that size town.
Ritchie: What other newspapers did you read?
Carter: The Memphis Commercial Appeal, primarily. And at one point, we were getting the Christian Science Monitor because in '38, I guess it was, I was their correspondent and doing little nothing stories, the summer of '38, I guess.
Ritchie: Stories on the South?
Carter: Stories on Mississippi, just news that was coming in that they might be interested in. And [for] the Times-Picayune, too. I was a stringer.
Ritchie: For the Times-Picayune?
Carter: Yes. But nothing much because the Picayune circulation that far north in Mississippi was not very great. The miracle is I think I made about fifteen or twenty dollars a month.
Ritchie: So did you do that for some time?
Carter: Oh, I did it for the summer, I think of '38, just before Philip was born. I was very pregnant, I remember that.
Ritchie: And that was the same time you were doing it for the Christian Science Monitor.
Carter: Yes, that's right.
Ritchie: Did you ever do anything like that again?
Carter: No. No. I guess I got so involved with what I was doing. And then in the fifties, I was being a hostess from '54 on, being, you know, with those people coming and taking them around. And the thing that was fascinating about that was that with the people coming from all over the world, we had people of all different colors coming and staying at the house. And that was very valuable to the community, to see that people could be other colors and could be walking around the streets of Greenville with a white woman.
And I remember one editor from Bombay. He was the blackest man I ever saw in my entire life. He was a purple black, he was so black. And they didn't know where he was from. And I said, "Well, you know, he's Aryan." They said, "Aryan?" I said, "He is Aryan according to all the books." The black people from that area of India are Aryans, in the true sense of the word. So I had fun with that.
Ritchie: So you educated the community—
Carter: We did.
Ritchie: —not only through the newspaper but through—
Carter: Through what we were doing.
Ritchie: Through your activities.
Carter: Through our activities.
Ritchie: Looking back, is there anything that you regret not doing?
Carter: No. I think at some point I really was intending to sit down and write but I never got around to it.
Ritchie: Do you think you will now?
Carter: I might. I might. I don't know, I'm trying to learn how to run my word processor. As soon as I get that, then I'll be able to read my own notes. At this point, my handwriting is so terrible that nobody can read what I write.
Ritchie: Were there other people in Mississippi that you knew and came to know through the years that had a partnership like you and Hodding did, in the newspaper business?
Carter: No. No.
Ritchie: It's a unique one.
Carter: Oh, I don't know. And we were so involved in our own little world. Hodding didn't belong to the national organizations. The only thing he belonged to was the Southern Regional Council which was a fact-finding organization out of Atlanta. But we felt that—and I never served on state boards, I served on the local boards. And we stayed right home, at home, where we could control what we were saying and what we were doing.
Ritchie: Did the coming of television change the newspapers at all?
Carter: I don't know because—I'm sure it must have. And I remember when we started running the television schedule, John Gibson, our business manager and partner, he owned a fourth of the paper—John Gibson thought that was the worst thing you could possibly do. He said, "Why do you give sustenance to the enemy?" But we did.
Ritchie: And the paper survived?
Carter: Yes, we did. But that was a good point.
Ritchie: Earlier during our break you were talking about two aspects of the newspaper that were always there.
Carter: Oh, survival and doing the creative thing for the community. And they didn't always go together because you could do something that had to be done but you knew when you did it that you were taking a risk. I can't remember specifically but Hodding would write these good editorials and then go off to New York and I'd be left at the house and Tommy was the only person at home. And I remember one night when the telephone calls got to be so intense. It was like the critical mass with the nuclear bomb—when things will get enough of the critical mass that's there, it can explode. Well, it never exploded but you always thought it might. And this particular night, Tommy and I sat at the top of the stairs in the house with a shotgun over my lap. And if anybody came in that house, we were going to blast them good.
Ritchie: Do you remember what that editorial was about?
Carter: No, there's no telling. And I'll tell you one I do remember—in one of the towns north of Greenville, a white commissary owner told this black man that he owed him some money.
Ritchie: The black man owed the commissary?
Carter: Owed the commissary. And the white man said that the black man used some bad language or something and the commissary owner shot the man dead. However, he said it was because the black man had threatened him and was going to kill him. Well, he was shot in the back. And Hodding said, "How do you say you shot in self-defense when the person you shot has already turned their backs to you?" So he wrote an editorial. They weren't even going to have a coroner's jury.
They weren't going to do even that. So Hodding wrote an editorial and said, "You can't have a dead body and not have somebody come in and check it legally." Well, that night you have—you see, Hodding was off to New York or the University of Virginia or wherever, so here I am with Tommy at the top of the stairs and that was an occasion. But the other thing was, I had a lot of Chinese gongs in the night table by the bed, and after we went to bed, I figured, well, if they come, if I take those gongs and just hit 'em real hard, it will scare them so. Well, that was ridiculous.
Ritchie: You knew how to deal with the people that weren't pleased with Hodding's writings.
Carter: No, that's what—yes, I did.
Ritchie: Did you ever feel threatened?
Carter: We did, frequently. We did. And I remember one time when he was away and a boy, the Keating boy, was staying with me. And he came home from school—maybe I went and picked him up. And he said, "Mrs. Carter, may I go home and get Ami?"—that was his German shepherd dog. And I said, "Sure." So we went home and he got the dog. I said, "Was it bad at school?" He said, "Yes." He said, "It's very bad." He said, "I just think it's better to have the dog here." Well, he'd heard all the kids talking, the way their families talk. So we had Ami there that night and nothing happened.
Then there was De La Beckwith. Did you ever hear of him? He's the man who shot Medger Evers. And so of course we had come out against that whole situation. Now, [Byron] De La Beckwith starts working for a seed company in Greenville, Mississippi. And he begins asking young John Keating about the lay of our house—"Now, the kitchen is there and the living room is there and the dining—" Young John just wouldn't
tell him any of that. Well, we knew he was there and we knew he was trying to find out, we knew—you never know when an absolutely off-base person may go further.
Ritchie: Did you ever feel like giving up? Was there ever a point—
Carter: No. No. Now, I'll tell you, we were not all-out activists at all. All that we were trying to do is to keep sanity and decency and equal opportunity. And equal opportunity for everyone to say their say.
Ritchie: But in Mississippi you would have been regarded as a radical.
Carter: It was impossible. We were extremely radical. We were dangerous because—
Ritchie: But you had the support to put the newspaper out.
Carter: We had the support.
Ritchie: I mean, you had the financial resources.
Carter: Well, we were selling ads like mad and we were not getting any of the job printing which is what we had counted on early. But where there was a choice and they could go to somebody else, they'd go to somebody else. But when there was only one newspaper, they went to us.
Ritchie: Would political candidates come to you and ask for endorsements?
Carter: Yes, but we never endorsed until they got up to the higher level. Now I'll tell you who we endorsed. We endorsed Frank Smith running for Congress, who had worked for us as a newspaperman. Excellent man. And it was at the period of the Eisenhower election. And we endorsed him right from the beginning. And that was the Eisenhower election.
[End Tape 1, Side B; Begin Tape 2, Side A]
Ritchie: So the paper would not endorse political candidates.
Carter: Not on the local level, until it was at the general election stage, usually.
Ritchie: And what was the idea behind that? That they would give people a fair chance—
Carter: To everybody, say, put out all the different points of view.
