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Interview with Heyward C Bellamy,  April 19, 2005 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Title:
Interview with Heyward C Bellamy,  April 19, 2005
Date:
April 19, 2005
Description:
This 3rd interview with Dr. Bellamy focuses on the integration mandate and impact on the local schools. His memories include HEW, School Board, busing, fire bombings, suspensions and public imput.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Bellamy, Heyward C. Interviewer: Mims, LuAnn / Parnell, Jerry Date of Interview: 19 April 2005 Series: Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length 60 minutes

Mims: Today is April the 19th, 2005. I am LuAnn Mims with Gerry Parnell from the Randall Library Special Collections and we are lucky again to be speaking with Dr. Heyward Bellamy. We're going to continue our interview that we've been doing over the last couple of weeks. And when we left off, you were just coming into the role of the New Hanover County School Superintendent position. If we could start there and discuss the effects of the Health, Education, and Welfare Department, and how they impacted locally.

Bellamy: Good. We had begun to ... to get into the mid-sixties desegregation plans when we left off last time. And I had mentioned, I think, the role of health, education, and welfare, who were involved and they controlled the allocation of federal funds to the various programs which was right considerable at the time...and I understand still is...and the Federal Court. I much preferred dealing with the Federal Court.

The HEW teams, I felt were...were at best, poorly chosen to handle such an important...decisions in any community. We had, for instance, the team visit, and we gave then open...open access to the schools to find what they wanted to, and in one school one of the members told the principal, Lawrence Cheek at Chestnut Street School to remove a biography of Booker T. Washington from the shelves because he was an 'Uncle Tom.' Of course, that inflamed the principal and he came dashing to the Central Office and the superintendent at that time brought that up when the...the HEW team came back with report.

And the man denied it, but they just simply weren't prepared. They would draw lines that they proposed we adopt to desegregate the schools that were just simply drawn without a great deal of study. The courts were much easier to deal with. The courts were dealing with the law and we'd go about every year to the court with the plan of operation that the board had adopted for that particular year, and the court would make a finding.

And we were able to stay in business because the judge would find that the...the plan that the board brought along did show promise to bring about a unitary school system...to put it in place, and of course it didn't...because in 1968 with the Swann decision that the courts had finally declared that busing was a legal tool to use in desegregating, and it became clear that a desegregated school was a school that should mirror the percentage of minority and majority students as found in the community at large. And in our case, that was 28% black children and 72% white.

So the issue was pretty well spelled out by...by '68. And in the middle of all that the closing of Williston became an issue. The closure if reasonable would bring about a great deal of desegregation because you would have the entire ten, eleven, and twelfth grades desegregated in one fail swoop. So the board studied that...that plan, and decided that that would be acceptable to the community at large. Because, as I might have mentioned to you at some time in our discussions, I...I think back to the board and the chairman, Emsley Laney at the time, who were working with the possible.

They were...they were...I told them following in the steps of Unamuno, the philosopher, and doing what was possible to obey the law and save the schools...and they felt that would be reasonable and acceptable in the community at large...more than some other plan at that moment. But you can't just close a high school in North Carolina. You have to have a hearing, an open hearing, report your reasons for asking the state to close the high school, and then make a finding that the closure would be to the advantage of the county at large.

So the board scheduled an open hearing out at Brogden Hall in June and it was very well attended and everybody had his say, black and white, about the...the issue. I remember one county commissioner who was very upset about the situation in general, Mike Vaughn, at one time invited the audience to follow him down to Front and Water Street and parade around the monument to Hilton, the tax collector, for King George the Third. Of course, we all stayed put and the meeting ended peaceably.

And the next morning I went with the attorney, Bill Hill, to Raleigh. The State Board was meeting and we explained to the state board what the board had done and why, and they approved the closing of Williston as a senior high school. It was, of course, immediately geared up for junior high work for the...the fall. And the high schools then became fully desegregated. In the meantime, we'd been working on faculty desegregation and I became superintendent in July of that year.

