In this, the next of our continuing series on the records now available on Saturdays, I’m focusing on materials from the Dept. of Justice/Attorney General records, the Dept. of Labor, and the Dept. of Mental Health. The complete list of all the materials moved and now available on Saturdays is online as a PDF, but I’m breaking down the list into a series of blog posts.
Because these are department level records their descriptions are rather long, although I did edit them slightly to try to make them as brief as possible without (hopefully) losing too much information or making their often lengthy histories confusing. However, if you want to read the longer, more complete histories for these departments you can do so in our online catalog MARS. It will likely take us a while to change the location codes in MARS and our other finding aids so we ask you to please be patient with us on that score.
Justice, Dept. of (Office of the Attorney General), 1821-1977
The office of attorney general is not mentioned in any of the successive versions of the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina, the elaborate schemes of government devised by the Lords Proprietors of Carolina from 1669 to 1698. The position existed from an early date, however. George Durant acted as attorney general as early as 1679, and there are frequent references to the title in higher court records after they begin to be abundant in 1696. An act of 1715, which may be a reenactment of an earlier one, provided a table of fees for his remuneration. The attorney general, who was appointed by the governor and Council until the last few years of proprietary rule (1663-1729), when he was appointed directly by the proprietors, represented both the crown and the Lords Proprietors in civil and criminal actions heard by the General Court.
During the royal period (1729-1776), the attorney general received his office by royal warrant. The governor could make an appointment only when a vacancy occurred, and it was valid only until the crown selected a replacement. As crown officials, attorneys general were supposed to be paid from royal revenues in the colony; but the sums raised were paltry, and the attorney general consequently was poorly paid from this source. However, an act of 1746, renewed periodically, levied a tax to compensate judges and attorneys general for their extra expenses when they rode the circuit. The attorney general also received fees for giving legal advice to the governor and Council, and for undertaking the various activities connected with prosecuting an action. The General Assembly set and regulated the taxes and fees, thereby making the attorney general almost entirely dependent on that body for his livelihood. Deputy attorneys general, appointed by the attorney general, were from 1760 required by statute to represent the crown in county courts, and also in higher courts if the attorney general found it inconvenient to attend. Like the attorneys general, the deputies received fees set by the assembly.
The attorney general under the state Constitution of 1776 was appointed by the General Assembly, commissioned by the governor, and held office for an unspecified term. The constitution also ensured the attorney general an “adequate” salary. In 1835 a constitutional amendment limited the attorney general’s term to four years, and an act of 1846 empowered the North Carolina Supreme Court to appoint a replacement if the attorney general failed to fulfill his duties. The Constitution of 1776 set forth no duties for the office, but subsequent legislation specified a variety of tasks, such as attending to all state business in the Supreme Court; requiring trustees of estates to file accounts; and filing bills in equity against corporations not living up to their charters, among other responsibilities.
The Constitution of 1868 placed the attorney general, along with the governor, lieutenant governor, and other statewide officials, in an Executive Department, and made their offices elective, with terms of four years. As with the other officials in the Executive Department, the governor was to fill vacancies occasioned by death, resignation, “or otherwise.” The sole responsibility assigned the attorney general was that of acting as legal adviser to the Executive Department. Beyond that, the constitution provided only that the duties of the various offices in the Executive Department, including that of attorney general, would be prescribed by law. Within four years after ratification of the Constitution of 1868, the General Assembly had passed two acts enumerating a total of six duties of the office of attorney general: to represent the state before the North Carolina Supreme Court in all actions relating to the state, and before any other court when requested by the governor or either house of the assembly; to act for the governor, secretary of state, treasurer, auditor, and superintendent of public instruction in prosecuting or defending lawsuits relating to their departments, when requested by those officials; to advise solicitors (county prosecutors) in all matters relating to their duties; to give advisory opinions when requested by the General Assembly, governor, “or any other state officer;” to pay into the treasury all sums received for debts or penalties due the state; and to report the decisions of the Supreme Court.
A constitutional amendment of 1937 authorized the General Assembly to create a Department of Justice under the supervision of the attorney general; one of 1943 restated the relevant provisions of the Constitution of 1868, with only an inconsequential change regarding the tenure of executive officers; another of 1961 also made a minor revision relating to vacancies; and one of 1961 enshrined in the constitution a provision that executive officers would receive a compensation set by the General Assembly, and that it would “not be diminished during the time for which they shall have been elected.” The state’s last constitution, that of 1971, restated the placement of the attorney general within the executive branch of government, provided that the office would be elective, that terms would be four years, and that the duties of office would be prescribed by law. The constitution also for the first time made the attorney general a member of the Council of State. A constitutional amendment of 1984 required the attorney general and district attorneys to be authorized to practice law prior to election or appointment.
