Interview with Flem R. Messer, October 26, 1990

Project: Appalachia: War On Poverty Oral History Project

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Interview Summary

Born in Clay County, Kentucky, Flem Messer experienced an uneven education. After dropping out of the fourth grade at the age of fifteen, he eventually returned to school and graduated from Berea College. While at Berea, he studied the political history of his native county and came to understand how "political machine" politics worked in eastern Kentucky. This understanding led him to become an activist for political change as he became involved in the Council of the Southern Mountains and the Appalachian Volunteers (AVs). According to Messer, the concept of "maximum feasible participation" was the key to the War on Poverty.

Messer states that the young people who came into eastern Kentucky from other states, such as the Appalachian Volunteers and the VISTA workers, sincerely believed that through participation in the various poverty programs, the poor could achieve tangible benefits. Unfortunately, local politicians perceived any demand for change as an attack on their political power. As a result, county officials attempted to assert their control over the various federal programs. As frustration over their continuing failure to affect real change in the region mounted, Messer believes the Appalachian Volunteers began to become more radical, and he decided to disassociate himself from the group. He felt the radicalization of the Appalachian Volunteers would ultimately destroy it. He states his pessimism about the effects of the War on Poverty and the future of eastern Kentucky. He believes that few individuals benefited from the federal programs and that little positive change occurred because the fundamental causes of poverty- inadequate school systems and the economic base- were left unaltered.

Interview Accession

1990oh294_app286

Interviewee Name

Flem R. Messer

Interviewer Name

Thomas Kiffmeyer

Interview Date

1990-10-26

Interview Rights

All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.

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Interviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.

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Interviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.

All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.

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Messer, Flem R. Interview by Thomas Kiffmeyer. 26 Oct. 1990. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.

Messer, F.R. (1990, October 26). Interview by T. Kiffmeyer. Appalachia: War On Poverty Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.

Messer, Flem R., interview by Thomas Kiffmeyer. October 26, 1990, Appalachia: War On Poverty Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.





Persistent Link for this Record: https://kentuckyoralhistory.org/ark:/16417/xt74b853h06z