Ritchie: And on a statewide level, would the paper become involved with political campaigns?
Carter: Yes, it would, it would. Well, of course, as long as the Democratic primary was the only election, we had to endorse at that stage, and did. But preferred not to but you had to.
Ritchie: And it would have been a news item when the candidates would come to the area?
Carter: Oh, yes. And cover what they said, if you could—not always, but try to.
Ritchie: On a paper of this size, how much of the news would be local and how much national?
Carter: We'd tried to keep it very local because we felt they were getting the Commercial Appeal or some other paper but you had to give them enough so that if that was all they were getting, it would be all right.
Ritchie: Once you began to cover the news of the black community and incorporate that in your newspaper, did you see a change in your subscribers?
Carter: More blacks after that. That was good. But as far as the whites were concerned, they didn't fall off because of it. It was simply putting more information in about the full community. The thing that's interesting, I notice in the transcript that you did, that I refer to the community, meaning the white community. You know that today if the word "community" is used in Greenville, I know it's the black community because the word "community" has come to mean black.
Ritchie: In Greenville.
Ritchie: So if you talk about the community you area saying—
Carter: If I'm talking to my black friends and I say "the community," I mean the black community and they mean the black community. Which is interesting but simply a different transfer of where you're sitting.
Ritchie: Would there have been a black newspaper in Mississippi at that time?
Carter: Yes, there was. And there was one in the—the Delta Leader I think was the name of it. It was put out by a black editor. And he had—the family had had the paper over the years, financially always very strapped and not doing too much in terms of anything but sort of lodge notes—about what we were doing when we put out the Baptist circles.
Ritchie: Did you see that change over the years, the black newspapers?
Carter: Well, they finally went out of business and now there's a black radio station. And I don't think that they're doing any more than any other radio station politically. They're announcing that candidates are coming, that's about it.
Ritchie: You mentioned that you gathered the news from the radio in Hammond. But did radio have any other impact on newspapers, that you were aware of?
Carter: Well, everybody listened, certainly during the war, but that was afterwards. I think that the time the radio came into its own as a news media was during the war, and everybody listened to the radio—5:00 p.m., I think it was and you had to hear what was happening, and it wasn't until after the war that television came in—I mean World War II. But back in Greenville and Hammond—well, I don't think it had too much news impact except to get what you had to off of it. And out at the Carters, they had to listen to somebody sing about the moon comes up over the mountain—what was that? "When the moon comes over the mountain"—well, anyway that was the famous thing that you listened to or maybe if the moon went down, I don't remember what it did. But that was the sort of thing you listened to. I don't think it had much impact on—there weren't that many radios yet. By the time of the war, there were plenty of radios.
Ritchie: But the people wanted to read the local news?
Carter: Absolutely, because that's where they got the local news, they didn't get it from the radio.
Ritchie: As the staff grew and increased, were there more women hired at your newspaper?
Carter: Yes. Right. And no blacks until quite late, I think probably young Hodding put in the first black staff members. Now, it's a good rounded staff as far as women and blacks. I don't want to say other minorities but okay. But we didn't have anything to do with that after '80, you see.
Ritchie: At what point did you decide to sell the newspaper?
Carter: Well, young Hodding had gone to Washington. Philip was having a terrible time trying to commute between New Orleans where he had an alternative paper and coming to Greenville and his wife didn't want to live in Greenville. I could see that I had worked fifty years and that I would be there the rest of my life. And financially we were confronted with needing to buy a lot of computers and a new addition to the press. John Gibson was talking about wanting to retire [and] we would have to take care of a contract for him and buy him out. I just saw terrific financial decisions that would have to be made. And from the point of view of editorial content, I didn't have either of our sons there. And I just didn't think that we could ever go anywhere but down.
Ritchie: And you had no interest in continuing.
Carter: Well, I miss it. I miss the fact that it's a power that's gone. But I think that I would have been spending so much time on the technical side and struggling financially, as we had fought at the beginning, and I didn't have the strength to do it. I copped out.
Ritchie: You mentioned the technical aspect, and I'm certain that you saw from the thirties to the end of the seventies many, many changes.
Carter: Well, the main thing was that we put in a really good press. And when I went into the newsroom and didn't know how to write a story because everything was computerized, that made me mad, to have to hand it to somebody. There was a lot to learn and I wasn't interested in learning it.
Ritchie: But you certainly had had a long and very successful career.
Carter: Well, from '32 to 1980, the first thing I thought of every moment was the paper. How long is that? That's not fifty years—if you do forty, fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty—forty-eight years, something like that. And I just didn't see where—I could have waited for Catherine, she might have come along, our granddaughter, but how did I know if she wanted to, and this had been very much a family paper.
Ritchie: As opposed to one that's owned by an outside company that hires—
Carter: Right. Right.
Ritchie: And sent them into a town to do reporting.
There are two things I regret. I regret that we don't have the paper because I loved the feeling that I could go in and take a story and it ran the way I wanted it to run—which would be a PR story, probably, in terms of what it really was. And I did that all through the years, whatever the issue was, if it was a meeting that I felt was important, I tried to write the story so it would get the crowd out. So I regret that. And then in selling the house, I regret that because it would be nice to have a big house for holidays. But the rest of the time, who's going to take care of the ten acres with the green grass growing all around?
Ritchie: It was a good time in your life to make some changes.
Carter: It was. I had to, I guess.
Ritchie: Well, thank you, Betty. Your recollections and your career certainly are worth recording and I'm glad that you agreed to do it with us.
Carter: Thank you very much, Anne.
[Begin Tape 1, Side A]
Ritchie: Before we turned the tape on, Betty, we were talking a little bit about your observation that you really weren't a newspaperwoman.
Carter: I don't know, you see, I was one to start with. Of course, the years in Hammond, there was no question but what I was a newspaperwoman because that was what it was all about. And then certainly I was a newspaperwoman up till the time that we went off to the war but—well, what happened there was that we had the Nieman fellowship in the middle and we were only at the Nieman fellowship for one term because I'd had that miscarriage and Hodding didn't want to go for the first term because I was pregnant again. So we went for the second term.
Well, I wasn't doing anything then but recuperating from having been sick. Then we had the Nieman. Then we came back. There was a point there where I was doing, as I told you, sitting on the front porch and being the correspondent for—the stringer for the Picayune, et cetera. And then I went back to the paper, as society editor, I think—women's page for a period.
Then we went off to the war. Well, first Hodding went off to the war. He went to Camp Blanding [Florida]. The national guard went in a year before Pearl Harbor. So they went off to Camp Blanding but I stayed in Greenville to keep in touch with the paper so that was my job then. But in June before Pearl Harbor, Hodding had been transferred to Washington and he said he didn't care if we lost the paper, that I had to come on. So the two boys, Philip and Hodding, and I got on the train and went to Washington—which in a way broke my heart at that moment because I had said that it would be wonderful for Greenville to have a water parade, like Mardi Gras in New Orleans but all the floats would be boats and we would go on Lake Ferguson. So it was all organized, it was going to happen June the 15th. And Hodding said, "No, you cannot wait. Come at once." So I came at once.
So then he got the job to write Civilian Defense of the United States. And his eye was in terrible trouble, the one he'd hurt at Camp Blanding. And so I did all the research for that. Now you see I'm going on and talking about stuff that I've probably already told you.