The myriad of post-1868 legislation affecting the office of attorney general in large measure reflects the increasing complexity of society over the next century and more. Most of the changes relate to the attorney general’s expanding role as enforcer of state laws consequent upon the ever-increasing involvement of the state in the lives of its citizens. The trend was under way by the end of the nineteenth century, by which time the attorney general had been given important duties in such matters as enforcement of legislation relating to the regulation of corporations and the gathering of statistics relating to criminal activity. In more recent times the Office of the Attorney General has played a crucial role in assisting in the enforcement of laws relating to public health and safety, and the state’s natural resources, by advising and representing in legal proceedings a variety of departments and agencies of state government, such as the Department of Labor, Department of Insurance, Marine Fisheries Commission, Wildlife Commission, Pesticide Board, and numerous other regulatory bodies. As previously mentioned, in 1937 a constitutional amendment authorized the creation of a Department of Justice under the supervision of the attorney general, and a statute of 1939 formally brought it into being. The department did not, however, achieve functional significance until 1971, with the Act to Reorganize State Government. That act “created a Department of Justice,” with the attorney general as its head, and placed within the department the State Bureau of Investigation and the General Statutes Commission. The act also assigned the new department the duties of the commissioner of insurance with respect to the investigation of certain types of fires, as well as the governor’s former powers relating to the appointment and commissioning of special police.
Includes: Central Files Section/former Attorney General’s files; index to Attorney General’s Opinions; “Pending Matters” file; Attorney General’s combined opinions and correspondence with state agencies; correspondence (and non-opinions) file; miscellaneous opinions file; closed cases files; minutes; Environmental Protection Section files; State Agency Services Section files; Senior Deputy Attorney General’s Office closed case files; Federal Habeas Section; Prison Office, correspondence and opinions files; Education and Corrections Section files, including Wilmington Ten correspondence and miscellaneous records; Corrections Section files, including Multiple Civil Rights Litigation cases files; Revenue Section files; Health and Public Assistance Section files; Hospital files; Highways Section, Senior Deputy Attorney General’s office files, including policies, programs and procedures files, and contract and land files; Administrative Section files including legislative files, correspondence and opinions; Property Control Section files; lawyers’ trial dockets; criminal dockets; Consumer Protection Section files, including anti-trust investigations; Criminal Justice Standards Division, including directors files and Training and Standards Council minutes; Human Resources Section (Medical Facilities) files; Motor Vehicles Section files; Requests for parole file; foreign and domestic corporations correspondence; Schools, Elections and General File; Segregation Questionnaires and Position Paper on Segregation; Escheats and State Hospitals Collection Ledgers; Escheats file; tape recordings of the special session of the Legislature, 1956; list of persons convicted of offenses, ca. 1900; and other records.
Labor, Dept. of, 1933-1959
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, predecessor of the present-day Department of Labor, was established in 1887 by the General Assembly as an agency of the Department of Agriculture, Immigration, and Statistics. The bureau was headed by a commissioner who was appointed to a two-year term by the governor, with the approval of the state Senate. The commissioner of labor statistics was to collect information on work hours and wages, workforce education and finances, and means to promote the “mental, material, social and moral prosperity” of the state’s labor force. The commissioner was to appoint a chief clerk and other assistants as needed. An annual report detailing the information collected by the bureau was to be submitted to the General Assembly and supplied to the state’s newspapers.
In 1897 the commissioner of labor statistics was also made state mine inspector and given the responsibility of inspecting the state’s mines and mining machinery. All mines were to have adequate ventilation and drainage, and up-to-date safety and security features. The commissioner could institute legal proceedings for violations, and all violations, accidents, injuries, and deaths were to be recorded.
