Durr, Virginia Foster

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Virginia Foster Durr (1903-1999) was a civil rights activist and a friend of Lyndon B. Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson. She was a relief worker during the Great Depression, worked as a lobbyist and campaign worker for Progressive Party candidate Henry Wallace in the 1940s, ran as a candidate for governor of Virginia in 1948, and worked as a civil rights activist in Montgomery, Alabama in the 1950s and 1960s.

From the description of Durr, Virginia Foster, 1903-1999 (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration). naId: 10568265

Civil rights activist; interviewee, b.1903, married Clifford Durr.

From the description of Reminiscences of Virginia Foster Durr : oral history, 1974. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 309734210

Virginia Foster Durr political and civil rights activist in Georgia.

From the description of Virginia Foster Durr oral history interview, 1990 Mar. 9. (Georgia State University). WorldCat record id: 38726947

Virginia Foster Durr was born in 1903 and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. She attended Wellesley College from 1921 to 1923, and in 1926 married Clifford Judkins Durr. She was active in the Southern Conference on Human Welfare, primarily fighting the poll tax (1938-1948); campaigned for the Progressive Party, supporting Henry Wallace's 1948 presidential bid; and endorsed the American Peace Crusade (1951).

From the description of [Lecture and interview] [sound recording]. 1976. (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 637619167

Born in 1903 and raised in Birmingham, Ala., Virginia Foster Durr was the youngest child of Anne (Patterson) and Sterling Johnson Foster. She attended Wellesley College from 1921 to 1923 and in 1926 married Clifford Judkins Durr. In 1933 the Durrs moved to Seminary Hill, Va.. During the years the Durrs lived there, Virginia Durr led an active social life. Her circle included government officials she knew through her husband and her sister, Josephine, and brother-in-law, Hugo Black, Sr. She also devoted time to liberal causes. From 1938 to 1948 Durr was active in the Southern Conference on Human Welfare, primarily fighting the poll tax. She campaigned for the Progressive Party, supporting Henry Agard Wallace's 1948 presidential bid. She also endorsed the American Peace Crusade in 1951.

In 1951, after a brief period in Denver, the Durrs returned to Alabama, where Clifford Durr opened a private law practice in Montgomery, and Virginia Durr worked as his secretary. In 1954 Virginia Durr and others were accused of being Communists and were called before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, chaired by James Eastland of Mississippi. Although Clifford Durr did not serve as his wife's attorney, he did a great deal of work on the case. The accusations were ultimately proven to be false.

In 1955, when Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger, Clifford Durr was called in as her attorney and arranged for her release on bail. This incident sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, during which African Americans refused to ride on public transportation in the city for over a year.

The Durrs had five children, four of whom survived to adulthood: Ann Durr Lyon, Lucy Durr Hackney, Virginia Foster ("Tilla") Durr, and Lulah Durr Colan. Since the death of Clifford Durr in 1975, Virginia Durr has continued to live in Wetumpka, Ala., spending summers on Martha's Vineyard, Mass. Her autobiography, Outside the Magic Circle, was published in 1985. She died in Carlisle, Pa., in 1999.

From the description of Papers, 1919-1991 (inclusive). (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 122470973

Durr was born on 1903 Aug. 5 to the Presbyterian minister Sterling J.and Anne Patterson Foster in Birmingham, Jefferson Co., Ala. She attended public schools in Birmingham, the National Cathedral School in Washington, D.C., then Wellesley College. On 1926 Apr. 5 she married Clifford J. Durr. In the early 1930's she was active in getting the Birmingham Junior League to begin a free milk project and free music concerts.

In 1933 the Durrs moved to Washington, D.C., where Virginia became active in the women's division of the Democratic National Committee. She was also active in the Southern Conference for Human Welfare from 1938 forward, and at its founding in 1939 became Vice-Chair of the Committee to Abolish the Poll Tax. After World War II she became interested in the peace movement, especially in opposing the U.S. continuing involvement in the Korean War. Her primary concern in the 1950's and 1960's, however, remained civil rights, especially voting rights for blacks and poor whites in the South. In that effort she actively worked.

She and her husband had five children. One child, Cliff, Jr., was born in 1935, but died in 1938. Their other children, in order of birth, were Anne Patterson, who married Walter A. Lyon; Lucy Judkins, who married F. Sheldon Hackney; Virginia Foster, who married Frank R. Parker III; and Lulah Johnston, who married Richard V. Colan.