And my wife and I...Mary...had talked about the position and she knew as well as I what we were facing, that it wasn't going to be an easy thing, because we had a lot of factions to deal with. And I said, "Well, I'm gonna do it, and do what I'm supposed to do, and do it as right as I know how to do it, if I last a day or a week, or a year, or whatever." And so I told 'em I would take the job and tried to follow that...that promise to myself until 1981. We went back to court and reported to the court in the meantime, the desegregation that was taking place in each year.

Mims: Well, let me ask you something. Was one of the criteria for closing this as a senior high school, that there was another high school being built here in New Hanover County?

Bellamy: No.

Mims: Tell me about John Hoggard High school.

Bellamy: John Hoggard was there. We expanded Hoggard.

Mims: Okay, so what year did Hoggard open? Was it '67 or '68?

Bellamy: No it was sixty...I stand to be corrected, it was about '66, I think.

Mims: Okay. So Hoggard was already functioning...

Bellamy: Oh yea.

Mims: and New Hanover...

Bellamy: Oh yea.

Mims: ...so there was...the capacity at those two schools could take on...

Bellamy: Yes.

Mims: Okay.

Bellamy: Because Hoggard was expanded if you'll walk back to the back, it was...

Mims: The annex...

Bellamy: ...not doubled, but very much enlarged with the funds we had available...

Mims: Okay.

Bellamy: ...in '68. So we...the courts...we'd make a finding, and the finding was that we were not a unitary system. So finally, they ordered HEW to work with our board to jointly come up with a plan to present to the board that the court felt would be acceptable which would do...would follow the definition I laid out. We were very fortunate in the team that HEW chose.

They chose a retired Army Colonel Blankenship who had been the headmaster at Edwards Military Institute in retirement, a fine gentleman who came with a team of two, I think, and reported in and we spent lots of time talking. And he said, essentially, "I don't know anything about this school system, will you take as much time as we need, and let's ride and look at the schools...and while we're doing so, I want you to talk to me about what's there, what you think would work there, and the plan that you think would work to deseg...to completely desegregate the school system." And we did that.

And I suggested a number of things that he wrote into his plan, which was presented to the court. We wound up with ninth grade centers, fifth and sixth grade centers, with the high schools as they were, and the elementary schools, ah, the lower grades. And my rationale there was the elementary schools are small buildings, like Pine Valley, Blair, were small and had followed the growth of population. The buildings in town had been the more traditional older large buildings.

And I felt that if we could bus, because we had this big football shaped community which contained the majority of the black children in the county, if for the...the lower grades...if we could use those buildings in the suburbs for the lower grades, let the children ride, and tried to keep them by communities on the busses to the extent possible to retain some of the flavor of the neighborhood school, and then turn about for the fifth and sixth grade centers and everybody then would either walk in, in town, or ride the buses from the suburbs and desegregate the schools with the large fifth and sixth grade centers. Also with the seventh and eighth grade centers and we had two ninth grade centers which worked very well.

I was telling this story at a superintendents meeting...I remember Jasper Lewis, who was superintendent in Little Washington, he said, "I hate to top a good story, but how do you feel about third grade centers?" He said, "That was the only way I could get all of our rooms used and get the job done." I said, "Well, how'd it work?" He said, "Fine!" So I felt more, after that year, like I'd always felt, that the packaging grade wise is not the important thing in placing children in school, it's what happens to 'em when the get there. And that...that overrides the grade level packaging for a particular school.

Mims: Well, you had said that...you had started with faculty desegregation...that preceded any of these centers, right?

Bellamy: Yes.

Mims: Okay, how did that work out? You had sent black teachers to predominately white schools and white teachers to the black schools?

Bellamy: I think it worked very well. You have to remember we had been a totally segregated system. We had separate teachers meetings, separate teacher organizations, separate principals meetings, separate schools, everything. The superintendent administered two school systems. And so there...there'd been not much interplay. The bands would change and the glee clubs would go from Williston to New Hanover and serenade, and we had...had good feeling, I felt, when I was in high school at New Hanover...cause I knew so many of the people at Williston, worked with 'em every day in their neighborhood out of our store.