In 1899 the Bureau of Labor Statistics was re-created as the Bureau of Labor and Printing, separate from the Department of Agriculture. In addition to collecting and publishing data relating to labor in North Carolina, the bureau was to oversee all printing and binding done for state government. The term of the commissioner was changed to four years, and an assistant commissioner with practical printing experience was to be employed. In 1901 the General Assembly established a State Printing Commission, composed of the Council of State, commissioner of labor and printing, and attorney general, to contract for state printing. The commissioner of labor and printing continued to oversee the completion of contracts for state printing and binding. In 1919 the governor was added to the State Printing Commission, and the bureau became the Department of Labor and Printing.
In 1921 the legislature created an Employment Service Bureau within the department. Local employment offices were established throughout the state to assist job applicants in their search for employment, to cooperate with federal vocational education programs to help disabled veterans seeking employment, and to work with minors over sixteen years of age seeking employment and training. Under legislation enacted in 1925 and 1929, private employment agencies were to be licensed and regulated by the commissioner of labor and printing.
The General Assembly enacted amendments to the employment service law in 1935 to bring it into conformity with federal legislation. In 1936 the state’s Employment Service Bureau was transferred to the Unemployment Compensation Commission, where it became a division of that newly created agency. The regulation of private personnel agencies continued to be a responsibility of the Department of Labor and Printing.
In 1931 the legislature reorganized the department, changing its name to the Department of Labor under the direction of a commissioner. The department had three divisions: Workmen’s Compensation, Standards and Inspection, and Statistics. The Workmen’s Compensation Division was created by the transfer of the Industrial Commission to the Department of Labor. The Industrial Commission had been established by the General Assembly in 1929 to administer the state’s system of workmen’s compensation. The act creating the new department maintained all powers, duties, and personnel of the Industrial Commission as provided by the 1929 act.
The Standards and Inspection Division succeeded to all the authority and responsibilities previously vested in the Child Welfare Commission, which was abolished. The Child Welfare Commission had been created in 1919 to carry out the provisions of legislation enacted in 1909, 1913, and 1919. The Standards and Inspection Division was charged with investigating and evaluating the conditions affecting the employment of women and children, making recommendations for improvement of these conditions, inspecting mines and mining machinery, and collecting information on the industrial and agricultural welfare of the state’s citizens.
The Statistics Division was established as the agency responsible for collecting, systematizing, and printing all statistics relating to labor. The State Printing Commission was abolished and its responsibilities concerning printing contracts were transferred to the Division of Purchase and Contract in the governor’s office.
In 1935 the legislature created the Board of Boiler Rules and set up a Bureau of Boiler Inspections within the department’s Standards and Inspections Division to implement boiler regulations provided by this legislation. The board consisted of five members appointed by the governor for staggered terms, and it was charged with formulating rules for the safe installation, repair, use, and operation of steam boilers in the state. The commissioner of labor was to serve as chairman and was to appoint a chief inspector, who would supervise the bureau and its staff and enforce laws and rules.
Laws regulating child labor, minimum wages, working hours, and fair labor standards were passed in 1937, 1939, 1959, 1963, 1965, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1975, and 1977. In 1979 the General Assembly enacted the Wage and Hour Act to consolidate previous legislation in these areas and set up a Wage and Hour Division within the Department of Labor. The Wage and Hour Division incorporated the work of the Standards and Inspection Division.
To prepare and equip the state’s youthful population for future employment, the General Assembly created the Apprenticeship Council and an apprenticeship program in the Department of Labor in 1939. The council, composed of three representatives each from employee and employer organizations, plus an ex officio member representing the State Board of Vocational Education, was to formulate rules and policies to carry out legislation on apprenticeship and job training. To implement these policies the legislature established a director of apprenticeship within the department. Appointed by the commissioner of labor, the director of apprenticeship, assisted by professional personnel, was to set up standards and rules for apprentice agreements with local apprenticeship councils, to serve as secretary of the state’s Apprenticeship Council, to issue certificates of completion of apprenticeships, and to keep records and prepare necessary reports.
Early efforts to find alternate methods of resolving labor versus management conflicts resulted in the Uniform Arbitration Act of 1927. In 1941 the General Assembly erected in the Department of Labor a conciliation and mediation service for labor and management and a separate division to administer and implement this legislation. Four years later a departmentally administered arbitration service was established, with the arbitration process and procedure detailed in the law. Additional legislation was enacted in 1947 and 1949.
The Department of Labor began a program of periodic inspections of elevators, escalators, hoists, tramways, amusement rides, incline railways, and other such devices in 1938. Although the Department of Insurance was charged with the implementation of the state building code as enacted in 1933 and 1941, the Department of Labor was responsible for elevator and lift inspections.
