David Goldfield Student Project on Change in the Charlotte Region

Elizabeth Biggerstaff oral history interview, 1996 October 18
Rutherford County native Elizabeth Biggerstaff describes her life and how she balances work and family. She describes her early life growing up in the country outside of Cliffside, North Carolina, with two older brothers and attending local schools. Cliffside was a mill village built for the workers of Hanes Mill, which later became Cone Mill, and throughout the interview Mrs. Biggerstaff touches on the role of the mill in the Cliffside region. While her new husband was serving in World War II, Mrs. Biggerstaff explains how she saved money throughout the war, which he spent to open a dry cleaning business in Cliffside upon his return. Mrs. Biggerstaff recounts her paid work outside the home in the dry cleaning business, as an assistant and secretary for a dentist, and managing in her husband's fast food chain, the Little Moo. She talks about balancing work with raising twin girls during the 1950s-1970s, and how she began working in a dentist's office close to home so she would be able to get home quickly if one of her daughters became sick. Mrs. Biggerstaff's husband was active in local politics, and she describes her experiences joining him at events and seeking votes during his campaign for County Commissioner.
Frances Blanton oral history interview, 1992 November 24
Longtime Charlotte resident Frances Blanton discusses her family, and her childhood and adolescence. She describes visiting her grandparents on their farm in Cabarrus County, where they made their own butter, cream, and sausage. Mrs. Blanton began dating at sixteen, and recalls her father' rules for suitors and opinions on activities that women shouldn't engage in. She talks about activities that she did for fun in her youth, including attending school dances, parties, movies, and church activities. By age twenty she married, and remarks that most women at the time had married by age twenty-two or twenty-three, or they didn't marry at all. Mrs. Blanton touches on differences between the culture of her youth and of the time of interview. In particular, she believes that there used to be a greater emphasis on family, that discussions of sex were taboo, and that relatives tended to stay closer to home once reaching adulthood.
Jeanne Brayboy oral history interview, 1997 September 25
Jeanne Brayboy recounts her life, career as an elementary school music teacher, and firsthand experience of Charlotte's schools before and after integration. She moved to Charlotte after college and began teaching in segregated black schools, which she notes had inferior resources compared with the white schools. Mrs. Brayboy talks about the schools she taught in during and after integration of Charlotte's schools through busing, most notably Oaklawn Elementary. She shares her experiences working in schools where the majority of the teachers and students were white. Most of the teachers, students, and parents she encountered accepted school integration. However, she recounts how a few white students were openly defiant toward African American teachers, and one white teacher was sneakily disrespectful to Mrs. Brayboy by never using her correct name. Mrs. Brayboy describes her children's experiences attending Charlotte schools in the 1970s during integration, which she believes were largely positive despite lengthy bus rides. She discusses her own education at a small segregated first through twelfth grade Methodist school in South Carolina, then Bennett College in Greensboro, and graduate work at Boston University. She describes how attending the Methodist primary and secondary school influenced her outlook on life, and how she was able to attend college and graduate school through Methodist Church scholarships. Mrs. Brayboy also mentions briefly dating Martin Luther King, Jr. while at Boston University. She concludes the interview by expressing her disapproval of Charlotte newcomers who want to dismantle the entire school busing program in favor of neighborhood schools so that their children can attend homogeneous schools close to home. Mrs. Brayboy states her belief that overall, the school busing program in Charlotte was a success and that ending it would lead to increased inequality.
Louise Smith Brennan oral history interview, circa 1990-1999
Louise Brennan recounts her early life growing up in Concord, North Carolina. She discusses the important role of education in her upbringing and the prevalence of textile mills in the Concord area. She describes living near a mill village in Concord, specifically recalling the organization and allocation of mill village housing and her experience attending county schools with mill village children. Mrs. Brennan also explains the influential role of the Democratic Party in Southern politics. She describes how the Democratic Party became the dominant party in the South, noting specifically that Republicans were virtually non-existent on area election ballots until their re-emergence around 1966. As an elected state legislator, Mrs. Brennan was very involved in state politics and she became familiar with several state and national politicians, including former North Carolina governors Terry Sanford and James B. Hunt. She discusses influences and trends in party politics, especially the effect that wealthy donors had on state party leadership and how political ideologies shifted among state and national leaders.
G. Jackson Burney oral history interview, 1997 September 4
Charlottean G. Jackson Burney discusses his career in the communications industry, his family, and his volunteer work. He contracted polio at a young age and discusses throughout the interview how the disease impacted his life. Mr. Burney describes how he studied communications at UNC Chapel Hill, then began working at WBT Radio as a promotions manager in the late 1940s. He also recounts his volunteer activities, and highlights going to Washington, D.C., as part of an effort launched by President Jimmy Carter to address economic issues. Mr. Burney steadily progressed in his career and began working for the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce in the 1970s as the head of a new research department. He describes how around the late 1980s, he was dismissed from his position from the Chamber. He filed a lawsuit for discrimination based on age and settled out of court. Other topics discussed in the interview include Mr. Burney's lifelong interest in music, racist opinions held by his parents, and how uptown Charlotte has changed from the 1950s to the time of interview.