And as far as I'm concerned, and those who are still around who have talked to me about it, as far as they were concerned we had a good...good feeling. But the...the order was put in force in '71. And something that I did beyond that, was declare that everybody in the school system would attend a series of workshops. We'd do them during the year and in the summer. I was able to get the funds to get this done. And I asked Dr. John Chase from Carolina...North Carolina, to help me staff the folks who would help with these workshops in addition to our own...own people.

And I said, "Here's what I'd like to do...let's, number one, talk about the history of this thing. Why are we where we are today? What brought about our being in a workshop talking about making one school system out of two in New Hanover County North Carolina? And let's get that out of our system. And then, what are we going to do about it?" Here's what we have...we have faculties who've, except for the desegregation, the faculty had not had any contact with each other professionally, the children, except for in their neighborhoods, very little contact...what do we do to make children feel comfortable with desegregation? What are the issues, how do we deal with 'em? And that's...that's how we conducted the workshop. And I thought they were very, very helpful. The...this was going on while we had lots of unrest in town. I remember attending one of the workshops out at Blair School and sitting in the teacher's room where this particular workshop was being conducted...here all these teachers just having a go at how we get it done, and ready to get back to the classroom to do it...and I could look out window and see the smoke from...there had been twenty seven businesses burned the night before.

We had been told by the police...my family and the board of education, to vacate our homes on several occasions. I did a couple of times, and finally, I think when I called Emsley Laney the third time, he said, "Heyward, I am tired of this. I am not leaving my house, and I wouldn't advise anybody to bother me." And I said "Well that's my feeling too, I'm going to be right here."

I did have my home picketed by a group called the Rights of White People. We had lots of groups spring up as a result of the desegregation process. One called Rights of White People had been organized by a man named Leroy Gibson, former Marine who lived in Jacksonville...and some how or other he had gotten...it's...a copy of it is in those papers that I sent to the university...

Mims: ...I've seen that...

Bellamy: They...they got a charter...And it...it reads...it reads...seems to be fairly innocuous when you read it until you see what they were doing. But they held meetings...held an armed meeting out at...

Mims: Hugh McRae.

Bellamy: Hugh McRae. They picketed our house and put the "Stop the Bussing" sign in the yard. Two detectives including Mr. Bloomer, who just died...he was buried this past week, and Mr. Fredlaw, spent the night with us. And the group stayed all night. And they...they went back in the woods...you could see them go back, the family told me, with rifles and...the...when I got up the next morning and they dispersed and went on home, I didn't have any air in a single tire in my yard, so I had to get...get a ride to work. But...

Mims: Now was this the time that the National Guard came in to Wilmington?

Bellamy: The National Guard was called in, yes. Because there was a lot of...of violence in the...in the streets. I had...the ministerial association had met with me at one time and said, "Anything we can do?" I said, "Yes, you can schedule me in your churches as fast as you can and let me come talk about desegregation, and tell 'em what the board is trying to do, and what I want to do, and see if I can't garner a little more support for the approach we're taking."

I got to do one meeting, that was at Gregory Congregational Church where Ben Chavis and the folks barricaded themselves...the minister lived in the parsonage next to the church. His wife was a nurse. She had set up some kind of clinic in the home when it was barricaded. But I...I went to the church and talked to the folks. It was packed...the police didn't want me to go...they said it was too dangerous. I said, "No, it's...I'm going, I promised these folks I'd...I'd come"...and went. George Clark went with me, school board member. And I talked and I could tell some of the questions seemed to be kinda spotted in the...the audience...were pretty inflammatory.

One lady wanted to know what I was going to do about the principal of Williston who had denied her daughter of something in the school...and I said, "Well, I can't do anything about it right here tonight, come to see me tomorrow morning"...but that didn't...didn't calm things. And it got...it got to be a pretty raucous meeting. George said something to the effect of we couldn't...he was using legal terms...that they couldn't take action talking to a rump session (chuckling)...bad choice of words (chuckling).