From the description of Papers, 1904-1991. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122507748

Born in 1903 and raised in Birmingham, Ala., Virginia Foster Durr was the youngest child of Anne (Patterson) and Sterling Johnson Foster. She attended Wellesley College from 1921 to 1923 and in 1926 married Clifford Judkins Durr. In 1933 the Durrs moved to Seminary Hill, Va.. During the years the Durrs lived there, Virginia Durr led an active social life. Her circle included government officials she knew through her husband and her sister, Josephine, and brother-in-law, Hugo Black, Sr. She also devoted time to liberal causes. Durr was active in the Southern Conference on Human Welfare, primarily fighting the poll tax (1938-48), campaigned for the Progressive Party, supporting Henry Wallace's 1948 presidential bid and endorsed the American Peace Crusade (1951).

In 1951, Clifford Durr opened a private law practice in Montgomery, with Virginia Durr acting as his secretary. In 1954 Virginia Durr and others were accused of being Communists and were called before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, chaired by James Eastland of Mississippi. The accusations were ultimately proven to be false. In 1955, when Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus for a white passanger, Clifford Durr arranged for her release on bail. The Durrs had five children, four of whom survived to adulthood. Since the death of Clifford Durr in 1975, Virginia Durr continued to live in Wetumpka, Ala. Her autobiography, Outside the Magic Circle, was published in 1985. She died in Carlisle, Pa., in 1999.

From the description of Papers: Series II, 1929-1991 (inclusive). (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 232008799

Born in 1903 and raised in Birmingham, Ala., Virginia Foster Durr was the youngest child of Anne (Patterson) and Sterling Johnson Foster. She attended Wellesley College from 1921 to 1923 and in 1926 married Clifford Judkins Durr. In 1933 the Durrs moved to Seminary Hill, Va.. During the years the Durrs lived there, Virginia Durr led an active social life. Her circle included government officials she knew through her husband and her sister, Josephine, and brother-in-law, Hugo Black, Sr. She also devoted time to liberal causes. Durr was active in the Southern Conference on Human Welfare, primarily fighting the poll tax (1938-1948); campaigned for the Progressive Party, supporting Henry Wallace's 1948 presidential bid; and endorsed the American Peace Crusade (1951).

In 1951, Clifford Durr opened a private law practice in Montgomery, with Virginia acting as his secretary. In 1954 Virginia Durr and others were accused of being Communists and were called before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, chaired by James Eastland of Mississippi. The accusations were ultimately proven false. In 1955, when Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger, Clifford Durr arranged for her release on bail.The Durrs had five children, four of which survived to adulthood. Since the death of Clifford Durr in 1975, Virginia Durr has continued to live in Wetumpka, Ala. Her autobiography, Outside the Magic Circle, was published in 1985. She died in Carlisle, Pa., in 1999.

From the description of Papers: Series I, 1919-1988 (inclusive). (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 232008798

Born 6 August, 1903, and raised in Birmingham, Ala., VFD was the youngest child of Anne (Patterson) and Sterling Johnson Foster. She attended Wellesley College from 1921 to 1923, when she was forced to withdraw due to lack of funds. In 1926 she married Clifford Judkins Durr. In 1933, when CJD was appointed to the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC), the Durrs moved to Seminary Hill, Va.; CJD later worked for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

During the years the Durrs lived in Virginia, VFD led an active social life. Her circle included government officials she knew through CJD and through her sister, Josephine, and brother-in-law, Hugo Black, Sr., who was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1937. She also devoted time to liberal causes. From 1938 to 1948 VFD was active in the Southern Conference in Human Welfare, primarily fighting the poll tax. She campaigned for progressive Democrats in 1942 and for the Progressive Party, supporting Henry A. Wallace's 1948 presidential bid. She also endorsed the American Peace Crusade in 1951.

In 1951, after a brief period in Denver, the Durrs returned to Alabama, where CJD opened a private law practice in Montgomery, and VFD worked as his secretary. In 1954 VFD and others were accused of being Communists and were called before the Senate Internal Security Sub-Committee, chaired by Senator James Eastland of Mississippi. Although CJD did not serve as VFD's attorney, he did a great deal of work on the case, collecting information about the informants and providing legal advice to VFD and her co-defendants. The accusations were ultimately proven to be false.