Barbara Campbell oral history interview, 1998 November 13
Longtime Charlotte resident Barbara Campbell discusses her life, career, and opinion on current political issues at the time of the interview. She talks about growing up in Long Island, New York, and attending an all girls' boarding school in Rhode Island, followed by an all-girls' college, Hollins College (now Hollins University). Mrs. Campbell describes studying for a year abroad in France and visiting the Soviet Union in 1963, and how that influenced her perspective on history and politics. She married and moved to Charlotte with her husband in 1967, and began working for Red Clay Press, which published the Red Clay Reader literary magazine. Mrs. Campbell' family moved to London for a year, then returned to Charlotte. She discusses working as an editor for East Woods Press in the 1970s, then for Planned Parenthood, where she began in the public relations department and worked her way up to acting director during 1980s and 1990s. Mrs. Campbell then describes her work for Mecklenburg County Solid Waste Department as a public information specialist in the mid to late 1990s. Throughout the interview, Mrs. Campbell, a self-identified Democrat, discusses local and national politics with the student interviewer, touching on topics including race relations; school integration; health care and abortion; Charlotte in relation to the rest of the South; Bill and Hillary Clinton; and the media's influence on public opinion., Barbara Campbell was a 55-year-old woman at the time of the interview, which took place at her place of work in Charlotte, North Carolina. She was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on March 29, 1943. She was educated at Hollins College, and was employed as a public relations specialist, administrator, and editor., Digitization made possible by funding from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act as administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources.
Virginia Case oral history interview, 1996 September 10
Virginia Case discusses her family and life in Gastonia, North Carolina. Originally from Pickens County, South Carolina, she and her husband moved to Gastonia in the mid-1930s. Mrs. Case describes how difficult life was during the Great Depression. She talks about how workers were laid off and could not find employment, and how many people, including her family, lost their homes. Mrs. Case also describes her experiences during World War II, including the privations that residents of Gastonia faced at the time due to rationing of food and household goods, and the fear that she felt after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. She recounts how she and many other women in Gastonia went to work in the local textile mills and factories during World War II and continued working after the war. When asked about race relations between whites and blacks in Gastonia during the 1930s-1940s and during the 1960s-1970s, Mrs. Case didn't think there were any conflicts or problems. She also touches on general life experiences throughout the interview, including her relatives in South Carolina and development of the built environment in Gastonia over time.
Julius L. Chambers oral history interview, 1997 October 24
Charlotte attorney Julius L. Chambers, who represented the plaintiffs in the landmark case, Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, talks at length about the integration of schools in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Mr. Chambers discusses his clients' successful outcome in the Supreme Court, which mandated that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system take measures to integrate their schools through means including racial quotas and busing. He also explores the social and political ramifications of a reversal of the Swann decision [which ultimately happened in 1999, two years after the time of interview]. Mr. Chambers concludes by acknowledging the accomplishments of the desegregation movement, but notes that more work would need to be done in order to more fully integrate Charlotte's schools.
Bonnie Cone oral history interview 23, 1993 April 26
Bonnie Cone was a 86-year-old woman at the time of interview, which took place at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She was born in Lodge, South Carolina in 1907. She earned a B.A. from Coker College and an A.M. from Duke University and was employed as an educator and college administrator, most notably as president of Charlotte College and acting chancellor of UNC Charlotte., In this student interview from 1993, Dr. Bonnie Cone, founder of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte), discusses the early days of the university's predecessor, Charlotte College. She explains that it was the students' decision to focus on basketball over all other college sports, and discusses the development of the UNC Charlotte basketball program over the years. Dr. Cone recounts how there were alternative locations suggested for Charlotte College before they decided on the Central High School campus, and she explains why she felt the college should not be near the North Carolina-South Carolina state border. Dr. Cone talks about her time as a student at Coker College in South Carolina, and discusses her work on Coker's Board of Trustees, including the importance of turning the women-only college into a coeducational institution. The interview ends with Cone sharing her current fundraising work for the university.
Norris A. Dearmon oral history interview, 1998 October 6
Norris Dearmon recounts his life in Kannapolis, North Carolina and his sixty-year long relationship with Cannon Mills as an employee and amateur historian. Topics discussed include his childhood growing up during the Great Depression, his experiences as an Army dental technician in Iceland during World War II, his career as a computer programmer at Cannon Mills, and his work preserving the history of Kannapolis and Cannon Mills through his role as local historian in the GI Memorial House Museum and the Kannapolis History Room.