Mims: Do you remember what year this was in? Was this in seventy or...

Bellamy: Seventy one.

Mims: Seventy one?

Bellamy: Uh huh. And so, we...I...I left and that...the...I never got invited to another...another church. And the...the school...when we got everything set to open...and now, picture what we had to do...we had to reassign faculty, we had to reassign text books, we had to change the libraries so that the appropriate collection stayed in each school for the grade levels that I was going to put there. And we had to do all that in very short order.

When I hear the present board talking about taking all this time to...to plan a school, I...to me that's foot dragging, because I know if you...if you've got to move, you can move. And our folks did it. I had good help. And they got out...the teachers and the small staff that I had and we got it done. Busses...I...I knew to...had to have forty six more buses. And I knew that I could not put forty six buses in the 1970 or '71 budget...county budget. So I went to the state and said, "I...I'm in a heap of trouble, I've got to have some buses."

And they said, "Well what we'll do, is assign the extra busses that are in good shape from surrounding counties and get you forty six buses. And you promise us that you will start as fast as the traffic will bear it to replace these buses in the county budget." The normal process is for the state to approve your adding a bus route, and the county buys the first bus, then the state maintains the bus and replaces it when it's worn out. But we had to change that tactic a little bit because I had to have a lot of busses in a hurry.

So they got me the buses, and got them in shape, and ready to go and gassed up, and oh boy, I had one day to go, and they called me from the bus garage and said, "We've got sand in the gas tanks...

Mims: Ah!

Bellamy: ...of the buses".

Mims: Oh.

Bellamy: So I called my friend Earl Waters at the state department and said "I'm in trouble again; they've just about put me out of business." And I told him what had happened, and he said...said, "I'll be down there in about three hours, don't worry about it." And it...I can see them coming now...it was like an exodus from the surrounding counties...I think some of them came as far away as Goldsboro. He got his folks on the phone, and asked every school system within a reasonable distance, to spare all the mechanics and tools and trucks they could, and send 'em to me.

And they showed up in...in a drove and they took those gas tanks off and poured the gas out in barrels and cleaned out the tanks and filled 'em up and got 'em ready to go. In the meantime, the police, of course were ready to make sure that didn't happen again. And we...so we got back in business. I remember, I said, "What do I do to thank these people? They just saved my life! What do I say to 'em?"

He said, "I'll tell you one thing you can do...," said, "most these people are farmers and they can drain...put that gas through a strainer and use it in their tractors." I said, "Well, be my guest." So the boys, who were farmers who were also mechanics in North Carolina, took the gas and used it. But that was a...just a wonderful help that came from the surrounding counties...that put me back in business with the busses.

Mims: Did they ever find out who did this?

Bellamy: No. No.

Mims: Hum.

Bellamy: We had...we had a number of fires in those days. Somebody, a year or two later, tried to burn down New Hanover, but that's an exercise in futility. New Hanover High School is built like a fortress. Those rooms are...are made of interlocking concrete blocks, so they...they blackened a couple of rooms and the hall, and we had to portion off that blackened area, and move around it, but it didn't stop school.

Mims: Is this when we lost Hemenway School?

Bellamy: Hemenway...in '71, May of '71. I had a call that...from the fire department that it was on fire and so I rushed down, and by that time, the building was...not built for fire safety. It was one of the old traditional elementary buildings...had at one time...had the wooden staircase in the center and the auditorium upstairs. That had been changed around to try to make it a little more fire proof and the towers put on the ends to make that a little safer for students to be there, but it was pretty much engulfed.

The fire chief, Mr. Millinor, ask me when I showed up...he said, "I'm not gonna save the building, I can't do it, but is there any one place you'd like for me to try to save?" And I pointed out, I was standing at Fifth and Chestnut, and I said, "Yes, try to save that...this corner facing us because that's where all the money is...the paychecks and the payroll records, and all of that." So he tried very hard to save that, but couldn't. I did get a...

