BROWSE BY:     Title Number Subject Creator Digital Content

Interview with James Medlin, June 22, 2005 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

pdf icon Get PDF Version
Interview with James Medlin, June 22, 2005
June 22, 2005
Jim Medlin graduated from New Hanover High School in 1950 and then attended the two-year institution Wilmington College. He studied pre-engineering. In this interview, he discusses the professors, extracurricular activities, and traditions in place at that time. Medlin is currently active in the alumni association, which has raised money for a Wilmington College commemmorative scholarship and a historical marker.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Medlin, Jim Interviewer: Mims, LuAnn / Riggins, Adina Date of Interview: 6/22/2005 Series: Voices of UNCW Length: 62 minutes

Mims: Today is June the 22nd, 2005. I'm LuAnn Mims with Adina Riggins with the Randall Library Special Collections and Archives. We are continuing the series on alumni of Wilmington College and the University. And today we have with us Mr. Jim Medlin, who is an alumni of Wilmington College, and was in the class of 1952. Good morning to you, sir.

Medlin: Good morning, ladies.

Mims: I certainly appreciate you walking over here and sharing your stories with us.

Medlin: Yes, mam.

Mims: And we'd like to know a little bit about your personal background. You know, what was your family doing? Your father's occupation? How many brothers and sisters you had, etcetera.

Medlin: Well uh.. I'm a strange creature. Now, I'm a native of Wilmington, and there's not many of us left. I went to New Hanover High School and graduated. I wanted to go off to college, but had no money, so that became an impossible task. So I jumped right across the street to Wilmington College and thought, you know, that at least I could get two years relatively cheap. My father was… worked at the Wilmington Hotel. He was a hotel clerk for many, many years. And my mother died when I was...just started my senior year in high school.

Mims: Did you have any brothers or sisters?

Medlin: No brothers or sisters, no. And for whatever it may be worth, I was the first one on either side of our families to graduate from high school and when I graduated and, of course, the only one to go to college, and when I graduated from college, I was the first one on either side of the family that graduated from college.

Mims: What year did you graduate from New Hanover?

Medlin: 1950.

Mims: 1950. So as a student at New Hanover, you saw people going over to participate in Wilmington College at this time.

Medlin: Yeah.

Mims: Were you aware of it?

Medlin: Yeah. It was just across the street.

Mims: Right.

Medlin: And.

Mims: Well, as a high school student, what did you think about having that over there? Do you remember?

Medlin: Great, in that it was probably the only way that a lot of us would have ever have gone to college, was to go to a local hometown college, where you could live at home. Tuition, as good as Dr. Crews and myself can remember, after 50 years, was $75 a semester. You know, that won't buy one textbook, I don't guess, now. It was like an extension of the high school. Back in uh.. right after the Second World War, 1946, Wilmington, it wasn't Wilmington College, it's, of course, then. It was an extension of UNC out of Chapel Hill and at 4:00 to, I don't remember, maybe 8:00 at night, they taught classes in New Hanover High School for veterans. So there was a little bit of intermingling, you know, with older brothers and older neighbors that you'd see when school had let out and you heard that they were going to college. And one of the things that I remember about it being sort of unique that uh.. at that time, and as well as after it became Wilmington College, there were a lot of trade courses taught. They had uh.. heating and air conditioning, airplane mechanics, merchandising, uh.. had our Nightingales, the student nurses. But it was more, I guess, trade oriented in some respects than it was to be in an academic school, if you will.

And uh.. when we graduated we just came across the street, you know. It was like an extension of high school. I- I couldn't equate the college experience 'til after I went to State when you lived. Of course, I'd been in service and away from home so, you know, not like some of these kids. They're uh.. you know, first experience away from home generally is college. And so that was different. The teachers were the same. We had the same teachers at Wilmington College that we.

Mims: Who were some of these teachers?

Medlin: Uh.. uh.. Dr. Crews, Marshall Crews. 'scuse me. Marshall Crews was not here. You said some of the teachers.

Mims: Right. That taught.

Medlin: O.k. Mildred Johnson was one.

Mims: You can remember?

Medlin: Yes, uh huh. She taught history and civics, and here she was a history professor. Uh..

Mims: Was Mary Bellamy there yet?

