Dr. Leo Jenkins continues to talk about his experiences in Greenville.
JENKINS: Then I had one opportunity, real strong opportunity. Oh, by the way, the one year led into 32 years, as you know. We liked it more and more and more. Then we liked it so much that my wife didn't want to leave.
I was asked to consider coming to another state to be Assistant Chancellor for Academic Affairs. I went to see Frank Graham, who was a friend of mine, and who was also a Marine, although we never served together. But he was a Marine and I was a Marine. I could trust him. I told him, "I've been offered this job to go to Georgia." He said, "Well, I know it's an opportunity for you and I know you're a young fellow," he says, "but if I were you, I wouldn't go." He explained the politics of the thing. He said, "You're being invited by the chancellor who is a very prominent man and a very powerful man, but if anything happened to him or if he were just to decide to retire, that would be the end of you. You'd be there at the grace of Chancellor Caldwell, it's that simple." So I decided not to do that. I've never regretted it.
Then, of course, when other things would come along, I'd ignore them unless I would discuss them with Bobby Morgan, who was chairman of our board, or whoever was chairman, I'd discuss it with him and then try to get no publicity for it. Sometimes it would leak out. But normally, I'd say, "I'm not going to do it, but I want you to know in case there's a leak.
We enjoyed very much the things that happened here. I know when they awarded me that Citizen of the Year Award about four years ago, five years ago up in Raleigh. I couldn't help but think, here were four governors here, Sanford, Hunt and Scott and Dan Moore; two senators, Bobby Morgan and Jessie Helms; Lieutenant Governor Jimmy Green; all these people were up there. Each one said about two minutes, and the only thing I could think of at the time I was there was the expression "Only in America!"
I don't know if you have ever heard that before, but I grew up in a foreign neighborhood. We were the only English family in the entire neighborhood. There were Germans, Polish, and Jewish people. Oh, we had most everything there. No Italians because they had their own community about three blocks the other direction. But in the middle was this conglomerate. The old ladies would sit out and talk and every once in awhile you'd hear "mmm, mmm, mmm" and they'd shake their heads. A story would come back about some fellow who made it big among the kids there and they would say "Only in America; only in America."
I couldn't help but think, only in America could a brazen, and I was brazen as hell when I was young, brazen Marine Yankee come down here and not only be welcomed, but to be up there. It made me think, no other place would that happen. But I just said that, "Only in America," and I sat down, because I didn't think the occasion called for a speech. But they've been delightfully good to me. There's no question about it.
Even during the hardest days of the Medical School fight, we were still able to be courteous. You see Dan Moore told several people, who in turn told me, of course, during the Medical School fight and the university status, he said, "The one man in North Carolina that I hate more than anyone else is Leo Jenkins down at East Carolina." So people would ask him to repeat it again. It wouldn't be because there was the spirit of drinking or anything, because there was none of that, too much. They would say, "Say that again, Governor." He'd say, "Yes, I'll repeat it as much as you want me to. The man I hate most in all of North Carolina is Leo Jenkins." And yet, when Lillian would meet with Janelle, the two wives would always hug each other. There was nothing between those two. When I would meet him, he would always be a complete gentleman and I'd be a gentleman to him. So it never got on the level of being ugly, you see. Even the people who opposed us in the legislature would come to the theater here. Ike Andrews is a good illustration, the congressman. He voted against East Carolina every time he had a chance. Not only voted, he made a speech every time he had a chance. Even when we had an issue won, when the vote was in our back pocket, when, you know, it wouldn't be even close and we'd run away with it, he'd have to get up and say, "You're making a mistake, please consider, they should not make a university down there. They should not have a Med. School." Everything they should not, they should not. Yet he came to the summer theater constantly. Whenever I'd have a dinner and he was invited, he'd be here and just as friendly, but, yet, difference in his attitude. So it was a very lovely and rather nice situation, although it was painful to some extent.
I think it cost me salary. I know it did. My salary was comparatively low compared to the other chancellors and I know why. We had the the second biggest school, no, third biggest school, the third biggest budget, the third largest in almost everything, and yet I'd be about the fifth, or sixth, or seventh when it came to salary.
BRATTON: And you were one of the senior [chancellors.]
JENKINS: Oh, yes. I was the senior man. I was senior to everyone. Even in terms of, no matter what avenue they went. I know one fellow said, "Well, he doesn't write much." So I had [Wendell] Smiley, the librarian, make a study. And at the time that the remark was made, I had more publications than all of them, combined. Not just one guy or two guys, but all of them combined. I told Smiley, "Are you sure you did research?" He said, "I looked in Readers," whatever they have over there, Index, Writers Index. "Every source there is, I checked." So I let that go.