Parnell: The school board was at Hemenway at that time, right?

Bellamy: What?

Parnell: Was the school board and the school system operated out of Hemenway?

Bellamy: Yes, yes.

Mrs. Bellamy: Um hum...that was the office.

Bellamy: When...when Dr. Wagoner came as superintendent we...the attendance at Hemenway was way down, so we found we could transfer those students and make that a headquarters. Before that, the superintendent operated out of the court house which was pretty...pretty inconvenient with the small staff that we did have scattered...most of them at Tileston. So it was the school board headquarters.

And...saved a gay nineties safe that had some county checks in it, saved some student records, they thought they had saved thirty-five new typewriters, but by the time we got them out of the basement, they were rusty, so that was it, the rest of it was gone. And so the next morning I had a staff and no building, and not even a telephone to open schools. So I let the schools open. I went to Lake Forest and told them I had to...to requisition their auditorium for the time being and just set up business. Telephone Company put me a telephone on the stage and we set up business in the auditorium.

I later expanded into the annex there at Lake Forest and took over the shop area for the audiovisual collection, some of which had been out in the schools and could be saved, but most of it was lost because of the...the...collection. We found out later...I went with the chief of police to Hemingway and he said, "Let me show you where they got in." And so we went around to the side and the hardware cloth over a window had been cut and pulled away, the window knocked out, and we had lots of flammable stuff...we still used to old hectograph in lots of rooms where you had to have wood alcohol to pour on the gel to make the copies.

Mims: Oh...the ditto, yea...the mimeograph.

Bellamy: So...uh huh, the ditto. So there was a lot of that in there and it was very easy for somebody to start a fire. But Chief Williamson...Horace Elmer Williamson, nickname "Fats" (laughing). He loved the nickname...big fellow. He said, "What are we gonna do about this?" I said, "As far as I'm concerned, we aren't gonna do anything because somebody is waiting out there for us to give him a lot of publicity about burning Hemenway Hall, there'll be some wannabes and let's not give 'em the satisfaction and besides the...the folks have had enough trouble thrust upon them already. As far as I'm concerned, we had a fire start in a building that was a fire trap."

He said, "Thank you very much, that's what I was going to suggest." And that's what we did. And I...I've begun to talk about it now, this is the first time I've reported that, but that's...that's what we did and I...

Mims: Well you...you sound like you maintained...like...uh...like you didn't get emotionally caught up in all of this emotion that's going around you...that surely...you probably came home and just was like... "I can't believe they're trying to stop me..." I mean...

Bellamy: I'd have my migraines on the weekend.

Mims: Okay.

Bellamy: Mary said I had 'em paced seven days apart! But I learned a few things about dealing with things. Number one, I found out never to let people make me mad in a public meeting because if you get mad you can't think. And I saw a lot of people getting mad in the meetings where I was practicing that. And they couldn't think and so not letting myself get mad, I could outthink and bring the facts to bear that...that we should be talking about.

So I've talked to a lot of people going into any kind of administration about that. So that's a number one rule, don't get mad in a public meeting. We had along the way a number of other fires that...later out at Trask...almost lost Chestnut Street School...caught the one at Tileston before it got spread. We had one at the field house at New Hanover High there at Thirteenth and Ann. Somebody tried to burn Williston but the Molotov cocktail was in the lobby and didn't catch, so we were lucky on that one.

Mims: There were also a number of bomb threats to disrupt the school activity...

Bellamy: We had thirty-five in one month. There's a...I put a list of them in the materials at the university. And this...this was a difficult thing to deal with. You know, somebody says there's a bomb in a school building, I was not about to leave the children in there even though I...I felt certain it was a hoax. But thirty-five of 'em in a month got to be a little much. And I called this same fellow, Chief Williamson...and I said, "What...what can we do about this?"