Medlin: Yeah. Mary Cameron Dixon Bellamy. She taught Spanish at New Hanover High School, and taught Spanish over at Wilmington College. There were several of the teachers that taught uh.. for the lack of a better word, shop.

Mims: Sure.

Medlin: At New Hanover High School that taught some of these trade courses.

Mims: Right.

Medlin: Uh..

Mims: I know it was overseen by George West.

Medlin: George West.

Mims: Was he also a teacher? Is that?

Medlin: Yes, mam. Seems like it was called.

Mims: 'Cause I see his name in all of these trade courses.

Medlin: And he- yes. And it was right across the street from the high school, not in the same.

Mims: But the George West..

Medlin: Building with Isaac Bear, but the shop building.

Mims: Sure.

Medlin: If you will and ROTC was in that building, Junior ROTC from the high school.

Mims: Really. So that became- that was established that early on, the ROTC program?

Medlin: The Junior ROTC program, I think, was established back in the '30s, if I'm not mistaken. I'm- I couldn't tell you.

Mims: Right.

Medlin: Exactly.

Mims: O.k. Did you recall Mr. West at all? Did you ever have him as a teacher?

Medlin: No. I didn't take any of the trades courses. I uh.. you know, would see him. Uh.. Some of the ladies, and I can't remember names, that taught like shorthand and typing and..

Mims: Clerical.

Medlin: Yeah. This type of stuff, taught the business courses over at Wilmington College. I think one of the ladies' name may have been Barkley, but I'm not- I'm not sure.

Mims: We also know they pulled in local businesspeople to teach some of these like merchandising courses.

Medlin: Sure.

Mims: The man who owned Effird's, I think.

Medlin: Mr. Claude Effird was his name.

Mims: Claude Effird, exactly.

Medlin: Yes.

Mims: Do you recall him at all?

Medlin: No. I knew the family, but I don't recall. See, I didn't take any of the...

Mims: You were in the college prep courses.

Medlin: Yeah. I was more or less in the academic portion of Wilmington College than the other. They called it Diversified Education, I think, was the name. Some of the kids in high school went to high school a half a day, and then they worked a half a day.

Mims: Oh.

Medlin: And I think Effird's had a right many of them that worked on the weekends.

Mims: Kind of an apprenticeship.

Medlin: Yeah, sort of. Um hm.

Mims: That his store was kind of a lab experience. It was very interesting, the shoe merchandising, and the show cards, and so he used his store as kind of a hands-on experience.

Medlin: Right.

Mims: So the whole time you're thinking about going to Wilmington College, you have in mind that you're going to further your education after Wilmington College? I mean, you didn't go into any of these trades, right?

Medlin: No.

Mims: Okay.

Medlin: I hoped to, but to me it was a lost cause because I never could have come up with the money, but the Korean War came on in the June of 1950, and they reinstated the GI Bill. So those of us that went into service, after that we got the GI Bill, which has allowed me to go on and finish school.

Mims: Now, you entered Wilmington College right after you graduated from high school, right?

Medlin: Yeah. That fall, I think, September, whatever the date may have been, but that fall, yes.

Mims: Do you remember the registration process at all?

Medlin: Don't have the slightest idea. Uh.. I imagine it had to be very, very simple. You just went up and signed in, you know. The school was only two or three years old, and they were looking for students. Uh.. I know one of the things that really surprised me, that the school drew from the surrounding counties. We had kids that came from Holly Ridge and Swansboro, and so forth, up in Onslow County, and from down at Shallotte, and Brunswick County, and Whiteville and Chadburn in Columbus County. And I think we had one or two that came from uh.. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Drove up on the- and I can't remember whether they drove or not, but they attended because it was close by. It was cheap. That's the reason why we came here. You could not afford to go to ECTC, East Carolina Teachers College, or Carolina uh.. unless you had money and our family didn't have money.

Mims: Also geographically, there really wasn't any elevated facility in this southeastern North Carolina.

Medlin: None whatsoever, except I guess probably the closest college was ECTC, East Carolina, except for black students there was Federal State. But everything was uh.. segregated at that time.

Mims: Right.

Medlin: And uh.. there may have been uh.. Presbyterian.

Mims: Right.

Medlin: PJC, Presbyterian Junior College, at Laurinburg. And I guess those were the closest that I can.