Waitsell Ensley oral history interview, 2006 March 22
Textiles industry manager Waitsell Ensley discusses his life and his family. He describes his unexpected birth and his childhood growing up in small mill towns in Gaston County, North Carolina. In particular, Mr. Ensley talks about rationing during World War II and his experiences attending Ranlo Grammar School and Lowell High School, including corporal punishment. He discusses his parents and their early deaths, which led to him living with his older sister when he was in the eighth grade. Mr. Ensley recalls dating Dot in high school, then marrying her in 1955. He discusses his life after marriage, including drinking early on and how he gave it up entirely to become a better husband and father. He also talks about his children and grandchildren, and being an active member of his church and participating in the choir after his children had grown up. Mr. Ensley concludes by sharing his thoughts on societal change, saying that culture has changed for the worse because people no longer look out for their neighbors.
Chris Folk oral history interview 1, 1997 October 16
In this 1997 interview, Dr. Chris Folk, former associate superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, recounts the school system's history of desegregation in light of the filing of Capacchione v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools earlier that year. Dr. Folk explains that his first experience with school desegregation was as a teacher in 1957 when Gus Roberts became the first African American student at Central High School. He then explains how the consolidation of the Charlotte City Schools and the Mecklenburg County Schools into one school system in 1960 would play a critical role in the future success of desegregation in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS). Dr. Folk then recounts the history of Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, explaining that school busing was crucial to the success of any desegregation plan because of the levels of residential segregation in the county. He also discusses the resistance and anger over busing, and how it was used by some people to hide their resistance to desegregation. Dr. Folk discusses how the school system changed its approach to pupil assignment and desegregation in 1992 with the addition of magnet schools, midpoint schools, and the growing enrollment of Asian American and Hispanic students. He also goes through the four goals guiding the school system's approach to pupil assignment and discusses some of the ways the school system has sought community feedback through task forces and advisory councils. The interview ends with Dr. Folk explaining that Charlotte's school desegregation problem is fundamentally a housing problem.
Chris Folk oral history interview 2, 1996 September 16
Dr. Chris Folk, former associate superintendent and longtime employee of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system, discusses his life and work as an educator. After reflecting on his early experiences as the son of a textile mill superintendent in Statesville and Charlotte, N.C., Dr. Folk describes the social and economic shifts that he observed over his lifetime. In particular he notes the changing status of women and an ensuing transformation in family dynamics; major shifts in racial relations; rapid urban and suburban growth; and a flourishing of technological and economic expansion. Dr. Folk characterizes the civil rights movement in Charlotte as causing anger and bitterness on both sides, but also notes that there was a rallying of Charlotteans to a common cause, eventually resulting in improved racial relations. He also notes the impact of national events on local attitudes. From his position as associate superintendent from 1964 to 1992, Dr. Folk reflects on the challenges posed by integration of Charlotte's schools beginning in the 1970s. Dr. Folk describes how the school administration took a variety of approaches to make integration work. Three strategies dominated: the creation of school catchment areas where black and white neighborhoods conjoined that could be naturally integrated; the pairing of schools and busing of children between these schools in different grades; and the movement of black students from heavily concentrated areas of black population to white schools. Dr. Folk notes that there were times when it was difficult to keep the schools open during the 1970s, but that the 1980s saw significant success. He attributes much of this success to the involvement of groups such as the Charlotte Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee, which worked with schools to bring people together. At the same time suburban growth created new challenges to maintaining integration, and Superintendent John Murphy introduced magnet schools as a means of encouraging integration through parent choice.
Chris Folk oral history interview 3, 1998 October 15
Dr. Chris Folk, former associate superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, recounts his childhood growing up in the Charlotte area during World War II and his experiences attending Duke University in the 1940s and 1950s. The son of a textile mill superintendent, Dr. Folk spent his early years in Statesville and describes what it was like during the 1930s. He explains that he became fascinated with newspapers at a very young age, and how his interest increased with the start of World War II. Dr. Folk explains that the war had a major influence on him and how it could be a frightening time for a child. The Folk family moved to Charlotte in 1940 and he recounts what it was like living in wartime Charlotte, including a polio epidemic that struck the city one summer which resulted in neighborhood lockdowns. Following the war, Dr. Folk attended Duke University and he discusses his time as a student there and his continued work as a member of the alumni admissions committee.
Brett Gilbert oral history interview, 2006 October 26
Brett Gilbert recounts his life and experiences in Lincoln County and in Charlotte, North Carolina. Growing up on a dairy farm in rural Lincoln County, Mr. Gilbert explains how most people were poor farmers and that with the exception of atomic bomb drills in school, he grew up mostly unaware of events happening in the rest of the world. Joining the Army National Guard in 1960, Mr. Gilbert explains how it was the military that exposed him to people from all over the country, leading to his growing awareness of the rest of the world outside of the South. After leaving the military, he worked for IBM and he discusses his time with the company, in particular the opportunities it gave him to travel around the world. Mr. Gilbert concludes the interview with a long discussion of his views on the African American Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, Southern culture and its benefits to business, and on social and cultural issues at the time of the interview.