Ritchie: Well, this is a good summary.
Carter: All right. So then I knew more about civilian defense, probably, than anybody else in Washington when the bombs actually fell on Pearl Harbor. So then all of my newspaper experience was used as the basis for getting a job with the Office of Facts and Figures. Now, being a newspaperwoman—which we were discussing whether I was or I wasn't—I learned a lot about radio techniques through being head of the children's department at one point when our crowd broke up at OWI. And then I went to work for Ken Beirns—and I know I've said this because he's in the index—but I learned a lot about radio there by writing the fact sheets. So, that may not have been newspaper but it was a communications technique.
And then after the war, I came back to Greenville and I went back—let me think, that was '45—and I guess I went back to the—no, I didn't, it was Hodding's decision—I think he really wanted to be real macho and wanted to do it as a husband, as a man. And he didn't really want me around the paper. I think the theory was, at that point—now I've only analyzed this in the last year or five—but I think at that point he thought that it was a man's job to do the thing and his wife should be the little woman at home. Well, that nearly destroyed me. But I had a function which was to get the world to see we were home. And I guess that's where I went mostly, into that. But I did do the special editions, which was good. I loved doing those.
Ritchie: The farm editions?
Ritchie: Land use.
Carter: Yes. Land use. And I also did one after that which sold the merchants on the idea that only ten percent of the people in Greenville who were adults—only ten percent of the adults—knew anything about Greenville. Everybody else had grown up other places and moved in since the war and had married and so that we needed a know-Greenville edition. So we put that together and that was fun and it was a big success from the point of view of the way it was put together. Unfortunately, we had torrential rain the evening it came out and I don't think more than two percent of the people ever picked their papers up as they floated in the water outside.
Ritchie: Was it your idea for this special edition—did you think it up?
Carter: Actually the—that one, yes. The land use one, interestingly, was John Gibson, our business partner. He was a close contact with all the planters; he wanted to be in with the old planter crowd so he heard all this agricultural stuff which we either heard or we didn't hear. But he realized—he said we ought to do this edition. So then, I looked into it and by golly, that was the truth. So I think that must have been before I did the farm page.
Ritchie: That led you into a farm page.
Carter: I think so. I think so.
Ritchie: And then the local history issue was your idea.
Carter: Yes. Really, it was. I have always liked doing special things like that. Now, trying to stick to the newspaper angle, but all of these techniques that you learn, when years later Jimmy Robertson, who now is a supreme court—one of the Mississippi supreme court justices, one of the most brilliant men I've ever known in my life—well, he and I were on the Chamber of Commerce education committee. So we decided that we should have—and I say "we" because I don't know whether Jimmy thought of it or I thought of it—that we should have a two-day seminar on quality and equality of education in Washington County. That was in 1971. Did I tell you this before?
Ritchie: I don't believe so.
Carter: Well, to me this is a high point because I made over six hundred personal telephone calls to get the people there. What's the use of something if nobody's there?
Ritchie: To attend the seminar.
Carter: Yes. And what we ended up with was about a hundred and fifty people. And we balanced it—male, female, black, white, parochial, private, public schools. I'll tell you, it was a job. And we got somebody or other from Harvard, who was the name, big educational sociologist or some such Ph.D. type. And we got a grant from the humanities so we were able to bring him. Well, I used my personal knowledge of the people, I wrote publicity till you could—the scrapbook is overwhelming. We put it on every radio, every TV. We made the personal contacts to every legislator and we got the crowd out.
Ritchie: You couldn't have done all this without your background in the community.
Carter: Oh, I know it. You see, it all works together. Then in January 1981 when Gov. [William] Winter was pushing so hard for education, educational reform—and he got his bill through, finally. And the legislators had said, "Well, he'll call his special session and we have to go but we can recess after two days, legally." But they couldn't because the groundswell was so great for educational reform, and Gov. Winter had built it through local mass meetings. And I put on—well, Martha Campbell and I put on—Martha's a wonderful girl but she was younger and I had techniques she didn't have yet, but she's got them now. But anyway, we had a thousand people and the temperature was five above zero which is pretty cold for Greenville and the ground was covered with ice. And we didn't know if—Gov. Winter wasn't coming but Mrs. [Elise] Winter came. Well, for that we had put out publicity in every newspaper in the county. There was one over in Leland, the weekly there, the black paper, the Democrat, the radio, TV.
Ritchie: This was all in Washington County?
Carter: Washington County. And we got them there. And it was fabulous—every legislator came despite the weather. They had to come because we had put so much pressure into the community and into the publicity—
Ritchie: To get them to come.
Carter: Absolutely. So you see, I really feel that a newspaper is failing its responsibility to the community if it doesn't use its power to get the story out. Now, I hate to think of that when I think about David Duke.* If the publisher is a David Duke man, there's the danger. And I guess that's the danger of a monopoly. I don't know.
Ritchie: And then you get one side of the story.
Carter: I know it. And of course, pushing the publicity as hard as we did for that, the people who didn't want to come didn't have a medium to say they didn't want to come because we'd co-opted the whole thing.
Ritchie: You had a corner on the market.
Carter: We did.
Ritchie: You mentioned a county paper. Was there ever a county daily paper?
Carter: No. You see, you have to have the county printer and we were usually the county printer. But sometimes, the little Leland Enterprise weekly would be the county printer. And for them, that would be—as it was with us in Hammond—that's your butter on your bread, unless it's also the bread.
Ritchie: Because that is guaranteed income.
Carter: Well, you know that the minutes of the board of supervisors, your county police jury, those things have to be published in the official journal. And the rate—the newspapers fixed that long ago—the rate's very nice and high.
Ritchie: So is that set statewide what the rate would be?
Carter: Oh, yes. I believe that's correct, for the official printing.
* Former Ku Klux Klan leader, who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in Louisiana in 1990. He also ran for governor in 1991.
Ritchie: Well, I think it would be fair to say that your role in the newspaper continued through the years. It shifted a little—
Carter: Very much.
Ritchie: —when you stayed at home with the three boys and had visitors all the time. And I wouldn't say you stayed at home—
Carter: No. I was out with the visitors frequently, usually. I don't think I was ever in the house long. Hodding said that I would walk out of the door in the morning and call out over my shoulder to Rose, who was our general factotum on Arnold Avenue, and say, "Rose, for dinner now, think of something and make it good."
Ritchie: You were lucky to have someone like that.
Ritchie: Well, looking back over your life and career, can you think that you were looking at the many years that you spent in the business, what were some of the happiest years and the most fulfilling years in terms of your work as a newspaperwoman?
Carter: Well, there would be these high points that I've just been telling you about. And those were things that you got so absorbed in that it just rose up and called you blessed. But I think that each time that there was a major thrust, I loved it. And otherwise, I must say that I felt that all of life was a dedication. I loved it. I do love it. Only it's a little less dedicated now and I feel slippy—you know, rudderless. So I've got to find out what the next cause will be. There are plenty of them.
Ritchie: Well, you're still very involved in activities in Mississippi.
Carter: Education, primarily. But when I consider that I've been back in Greenville very strongly for two years and to think how little we've done. And I may have said this to you before, that I get discouraged until I realize that Moses came down three thousand years ago or so with the tablets—we haven't changed much. So you just keep putting the pressure on. And I don't know if it's a linear thing or if it's a spiral or what the world is all about but it sure is slow to change.
