Unlike many white leaders of the time, Sanford was acquainted with many black business and political leaders. He brought Durham bank executive John Wheeler into interracial discussions. Wheeler publicly prodded Sanford to take bolder steps toward integration but also offered vital links to more militant younger people whom Sanford did not know.
Today, there is a gap. Many metropolitan areas and university communities are booming and attract migrants from all over. But farming areas once reliant on tobacco and old textile towns are withering and face high unemployment. And textiles were a low wage industry to begin with. More recently, public employees have faced salary freezes. Economic problems are here to stay. Despite great progress in many areas, North Carolina is a captive of its past.