Interviewee: Donald L. “Don” Fowler
IWY SC 586
Interviewer: Elaine Paul
Date: June 10, 1977
At the time of the South Carolina State IWY Conference, Don Fowler was Chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party and a professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of South Carolina. Interview includes discussion of: Fowler’s opinion that the political awareness and participation of women in South Carolina was growing substantially; his positive impressions of the conference overall; Fowler’s observations of dissent during the conference, and his support of dissenting opinions, though he believed they should be expressed in an orderly and respectful fashion. Fowler later served as the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 1995 to 1997.
Elaine Paul: Would you tell me your name, please?
Don Fowler: Don Fowler, Columbia, South Carolina.
EP: And what do you do?
DF: Oh, I teach at the University and I –
EP: What do you teach?
DF: – Political Science. And I also dabble around with politics.
EP: Oh, that’s very interesting. And – well and sometimes you dabble rather successfully, don’t you?
DF: Well, I guess that’s subject to –
EP: What is your, what is your position in the party?
DF: I’m Chairman of the Democratic Party in South Carolina.
EP: How very interesting. Would you mind telling me why you came here today? To this conference?
DF: The political awareness of women in South Carolina is growing by leaps and bounds. The women –
EP: Very obvious.
DF: – are much more politically aware, significant, active, powerful than they have been, you know, any time in our history. And I think this is an important conference and it symbolizes that growing awareness and strength, and I being somewhat sensitive to the changing fortunes of politics thought I better come by and see what was happening.
EP: (Laughter) And what do you think of it?
DF: I think it’s great. I have not been here much because I just got in from out of town, but everybody seems to be having a good time, fighting and arguing a little bit which is what they’re supposed to do I guess. But it, it’s good, it’s stimulating and it’s serious and I think it’s very helpful to the general political climate in South Carolina.
EP: Well I was getting ready to ask you what you thought of the mood of the conference but you’ve just answered that one. When did you first become aware of the fact that there are issues that women are peculiarly involved? Or –
DF: Oh, I don’t know.
EP: – issues women –
DF: Quite a while ago. I mean, you know, it’s not new. It’s growing and it hasn’t reached its full potential yet, but it’s, you know, it’s been there for several years. I guess maybe in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s, something like that.
EP: Have you any comment at all that you would like to make for the record? Anything that you could say to us that you feel might be helpful?
DF: I think the emerging interest and strength and awareness and involvement for women as women, peculiarly as women, looking for, demanding new and expanded opportunities and rights is perfectly within the concept and flow of American History. If you look at where we started in terms of who were full citizens and how we moved through the nineteenth and now the twentieth century, you will see that what has been happening basically has been, it’s been a story from one perspective of, of expanding the, the base of full citizenship. It was first expanded to all white males, and then blacks were given the theoretical or the constitutional right to vote. And then women in 1920, and then the Civil Rights Act, Civil Rights Movement expanded the base further. Now you’ve got women, that’s the, the uniquely emerging group now. And I think that’s perfectly in harmony with the flow of American History and I think it’s good and proper.
EP: Mr. Fowler, as you may have heard the workshop on International Understanding has been corrupted by an organized group of people who have really gone around our principle of dissent. I wonder, I wonder if you could clarify my thinking on this.
DF: Well I’m not sure I can clarify your thinking but I have, I was not in that workshop but I have heard comments about it. It seems to me that in public life, in politics and government, other kinds of public activity, there should always be room for dissent. But there should always with the dissent be a respect for other people’s opportunities to express themselves, and there should be in a democracy an agreement as to how you dissent. And, and any kind of deliberate effort to destroy a conference like this or to upset it so that it could not accomplish its goal is basically un-American. And I, I have to say that the people who cause this kind of disruption claim to be the super patriots and what they did, what they attempted to do is, you know, 180° diametrically opposed to the proper and distinctly proper American way to descend. And I just think it’s, you know, they obviously wanted to wreck the conference. It does a disservice to any kind of rational discussion of international policies, any other public policy. And it’s, it, it’s almost like you wanted to say, they should not be permitted to enter these conference, but I guess that would be going too far, too. But I think that there should be some technique or mechanism so that those who do participate will agree to participate, discuss, argue if you will, in an orderly fashion and not –
EP: And with some semblance of good will.
DF: Yes, um-hum, right. And a semblance of respect for the other, people on the other side.
EP: That’s very beautifully put. Thank you very much, Mr. Fowler.
End of Interview