Then they said, "Well, he's not a member of significant national organizations." Well, I was the member of COPA. And COPA is the accrediting agency in America, you see. They accredit the accrediting agencies. I was a member of COPA for five years. I represented all the state supported colleges and universities in America, all of them. They had one guy representing the professional, one fellow representing the private institutions, I forget, one representing the land-grant colleges. That was Sonny Body of the University of Iowa. They had the former governor of Minnesota representing the citizens. So it was a very prestigious type of committee. They knew that was rather foolish, no matter what avenue they tried, seniority, everything else, and they kept it low. I wasn't going to beg or go up there and say, "How come?" I could, many prominent people would have made an issue if I wanted to.
BRATTON: I imagine that may have been one thing they were hoping you would do. Because it would have been [damaging.]
JENKINS: Then they would have said that I was selfish and that all he wants is money. So I ignored that completely. Even though people would ask me, "Let me go to bat for you." The Minges family wanted to go to bat for me. Many prominent people. I said, "No, I've got enough to live on and I'm doing all right. If I start in that direction then they're going to have another thing."
Then they used tricks, some of the papers. They knew that many of our followers were people who had not had much formal education, but were successful, self-made men and women. One paper started and another one picked it up, always attaching to my name "ubiquitous." Well, it was as innocent as could be, but there were many of my followers and friends who didn't know the meaning of the that word. And they would say, "Well, geez, I didn't know that about him. I never knew that." Others would say, "What?" You could tell by looking at them that, "I saw it in his eyes." Well, it's an old trick.
It's the trick that they pulled down in Alabama on Bankhead and other people when they said in effect, "Are you going to vote for a man who permits his daughter to go to college where men and women matriculate together?" Well, for a rural guy, you know, that sounds real bad. Then they pulled another one down there that they said, "His daughter goes to a college where the girls show their theses to the professors and the men professors at that." Well, you know, it sounds like the dickens. So I knew they were pulling that kind of stuff. Then they had a term, they used the term . . . Oh, let me show you another term, a fellow mailed it to me just yesterday. We have hundreds of these, they're old cartoons, negative. You've seen them probably.
BRATTON: I've seen, well, there's a collection in the library.
JENKINS: There's a whole collection. This is my mail and this is my junk pile. A fellow called me and said, "I've got something in my files that I was going to throw away or mail to you. Do you want to have it?" I didn't even know what it was. It came yesterday.
BRATTON: This is the Tar Heel, 1966.
BRATTON: [Reading] The sly wall-eyed Leo Jenkins.
JENKINS: Yes, always some, always some adjectives.
BRATTON: [Reading] The mighty midget Senator Robert Morgan couldn't stop at politics.
This is one of these [cartoons]. It is really remarkable that you've maintained a sense of humor over the whole situation.
JENKINS: I found that it helps. It absolutely helps.
BRATTON: It's not easy sometimes.
JENKINS: Well, when the News & Observer, there are three papers that can help you, Greensboro Daily News, the News & Observer, the Charlotte and Asheville. If they're for you, you want to watch out, you lose friends. Really. I'd love them always to be against me, because there were many, many people who are standing out here in the middle, who are neutral as can be. They're not leaning any way. They just say, "Well, they've got a Med. School there." But they get mad, and everybody who was hurt by that gang has a kindred spirit. And they've hurt so many people through ugliness, through misrepresentation, through slanting the news, "that fellow has a companion in me." I'd had many people say, "Leo, I don't know which way this thing is going, but you can count on me. I don't know what this is all about, but you can count on me." They drove them to it. So I was happy because they could have killed me by embracing me.
BRATTON: They weren't likely to, I suppose.
JENKINS: No, and yet, they are hard to understand. In the middle of our fight, Jonathan Daniels, you know who I'm talking about, the editor, he called me up and said that he wanted to see me. I had no idea what the fellow had in mind. He brought a photographer in. He brought the chairman of our board there, Henry Belk and he gave East Carolina his entire professional library. You see, he was, he was quite a writer and he was press secretary to Franklin D. Roosevelt and he had a good professional library collected. He is a Chapel Hill graduate and out of a clear blue sky, he gave East Carolina his whole professional library. The editor walked by who is always on my back. He looked in and he almost died. He looked in, his head went off his head twice. There was the photographer there, with Daniels with his arm around me here. The fellow really didn't know exactly what to think of it because he wasn't privileged to be told what was going on.
BRATTON: Again, I guess, Daniels was not personally hostile to you.
JENKINS: No, I don't think he could care less, to tell you the truth.