Mims: Still, when you can't afford to live in a town and attend school, the expenses would have to go up because you'd have to find some residence.

Medlin: Yes, and room and board.

Mims: Well, let's talk a minute about the segregation issue. Were you aware that there was a similar facility connected with Williston High School?

Medlin: Yes, mam.

Mims: Do you remember anything about that?

Medlin: No, other than it was, that uh.. Williston was the negro high school.

Mims: Uh huh.

Medlin: And they had classes over there just like we did at Wilmington College, but sort of east was east and west was west.

Mims: And no mixing whatsoever.

Medlin: None that I recall. And I don't even know if the same professors went to Williston that taught at Wilmington College, or they had their own curriculum and their own teachers. I know it still came under the Board of Education, but that's all.

Mims: I think the only common ground was the administration.

Medlin: Probably.

Mims: And the teachers were culled from Williston just like they did from New Hanover. But it's interesting that you knew about that. A lot of people in Wilmington, for some reason, can't even recall that there was anything over there.

Medlin: Yeah. I don't know if they had negro nurses at Williston like that have came from Lincoln Hospital, like our..

Mims: Community hospital.

Medlin: Was it Community?

Mims: Yeah.

Medlin: Okay.

Mims: Over there by..

Medlin: Yes, by Williston, almost.

Mims: Yeah. It was the same. Separate but equal.

Medlin: Yeah.

Mims: So.

Medlin: And our nurses, of course, came from James Walker Memorial Hospital.

Mims: Extracurricular. At the beginning of the Wilmington College, they started some of the athletic programs right away. Do you remember any of these?

Medlin: We had a basketball team.

Mims: Okay.

Medlin: Uh.. Not very good, but at least they represented the school. They got to play in the tournaments. And that was it. We did have a game room where you could play ping pong. We had a chess set. Uh.. One of the rooms upstairs on the first floor was not being used so somebody brought a 45 record player, and so it became the student lounge with dancing and sleeping or whatever, you know, in between classes.

Mims: Kind of like the activity center.

Medlin: Had a few dances uh.. you know, school.

Mims: Would they be on the school property, or would they be elsewhere in the community?

Medlin: The best I can recall, there was a lot of them in what was then the New Hanover High School girls' gym. It's the only building standing on that block, and that was- and that's since Wilmington College practice gym.

Mims: Yeah. Now bring it up to current speed. Is this the one that they call the Princess Street Gym now? That they also call it the Girl's Gym?

Medlin: No, this is the one off Thirteenth Street. The Princess Street one is different.

Mims: The one that's got the, right now has got gym equipment in it, like weights and all that. They call it the weight room. But it's the physical structure.

Medlin: Brick building standing by itself right there on Thirteenth Street.

Mims: Okay.

Medlin: The Princess Street Gym you're talking about was the boys' gym at the high school. And the uh.. Wilmington College played some games in that. The gym over on Thirteenth Street, the girls' gym, if you will..

Mims: Okay.

Medlin: ..was the practice gym. And we had several dances there and I'd like to tell you about one because I feel it's real interesting. You all are a lot younger than I am, but back in the '50s, one of the most popular comic strips was Lil' Abner. Uh.. Al Capp was the creator and it dealt with uh.. the Yocum family in Dog Patch, Mammy and Pappy Yocum, and little Abner, and Daisy Mae. And one of the women in that was Sadie Hawkins. And so Sadie Hawkins would invite the men to various shindigs, you know, which was contrary to everything we'd been taught. And so we had a Sadie Day Hawkins dance. And Mildred Johnson, who was the professor of history, she came dressed as Mammy Yocum with her brogans on and her long dress down, you know, about her ankles and all. And Dean Randall came as Pappy Yocum, and he had on his overalls, and his brogans, and white hair and all. And there's a picture of them in one of the annuals, I think, or one of the- what did you call the brochure, catalogs. I can't recall whether it's in the annual or in the catalog, but they look like they'd stepped right out of the pages of Lil' Abner. Everybody got a big kick out of that.

Mims: Ha. Thank you for sharing that, 'cause that's really kind of funny, especially knowing, you know, that Dean Randall went on to become the president of Wilmington College.

Medlin: Yes.

Mims: So.

Medlin: Yes.