On 10 February 1943 the voters approved an amendment to the state constitution making the commissioner of labor a member of the Council of State. Further constitutional amendments affecting the Commissioner of Labor were approved by the electorate in November 1962. These provided for filling the vacancy in case of the commissioner’s death or resignation and decreed the order of gubernatorial succession, including all the Council of State.
Additional responsibilities entrusted to the department since 1971 were accompanied by the creation of new division-level agencies to carry out these duties. The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) of North Carolina, enacted in 1973 to bring the state into conformity with national legislation, provided for the development, adoption, and implementation of safety and health standards in the workplace, periodic inspections, the creation of an investigatory/hearing procedure, and the establishment of remedies. To administer and implement this legislation, the 1973 General Assembly created the Occupational Safety and Health Division in the Department of Labor. A number of changes occurred in 1975. The Mine Safety and Health Act established a Mines and Quarry Division in the department to carry out the inspection and regulation of the state’s mines, and the Bureau of Boiler Inspection was made a separate division.
Includes: Administrative Division records; general correspondence; boards and commissions files; subject files; wage and hours files; Public Information Section files; Standard and Inspections Division files; Apprenticeship Division files; Elevator Division files, including accident reports; and Mine and Quarry Division files, including annual production reports.
Mental Health, Dept. of, 1949-1956
The North Carolina Hospitals Board of Control was created by the General Assembly in 1943 to provide a unified board for the state mental hospitals at Raleigh, Morganton, Goldsboro, and the Caswell Training School at Kinston. The Hospitals Board of Control was given the full statutory powers and duties of the former, independent boards of these institutions. The board was the earliest predecessor of the commission for Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services.
In 1942 Governor Melville Broughton had appointed a board of inquiry to assess the State Hospital at Morganton and the whole system of mental health care. The board of inquiry recommended that a unified central board be established to improve the economy and quality of the institutions, and that the existing laws regarding the commitment and discharges of patients be revised.
Fifteen members of the Hospitals Board of Control were nominated by the governor and confirmed by the State Senate to serve five-year terms after staggered first terms. The secretary of the State Board of Health served on the board ex officio. The board was authorized to hire a superintendent of mental hygiene and a business manager to administer and manage the institutions. The board was also authorized to transfer patients between institutions. The superintendent of mental hygiene and the Hospitals Board of Control were charged with establishing a system of outpatient mental hygiene clinics to be operated through the state institutions.
Under the 1943 statute, the board was instructed to select executive committees of at least three board members for each institution and to meet annually at each institution to investigate its condition and management. Since 1869 the Board of Public Charities had been responsible for the statewide inspection and supervision of public and private mental health care facilities. This board continued to inspect the unified state mental hospitals and to report on their condition to the General Assembly.
The General Assembly of 1945 created the Mental Health Council to promote mental health and to study unmet needs related to treatment and prevention. The ex officio members of the council were officers of state medical, legal, or correctional agencies responsible for various aspects of mental health. Other members included representatives of North Carolina medical societies and a representative from the departments of psychiatry at each of the four-year medical schools. The General Assembly of 1945 revised the selection procedure for the fifteen members of the Hospitals Board of Control by having the governor appoint one member from each congressional district and three members-at- large. The board appointed a five-member executive committee which replaced the three-member executive boards for the individual institutions.
In 1945 the General Assembly appropriated funds to establish the Negro Training School for Feeble-Minded Children. The school was sited near the State Hospital at Goldsboro and placed under the control of the Hospitals Board of Control. The General Assembly of 1945 also amended the laws for committing a person to the state mental hospitals. Since the establishment of the Dorothea Dix Hospital in 1849, the rules and procedures for the admission of patients to mental institutions had been periodically modified. An act of the 1947 General Assembly further revised the procedures for the commitment and release of patients and also authorized the Hospitals Board of Control to acquire Camp Butner for the establishment of a new state hospital. In 1949 the General Assembly authorized the board to administer the newly created Alcoholic Rehabilitation Fund and to develop a program and facilities for this purpose and the Hospitals Board of Control was authorized to establish additional mental health facilities and programs for the treatment of alcoholism.
Includes: Mental Health Council minutes, annual reports and correspondence; Administration Section records; General Business Office correspondence; Research Section files; Statistics Section files; Substance Abuse Section files; and other records.