Prior to federal intervention into State domestic affairs, governors saw their people as mostly self-reliant and able to carry themselves through hard times. Governor Max Gardner of North Carolina used State agencies and church charities to help his citizens through an economic depression and discourage dependency on government subsidies.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
State Government Solutions to Hard Times
“The cries of these suffering people reached the highest government offices in Raleigh, and State leaders planned how to aid them. Governor Gardner and other leaders did not believe that State government should provide relief. They believed that relief was the responsibility of private agencies and local governments because they were closest to the people. Also, State leaders believed that able-bodied people should work for what relief they received. They thought that a dole would destroy character and turn people into beggars.
Governor Gardner did believe that the State should encourage people to help themselves. His first concern was for farmers because the prices of cotton and tobacco dropped sharply in 1929, greatly reducing farmers’ income. In December 1929, Gardner proposed his Live-at-Home program to help the farmers.
This program encouraged farmers to grow part of the $150 million of feed and foodstuffs that they normally imported from out of State for consumption on the farm. Gardner expected the program to improve the State economy and to make the farmers self-sufficient in home food production so that they could ward of starvation.
To start the program, Governor Gardner used existing State agencies. He persuaded President Eugene Clyde Brooks of NC State College to send demonstration agents among farm families to encourage gardens, canning and growing livestock feed. The governor also prevailed upon the State Department of Public Instruction to publicize Live-at-Home among schoolchildren.
For one week each year students learned about the importance of nutrition, of the cow, of the poultry, of the hog, and of the garden. Some 800,000 schoolchildren participated in a Live-at-Home essay contest. The governor presented silver loving cups to the winners, Ophelia Holley, a black girl from Bertie County, and Leroy Sossamon, a white boy from Cabarrus County. Supporting the State efforts, some eastern bankers and merchants refused credit to farmers who would not grow less cotton and tobacco, and more food.
To help establish [county] relief committees, Governor Gardner appointed a Council on Unemployment Relief in November 1930. The council created a separate relief organization for blacks. Lt. Lawrence A. Oxley, a pioneer black social worker in North Carolina provided the leadership to help blacks organize county committees, and a Statewide committee for advising the governor.
The raising of relief funds and dispensing of aid thus fell on public and private local agencies, which cooperated in their work. The most important private organization was the Community Chest, which raised money and distributed it to charitable agencies. The associated charities gave needy families food, clothing, fuel, and medical care.
The Salvation Army mainly gave vagrants hot meals and free lodging in exchange for a few chores, but it also aided needy families. The Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem treated 2650 patients in 1930, 1500 of them as charity cases. In 1932, the new Duke University Hospital reserved 250 of its 406 beds for the needy.”
(Hard Times, Beginnings of the Great Depression in North Carolina, 1929-1933, John L. Bell, NC Dept. of Cultural Resources, 1982, excerpts, pp. 43-45)