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Eric Norfleet (August 31, 1897; Roxobel, North Carolina – October 27, 1985) was an American judge. After briefly attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he served in the military for three years. After his military service, he began to practice law in Jackson, North Carolina. Three years after beginning his law practice, he was elected as Judge of the Recorder’s Court. Bernice Harris from the Federal Writers Project, a program to help unemployed writers during the Great Depression, interviewed Norfleet in 1939.[1][2]

Biography

Early life

Eric Norfleet was born and then raised in Roxobel, a small town in Bertie County, North Carolina. Roxobel is where Eric Norfleet completed grammar school. After he graduated grammar school, Eric Norfleet’s family then moved to Warrenton, NC. While in Warrenton, Eric Norfleet attended Warrenton High School. Soon after finishing high school, he applied and was accepted to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.[2]

School and military

Eric Norfleet was only able to complete his first year at the University of North Carolina. While he was attending school the Mexican Revolution began, prompting Eric Norfleet to drop out and enlist in the Army. Norfleet served in Mexico for one year. Soon after the Mexican Revolution the United States joined World War I, where he served in France for one year. After his military service was over, Eric Norfleet attempted to apply to the law school at the University of North Carolina but was denied admission due to his lack of a college degree.[2]

Law career

After being denied admission to Law School, Eric Norfleet moved to Jackson, North Carolina at the insistence of his friend Ernest Tyler. While in Jackson, the current clerk of court Simon Flythe asked Mr. Norfleet why he didn’t open a law office in Jackson. Not long after, Eric Norfleet became a partner with W.H.S. Burgwyn with whom he practiced law for three years . Eric Norfleet took great pride in the legal talent present in Jackson. After Burgwyn became Judge of the Superior Court in North Carolina, Eric Norfleet was elected as Judge of the Recorder’s Court.[2]

Social issues

Racism

Racism was prevalent during the 1930s during the time of Eric Norfleet's interview. It pervaded every level of the government, and was responsible for many African-Americans being unable to advance their economic standing. In the 1910s, African-American land owners held over sixteen million acres of land but in the 1920s and 1930's that number quickly plunged. This trend went unnoticed because press coverage on segregation, voting rights, and other social policies supporting African-Americans.[3] Eric Norfleet stated in his interview that he believed African-Americans stood a better chance in court because Southerner's felt a "deep underlying protective affection" for African-Americans which seemed in opposition to the socioeconomic trends of the 1930s.

Religion

Church attendance during the 1900s to the 1920s escalated rapidly.[4] However, religious fundamentalism was centered primarily in middle-aged, lower-class individuals during the Great Depression. This social class felt a need for religion because it made bearable the defeat and hardship brought on by the economic collapse. Those left with money after the collapse of the economy did not feel such hardship and as such remained more secular overall.[5] Eric Norfleet, a lawyer doing fairly well during the Great Depression, commented on how he believed the church did not have as much relevance to the people as lawyers.

Alcohol

Alcohol in the 1930s was very popular as the prohibition had very recently been repealed. The rate of violence had risen nationwide with the institution of the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, but when it was repealed in 1933 by the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution the number of alcohol related deaths fell.[6] However, Eric Norfleet still regarded alcohol as one of the leading evils in America, speaking in favor of prohibition when interviewed in 1939.

Federal Writers Project

The Federal Writers Project was a branch of the Works Progress Administration, which was a New Deal program instituted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. This program sought to help out of work writers while simultaneously capturing a snapshot into the life of Southerners during the Great Depression. Interviewers throughout the American South collected first hand accounts from thousands of people. These accounts are now stored in the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The interviewer Bernice Harris uses only the exact words of the interviewee without modifying the grammar or dialect. None of the questions posed by Bernice Harris actually appear in the interview record which makes the interview appear to be a life story more than an actual interview. There is no evidence that the interview was modified in any way, and can be located in file 458 in the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

References

  1. United States. Census Bureau. 1940 United States Federal Census. Washington: GPO, 1940.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Folder 458, in the Federal Writers' Project papers #3709, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  3. Daniel, Pete. "African American Farmers And Civil Rights." Journal Of Southern History 73.1 (2007): 3-38. Academic Search Complete. Web. 12 November 2012.
  4. Blau, Judith R. "The Expansion of Religious Affiliation: An Explanation of the Growth of Church Participation in the United States 1850–1930." Social Science Research 21.4 (1992): 329-52. Sciencedirect.com. SciVerse, Dec. 1992. Web. 12 Nov. 2012. <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0049089X9290001W#>.
  5. Flynt, Wayne. "Religion for the Blues: Evangelicalism, Poor Whites, and the Great Depression." The Journal of Southern History 71.1 (2005): 3-38. Print.
  6. Asbridge, Mark, and Swarna Weerasinghe. "Homicide in Chicago from 1890 to 1930: Prohibition and Its Impact on Alcohol- and Non-alcohol-related Homicides." Addiction 104.3 (2009): 355-64. Wiley Online Library. 6 Feb. 2009. Web. 12 Nov. 2012.
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