In 1955, when Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger, CJD was called in as her attorney and arranged for her release on bail. This incident sparked the "Montgomery Bus Boycott," during which African Americans refused to ride on public transportation in the city for over a year. Thus began a second period of civil rights activism for VFD.

VFD's political activities, and CJD's activities with the National Lawyers' Guild and his public attacks on loyalty oaths and the FBI, led to surveillance by the Bureau. The FBI reports on the Durrs, released to VFD in 1977 under the Freedom of Information Act, are in this collection (#6-10 and 25-30).

The Durrs had five children, four of whom survived to adulthood: Ann Durr Lyon, Lucy Durr Hackney, Virginia Foster ("Tilla") Durr, and Lulah Durr Colan. Since the death of CJD in 1975, VFD has continued to live in Wetumpka, Ala., spending summers on Martha's Vineyard, Mass. Her autobiography, Outside the Magic Circle , was published in 1985.

From the guide to the Papers, 1919-1991, (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Reed, Linda, 1955-. Oral history interviews of the Southern Conference for Human Welfare/Educational Fund Oral History Project, 1983. Indiana University
creatorOf Papers, 1919-1991 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
referencedIn Records of the Office of Public Information, 1923-1998 Radcliffe College Archives, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
referencedIn Matte, Jacqueline A. The savage ideal vs. Southern dissenters : Virginia Foster Durr : paper, 1976 / Jacqueline A. Matte. Mervyn H Sterne Library, University of Alabama at Birmingham, UAB Sterne Library
creatorOf Durr, Virginia Foster. Transcript of oral history, 1974. Harvard University, Schlesinger Library
referencedIn J. B. Matthews Papers, 1862-1986 and undated David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
creatorOf Durr, Virginia Foster. Reminiscences of Virginia Foster Durr : oral history, 1974. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
creatorOf Durr, Virginia Foster. Papers: Series II, 1929-1991 (inclusive). Harvard University, Schlesinger Library
referencedIn Stone, Olive M. (Olive Matthews), 1897-1977. Olive M. Stone papers, 1838-1977. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
creatorOf Durr, Virginia Foster,. [Lecture and interview] [sound recording]. Harvard University, Schlesinger Library
creatorOf Durr, Virginia Foster,. Virginia Foster Durr oral history interview, 1990 Mar. 9. Georgia State University
referencedIn Horace Mann Bond Papers MS 411., 1830-1979, 1926-1972 Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst Libraries
referencedIn William Styron Papers, 1855-2007 David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
referencedIn Sullivan, Patricia, 1950-. Progressive Party oral history interviews, 1975-1982. Emory University Library, Special Collect Department
creatorOf Durr, Virginia Foster. Papers: Series I, 1919-1988 (inclusive). Harvard University, Schlesinger Library
referencedIn The Nation, records, 1879-1974 (inclusive), 1920-1955 (bulk). Houghton Library.
referencedIn Hugo LaFayette Black Papers, 1883-1976, (bulk 1926-1971) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Papers, 1892-1990 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
referencedIn Edward U. Condon Papers, Circa 1920-1974 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Southern Conference for Human Welfare. National Committee to Abolish the Poll Tax records, 1941-1948. Atlanta University Center, Robert W. Woodruff Library
creatorOf Lyndon Baines Johnson Archives Collection. 1931 - 1968. Selected Names Correspondence Files
creatorOf Durr, Virginia Foster. Papers, 1919-1991 (inclusive). Harvard University, Schlesinger Library
referencedIn Southern Conference Educational Fund. Southern Conference for Human Welfare Collection, 1882 - 1979. Atlanta University Center, Robert W. Woodruff Library
referencedIn Jackson, James E., 1914-2007. James E. Jackson and Esther Cooper Jackson papers, 1917-2004 (bulk [1937-1992]). Churchill County Museum
referencedIn Radcliffe College. Office of Public Information. Records of the Office of Public Information, 1923-1998 (inclusive), Harvard University, Schlesinger Library
referencedIn Sally Belfrage Papers, Bulk, 1960-1990, 1903-1994, (Bulk 1960-1990) Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
creatorOf Durr, Virginia Foster. Papers, 1904-1991. Alabama Department of Archives and History
referencedIn Belfrage, Cedric, 1904-. Papers, 1922-1990 (bulk 1945-1985). Churchill County Museum