Tom Gilmore oral history interview, 1996 September 29
Tom Gilmore discusses his career in North Carolina politics and in his family business, Gilmore Plant and Bulb. Born in Julian, North Carolina in 1936, he describes being very close as a young boy to an African American boy of the same age. Mr. Gilmore was excited to begin school with his friend, but upon learning from his mother that segregation prohibited whites and blacks from attending school together, he and his brother attempted to paint his friend's face white. This formative event solidified Mr. Gilmore's lifelong belief that all people should be treated equally. He describes attending North Carolina State University for a degree in horticulture beginning in 1955, and taking an active role in campus politics. Most notably among the sixteen organizations he was involved with, he talks about being president of the Young Democrats of America organization on campus and holding office alongside former governor Jim Hunt, former Charlotte mayor Eddie Knox, and other young men who later went on to have careers in politics. Mr. Gilmore describes helping Jesse Jackson start his career in politics by appointing him as a delegate to the Young Democrats of America convention in 1963. His support of civil rights legislation in the 1960s made him a target of white supremacists and Ku Klux Klan members, who threatened the lives of Mr. Gilmore and his family. Mr. Gilmore discusses being a delegate to the 1964 and 1968 Democratic National Conventions, serving as president of the national Young Democrats association, then running and winning a seat in the N.C. House of Representatives in 1972. He discusses legislation he successfully introduced or fought for as a House representative, including the introduction of public kindergarten and making the Venus flytrap an endangered species. Mr. Gilmore talks about leaving his safe seat in the House in 1978 to become the Deputy Secretary of Human Resources, where he got to implement some of the legislation he had passed. He also recounts his failed campaigns for governor in 1984 and senator in 1988.
David Goldfield lecture, circa 1991
In this 1991 lecture, "A Southern Century," UNC Charlotte history professor Dr. David Goldfield discusses the changing social and economic status of the American South in the twentieth century. Setting the context for the growth that took shape in the South from the 1960s onwards, Dr. Goldfield contrasts the economic, industrial and cultural domination of the great Northeastern and Midwestern cities in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries with the American South, which was economically stressed, largely rural in character, dominated by small towns, and socially regressive. It was not until the post World War II period and the decline of Northeastern and Midwestern urban centers that the South experienced a boom in its population and service economy. While addressing the South as a whole region and generalizing the trend of Southern economic expansion, Dr. Goldfield often draws attention to Charlotte's position within this narrative as a New South City, noting in particular Charlotte's growing diversity, sprawling suburban and "outtown" growth, and amenities which made the city attractive to corporations seeking new branch locations. In particular he mentions Charlotte's international airport and urban university in addition to accessible natural and cultural amenities. Dr. Goldfield closes his lecture on a note of hope that the lessons learned during the civil rights era will continue to improve racial and economic disparities in order to allow the South to become the next great American region.
Evelyn Grindstaff oral history interview, 1999 February 22
Evelyn Grindstaff recounts her life and forty-five years working in textile mills in Gastonia, North Carolina. Topics discussed include her experiences working at the Groves Mills beginning at the age of fifteen, her husband's World War II service, her struggles with dyslexia and her pride in her daughter's education, and the changes in society and technology over her lifetime.
John Hancock oral history interview, 1997 November 25
John Hancock recounts his experiences as a high school student during the first years of integration of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system. Mr. Hancock attended Garinger High School from 1970 to 1973 and explains that while most of the students just wanted peace and quiet, there was a vocal minority of "extremists" on both sides and together the two groups were large enough to cause major disruptions at the school. He describes several violent fights he witnessed and explains how the violence and social unrest impacted the school's learning environment. Mr. Hancock concludes by expressing mixed feelings regarding desegregation, stating that it was important and necessary in order to achieve many of the educational goals for African American students, but he did not think that it has had the desired positive effect on race relations that people had hoped for.
Lucille Harwood oral history interview, 1994 October 8
Albemarle native Lucille Harwood recounts her experiences during the Great Depression, World War II, and the second half of the twentieth century. She describes growing up very poor during the Depression, but explains how families would always share with one another to ensure that everyone got through the roughest parts of the 1930s. At the start of World War II, Mrs. Harwood enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve (Women's Reserve), more commonly known as the WAVES, eventually earning the rank of sergeant. She recounts her experiences following the war working for the War Department, including being stationed for two years in occupied Japan. She describes how in Albemarle before the civil rights movement white and black people lived in separate communities, how that has changed following desegregation, and the visibility of the Ku Klux Klan during her lifetime. Mrs. Harwood concludes by discussing how Albemarle has changed since the 1950s, and in particular talks about working mothers and the erosion of family values.