You have terrific technical changes. Look at what's happened in the newspaper industry. Look at it all. And look at the television that's come. And look at how we're going to get it all faxed. My God, I've never used a fax in my life but once. I was even astounded that it was so easily available.
Ritchie: And if you were still at the newspaper, you know—
Carter: We'd be doing it all the time. And when we sold the Democrat, the day after the Freedom people took it over, they had a dish up receiving their material by whatever the dish does.
Ritchie: Who were the Freedom people?
Carter: They're the people who bought it.
Ritchie: Is that the same—
Carter: The Democrat—no. No. It's called the Freedom Publishing Company or something like that.
Ritchie: Was it an outside group?
Carter: Oh, yes. Oh, it's outside. It's a Libertarian group, they own about twenty-three small papers, mostly in the sun belt across the South, including going out to Anaheim, California.
Ritchie: Oh, so it's more like from the West Coast across the South—
Carter: To the East.
Ritchie: —and then across and back.
Carter: Very Libertarian, in fact. I'm surprised that they've become involved at all in the education issue, which they have to a certain extent, because their theory is that the least government is the best, which I'm sure is correct. But their theory was that there should be no government in anything. And at the first meeting that their new publisher talked to the Rotary Club, I wasn't there and I don't know how he answered it but somebody got up and said, "Well, if you're not going to have any government in anything, what about the levees, how would we be here in Greenville?" Now, I don't know what his answer was to that.
Ritchie: That was the first thing that came to someone's mind because it is critical to—
Carter: Absolutely. Oh, because we couldn't live in the Mississippi Valley without the levees. The river is—we probably made a mistake in New Orleans in 1720 or '21 when they put up the first levee, probably it should have been as in Egypt, let the Nile come up and refresh the ground, the soil, every year. But they didn't do that, they put up the levee. And once you put up the levee, you had to have a levee system that went all the way up. And once you tried to control the waters of thirty-three states and two Canadian provinces, the little levee board in Greenville, Mississippi, couldn't handle it. It had to be a national effort.
And I was always very interested in the whole river control thing. So that when I was going to China, there were two things I wanted to see. I wanted to see what they did about mules and I wanted to see what they did about levee control. And there are levees—not the Yellow River but the other one, the Yangtze—there is revetment work there that was put in three thousand years ago. And they diverted the river so that part of it was for navigation and part of it was for irrigation.
Ritchie: Was your trip to China connected with the newspaper?
Carter: No, that was post-Democrat-Times. I really went—I wanted to see the mule situation. And it was interesting. However, I must say I didn't see much about the mule because they're farther north than we went.
Ritchie: We mentioned the technical changes at newspapers. And that ranged from the early days at Hammond when you had a press that—
Carter: We had—what?
Ritchie: Open and closed?
Carter: Yes. What do you call it? It made a loud noise, too.
Ritchie: Like a big clap?
Carter: Oh, yes. It was wonderful.
Ritchie: And it was operated by hand?
Carter: Oh, no, no. Electricity. Oh, certainly electricity. But you see there's a change that had come. And of course, the old business of setting by hand, that was long past, we had linotypes, one linotype in Hammond.
Ritchie: And you hired a person to do that.
Carter: To do that. Yes. I never worked the linotype.
Ritchie: Would you have been able to?
Carter: No. I never tried. There was enough outside that needed to be done. And we had this man who was a Holy Roller. And one of our accounts, a job-printing account, was a Holy Roller church, they got out a little—some sort of a little sheet that we printed for them from time to time. And our linotype operator was a devout Catholic. And they would refer to the Church of Rome as "the harlot," "the harlot of Babylon," or God knows what. And the operator wouldn't set the type. And we absolutely had to have that job printing. So when it came to the objectionable words—Hodding didn't know how to run a linotype but the printer would move aside and tell Hodding what to punch and Hodding would write "the harlot of Rome," or whatever it was.
Ritchie: Because the man refused to do it.
Carter: Oh, he wouldn't. It would be a sin for him to do that. But he got out of the way and let Hodding do it because it wasn't a sin for him.
Ritchie: He'd give instructions.
Carter: Yes, right. No, I never did that. I never operated any of the mechanical stuff, just the typewriter. But I told you that, when it got to computers, to word processors, I never took the time to learn, I was just handing it to somebody in the back to go—"Here's the piece on such-and-such."
Ritchie: What other types of printing jobs did you have? This was a little side income?
Carter: Oh, that's very important because advertising—in the small towns and before you're established, and even after—job-printing, circulars, dodgers that are handed out, are cheaper for the person who is advertising than advertising in the paper. And also in a way they could more closely target who their particular constituency was. So we did a lot of printing of that type. And you also did business letterheads. And I did some of that, selling some of that while I was selling the advertising. But I didn't want to do too much of that because I took that as a last resort. If they were not going to take the ad, which was more expensive, would help to support the paper more directly, then I would show them how to do the dodger, the handbill, whatever we called it.
Ritchie: So that was another aspect of the business that someone had to take care of.
Carter: Well, I did it simply because you couldn't afford another person. Now, that was the Hammond period. By the time that we got to Greenville, I don't think I sold any of that. In fact, right at the beginning we did very little of the job printing. But later, we did more. And then it became difficult because there were plenty of job printers, not plenty but competitors.
Ritchie: Little businesses?
Carter: Yes, that did nothing but that. And some of them became great printing offices—great printing offices, they became viable and able. So the printing side during the years of the antagonism towards us from a
racial point of view—they could always take their printing to somebody else but they had to come to us for the newspaper advertising, which was good.
Ritchie: The one aspect of income due to printing might have declined a bit.
Carter: Yes, it did, considerably, because they could show their dislike of us by not buying the printing from us, and give it to their friends, their political friends, their people with the same attitude towards life.
Ritchie: How have you seen the role of women change in journalism?
Carter: Well, I think that women are in as far as every aspect of it, really. And I think an able woman can do anything an able man can do. And she has certain fields in which she is, I think, more sensitive. Now, maybe that's wrong of me, maybe that's a bias to say. But I think men and women are different, there's no use saying they're the same.
Ritchie: So there are some areas, some issues that a woman might cover with more sensitivity.
Carter: Oh, I do think so. And I think that as a whole, it's not always but they have taken the time through life, they've been involved with a family and the home and I think they do a better job of school reporting, as a whole. Men don't even see what the story is.
Ritchie: The women might be more likely to be involved with the schools if they have children.
Carter: Well, that's right. And they seem to remember better, maybe. And maybe the boys grew up in such a way that they didn't notice what was going on, they played football.
Ritchie: What about journalism ethics? Have you seen those change through the years?
Carter: I think so. And I'll tell you, some of it is—now, for instance, when we were in Hammond, Bert Hyde used to throw in in his column, he was our only columnist, only reporter, he was out at the school, high school—excuse me, college. And Bert would say that they were doing good things at this restaurant or doing good things there. And then they would give us free dinners to come down and get. Nowadays that's considered perfectly awful. But we thought that was perfectly all right. We enjoyed that. But I think that a lot of newspapermen in the old days, whatever they were, had the right ethics. But also a lot of them just thought it was a way to make money and to go on and get the cash out of it. And I think the journalism schools maybe have helped to put over the idea of the ethics. I think that's their principal strength.
Ritchie: And a little more professionalism.