He said, "There's a new gadgetry available from the telephone company...if you will take responsibility for it, they can hook it up and find out who called...they can record the number that's calling." I said, "Well, where do I sign, folks!" (laughing) So I signed the affidavit and we caught the...the main bomber. That's one day I...I gave myself the time out to go to court, because I wanted to see who would sit down and do that to schools.

And the fellow was put away. I don't remember the sentence, but...it's just very strange. And the police caught him red handed. They walked in while he was talking to one of the schools, I think Hoggard. And so it was pretty cut and dried. We...with all the...once it was put in play...the plan...in the fall, I still had outside interference with the schools. I had a report one day that the Klan, or ROWP, or somebody had a group headed to the Williston faculty...or campus with axe handles.

And this kept up; I had people reported on campus at Hoggard. So I kept...sat down and called Judge Algernon Butler and I said, "Judge, I am doing my very best to carry out this court order. I believe in the desegregation of schools. I think people ought to...that schools ought to be for everybody. That is not the problem, my problem is there are folks trying to hinder me and keep this from happening, and they're causing a lot of difficulty and I need some help."

I said, "If I were not doing this, you'd send the Federal Marshall for me, wouldn't you?" He said, "Yep." I said, "Well, don't I get some help too?" He said, "Yes you do. Tell your lawyer, he'll know how to write up the form for a restraining order. And you make me a list of everybody you think might possibly be giving you a problem on those school grounds, and tell him to rush it up here and I'll sign it." And he did.

And Bill Hill brought it back. The Sheriff's Department delivered those restraining orders, the last one about two o'clock in the morning, and I went to work the next morning, the sun was shining, the birds singing, everything was quiet, and I went outside and listened, then I called three or four schools... "Everything okay?" "Just wonderful."

I said, "I'll, never under estimate the power of a federal court order"...because of course the federal court order carries the weight of the country behind it including the use of the U.S. Army if it takes that to carry it out. And I think that suddenly dawned on people, that you didn't tamper with a restraining order from a federal judge.

Parnell: How many restraining orders did you send out?

Bellamy: Just the one, but everybody listened.

Parnell: How...how many people...

Bellamy: Oh...

Mrs. Bellamy: I think we've got a copy here somewhere.

Bellamy: Ah...it's...it's in the...

Mims: It may be in Bill Hill's papers that we have.

Bellamy: I think...I think about forty. I stand to be corrected, but about that, yea. But they got 'em all out, and it really helped.

Mims: What was the year on that restraining order...was that still '71? Busy...busy year!

Bellamy: Um hum. Some of these other groups that were working, I might not have mentioned, there was one called Save Our Country, one called Save Our Schools and I mentioned the ROWP.

Mims: Um hum.

Bellamy: And there were groups of black concerned people. I heard people say that some of 'em were the Black Panthers but I...I didn't...didn't detect that. We had some folks come in from outside, including Ben Chavis and a number of folks who came with him. And...

Mrs. Bellamy: The Wilmington Ten.

Bellamy: ...he showed up in town...never...never talked to Ben Chavis, except to speak to him at the trial. Somebody introduced me to him when they were having the trial in Burgaw. But he came to town and the chief warned me that he was coming and said some pretty worrisome folks might come with him...or come where he shows up.

But I came home and looked at the six o'clock news and I saw Ben Chavis for the first time saying "Bellamy is a lie." They've still got that tape...I expect they might have. So I listened... "I wonder what he's talking about?" And it dawned on me, I had said the day before...there was a threatened boycott of the schools. And I got on television and I said, "Don't boycott the schools...number one; I don't have to close the schools because of the boycott. We're gonna have a peaceful campus and don't miss school, because it'll go on...and you'll...you'll miss a day unnecessarily."

And that's...I found out that...that's what he was talking about. So boycott will...will work. So he lead a group of young people down to Hemenway one day, and filled the front yard out on the Fifth Street side, and...chanting...and I sent my associate Dale Spencer out to see what they wanted. And said, "He wants to talk to you."

