David Clark vs "a small group of radicals"
David Clark (1877-1955) was an influential newspaper publisher and civic leader who was a frequent critic of Frank Porter Graham and the University of North Carolina during the period between the two world wars.
David Clark was born in Raleigh, N.C., to Walter Clark, chief justice of the state supreme court, and Susan Washington Graham, daughter of former North Carolina governor William Alexander Graham. In the 1890s, Clark attended North Carolina State College, where he received degrees in mechanical and civil engineering and played on the college football and baseball teams.
After returning from service in the Spanish-American War, Clark began a long career in the textile industry, beginning as a sweeper for fifty cents a day in the Ada Cotton Mill of Charlotte. Within a few short years, Clark began his own cotton mill. When the business failed in the economic collapse of 1907, Clark redirected his energies into newspaper publishing. In 1911 he started The Southern Textile Bulletin to report on the region’s booming textile industry. With a unique niche, the newspaper flourished. The success of the Bulletin allowed his company (Clark Publishing) to start additional trade publications in the textile and healthcare industries, including: The Knitter, Southern Hospitals, and Municipal South.
Over time, Clark became an unofficial spokesperson for the textile industry and began using his publishing business as a means to broadcast his own conservative views on politics, business, and educational matters. He opposed child labor laws, shorter hours for women workers, and all attempts by unions to organize workers. He also favored a North-South wage differential, which kept the wages of Southern textile workers lower than the wages paid to Northern workers.
Clark often focused his attention on radical elements he perceived as being active at the University of North Carolina. Interestingly, Clark served for many years on the Board of Trustees of the Consolidated University of North Carolina. In a 1940 speech, he claimed to be a friend of the University and only to oppose "a small group of radicals whom I regard as a cancer upon the institution." He was particularly critical of liberal members of the faculty, who he often charged as being communists, socialists, or atheists.
This excerpt from the Southern Textile Bulletin conveys David Clark's response to Langston Hughes' pieces in the recently published Contempo and the invitation for Hughes to appear at UNC-Chapel Hill. Clark writes, "Communism demands social equality with negroes and must have been well taught at Chapel Hill."
In a letter, UNC President Frank Porter Graham addresses Kemp Plummer Lewis, president of UNC's Alumni Association. Graham's letter reveals disdain, both for the editors of Contempo, whom he calls "irresponsible boys," and for David Clark and the Southern Textile Bulletin.
He writes, "It is a strange experience to be attacked by the editors of Contempo at one end and from the Southern Textile Bulletin at the other. We will bend to neither."
In December 1932, Alumni Association President Kemp Plummer Lewis wrote to David Clark, expressing hope that Clark would someday change his "attitude of violent antagonism to the University."
David Clark's response to Kemp Plummer Lewis, dated the next day, conveys surprise:
"I have no desire to injure the University of North Carolina, but I can see no reason why anyone should be willing to allow a small group of radical professors to continue their activities, and at the same time hide behind a mistaken idea of loyalty to the University which exists in the minds of some of the alumni."
In a 1940 speech, David Clark, now a long-time critic of the University, rails against UNC faculty using their classrooms to disseminate propaganda: "There are on record many letters from Chapel Hill students to parents, which tell of efforts of professors or instructors to sell atheism, socialism or communism to them but the student who would expose such an effort would be accused of disloyalty to the University."
In an excerpt from a 1976 oral history interview, Harriet Herring, a sociologist at UNC, describes her work with the Institute for Research in the Social Sciences and the opposition she faced from David Clark.
In this excerpt from the same interview, Herring recalls Clark's editorial campaign against UNC President Frank Porter Graham, who advocated unionizing North Carolina's cotton mills.