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Interview with Eugene Methvin, March 29, 2011

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:14 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: Good morning.

Segment Synopsis: Moore introduces Eugene Methvin and the location of the interview.

00:01:04 - Early life and family background

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Partial Transcript: Let's start at the beginning.

Segment Synopsis: Methvin discusses his family's multi-generational involvement in the newspaper printing industry. He mentions growing up in the back-end of his father's print shop and his parents' influence on his decision to become a journalist. Methvin also remembers growing up in Vienna, Georgia in the 1940s during World War II.

Keywords: Press Association; Vienna, Georgia; World War II; newspaper editor; parental influence; printing press

00:07:07 - Father as a courageous small town newspaper editor

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Partial Transcript: You once told me that your father was a courageous editor. How did he demonstrate that courage?

Segment Synopsis: Methvin recounts his father's courage in writing an editorial denouncing the lynching of a black man in Vienna, Georgia, in 1936. He discusses the repercussions that his father faced as a result of this decision and his family's efforts to make a living despite the economic backlash by the town.

Keywords: economic retribution; lynching; self-policing; white consensus

00:11:20 - Attending and playing football at the University of Georgia

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Partial Transcript: You went to the University of Georgia in 1951?

Segment Synopsis: Methvin discusses his decision to attend the University of Georgia due to its journalism program and recalls his seventh grade visit to the university to meet with Dean of Journalism, John Drewry. Methvin discusses his professors' influence on him and his work with the Red and Black student newspaper. He reflects on his decision to play university football despite never having played in high school, and his treatment and training by the coach and other players.

Keywords: Dean John Drewry; Red and Black newspaper; University of Georgia; Walter Butts; football

00:19:19 - Internship at Atlanta Journal Constitution / Interest in law and criminal justice

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Partial Transcript: Now, you also in addition to being a student and a football player, you interned, did you not?

Segment Synopsis: Methvin discusses interning with the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) after his freshmen year. He recalls the crime and police stories he mainly covered and how this shaped his continuing interest in law and criminal justice. He also recounts taking classes in the Law School to develop a knowledge of criminal law.

Keywords: Atlanta Journal Constitution; criminal justice; criminal law; internship; law school

00:23:54 - Air Force Service / Love and marriage

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Partial Transcript: Well, when you finished the University of Georgia, like most of us in those days, you faced a military obligation. I know you served in the Air Force, why don't you tell us a little bit about that?

Segment Synopsis: Methvin mentions the pilot training he received while in the Air Force. He recalls meeting his future wife, Barbara, at a football when visiting his hometown of Vienna after graduation. He discusses his marriage after getting out of the service.

Keywords: Air Force; army reserves; graduation; marriage; pilot training

00:27:09 - Reporting for the Washington Daily News

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Partial Transcript: When you left the Air Force, what did you do then?

Segment Synopsis: Methvin recounts how he started working at the Washington Daily News after finishing service duty. He gives his view on working in a competitive, three-newspaper town and describes the types of stories he wrote for the paper as well as his talent for in-depth, analytic pieces. He describes being contacted to work for Reader's Digest early on into his career and comments on the lack of opportunities for women within the newspaper publishing industry.

Keywords: Reader's Digest; Washington Daily News; analytic reporting; family connections; glass ceiling; job discrimination; journalist; reputation

00:36:52 - Work on Reader's Digest

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Partial Transcript: What was the first big story you were assigned to do on the Reader's Digest?

Segment Synopsis: Methvin remembers his first day of work at the Reader's Digest covering the Rural Electrification Authority (REA). He comments on the creation of and his parents' involvement in the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) and its influence in Congress. Methvin also describes various memorable stories he has written on topics including the Iron Triangle of politics and the National Education Association (NEA).

Keywords: Iron Triangle; National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA); Robert Michels; Rural Electrification Authority (REA); iron law of oligarchy; journalism

00:42:41 - Most influential story on Reader's Digest - Mafia v. A&P

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Partial Transcript: What was the most highly-acclaimed story you wrote as a reporter?

Segment Synopsis: Methvin describes the most influential story he has written as being "Mafia vs. A&P", part of a larger series on organized crime. Methvin reflects on the mafia organization in the U.S., the controversy over the use of the word 'mafia', and his participation on Reagan's commission on organized crime. Methvin also discusses the controversy over the 1970 RICO wiretapping act.

Keywords: Bob Blakey; Mafia vs. A&P; Omnibus Crime Act of 1970; RICO Act of 1970; mafia; organized crime; wiretapping

00:51:54 - Organized crime in the present / Organized Crime Control Act of 1970

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Partial Transcript: What do you think the situation with organized crime is today?

Segment Synopsis: Methvin describes the shift to international organized crime and drug trafficking in the present. He recounts the political pressure that the Reader's Digest stories put on Senator Emanuel Celler to end his blockade of the Organized Crime Control Act in the House Judiciary Committee. Methvin also mentions the creation of the Witness Protection Program as a response to organized crime and discusses political leaders who were suspected to have ties with the mafia, including Franklin Roosevelt and Jackie Presser.

Keywords: Emanuel Celler; Franklin Delanor Roosevelt; Jackie Presser; Organized Crime Control Act; Teamster Union; drug trafficking; international crime cartels; witness protection

01:00:01 - Limit of surveillance and protection of civil liberties

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Partial Transcript: There's a debate underway now about how to deal wtih Al-Qaeda.