I said, "Well I'll be glad to talk to him. Tell him to pick any (I've forgotten how many I told him) that he wants to come with him, and come in and sit down where I can hear him, and I'll be glad to talk to him." But he didn't choose to do that, he went instead with the group at the church, and they...they brought out a list of grievances. I sent Bertha Todd over to the church. I said, "Bertha, I hear those folks are over there, would you go over there and see what's the matter...what do they want?" So she brought me a list of, I think ten, grievances. They are also in the materials at the university.

And they were such things as "We want more Black coaches." Well, so did I! But you have to find people and talk 'em into coming to work. And "We don't want police on campus"...I didn't either! But when somebody's disturbing the peace, school teachers are not policemen, and when the peace was being disturbed, I wanted somebody to be there to see that the peace was maintained. The...and things of that sort.

They wanted a...a...I think on that list there was...wanted a Black History course...which wasn't an unreasonable request. Matter of fact, we had that in the next year, my son took it...had a wonderful teacher, man who had been a...or was still a...a minister...taught school for me and was minister of Shiloh Baptist Church...great teacher!...Barnes. And Cliff [son] enjoyed the course very much. The only...only white, I remember, in...

Mrs. Bellamy: He was the only white in the class.

Bellamy: ...in the class...good, good class. But things of that sort. And we tried to talk about that...had a board meeting one afternoon...I could get that board to meet with me on very, very short notice. They were really dedicated folks, and a number of those folks came along. I can remember some of the faces that came to the meeting, dressed in black, one of 'em had chain wrapped around his hand...and they...we didn't do a lot of talking...there was some loud talking on the part of the folks who came and they...they said, "If we don't get what we want, we're gonna burn this place down." And they left eventually and I had a number of things...needed to work with the board on...so I moved their meeting out to the Carolinian. Ms. Saffo gave me a place to meet in the...in the motel and...cause we had a couple of hearings we needed to finish, but the...it was a tough time. And...

Mims: Do you...do you remember who were your School Board people...can you remember...can you state their names?

Bellamy: Emsley Laney, John Coddington, George Clark, Victor Taylor...some of the board membership changed, of course, every two years. Alice Strickland, who was a pillar of strength. She was a real delight...great big lady...and I remember she came to one of the meetings one night at Hemenway...we had a little board room with two little air conditioners struggling and crowds of people...and she hobbled up the stairs with her cane and pointed in the door and she said, "I want to tell all you people those first two seats at that table are mine!" (laughing)

Mrs. Bellamy: She was fat.

Bellamy: Just a real delight to work with! Never lost her sense of humor. Let's see, who else...Levar McIver was on the board then. The board was expanded later to seven but very...very fine board. It began to change some after and we had some folks who...who really didn't want me to be there after the desegregation was completed. And we'd have some...some pretty vocal campaigning when the board elections would come along.

I remember one fellow had loud speakers mounted on a truck and he'd come up and down the streets playing some kind of music that I hadn't heard before or since and he'd stop and make all these remarks and then go on to another location...it was pretty...pretty interesting time. We had people killed. The fellow who lived about two blocks from here in what is now a Bed and Breakfast, the former Confederate Hospital, decided he would go up to, I guess to Gregory Church, or in that...

Mrs. Bellamy: Yea, it was in that neighborhood.

Bellamy: ...vicinity. And somebody shot him. And I...I remember again, coming home to see the six o'clock news and here was the...the lady taking her husband in, I think a pick up, out to the county prison so the son could see his father. Then there was a black student in that area with a shot gun who was killed by a policemen. And there was a parade following that that came past Hemenway over on Fifth Street. The ROWP tried to blow up the synagogue at 26th and Chestnut.

They did blow up for all practical purposes the Wilmington Journal, with people living upstairs, including Florence Warren, one of my teachers. And they tried to blow up Tileston, which again, told me how well some of these old buildings were built. The blasted the screen door off the basement door and blackened some brick, but otherwise didn't bother Tileston. But they tell me it moved one of the columns of the synagogue over about that far...real...real blast.