Mims: That he was that involved with the students gives him a little personal aspect of it.

Medlin: I'll tell you something else. I think it was Dean Randall, I'm not sure. We had a chess set down in the game room, I call it, with our ping pong table. You know, those were our two- only two things. And I think it was Dean Randall told everybody to bring a chess set. And I think it happened down at what is now the Community Arts Building, the old U.S.O. at Second and Orange Street. Seems like he played 25 games as fast as he could go from table to table to table to table. And I think it was him. And the best of my recollection he didn't lose a game. So he.

Mims: Yeah. Off camera you were telling us a little bit about your experience working at the school store?

Medlin: Yeah.

Mims: Where was the school store?

Medlin: It was in the game room. We had uh.. oh, a space maybe twice as big as that table.

Mims: Uh huh.

Medlin: Very small space, had some shelves. We had Nabs, if you know what Nabs are, cheese crackers, uh.. peanuts, candy bars, uh.. drinks, you know, you sold 'em out of the drink box. It wasn't all electronic and mechanical like it is now. Maybe sold pencils and notebook paper. I don't recall. I remember I got a minimal uh.. salary. I don't remember what it was. Most of the salaries for people that worked at the school and there was several of the girls that worked in the registrar's office and the administration office, I think they probably got maybe 50 cent an hour.

Mims: Hm. How many hours did you work, do you recall?

Medlin: I guess maybe four or five hours a day in between classes, and then we'd rotate it. There'd be some other people that would take over and all, and after class I went to work. I had a full-time job, if you will.

Mims: Where did you work?

Medlin: At the old Dairy Queen at Seventeenth and Dawson, the one that they tore down just a..

Mims: Few years ago.

Medlin: Yeah.

Mims: Wow. Yeah, I understand that was really a good meeting place for young people at that Dairy Queen. The sign is still down at the Cape Fear Museum.

Medlin: Kept it. I was going to tell- I was going to mention, tell you the Eskimo is still down there. And I worked for a fellow named Harris. He owned it. And he was real nice. He told 'em whatever time it took me at night to do my homework was my dinner hour. So I worked there everyday after school and worked all day Saturday and all day Sunday 'til now- uh.. 'til 11:00 at night, you know, basically seven days a week.

Mims: And you were taking a full course load?

Medlin: Yes, mam.

Mims: You're a busy little guy, but you still probably found time to do other stuff.

Medlin: Very little, you know, going to school and doing homework and working 'til 11:00 at night, there wasn't too many hours left over that uh..

Mims: 'Cause my next question was going to be, other than campus activities, do you recall what other Wilmington College students did for social occasions?

Medlin: Well, you know, we had our own campus activities, and we had a homecoming queen.

Mims: Okay.

Medlin: You know, which was a big event, and a dance. We had one of the young ladies was the uh.. Azalea Princess. She became uh.. an attendant, is that a good word, to the Azalea Queen. Uh..

Mims: Did they have the bonfires as early as that? The bonfires for the homecoming? Did you have that?

Medlin: Not- not that I'm aware of.

Mims: How about the Seahawk mascot? Do you recall that coming onboard?

Medlin: No. I know that the story at that time, and I don't- that how the mascot got its name Seahawk, was that there was an Errol Flynn movie playing uptown called The Seahawk and they were looking for a name, and that's how they came up with the name. The original colors were green and gold. And now they are teal and white and purple, or whatever, you know. They've gotten away from what they originally were.

Mims: Yes. I've read that story, but I didn't know when- it seems like it reads that that first group of student government people voted on that. Was that in place already when you got here?

Medlin: Yeah. We had them.

Mims: The colors and the mascot?

Medlin: The best I can remember, yeah. Yeah, I'm sure it was because the annual was called The Fledgling, which we wouldn't have had, I guess, had we not have had the hawk connection.

Mims: Um hm.

Medlin: Uh.. There was a student government association, and one of the first presidents of our student government association was Walter Biggs, who later came back here and was professor of biology I- so, you know, he- he didn't move too far in his life. Just, you know, down the street. No, Walter did real well, you know. I thought it was great that we had an alumnus to come back and be a professor.

Mims: Your course of study was, it was a two-year program here at this time.

Medlin: Yes, mam.

Mims: So what type of classes do you recall taking?

