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Activist Women Oral History Project: O

Orrock, Nan Grogan

Interviewee: Nan Grogan Orrock
Interviewer: Janet Paulk
Date of Interview: December 16, 2006
Extent: 3 audio cassettes; 3 compact discs

Interviewer: Janet Paulk
Date of Interview: December 30, 2006
Extent: 2 audio cassettes; 2 compact discs

Interviewer: Janet Paulk
Date of Interview: October 7, 2007
Extent: 2 audio cassettes; 2 compact discs

Interviewer: Janet Paulk
Date of Interview: August 3, 2008
Extent: 2 audio cassettes; 2 compact discs


December 16, 2006
Nan Orrock begins by talking about her early life in Abingdon, Virginia, and about the early lives of her parents in the rural south. She discusses how an aunt, who worked on Capitol Hill, was an early influence on her life. She graduated from Mary Washington College, where she had become active for racial justice.  Orrock states that attending the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was a watershed moment in her life, as it led her to work for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in its Atlanta office. She worked on a program for SNCC called the Wide Area Telephone Service (WATS), which informed her of the level of violence that civil rights activists were facing in places like Greenwood, Mississippi and Albany, Georgia. She helped form the Virginia Student Civil Rights Committee, and was active in the Southern Student Organizing Committee in which she met her first Husband Gene Guerrero. Orrock speaks about the role of religious organizations in the civil rights movement and the shift by many activists from civil rights to the anti-war movement.  She reveals how her interest in country music led her to become involved in labor activism.

October 7, 2007
In this interview, Orrock  discusses her own gravitation toward activism with organized labor and her eventual career at the Nabisco plant in Atlanta. She developed a close friendship with the labor activist Nanny Lee Washburn, who had an impact on Orrock’s life. She talks about raising her two sons with her second husband Charlie Orrock who was also active in the labor movement. Orrock had a period during the late 1970s where she concentrated more on her family at work at Nabisco than activism, but she was drawn back to activism in the early 1980s. She discusses losing her bid for union leadership and her eventual departure from Nabisco to work for the Fund for Southern Communities. While giving some background on SSOC she also talks about Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the federal government’s COINTEL Program. Orrock divorced her husband Charlie, and she talks about how they managed to continue to raise their sons jointly.  She got involved in a movement to prevent the CSX railroad from developing a piggyback shipping container facility at Hulsey Yards in Cabbagetown and Renoldstown, and she worked with South Atlanta Neighborhood Development and No Intown Piggyback in order to stop the rail yard. Orrock discusses how her involvement in the CSX rail yard resistance reinvigorated her and led her to seek a seat in the Georgia legislature.

August 3, 2008
In this interview, Orrock recounts the origins of her campaign for the Georgia House of Representatives, and how people such as John Sweet and Debi Sternes were instrumental in her success. There is some discussion about why so few women run for office and the structure of campaigning in Georgia.Once in office, Orrock helped found a bipartisan Women's Caucus which remains active today. She discusses other women in the Legislature such as Mary Margaret Oliver. She also talks at length about her work on health care issues and with the Women Legislator's Lobby, and how she eventually worked her way into the Majority Whip position only to see the Republican Party take control of the House. The discussion follows her move from the House to the Georgia Senate and Women's Action for New Directions (WAND). Orrock talks about the importance of building caucuses and her work for the Progressive States Network, Women in Government, and the Center for Policy Alternatives. She concludes with a discussion about her sons and how she managed to accomplish so much, and relflects upon her life in the movement for social justice.


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