Andrew P. Haywood oral history interview 3, 1997 November 4
Dr. Andrew "Sam" Haywood discusses his role as principal of Independence and West Charlotte High Schools and as chairman of county high school principals during the turbulent years of desegregation. He describes the benefits of desegregation and recounts some of the challenges he and his teachers faced, including the school board's continued divisiveness and the teachers' daily struggle to provide an equal educational opportunity for all students. Dr. Haywood also explains the significance of teacher training programs, which specifically addressed how to handle situations involving students from different racial backgrounds. Further, he recounts his own efforts as school administrator to foster better student relations amongst students from different backgrounds. He also explains how West Charlotte was able to serve as a national model for successful public school integration and he describes their outreach work with South Boston High School in Massachusetts. Dr. Haywood concludes his interview by discussing the problems with race relations that persisted at the time of the interview, and he emphasizes the importance of helping students understand others from different cultural and racial backgrounds.
Nettie House oral history interview, 2006 October 24
Charlotte native Nettie House describes her life growing up in Charlotte's Belmont neighborhood, her experiences during World War II, and her married life in Charlotte during the postwar period. Her father came to Charlotte from Union County to work in textile mills as a weaver, settling in Belmont in a four-room mill house that the family eventually purchased. Mrs. House discusses the immediate community around her home, locally known as "Mill Hill." She describes the games she played with friends, her walk to the local schools of Villa Heights Elementary School and Charlotte Technical High School, and her trips to "uptown" Charlotte to see movies, to shop, and for work in Woolworth's when she was a teenager. Despite the deprivations of the Depression, Mrs. House remembers her childhood as rich and recalls the relative freedom that children had during this era in comparison to later generations, as well as the spirit of sharing within the community. Mrs. House married during the war and traveled with her husband to Jacksonville, Florida where he was stationed on a naval base, and where she found work overhauling airplane wing parts. Continuing her life history, Mrs. House recounts her husband's ability in baseball that secured his job with Charlotte's Lance Inc. so that he could play for the company team and her own work with Lance in their credit union. She also relates her personal experiences of integration and the diversifying population of her Merry Oaks neighborhood in Charlotte, stressing her Christian belief that people should live together harmoniously and the importance of building personal relationships across races.
David Hunter oral history interview 1, 1996 October 2
Dr. David Hunter discusses his personal experiences with education and his lifelong work as an educator in his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. He describes growing up in the African American neighborhood of Cherry, attending segregated schools, and graduating from Second Ward High School in 1951. Despite a scholarship from Kappa Alpha Psi, which enabled him to attend Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU), Dr. Hunter was not able to finance the chemistry degree he had hoped to pursue, since it required time in the lab that would have prevented him from working to finance his education. He describes how he took a teaching job at Carver College after graduation, with the understanding that he would work on a master's degree during the summers. This charted Dr. Hunter's life's work as a math professor and college administrator. He recounts attending Atlanta University in the summers to earn his master' degree and how his academic success led to a position as teaching fellow at Morehouse College. During these years Dr. Hunter was also involved in civil rights activities in Atlanta where he joined in sit-in protests and attended church services led by civil rights preachers William Holmes Borders and Ralph David Abernathy. He describes his professional return to Carver College and the transition of Carver (re-named Mecklenburg College) to the outskirts of Charlotte before it eventually combined with the Central Industrial Education Center and became Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC). At CPCC Dr. Hunter taught mathematics before moving into administrative positions and eventually becoming the vice president of arts and sciences. Dr. Hunter then describes his work at UNC Charlotte after he retired from CPCC in 1995. In particular, he was able to provide support to minority students interested in careers in science, engineering, and math through the PRODUCE program. Dr. Hunter concludes the interview by summing up his belief that with the right support and encouragement all students can succeed.
Simmons Jones oral history interview, 1993 February 28
Fashion photographer and author Simmons Baker Jones discusses his eventful life, beginning with his formative years growing up in a prominent Charlotte family and continuing through his service as a corporal in the U.S. Army during the Second World War, his experiences in Paris, New York, and Rome, and his return to Charlotte in the early 1970s. Mr. Jones reflects on the privilege of his childhood, his education, and his outlook on the significant social changes that occurred during his lifetime. Strong themes during the interview include Southern culture, significant changes in race relations in the postwar period, shifting perspectives on sexuality and gender in the late twentieth century, alcoholism, and the negative impact of evangelical religion on society. As the nephew of Charlotte News owner William Carey Dowd, and as a reporter for the News himself, Mr. Jones recalls his association with fellow journalist and author Wilbur Joseph Cash, noting that although Dowd and Cash had fundamental differences they maintained a good relationship. Despite his eagerness to escape his Southern roots and conservative upbringing as a young man, Mr. Jones embraced his return to Charlotte to care for his mother in the mid-1970s, and he celebrates the value of Southern culture in this interview. His closing sentiments, however, are that it is crucial for people to be true to their nature and to follow their passions and persuasions, even when these cut against conventional mores.