Segment Synopsis: Methvin comments on the extent to which the U.S. and the Executive Department should use surveillance measures. He discusses the exclusionary rule for evidence, the end of the federal wiretapping program under the Johnson Administration, and the passing of the FISA Act of 1978 on foreign intelligence. Methvin also offers his own interpretation of the Mapp v. Ohio case which set the precedent for applying the exclusionary rule in trials.

Keywords: FISA Act of 1978; Mapp v. Ohio; exclusionary rule; executive power; foreign intelligence

01:09:25 - Early publications / Reflection on Church of Scientology and Church of Mormon

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Partial Transcript: Anything happened then when you were growing up in Vienna that likely led you to this tremendous interest in organized crime, racketeering.

Segment Synopsis: Methvin remembers his early exposure to law and court proceedings by listening to lawyers argue at the courthouse of his hometown. He describes starting to write articles for his parents' newspaper at a very early age and having an article picked up by the AJC. He discusses the article he wrote about the Church of Scientology and gives his opinion about the creation and evolution of the Church of Scientology.

Keywords: L. Ron Hubbard; Mormon Church; Scientology; U.S. religious movement; cult; evolution of religion; public pressure

01:18:24 - Published books / Relationship with DeWitt Wallace

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Partial Transcript: Now Gene, you've written a couple of books. Why don't you tell us about the two books that you've written?

Segment Synopsis: Methvin discusses the books he has written which include "The Rise of Radicalism" and "The Riot Makers" and the inspiration behind them. Methvin describes DeWitt Wallace's influence within the magazine and his own relationship with Wallace. Methvin also mentions articles he has written under the by-line of presidents and other politicians.

Keywords: Arlington House Publishing; DeWitt Wallace; The Riot Makers; The Rise of Radicalism; mentoring

01:23:03 - Reporting on riots and communist during Cold War

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Partial Transcript: The factor that overhung your journalism career and provided the backdrop for your journalism career was the Cold War.

Segment Synopsis: Methvin discusses his entry into researching riots and communism. He mentions the lack of resources available on riots and communist organization in the 1970s and his transformation into an expert on the subjects.

Keywords: Cold War; communism; political organizing; riots

01:38:47 - End of the Cold War

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Partial Transcript: Were you surprised at the way the Cold War ended?

Segment Synopsis: Methvins discusses his perception of the end of the Cold War and cites his 1974 visit to the Soviet Union as having shaped this perception. He discusses the political and social movements that occurred prior to the dismantling of the Soviet Union, including Gorbachev's perestroika and the Lithuanian independence movement.

Keywords: Cold War; Lithuanian independence movement; Mikhail Gorbachev; Soviet Republics

01:48:00 - Understanding the acquisition of political power

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Partial Transcript: How do they acquire power--people like Hitler, Stalin?

Segment Synopsis: Methvin comments on how famous politicians acquire power. He discusses the rhetoric Reagan use in his anti-communist speech at the Brandenburg Gate, and the Sinyavksy-Daniel Trial and its predictive significance about the eventual dissolution of the Soviet Union. Methvin also comments on the process through which Soviet political leaders were able to "free" themselves from Stalinist rhetoric.

Keywords: Nikita Khruschev; acquisition of power; cult of personalita; ideology; political power; political rhetoric

01:55:02 - George Lincoln Rockwell, Neo-Nazism, and fringe movements

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Partial Transcript: You told me once about an encounter you had with George Lincoln Rockwell.

Segment Synopsis: Methvin discusses the 1958 Jewish temple bombing in Atlanta, the suspected involvement of George Rockwell, and his exclusive interview with Rockwell for the Washington Daily. Methvin describes the influence of media in attracting a group of Neo Nazis around Rockwell and their eventual consolidation into a nationwide political party. He also comments on the formation of fringe parties and their movement into mainstream politics.

Keywords: Atlanta Jewish temple bombing; George Lincoln Rockwell; Neo Nazism; antisemitism; cult of personality; fringe movements

02:06:00 - Political movements in the present / Utopianism / Travels

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Partial Transcript: Can we move to the 21st century? What do you think is the biggest threat that we face today?

Segment Synopsis: Methvin discusses terrorism in the twenty-first century. He describes fringe terrorist movements and reflects on the danger of utopianism. Methvin also comments on modern Islamic fundamentalism, September 11th, Soviet journalist Georgy Arbatov, and his visits to the Soviet Union. He also remembers his trip to Beijing after the Tiananmen Square massacre and discusses U.S.-China relations in the early 20th century.

Keywords: Green Movement; The Brothers Karamazov; communist rhetoric; extremism; fringe movements; terrorism; travel; utopia; utopianism

02:16:29 - Psychopathic personality / Ronald Reagan's speeches

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, you talked about the commonality between the mafia and communism.

Segment Synopsis: Methvin also discusses the commonality of the psychopathic personality within the mafia, communism, and other hate-crime organizations. Methvin describes a memorable experience researching a quote for a Reagan's "Evil Empire" speech and mentions Reagan's speechwriter Anthony R. Dolan. He also mentions psychologist Robert Hare's research on psychopathy.

Keywords: Anthony R. Dolan; Robert Hare; Ronald Reagan; hate crime; psychopathic personality; speechwriter

02:30:30 - Reflection on changes at the University of Georgia / Conclusion

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Partial Transcript: I'd like to close with a couple questions about, do you stay in touch with the University of Georgia?

Segment Synopsis: Methvin discusses his continuing involvement with the University of Georgia and changes to the university since his attendance in the 1950's. He remembers his admission to the university and situates it within the context of World War II. He also describes the history of the university's founding and relates it to Georgia pride.

Keywords: University of Georgia; World War II; changes; frontier state; student enrollment; university admission; university charter