Ritchie: So there were times when you might have been invited somewhere or given something in return for coverage in the newspaper?
Carter: Not in return. We would already have done whatever we were going to do. And in return you got a few—
Ritchie: So it was like a thank you?
Carter: Yes, that's right. That's right. And I must say that unless it's buying you, I don't see anything wrong with it, even now. But you'd have to be mighty careful if they started giving you a vicuna coat. Nobody ever did that.
Ritchie: So a dinner at the local—
Carter: Well, down at this wonderful Pass Manchac, Bill Williams's place.
Ritchie: And the name of it, Manchac—
Carter: Manchac—it's a pass between two lakes—
Ritchie: Oh, yes.
Carter: Yes. And now one of the two places survives. Middendorf's, we didn't trade with Middendorf's, we used to talk about how wonderful this other one was. So we could go down there, Bert would tell us when—free, but it would have cost fifty cents had we paid. And for fifty cents, they brought to your table—fifty cents a person—they brought to your table an enormous platter of hot boiled shrimp and you ate all you could. Then they brought a big platter of hot boiled crab and you ate all that you could. Then came the plate with catfish, frog legs—I'm not sure of the catfish, it might have been catfish, I doubt it—I doubt it, take off the catfish.
Carter: It would be frog legs and it would be soft-shell crabs and a little potato salad that wasn't very good and maybe more shrimp cooked up in a different way. And all of this for fifty cents. And then if you wanted it, store-bought pie for dessert. But we had to pay for the beer.
Ritchie: So it was a thank you.
Carter: That's right. I don't think that was very unethical. But it was very nice, I don't mind telling you.
Ritchie: Did you ever have advertisers complain about your coverage of something—
Carter: Yes, you would.
Ritchie: —or people in the community?
Carter: Oh, yes, they would, of course. And you just had to say, "Well, if you have a statement you want to make, we'll be happy to run it, we'll include it. But that's the way we saw it." Or if we made a mistake you'd come out and say you'd made a mistake.
Ritchie: And correction?
Carter: Yes. Why not?
Ritchie: How did you get corrections most often? Were they brought to your attention by readers?
Carter: Oh, yes. Or maybe by the person that you were saying it about. And they would say, "I didn't say that." Of course, sometimes we had taken it down, we didn't use the recorder but we had one or two reporters who used shorthand. So we'd have some mighty good statements of what they really had said.
Ritchie: But when the person saw it in print—
Carter: It didn't sound so good. [They'd] say, "I didn't say it." And we'd have to say, "Well, we're sorry. This is the way our reporter heard it and that's the way we have to report it but Mr. Jones says this is what he said."
Ritchie: Would you have given even treatment to political people and the community, private members of the community?
Carter: Well, you mean, how? Of course, if the political person came and made a speech, we'd cover that.
Ritchie: I guess I can see where a paper might not only endorse but give more attention to people in public office, public figures.
Carter: Oh, you have to. You have to, because they are theoretically addressing the issue. And theoretically they're bringing the issue either because they have sensed it in the electorate or they're bringing it to the electorate. And in either case, I think we have to report it, and do. We did.
Ritchie: Did you often cover the state legislature?
Carter: Only what came in. We absolutely stuck to Greenville, Mississippi. And we covered—we did not have a bureau in Jackson. And another thing that's interesting is, in those days the north-south road going to Memphis was much better than the road from Greenville to Jackson, Mississippi. And people who were going to shop would go and shop in Memphis. And people who subscribed to a paper subscribed to the [Memphis] Commercial Appeal, not to the [Jackson] Clarion-Ledger or the Jackson Daily News.
Ritchie: So the Delta's focus was—
Carter: More up towards Memphis. Right. Also Memphis represented cotton, the big planter interests the way that the Delta did.
Ritchie: They were more aligned with them commercially and economically.
Carter: And Jackson was more the hill country of Mississippi, which Delta people looked down on.
Ritchie: So the Delta's interest would have been more aligned with Memphis although Jackson was the state capital.
Carter: That's right.
Ritchie: But you could have gotten that news from your local representative.
Carter: You mean to get an interview with the local—
Ritchie: I mean if you wanted state news.
Carter: Possibly. No, but you got it through your AP coverage. That's where you got your state legislature and what was going on in Jackson. And they had a man there, we couldn't afford a bureau. Later—I don't remember how late but probably in young Hodding's period—we did have a partial—we paid for part of a man during periods of legislative sessions and that sort of thing.
Ritchie: Now, if there was—I'm thinking especially during the civil rights period in the sixties, events in other parts of Mississippi, you'd get that on the AP?
Carter: To the extent that the AP covered it. And we tried to get stories like that. Of course, by then I wasn't around the paper that much because I was at home with Hodding more of the time and he was writing and I was helping. And young Hodding was back, and young Hodding was extremely important in all of that, in getting out and working on Head Start. They set up the first Head Start in the state, he and some other Greenvillians.
As with all Head Starts, they had their political problems and their problems with—well, that was beside the point of what you were asking me. You asked me about civil rights coverage. And we covered—for instance, we would make a point of getting what was happening to Hazel Brannon Smith, this young newspaperwoman who had a weekly over in Holmes County and she had a hell of a time.
Ritchie: Was she a black woman?
Ritchie: Why was she having a difficult time?
Carter: Because she dared to tell the truth and to ask questions. She had no intention of being for civil rights. All she intended to do was to write the story. But that wasn't the way it was construed. Her advertising fell off completely. And she had to be subsidized by nice people who sent money in for Hazel, which was good for her.
Ritchie: Had she been established in the community?
Carter: Yes. She had come there to take over an old weekly and she was the youngest newspaperwoman in the state when she came. And she was the baby of the Mississippi Press Corps. Well, that was adorable. I think she was—I don't know how old, maybe ten years younger than I was at the time. Maybe younger than that.
Ritchie: Probably thought she was younger because she was a woman.
Carter: Well, that's true. That's right. That's right. She must have been quite young because I think she'd just come out of journalism school somewhere. But we made a point of trying to keep in touch with her by telephone and getting the stories of what was happening. And then Hodding went out and wrote articles about her to try to get money for her, telling about her in various—I think St. Louis had a big story about her and maybe one of the Eastern papers.
But covering the civil rights thing. Well, you did, you got what you could. And just remember that the white power structure would clam up and the blacks were afraid to talk. So you just got what you could.
Ritchie: So things were happening but they weren't all—
Carter: Reported. Of course, the biggest day for me was that day when Unita Blackwell took over the air base. And that was really an exciting civil rights. That had to do with economic dependency. That's the second stage and that's where we are now, really, I think, the economic story.
Ritchie: When young Hodding came to the paper, at that point did you and your husband pull back?
Carter: Oh, yes. You see, by '62, we had been to South Africa for those four or six months, whatever it was. And Hodding III came back from the Marines, he had graduated from Princeton, had two years in the Marines, came back in June, came to the paper theoretically until we got home. Well, he stayed. He was excellent, very good, and young and into it all.
And Hodding's eyes—he was having some trouble, oh, he was developing a cataract on his good eye but that was temporary. In '62, we came down here to New Orleans, in the fall of '62. So I would say except for the quality and equality of education seminar and the big other thing in 1981, I didn't do too much in the way of big civic work after that. But we came here—and if we came here in '62, then I guess it was the
winter that I told you—'65, that Christmas that they decided I should go back and really sit there because by then young Hodding had a Nieman. So I was running the paper at that point.