Cindy Leggett oral history interview, 2006 April 1
Cindy Leggett recalls her early life growing up and attending school in Kannapolis, North Carolina during the mid-twentieth century. She describes her parents' expectations towards education and how her father served as her role model and influenced her decision to become a pharmacist. She also describes her experiences with segregation in the late-1950s through the 1960s, including sitting separately from the family's black maid while riding the city bus and attending high school during the first year of integration. Other topics discussed include the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, her experiences in college, meeting her husband and starting a family.
Leon Lowder oral history interview, 1999 March 6
Leon Lowder was a 92-year-old man at the time of interview, which took place in his home in Eastover, South Carolina. He was born in Clarendon County, South Carolina, on November 19, 1906. He had an eighth grade education, and was employed as a retail clerk in a general merchandise store and a farmer., Leon Lowder recounts his life, family, and work in retail and farming in central South Carolina from the 1930s-1980s. Mr. Lowder describes being the seventh out of eleven children in a farming family and leaving home in 1926 to work in the grocery department of a general merchandise store. He recounts stories of his domestic life, including meeting his first wife at a house party and raising their nine children together. Mr. Lowder talks at length about his work, particularly farming. He left the store and began farming his own land in 1949, which he continued to do through the early 1990s. Mr. Lowder discusses various crops he cultivated, including cotton, corn, and soybeans. He also talks about economic aspects of farm management, including his avoidance of debt through timely repayment of his loans. The interviewer tries to engage Mr. Lowder in different topics with broader historical interest, including his thoughts on World War II and the civil rights movement of the 1960s. He responds, but appears to feel more comfortable discussing farming because of his knowledge on the subject. Mr. Lowder also comments on his former black employees. He states his belief that they worked as hard as anyone else and that they loved him because he treated them well. He shares his opinion that the social climate changed for the worse beginning in the late 1960s once school integration began. Mr. Lowder concludes the interview by discussing politics and praising various prominent Republican politicians., Digitization made possible by funding from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act as administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources.
Christine Miller oral history interview, 2006 November 19
Christine Miller recounts her life growing up in Salisbury, North Carolina, as well as her forty years living in Charlotte. She describes living on her family's five-acre farm in the country outside of Salisbury and her time working at Ketner's Super Market, a predecessor to the Food Lion chain of grocery stores. Mrs. Miller speaks highly of Mr. Ketner and the flexible work schedule she was allowed after the birth of her first child. She discusses how she juggled home, work, and raising three children, explaining that she would work on the days her husband did not so there would always be one parent at home with the children. She moved to Charlotte for his husband's job in the late 1950s, and she recalls her extended family's perception of Charlotte as a big, dangerous city. Mrs. Miller goes on to discuss Miller True Value Hardware, the store she and her husband owned in Charlotte, including her role in running the business and their neighbor's generous contribution in helping them finance their business.
Betty Morgan oral history interview, 2006 March 26
Betty Morgan recounts her life growing up in rural Rowan County, North Carolina. One of nine children, Mrs. Morgan discusses growing up on her family's small farm and how they grew the majority of their own food, as well as cotton. The farm lacked electricity and running water for most of her childhood, and she describes what it was like when her family finally had access to electricity and a telephone. Mrs. Morgan discusses how education played a significant role in her life and she describes the financial struggles she faced in the early 1950s to achieve her dream of earning a college degree. Mrs. Morgan concludes by stating that while she enjoyed her childhood, it was difficult growing up without modern conveniences and that she's happy that things have changed.
Jeffrey L. Nance oral history interview, 1997 September 30
Computer programmer Jeffrey Nance, a native of the Charlotte region, discusses his experiences attending Garinger High School during school integration in the early 1970s. Mr. Nance was finishing the eighth grade when the Supreme Court determined that busing to integrate students was constitutional in their decision on Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education. Mr. Nance's school boundary was redrawn and he was bused to an integrated junior high school across town. He then attended the formerly all-white Garinger High School beginning in his tenth grade year. He describes both black and white students as being uncomfortable interacting with each other because of little previous social contact. Mr. Nance describes conflict at Garinger High School related to integration, including problems with the school's grading scale, contested student council seats, and black and white student riots. He concludes by stating that the experience was difficult, but it taught him how to respect and interact with a different social group. In addition, he compares his education experience with his childrens' experiences, and offers that his children are reaping the benefits of the difficult integration process through their improved learning environment and their relationships with black friends.
Mary Nixon oral history interview, 2005 November 18
Mary Nixon recounts her life and experiences living in rural Yadkin County, North Carolina. She describes growing up on a tobacco farm, how her family grew most of the food they ate, and how she and her siblings would miss school in order to help process the tobacco before it could be taken to market. After high school Mrs. Nixon worked in several different factories until the age of 59, and discusses her experiences going on strike and participating in the picket line at the sheet metal factory she worked at. Mrs. Nixon describes her family, including how she met her husband on a blind date and her daughter's type 1 diabetes, explaining the effect that had on her return to "public work" and how she dealt with her daughter's insulin reactions at school.