And I saw the Journal in a couple of days. It was...it looked like...you've seen in the...the cartoons, the drawings where a house is just ready to fall down and then it falls down...it was like that. There were broken boards all the way around. You felt as if you could kick the corner and it would topple down. So they lost it completely. And they caught him and his accessories. And so far as I know, they're still in Central Prison. I've...I've tried to follow it...I haven't seen recently a request for parole, but the last I heard, they were still in jail. Just really vicious action.

Mims: Well, again, were these outside agitators or people that came in... because I'm wondering...I know that Charlotte had national media when they were going through desegregation. Did Wilmington, of course, follow suit. Did you look at Charlotte, or the Raleigh system to model anything, to know what was coming down the way after certain things were in place...that these outside agitators were gonna follow them?

Bellamy: Um, my police chief was a...he would have made a good intelligence officer for the Army...

Mims: And this is Williamson?

Bellamy: Um hum.

Mims: Okay.

Bellamy: He...he had more information on what was going on with people who were trying to disrupt schools and I spent lots of nights just sitting at the police station with him and learning from the police angle what...what was going on and what we could expect. And some of 'em, he'd call right on button as far as fires and things of that sort.

And he...he talked me into something while all this was going on...we had a ballgame in Brogden Hall and a little group tried to disrupt it...and I said, "Well now listen, I don't have to let you folks watch ballgames, I can play all the rest of the ballgames this year and not let anybody see 'em but me if I have to." And he said, "Don't let 'em do that to you. You keep those ballgames going and I will keep order." I said, "Alright, you've got a bargain."

So he parked that old prison bus down there about 12th and Market, and he'd bring everybody he had...I don't know how those poor policemen every slept. He would bring every policeman he could, put all the plainclothesmen he could in that audience...and if somebody started something, then the next thing he knew, he was being dragged out that side door and put in that prison bus. And that...we kept the school games open. That's...that's cooperation.

Mims: It is.

Bellamy: It really, really helped. I can't say enough about what the man meant to this community during that time. And he was just such a soft spoken gentle person. I've taken militant students down...black students down to talk to him. And I think they had to have been impressed with...with his attitude and his understanding, and his trying to...to help with the situation.

Mims: Well within the schools themselves, suspension is the common way of getting agitators out of there. Did you have a number of suspensions during this period of time?

Bellamy: Yes, we had...we had some. Not an inordinate number but we had...we had some suspensions. But in those days the next step was a board hearing. And I worked the board overtime with hearings that the parents and students could bring to the board of education. One ended in a, I guess...I guess it's amusing...the youngster had been suspended for cutting school...skipping...and the parent's were really upset about it, so they wanted a hearing, because...said, "He has not been skipping school.

We get him ready every morning and he comes to school..." and so on. But the principal dumped out a whole pile of excuses on the table and gave them to the mother and said, "Well, here are your excuses for his being out sick or whatever." And the parents looked at those things, and I thought they were gonna boil that boy in oil before we could get out of the meeting. So we had a number of hearings of that sort. We later tried to streamline it. I think they might use still some version of this, but George Clark was very helpful in helping draw up a plan...a hearing board...so that if a longer term suspension than ten days was to take place.

There would be a board headed by a convener...we'd appoint three or four conveners each year...some parents, some teachers, and a student on that board, to hear the case and to make a ruling of whether or not the principal had been justified in what he had done. And of course they could still appeal to the board, but most of the time that...that took care of it. And in the meantime, as soon as the traffic would allow, I began to establish some alternatives for disruption.

One developed that I was sorry to see them discontinue when I retired. We called it the Ocean Science Institute. I had it at William Hooper School. I had a program that I patterned a little bit out of the Outward Bound program. Nobody could assign anybody to that program other than me or Judge Gilbert Burnett, because he had helped design it. He had found such a program in Florida and went down and studied it and helped to design it.

Mims: Very interesting but unfortunately, we're running out of time...

Bellamy: Oh.

Mims: ...so...um, well, I think that...

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