Ritchie: And they wanted a family member there to be in charge of things?
Carter: Oh, definitely. Definitely.
Ritchie: When Hodding came here he began teaching journalism at Tulane?
Carter: You see what happened was, Tulane was phasing out its journalism department and they had some seniors or juniors that had started as majors that had to have some more credits. So they asked Hodding to give them enough to count as a course. And he also gave seminars on Southern history, for graduates, which was interesting. Then Tommy died in the spring of '64 and Hodding lost reading vision—
Ritchie: And all of that—
Carter: All of that.
Ritchie: That was right at the same time.
Carter: Oh, that all happened in the same week, the same nothing, the same day, probably. And then in '66, we bought this house. And that was—oh, I've told you all that. So that's when he was sort of into that New Orleans magazine but didn't do much with that at all.
Ritchie: So you had shifted your residence to New Orleans but you still—
Carter: We were still citizens of Greenville.
Ritchie: Greenville. And maintained the interest—
Ritchie: —and the ownership of the paper.
Carter: Oh, definitely.
Ritchie: And then when young Hodding—
Carter: And young Hodding finally in '62, when we came down here, he and Peggy and the children moved into the big house. And we had the downstairs bedroom next to Hodding's study. And then came the integration, the Meredith integration thing, which was a big, hot issue, of course. And we were actually down here. And young Hodding was at the house and he telephoned and he said that the phone calls were absolutely unbelievable and that there was no telling what would happen that night. So we got in the car and drove through the night to Greenville to protect the house. Philip and Hodding and I—and Tommy was here because it was early in September or whatever date and Culver was not back in session. And I felt like Ma Barker, driving through the night with guns in the back of the trunk of the car, riding to defend the house. So we got there at dawn—and nothing had happened.
[End Tape 1, Side A; Begin Tape 1, Side B]
Ritchie: Would that have been dangerous for you to drive during the night like that, through rural Mississippi?
Carter: Well, that would be all right, [when] everybody's asleep. I think that would be all right. I'll tell you, coming back from Maine, at one point, during part of all this trouble, we had a young Maine man who had been our boat boy for the summer and he drove the car down. We got to Greenwood, Mississippi, and Hodding and I went in to get coffee and the boy was taking care of the car. He said he didn't want any coffee or anything. And so they asked him—he finally said that this was Hodding Carter from Greenville. So they had changed the tire. And when we got home, we turned in at the cattle gap and turned in and the whole wheel just fell off. They had simply not fastened the bolts or whatever. If we had been driving fast—now I think the reason it waited so long to fall off was that it was a fairly straight—it is a fairly straight road. If we had been going through the hills, it probably would have fallen off long before. But can you believe it? Now, that's the sort of thing that happened. That was a sort of dangerous harassment that civil rights workers had. That's the only time they ever did it to us. There's no question in anybody's minds but what that was deliberate.
Ritchie: And because of Hodding's reputation in the newspaper's stand on—
Carter: Right. Right. You see, Hodding had—my husband had a two-way stretch when he wrote for consumption abroad, magazines, and in speaking abroad in—wherever—he was trying to interpret the South to the North. Then we had a very small circulation—14,000—as far as the editorials were concerned. And there he was trying to lead the people locally to keep all their options open. Don't say there's only one option. There are many options. And he kept presenting the different options. And then editorially saying which option he thought was the one we should take. But when he would say something nationally, you had two dangers. If it was being reported, there's no telling what the reporter would pick up. If it was a magazine article, you never knew what their headline would be—what the title or the photography would be. And that was the sort of thing that got you into more trouble in Mississippi than what you were saying locally because they didn't see what you were saying locally.
Ritchie: It would be outside publications that would—
Carter: What they said about us and about what they said. And there was a book that came out that Hodding had written and—I think it was First Person Rural but I'm not positive. And the dust jacket—I think I told you that—the dust jacket, that he was the foremost integrationist in the South. That was the sort of—the North didn't understand that there were positions that were not integration. And the South didn't understand that because Northerners thought you were an integrationist, it didn't mean you were. At no time did Hodding come out for integration of the schools, immediate integration. In fact, he may never have even said "integration" at all. His idea was that it was something that had to come gradually, you had to prepare people for it. I don't know whether that was true or not because we ended up with a revolution, voters' rights act and the other things that were done for civil rights and that was the revolution. And it broke the hex.
Ritchie: When you mentioned the circulation of 14,000, would that have been typical numbers for a Mississippi newspaper?
Carter: That was very good, yes. And the town at that time was about 30,000. So you see, fifty percent of your town was subscribing. Well, a lot—not a lot, some of that circulation was outside of Greenville, was in Leland, Rosedale, we always had a hard time getting to Rolling Fork because it had to go on the bus and if you were going to make the bus, you had to get the news out earlier than you wanted to from the point of view of the other subscribers. That would be—I would say 14,000 was around our high point and it would vary if you'd had some issues that made people furious, it would cut down.
Ritchie: You'd get some cancellations?
Carter: Oh, yes.
Ritchie: And of course, it's not like a magazine today where you subscribe for a year.
Ritchie: They could call and cancel—
Carter: In one week, they'd just stop it now.
Ritchie: But then they were left to read—
Carter: The Commercial Appeal. But that was more expensive and it wasn't the local news. So what we tried to do was to concentrate on the local news so that if they didn't subscribe to the Commercial Appeal, they would have the radio for national news and get the local news in the paper. That's what we really thought.
Ritchie: Who were some of the reporters—
Carter: Along the way? Well, Tom Karsell was the first one that Hodding hired right after World War II. And he hired Tom and he was there and became an editor for us and then went on and got a Nieman fellowship. And Tom was very good, went on to Louisville and was a successful man.
The first man of all was back in the Delta Star days, Bob Brown. And he left and when he left, he went finally—he may have had a Nieman, too, I'm not sure. Bob went on—I think I've told you all of this. He became—his paper got a Pulitzer over in Georgia for the coverage of—Columbus, Georgia—Phoenix City and all that stuff. And I've told you about Foster Davis who did a lot of reporting for one of the big TV things during the Vietnam war.
Ritchie: And Louise, the woman that you named.
Carter: Oh, she was so great.
Ritchie: Do you remember any of the other women that worked there?
Carter: Oh, well, there's a girl there who started right after the war. I can't remember how early Sally [Gresham] went to work at the paper. And she's still at the paper, putting out the—she was city editor for years and I think just recently they've given her some other title which may not be quite as binding. But she's at the paper every day and she's a workaholic.
Ritchie: So she stayed with it through the transition.
Carter: Absolutely. She's still there. Very much so. You see and that's ten years. But Sally was there well before that. And a gal named Doris Maggio did—her husband was the head of the mechanical department, Wee Maggio—Salvadore, really. And Doris used to do proofreading for him because she would read the proofreading right there in the mechanical department, in the composing room. And then when we moved out to the new place she had another office, another desk, which was in the newsroom. So she was—and she was marvelous because Doris had been doing it so long that no matter who came and went, she knew the names. So she could catch that. And eventually she became the woman's page editor and was a good woman's page editor. And then after the sale of the paper to Freedom—or maybe just before that—she stopped and left the paper.