Julia Perryman oral history interview, 1997 September 26
Julia Perryman recalls her experience growing up in Thomasville, North Carolina in the 1930s and 1940s. She discusses the difficult financial hardships that her family endured after her father was left paralyzed following an illness and could no longer serve as the family breadwinner. Despite these challenges, Mrs. Perryman describes how her mother provided for the family and how members of the community gave them support. She explains that her childhood dream was to become a nurse, and that during World War II a government program enabled her to go to nursing school. Following the war, she worked in a general practitioner's office and she talks about her first-hand experience in treating victims suffering from the polio epidemic and assisting with baby deliveries and wellness check-ups. Mrs. Perryman concludes by discussing her commitment to serving the needy in her community and emphasizes the importance of serving and caring for others.
Mary K. Pistole oral history interview, 1993 March 27
Mary Pistole recounts her life and experiences in Charlotte during the Great Depression, World War II, and the post-war era. Mrs. Pistole grew up in the Myers Park neighborhood and was an eighth grader at Alexander Graham Junior High School when the United States entered into World War II. She describes Charlotte having air raid sirens and enforced blackouts at night, and how items like sugar and gas were rationed. Mrs. Pistole recalls that she had been downtown when news of President Roosevelt's death broke, and she describes the turmoil the news caused in the city. She also discusses the resentment directed against young married women who continued to work at the ammunitions plant after their husbands had returned home after the war. Mrs. Pistole describes the housing shortage Charlotte faced immediately after the end of the war, explaining how as newlyweds, she and her husband ended up living for a year in the Morris Field barracks, which had been converted into temporary apartments by the city. Mrs. Pistole had two daughters in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system during the first year of busing for school integration in 1970, and she discusses their experiences after being transferred to Harding High School and Oaklawn Elementary School. She also discusses owning her own business, Dilworth Florist, and changing trends in the floral business. She concludes by stating that she prefers the Charlotte of her childhood to the current day Charlotte because she believes that the city has torn down too much of its history. In her view, Charlotte at the time of interview is no longer the small country town that she remembers; there is too much crime, too much traffic, and the city's demographics have changed too much.
Tom Snipes oral history interview, 1993 February 25
Tom Snipes describes his early upbringing in Kannapolis and Raleigh, North Carolina in an autocratic, yet loving home run by his disciplinarian father. He recalls the challenges of growing up during the Depression in a large family with meager resources, and the strong role religion played in his life. Mr. Snipes explains that he experienced early hardships in school due to an eye disorder, but he did not let these obstacles deter him from achieving success as a student and ultimately earning a doctoral degree in education. Mr. Snipes describes his efforts as chairman of the department of psychology at Appalachian State University to develop and expand the university's degree programs and improve its reputation throughout the state. He also discusses his views about race relations in the South. Mr. Snipes explains that while he accepts most facets of racial equality, he acknowledges that he still maintains some of his prejudicial beliefs learned early in life, such as his disapproval of interracial marriage.
Donnie R. Thrower oral history interview, 1994 October 4
Donnie Thrower describes her early life and career in the textile industry in McAdenville and Belmont, North Carolina. She recalls how she quit school at age sixteen in order to go to work at a nylon hosiery mill in Belmont, where she remained for the next twenty-two years. Mrs. Thrower later returned to school and then became a secretary at Fleissner, Inc., a textile machinery company owned by Germans. She notes that the company hired her even though she only spoke English, since they knew she would not divulge company secrets when performing her duties. Despite having a successful career, Mrs. Thrower explains that she left her job to care for her mother, who had Alzheimer's disease. Mrs. Thrower also describes how her own near-death experience with cancer strengthened her desire to care for family and loved ones, and also brought her closer to her faith.
