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James McBride Dabbs Papers

Four manuscripts, 1960-1993, added to the South Caroliniana Library's holdings of the papers of writer and social philosopher James McBride Dabbs (1896-1970) represent his leadership role and ties with the Southern Regional Council, which he served as president from 1958 to 1963. In a letter of 24 May 1960 to Leslie W. Dunbar, then director of research for the Council, Dabbs comments at length upon an article by Jacob Bronowski, "Science and Human Values," which he "read yesterday ...and liked...very much"--"Now, I don't see myself as crusading against the rational. I don't think we receive our values directly from mystic inspiration; but I am inclined to think that through such inspiration--or something similar to it--we receive the standard by which we test our values. For instance, how to attain a creative unity among men demands all the reason we can muster; but my deep desire for unity dates from what might be called a mystic experience--at least, an intuition. Now, as I remember it, this intuition was several years in coming to birth. When it came, it was the concept--in Bronowski's words--that drew together all these earlier fragments. I now test that concept in practice. I came to the concept through practice, I test it in practice. In this, I think, I and Bronowski agree. But that moment, and other moments like it, seem to me what we called mystic. To throw them out would be, in my opinion, almost to throw life out." Dunbar notes, 27 September 1993--"Remarkable that he, immersed as he was (& I was) in the civil rights struggle of 1960, had room in his mind (and believe I had in mine) for problems such as those of this letter."

A memo from Dabbs as president of the Council to "Members and Friends of SRC," 30 March 1961, announces the resignation of Harold Fleming as executive director of the Council and the election of Dunbar as his replacement. After expressing his personal regret at losing Fleming, he goes on to speak of his happiness and confidence in Dr. Dunbar, who, beneath his training as a political scientist, "is a man who poses to himself basic questions, seeks basic answers, and acts with a quiet assurance that inspires confidence." "If I am not mistaken," he continues, "he expresses in his own person the essential spirit of the Council: a sympathetic probing of Southern problems, a dislike of the limelight, a willingness to make small gains if they are sure, and the determination always to advance." He concludes--"We change our executive leadership but not our direction or our pace. The Council has grown steadily in importance in the South and indeed in the nation. I have no doubt that our growth in the immediate future will equal and perhaps surpass our growth in the recent past, and that much of this will be due to the leadership of Leslie Dunbar as it has been due to the leadership of Harold Fleming."

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