Medlin: Well, I was in pre-engineering, so there was uh.. math courses, trigonometry, calculus, geometry, uh.. mechanical drawing, physics, chemistry. Uh.. Back then it was mandated best I remember, that everybody had to have a history and English and civics, if you will, government, just like at high school, you know. You had to have those to graduate from high school, and I don't know if they were mandatory at Wilmington College to get an AA degree or not, but you had to take the courses or..

Mims: But that was the goal, to achieve the AA degree?

Medlin: Yes, mam, Associate in Arts, and uh.. Yeah.

Mims: Some of these courses that you just mentioned, are there any instructors that stand out in your mind, that you have memories of?

Medlin: Oh, yeah. Uh.. Two of them have streets named for 'em out here, Dr. Crews, and uh.. Adrian Hurst. And Adrian Hurst taught math, and Dr. Crews taught us physics and mechanical drawing, and some of the math courses. And uh.. there happened to be only three students in class, you know, a very, very small class. So after class, we would go out to the game room, which was right next door and play ping pong. And, of course, Marshall made up the fourth. And you know who always won. Yeah. He- you know, you're not- going to beat him. And I kid him today, I tell him he was the unofficial coach of the ping pong team. And we did have good ping pong players. In fact, two of the girls, best I remember, won the State title in uh.. doubles. We had a couple that won the city championship.

Mims: Where would they- would they play there on campus? Or you said you..

Medlin: In this game room. That was it. It had a ping pong table, a chess set, and the little student store. That was it.

Mims: But you said something about, you know, city tournaments.

Medlin: Oh. They had the city tournament uh.. downtown at uh.. Second and Orange, in the old U.S.O. Community Arts Building. And the State tournament, I think it was in Raleigh. I'm not sure. I remember we had to travel to- to participate in that. They also participated in the student state government. I don't know if they still have that program now, but each student, each school, sent students to Raleigh, and they convened a student general assembly with a president and speaker and, you know, and all like this. And each school got to introduce bills.

Mims: Oh, like a mock legislation?

Medlin: Yeah, uh huh. And it was uh.. all the schools in North Carolina that wanted to participate, white schools. I don't recall there being any blacks there. There may have been. I just don't remember.

Mims: Where would you get your textbooks from?

Medlin: You bought 'em at the- from the school, I think, the registrar's office, I think. That's the one that sold 'em or maybe from the library.

Mims: Oh.

Medlin: Uh.. You know, I just don't.

Mims: I'm not sure, either.

Medlin: I don't- I don't remember. You got to remember, Wilmington College was just getting started then, and you know, it was they didn't have the facilities. They had an old uh.. grammar school building. And they shared that with ROTC from the high school, whose rifle range was downstairs. And the girls' gym from the high school was where the basketball team practiced so, you know, it was like.

Mims: Multiple function.

Medlin: Yeah. That was.

Mims: That's what I was trying to figure out. It would have been, you know, there wasn't a bookstore per se.

Medlin: Not that I recall. Uh.. And you bought a lot of the books, too, from uh.. previous..

Mims: Students?

Medlin: Students. Uh huh.

Mims: I didn't know.

Medlin: Especially those that were veterans. See, the GI Bill at that time, it paid for their tuition, and bought their books. So they got the books for free, if you will, and they'd sell them to us at a discount, you know, and put the cash in their pockets, the American way of doing business.

Mims: Um hm. I didn't know whether some of the professors personally sold books, 'cause I've heard at other schools that you bought your books from your teacher. No?

Medlin: It's not like at State. I know at State some of the professors publish their own textbooks, and so you had to buy, you know, their- Dr. Smith's handy little reference book, you know. You had to buy his book. But here, I don't recall. I know uh.. Mr. Hurst suggested that we buy a book of mathematical tables published by the Navy during the Second World War, you know, for reference, logarithms, trigonometric functions, integrals and all that good stuff. And he had, I think, that possibly he had used it or maybe helped compile it. I'm- I'm not- not really sure, but.

Mims: We also have interest in beginning organizations. I know that they had something called the Out of Towners Club. I'm trying to think of some of the other ones that I've seen. You know, groups, you know, within campus that serve as a functioning for social activities.

Medlin: Yeah. I know we..

Mims: Do you recall any of them? I know you were busy, so you may not..