Loy H. Witherspoon oral history interview 2, 1991
Loy Witherspoon was a 61-year-old man at the time of interview. He was born in Catawba, North Carolina in 1930. He graduated from Duke University with a BA and a BD degree, and from Boston University with a PhD in the New Testament. He was employed with UNC Charlotte from 1964 to 1994, where he led the Department of Philosophy and Religion, then established and chaired the Department of Religious Studies when it split off from philosophy beginning in 1972., In this 1991 interview, student Michael Wilson interviewed Dr. Loy Witherspoon about his life experiences in the North Carolina Piedmont. Dr. Witherspoon describes his unusual childhood, the latter part of which was spent at The Children's Home, a Methodist orphanage on the edge of Winston-Salem. He relates in detail the daily activities he engaged in at the home, which included chores on the orphanage farm, food preservation and preparation, and sports and recreation, in addition to attending school at the Children's Home and at R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem. In particular Dr. Witherspoon stresses the influence of his high school Latin teacher, Margaret McDermott, who continued to be an inspiration for his own teaching in later life. Realizing at an early age that his vocation was to be a Methodist minister and a teacher, Dr. Witherspoon describes his education at Duke University where he earned a BA and a BD, and Boston University where he earned a PhD. In response to questions about civil rights, Dr. Witherspoon recalls student activism on the UNC Charlotte campus, and in particular the activities of student Ben Chavis. Dr. Witherspoon concludes by urging students to interact with the city of Charlotte, to take advantage of the cultural activities offered, and also to give back to the city, recalling the Athenian oath instructing citizens to leave the city more beautiful and enriched than they had found it., Loy H. Witherspoon papers, J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections and University Archives, University of North Carolina at Charlotte (https://findingaids.uncc.edu/repositories/4/resources/233)
Loy H. Witherspoon oral history interview 3, 1993 February 19
Loy Witherspoon was a 63-year-old man at the time of interview. He was born in Catawba, North Carolina in 1930. He graduated from Duke University with a BA and a BD degree, and from Boston University with a PhD in the New Testament. He was employed with UNC Charlotte from 1964 to 1994, where he led the Department of Philosophy and Religion, then established and chaired the Department of Religious Studies when it split off from philosophy beginning in 1972., In this 1993 interview, student Mitch Miles interviewed Dr. Loy Witherspoon, founding chair of Religious Studies at UNC Charlotte, who relates his life story and reflects on changes that he witnessed in the American South between the 1930s and the 1990s. Dr. Witherspoon describes his childhood growing up in Catawba, North Carolina, his closely knit family, and his early school and religious experiences. He attributes his interest in the classics to his grade school teachers who read classical literature to the students after recess, and notes that there was little religious diversity in the community beyond the Methodist, Baptist, and Lutheran churches. Dr. Witherspoon reflects on the more cosmopolitan atmosphere of wartime Winston-Salem, where he moved to live in The Children's Home, a Methodist orphanage, after the death of both his parents. He describes his high school years at R.J. Reynolds High School and the significant influence of his Latin teacher, who took a keen interest in his education. After a brief description of his education at Duke University, Dr. Witherspoon describes his experiences at Boston University, where he pursued his PhD. He notes the life-changing influence of living in a larger, more diverse, and culturally rich city. In stark contrast to these more cosmopolitan locales, Dr. Witherspoon details his first experience as a professor teaching at Dakota Wesleyan University in South Dakota, noting that social conditions in the surrounding area reminded him of his childhood in rural North Carolina. He also remarks on the paradox of the local concern expressed for Southern blacks in a community where Native Americans were poorly treated. Dr. Witherspoon continues with a description of his move back to North Carolina at the behest of Bonnie Cone, founder and president of Charlotte College. He describes early conditions of the college, his role in establishing an ecumenical ministry to students in addition to his professorial duties teaching philosophy and religious studies, and the changes he saw in Southern culture, which he attributes largely to the influx of people from other parts of the United States and the world., Loy H. Witherspoon papers, J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections and University Archives, University of North Carolina at Charlotte (https://findingaids.uncc.edu/repositories/4/resources/233)
Mary Alice Wright oral history interview, 1993 October 31
Mary Alice Wright discusses growing up in the mill village in Waxhaw, North Carolina. In particular, she describes how she worked in the mill village as a concession stand operator and actively participated in social activities, such as square dancing and hayrides. Mrs. Wright then recalls the challenges that her family faced upon her father's death, noting specifically how she sacrificed her final year of high school to care for her father, and her mother's efforts to financially support the family. Mrs. Wright also discusses the tragic car accident that killed her sister's husband. She vividly remembers being overcome with great sadness because the accident occurred just prior to the death of President John F. Kennedy, and with both deaths children were left without their fathers. In addition, she describes residing in various places during her adult life, and recalls living with members of the Traywick family, including country singer Randy Travis (birth name: Randy Traywick) when he was a baby.
Benjamin F. Wyant Jr. oral history interview, 1994 November 2
Benjamin F. Wyant, Jr. recounts his memories of growing up in the Charlotte neighborhood of Dilworth and of his forty-three year career at Duke Power Company. In particular, he recalls working as a boy at his father's family business during the challenging economic times of the Great Depression. Mr. Wyant also discusses how Duke Power's workplace environment evolved over his career, explaining that the changes affected not only their customer service philosophy and the mechanics of their operations, but also employee relations as the company became racially integrated during the 1960s. Additionally, he shares his opinion that Charlotte politicians, party platforms, and voters moved to the left as veterans, who were exposed to European values during the Second World War, returned home with more sophisticated political views. Mr. Wyant states that the Democratic party has changed, but not his own political ideologies, specifically explaining that he remained committed to his belief in old Democratic ideals in spite of what he saw as the great influx of liberalism that spread throughout Charlotte.