Ritchie: So as a proofreader she would actually sit there as the type was being—
Carter: When the galleys would come to her. And she'd proof the galleys.
Ritchie: And make any corrections—
Carter: Oh, yes.
Ritchie: Correct it immediately.
Carter: Yes. Yes.
Ritchie: It was a difficult job.
Carter: It was. And whatever they say about not needing proofreaders today, it's utterly ridiculous. A second person ought to see that copy.
Ritchie: From the beginning when you started in Hammond, how many pages did the paper grow from to?
Carter: Well, the thing in Hammond was that we had—it was a five-day-a-week paper. It was five columns. And it grew to be six columns, seven columns, eight columns and finally, nine columns. And every time that we were about to go under, Hodding would add a column. Sort of as proof that we were doing all right, I guess.
Ritchie: That it could sustain.
Carter: I don't know. So the paper got bigger and bigger. But it never got more than four pages, unless you had a special edition for something, like back to school, when you sold ads like mad to everybody that you could.
Ritchie: And then what was the size when you started at Greenville?
Carter: I think we had a full-size paper. Probably seven columns, I can't remember.
Ritchie: And the pages would have grown—
Carter: Oh, yes, the number of pages increased. And at one point, we had a little weekly, the Delta Weekly that we published that covered more of the Delta as a whole. And David Brown worked on that. The boy who later did the farm page and became editor and now is the head of journalism at Morehead College in Kentucky. Well, David became head of journalism at Morehead. And Harry Marsh became head of Journalism and Mass Communications at Kansas State University at Manhattan, Kansas.
Ritchie: So your reporters went on and continued their work in the field—
Carter: But they did.
Ritchie: —and had distinguished careers, Niemans and academics.
Carter: They did. They did. And don't forget John Childs who is running a major part of the Anniston [Alabama] Star's daily and weekly interests.
And there's a hot-bed of them in Charlotte, North Carolina. And of course, that group was a group that Hodding, my son, knew. And that's a good crowd. There's Ed Williams up there who's editor of their editorial page. [He's] very good, he'll probably go on to a bigger paper.
Ritchie: That must have been rewarding for you to see the people who had worked at your paper go on.
Carter: Oh, we loved that. We felt that we were a nursery. And we loved our boys. And some of them stayed at the house to protect the house when we were away. Pic Firmin is now the editor of the Sun Herald on the Gulf Coast. And a young man who worked for us, Lloyd Gray, has become the editor of the Meridian, Mississippi, paper. Well, those are good papers in terms of what they're doing.
Ritchie: Their coverage of Mississippi.
Carter: Oh, yes. And I think the Sun Herald is an excellent paper.
Ritchie: And of course, I'm sure that you would always hope that they would carry your philosophy and ideas—
Carter: Well, they do. They do. And of course there was Philip who had worked on the Democrat as a reporter—but only in summers and holidays during college and high school. But he was certainly well indoctrinated in his father's ethics. So when Hodding III went to Washington in 1978 and became assistant secretary of state for public affairs, Philip became editor and assistant publisher. But it couldn't work. He was an excellent—is—an excellent journalist—had been with the Washington Post and Newsday. But he had returned to his New Orleans roots and acquired first the Vieux Carré Courier and then started Gambit. He was torn by the two interests—Greenville and New Orleans—and with poor transportation between the two there just weren't enough hours in a week for both.
Ritchie: You know, having met you and having you on tape and hearing you talk, I'm curious about what kind of presence Hodding had.
Carter: Hodding was a—they liked him. They liked him. Hodding, of course, was always astigmatic so he would walk around and not really see people, not because he didn't want to but because he really didn't see them that well. He was not the hail-fellow-well-met person that I was. So that he had fewer—he had real friends, close friends, but not just the general community-wide. And today people will say, "Well, I never agreed with Hodding but I always respected him." Well, I didn't hear them coming up and saying that at the time, you know. But with me they always acted as though they liked me. Whether they respected me or not, I don't know. But I have many a friend, I feel—I feel warm towards many, many, many people.
Ritchie: So you were more of a presence in the community in person while he was the presence at the newspaper.
Carter: More than he was, he was in the office. And people would come to him and he would solve it. A thing that Bern Keating pointed out when he came to take a picture of Hodding in his office—over Hodding's desk he had the framed Bill of Rights and that's what he lived by—with freedom of information, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, that was his standard. And he brought us up to that.
And I remember a meeting I had with the staff at one point and Hodding wasn't there. John Gibson was listening and he didn't like what I had to say at all. And I said, "The way I see it, is the way that in days of the explorers, the ship was under the control of a captain, perhaps appointed by the king or somebody, to be in charge of that ship. And the job of that captain was to get the ship to where it was going. But the reason the ship was going there was to do the job that the people who were on that ship were going to do. And we are the people who are going to do the job. And the mechanical, the business side, all of that, is simply the way that you get to where you're going so you can do the job that you're supposed to do."
John didn't like that because he felt that the business side was the most important. I agree that it is important. It is absolutely basic. You've got to get the ship there. But what you're carrying is what is the important part.
Ritchie: Why are you going?
Carter: Why are you going in the first place?
Ritchie: Now, why would you have had this meeting with your staff?
Carter: Well, it was at one point when I would be running the paper. And I would just say, "And now the time has come to do this and we've got to tighten up there and tighten up there and just pull everything together."
Ritchie: So even though you weren't there all the time, you would come back from time to time. You certainly were—
Carter: Oh, I might be there for six months at a time or I might be there for—well, when Hodding went off to war, you see, from Thanksgiving until June.
Ritchie: You were in charge.
Ritchie: And did his eyes, the fact that he had poor sight, make you more involved at times, also?
Carter: Not really. Not really. He always managed remarkably. And as far as—he was able to do everything until that darn retinal detachment in '64. And after that, it became very complicated for him. How do you see when you can't see?
Ritchie: And he was a man who was used to using his eyes.
Carter: Well, who isn't? I said that to somebody once and they said, "Well, what about a carpenter?" You know, you'd lose your trade. What about a lawyer? How are you going to read the briefs? You know your eyes are mighty important.
Ritchie: So then you played a bigger role—
Carter: Well, in a way, yes, because there was more that had to be done. The compensatory, you know, making a whole out of two.
An important person in our lives was Hodding's secretary, Ione Boudreaux Lundy. Especially during the summers in Maine, but all year, too. In Maine, while I did resesarch and drafts, Ione transcribed all Hodding's material he was putting on the Soundscriber. And after he became so blind there is no way he could have continued to operate without her. She and her boys—just like our own, but they were younger—would come with us to Maine for the summer.
Ritchie: What else would you like to talk about?
Carter: I don't know. You had me talk on and on. I don't know what else.
Ritchie: Anything else about your years in Hammond or Greenville?
Carter: Let's think. I don't know. You've just about got me talked out. I don't know what I would want to say.
I'll tell you one story that I thought was very interesting. I've written it. I don't know, I probably will do something minor with it. But it was the summer of '63 and Hodding and Peggy and the children were living at the big house. And that was the year that Hodding had his cataract operation. I don't remember why we were there on July the 4th, I guess we had not gone to Maine yet. So I heard this noise in the hall and I opened the door and looked out. And there was Catherine, who was about five, I guess. And she'd opened the door to the big closet at the top of the steps and she had a chair there and she was on the chair. And I said—very quietly because I didn't want to wake anybody—"What are you doing?" And she said, "I'm getting out the flag." And I said, "The flag." She said, "It's the 4th of July. We have to hang out the flag."