referencedIn Lamb, Helen Boyden. Papers, 1937-1975 (inclusive). Harvard University, Schlesinger Library
creatorOf Judkins family. Papers, 1837-1968. Alabama Department of Archives and History
referencedIn Condon, Edward Uhler, 1902-1974. Papers, ca. 1920-1974. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn Black, Hugo LaFayette, 1886-1971. Hugo LaFayette Black papers, 1883-1976 (bulk 1926-1971). Library of Congress
referencedIn Belfrage, Sally, 1936-. Papers, 1903-1994 (bulk 1960-1990). Churchill County Museum
referencedIn Polier, Justine Wise, 1903-1987. Papers, 1892-1990 (inclusive). Harvard University, Schlesinger Library
referencedIn Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Collection, 1979-1989 Archive of Recorded Sound
referencedIn Papers, 1937-1975 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
referencedIn Rabin, Jack, 1945-. Jack Rabin collection on Alabama civil rights and southern activists, 1941-2004 (bulk 1956-1974). Pennsylvania State University Libraries
creatorOf Foster family. Papers, 1842-1935. Alabama Department of Archives and History
referencedIn James E. Jackson and Esther Cooper Jackson Papers, Bulk, 1937-1992, 1917-2008 Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
creatorOf Durr family. Papers, 1868-1968. Alabama Department of Archives and History
referencedIn Woodward, C. Vann (Comer Vann), 1908-1999. C. Vann Woodward papers, 1804-2004 (inclusive), 1804-2000 (bulk). Yale University Library
creatorOf Southern Elections Fund. Papers, 1965-1975 of the Fund and of the chairman of the Board of Trustees, Julian Bond [manuscript]. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Luscomb, Florence, 1887-. Papers, 1856-1987 (inclusive). Harvard University, Schlesinger Library
creatorOf Andrews, Olive, d.1991. Papers, 1956-1965 and n.d. Alabama Department of Archives and History
referencedIn Dombrowski, James A. (James Anderson), 1897-1983. James A. Dombrowski papers, 1918-1983. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Cedric Belfrage Papers, Bulk, 1945-1985, 1922-1990, (Bulk 1945-1985) Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn Georgia Government Documentation Project. Stetson Kennedy: Applied folklore and cultural advocacy oral history collection, 1988-1990. Georgia State University
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
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associatedWith Jennings, Perry. person
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associatedWith Lewis, John L. (John Llewellyn), 1880-1969. person
associatedWith Lilienthal, David Eli, 1899-1981. person
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associatedWith MacDougall, Curtis Daniel, 1903- person
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associatedWith McFeely, Mary Drake person
associatedWith McFeely, Mary Drake. person
associatedWith McFeely, William S. person
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associatedWith McPhillips, Julian L. person
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associatedWith Parker, Tilla (Virginia Foster Durr), 1939-. person
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Place Name Admin Code Country
Soviet Union--Moscow
Alabama
Alabama
United States
Wetumpka (Ala.)-Social life and customs-20th century
Birmingham (Ala.)
United States
Wetumpka (Ala.)
United States
Montgomery (Ala.)
Montgomery County (Ala.)
United States
Alabama
Birmingham (Ala.)
Wetumpka (Ala.)
Elmore County (Ala.)
Alabama-History
Southern States
Southern States
Soviet Union
Southern States
Southern States
United States-Politics and government-20th century
Montgomery (Ala.)
Montgomery (Ala.)-Race relations
Alabama--Birmingham
Europe
Birmingham (Ala.)-Social life and customs-20th century
Subject
Internal security
Civil rights movement
Anti-communist movements--United States
Poll tax
Women political activists
Segregation
Women civil rights workers
New Deal, 1933-1939
Afro--Americans--Civil rights
Segregation--Alabama
Education
Civil rights
Black nationalism
Racism
Communism--1917-
Civil rights workers
Women
African Americans--Civil rights
Feminism
Internal security--United States--History--20th century
Anti-communist movements
Peace movements
Women authors
Southern states--Politics and government-20th century
Congresses and conventions
African Americans--Segregation
Suffrage
Presidents--Election
Internal security--History--20th century
Korean War, 1950-1953--Protest movements
Depressions--1929
Friendship
Labor unions
Families
Radicals
Race relations
Dating (Social customs)
Occupation
Lawyers
Function

Person

Birth 1903-09-06

Death 1999-02-24

English

Information

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