So she reached up and I went and helped her get the flag. Well, I don't mind telling you that I was scared to death because here we were. And I went out and helped her. I couldn't say to the child, you don't hang out the American flag on the 4th of July in Mississippi in 1963, but I knew perfectly well that if we hung it out, we were in danger because the American flag was a symbol of resistance to the—was a symbol of the United States and we were in revolt; the South, Mississippi was in revolt. So we went and we hung the flag out. And I can't tell you how happy I was when dark came and it was legitimate to take the flag in. And nobody noticed it. Now why they didn't, I don't know, but we were quite far back from the road. But I'll tell you, it was—and that was not '64, that was '63. Nothing happened but I was afraid. Maybe I was always more afraid than I should have been but they were all afraid, we were all conscious of danger.
Ritchie: Well, you had to be aware of it.
Carter: Well, we would be stupid not to be. There are tigers in the jungle.
Ritchie: You mentioned going to Maine in the summer and that was somewhere where you went for a long period of time.
Carter: Where we'd always go for about two months. And that's when Hodding would write. You see, the paper itself gave us what salary it could and would but the way that we paid for the house, the way we paid for the boys' education, was from Hodding's writings because that was above what we got to live on and pay the notes with. In fact, all the writing and speaking that Hodding did, he called it building the South Wing. It was the big house and so when we built the house, the architect designed the playroom wing but we had never thought of that. But we decided if we were ever going to do it, we might as well do it at the beginning and go into debt that much more. So Hodding would say, "Well, I have to go out and build the South Wing." So that would be the periods that he would be away and I would be at the paper—and shivering.
Ritchie: But keeping it running with all of the other things that you did also.
Carter: Yes. Right.
Ritchie: But when you were in Maine for the time during the summer—
Carter: Whoever was the editor had charge. John Gibson was in charge always, of all the business side. He was a very good balance to Hodding because Hodding had these wonderful ideas, then he would give us the list of what needed to be done and John Gibson knew how to do it. And John wouldn't let us buy paper clips. He said, "Enough of them come in here, you just use the ones that come in." And to this day, if I see a paper clip, I have to pick it up.
Ritchie: So he taught you how to use your money wisely.
Carter: He did. He did. He did.
Ritchie: So he was aware of the shoestring that you operated on.
Carter: Oh, he knew it well. He knew it well. And he hated our position. He hated it.
Ritchie: So you were fortunate to have a business manager like John—
Carter: Yes. And John came as a young circulation manager. He was the first outside person, outside of Greenville, that we hired—except Bob Brown but he came as circulation manager. And while we were away at the war, John stayed at the paper. He had a bad back and was not drafted. And he kept an eye on the paper the whole time and when we came back and we wanted to take over the paper, he managed to—we all managed somehow, and he put up a fourth of the cash that we had to get. So he has been, was, a quarter-interest owner, and went on to be general business manager. Very good for the purpose but politically a hundred percent against everything we stood for. One reason I had to sell was that in every decision that I wanted to make, John was on absolutely the opposite side.
Ritchie: Had he always been that way?
Carter: Always. But you had to be strong to be against him. And to have real control. And I found that with young Hodding away and then Philip in and out, I would make a decision and it was difficult, difficult to push John.
Ritchie: And he wasn't someone that you could fire.
Ritchie: Because—well, he had been there a long time, he had—
Carter: He was there. He had an interest in the paper. And also the time was coming when he said he wanted to retire. Now, at that point we'd have to make some sort of a financial arrangement and that was part of the cost of what would come into the changeover part. John is a—well, for instance, he's really not a real Presbyterian any more. He's out of the thing, really he's in support of whatever the breakaway move is although he goes to the standard Presbyterian church because that's where his planter friends go.
Ritchie: Now, would he have verbalized these differences of opinion to Hodding and to you?
Carter: But not to argue, not to argue. And until all of the civil rights thing, he was just a young man and he didn't—I don't like to say it this way, he didn't grow, but he remained—he grew from the point of view of the technical and learning all about the—very smart businessman.
Ritchie: Do you think a young couple today could start a newspaper as you and Hodding did?
Carter: Well, we always thought it could not be done but as I said to you a few minutes ago, I wonder whether you couldn't do it with all the new processes and desk—what do they call the thing?—desk-top publishing? I think maybe you could do it with desk-top publishing. But there's an awful lot of—if you've got to make a living, it's going to be hard because somebody has to—you've got the mechanical side, you've got first of all the news side and the editorial. Then you've got to do the advertising.
Ritchie: And the community aspect.
Carter: The community aspect, too. It's a hard—it's a job that you either love or you'd better not be there. And I think most journalists love it.
Ritchie: Obviously, you and Hodding loved it.
Carter: We did.
Ritchie: Did you ever think of giving it up and having him take a position somewhere where—
Carter: No. How awful. He could never work for anybody else because if they'd said anything that he didn't like, he was—I don't want to say quick on the trigger but I must say that he would—he was pretty definite in what he accepted and what he didn't accept coming from somebody else.
Ritchie: Perhaps a bit more temperamental.
Ritchie: Would he blow up in the newsroom if something didn't go his way?
Carter: There was never any question about it, it went his way. But, you know, because he had chosen the people. He chose them because of where they stood in relation to where he stood. No, I never heard him blow up at anybody at the paper. No.
Young Hodding after he was in the Marines would come into the newsroom and say lots of "goddamit" and big Marine words. And finally Doris Maggio went to him. And she said, "Hodding, if you use words like that around me, I have to quit." And so it tempered him down. So you see, a woman had a good effect on the newsroom.
Ritchie: Would your newsroom at the Delta Democrat-Times have looked like the newsrooms that I see on television?
Carter: Absolutely and exactly. Everybody threw the—you'd write your copy and throw the piece on the floor that you didn't like. It really looked awfully messy. And then people would come—you'd bring your coffee in the plastic and have that there. And cigarettes. Awful. Awful!
Ritchie: Everyone's desk—
Carter: Awful. Awful. Everything opened into—everything in one big room, which I like but I notice it's not like that now because with the computers you don't need all that paper that people had. So it's a lot neater. And I believe that they have rules about you can't bring food in or something like that. We never did that. You went on and if you needed a bite, you got it.
Ritchie: And brought it to your desk.
Ritchie: And was Hodding's office with glass so he could see out—
Carter: No. Actually, the old Delta Star was a separate room with the door opening. And at the Democrat-Times it was in the new building. It was up front. But there was a back door that went right on into the newsroom. And the front door that came so that you had ready access in each direction.
Ritchie: To the offices.
Carter: Oh, yes.
Ritchie: Did you have your own office when you went in?
Carter: No. I'd always sit where Hodding sat if he wasn't there. Or I had a desk in the newsroom, one or the other. Depending on which hat I was wearing.
Ritchie: Sometimes both, probably.
Ritchie: Well, Betty, I know that future historians and students of journalism, women's studies, will enjoy reading these transcripts. And I hope that you've enjoyed it as much as I have.
Carter: Well, I've enjoyed talking. My heavens. What opportunities does one get to just talk on for hours?
Ritchie: Well, I'm glad that we were able to interview you.
Carter: Thank you. Thank you.