Medlin: Yeah.

Mims: ..probably didn't have the time.

Medlin: We had a Student Government Association, you know, with each class had two representatives, and we had a student body president and, you know, vice president. Out of Towners Club.

Mims: Right. The Out of Towners Club.

Medlin: And I imagine, and I can't remember, but I imagine the nurses had their own little..

Mims: Right.

Medlin:, I would think, that they did.

Mims: How about any honors type organizations. Were those in place yet?

Medlin: No. The only one that I can recall was the Hoggard Medal, which is still presented uh.. in honor of Dr. Hoggard. It was given for the first time in 1952 to a young lad named Christian White. He was married, had children, and was a lay preacher. And he was the first recipient of the Hoggard Medal. There was nothing like uh.. Phi Beta Kappa or, and there were none of the Greek social fraternities at that time. I have no earthly idea when they all became a part of the University.

Mims: So you completed your course of studies, and they had a graduation exercise?

Medlin: Yes. Oh, yes.

Mims: Where was that?

Medlin: Ha. That's- I remember the baccalaureate sermon was at the Methodist Church, right almost across the street from the college. I can't remember the name of it now. But where did we graduate? That's a good question. I don't recall.

Mims: Was it on campus?

Medlin: I do not- you can tell me something and I'd have to agree you 'cause I don't know. I remember we got our diploma and a little uh.. folder, was green and had gold on it, Wilmington College. I have that at home. I've never taken mine out. It's still in the- the little book. One of the weekend activities about every quarter for males, not for females, but for males, was taking the deferment exam so you would not be drafted.

Mims: Oh.

Medlin: You know, if you were- had the credit and you passed your deferment exam, you got a 2S classifications in the draft. And they went by 1, 2, 3, 4, so 2S was almost above 4F, you know. It was way down the list, but you had to do that I think maybe every semester, but seems like it was more often than that. And that took up a- a Saturday morning, you know.

Mims: Yeah. It's hard to imagine that with all this other stuff going on. So once you graduated, what was your plan at that time? I know you said the Korean War had started. Did you..

Medlin: Avoid the draft?

Mims: I was going to say, did you get drafted?

Medlin: Oh, yeah, in '53.

Mims: So that's because you had completed your school?

Medlin: Yeah. Yeah. I had, you know, I was.

Mims: You didn't take the deferment then.

Medlin: No. Uh huh. I was classified 1A as soon as I graduated. I worked for an engineering company here roughly a year.

Mims: Okay. What engineering company?

Medlin: Henry von Oesen.

Mims: V-O-N.

Medlin: O- E- S- E- N, with a little von, if you will, whatever.

Mims: Where was their office?

Medlin: It was at Seventeenth and uh.. Dawson Street, right above uh.. Redher Florist, the building is still there and the florist was downstairs, and the office was upstairs.

Mims: So you were able to get work right after you graduated from Wilmington College.

Medlin: Yes. Yes. I wanted- I quit the Dairy Queen because I wanted to try to do something in line with what I'd been studying for two years. And then, you know, uh.. it was a permanent job. I- I- I had no in- well, I had intentions of going to school, but no money, you know. So that was just a pipe dream 'til I got drafted and then I got the GI Bill, you know. We got all of $110 a month to go to school on. And State was real lenient. They let you pay your tuition by the month, you know, if you were a veteran. So I went on and finished at State.

Mims: How long were you in.. you went into the Army?

Medlin: Um hm, for two years.

Mims: Two years. And so when you came out that's when you said you were going to complete your education?

Medlin: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I- I had been a little, just not even enough to mention. When I was in service, they have what they call USAFI, United States Armed Forces Institute. Is that it, USAFI? Yeah, United States..

Mims: Yeah, I've heard of that.

Medlin: ..Armed Forces Institute. It was like a correspondence school. I was trying to think of the- the correpont- the correspondence school that, you know, we all remember, and I can't. So I took a few courses, a couple of courses.

Mims: When you went into the service, did they recognize your Associate degree at all?

Medlin: If they did, they never pointed it out to me.

Mims: So you had to go in as enlisted.

Medlin: Yes, mam. And I didn't want to go to OCS, even though I qualified.

Mims: Right.

Medlin: Because that was 26 weeks. That was a half a year. And then you had to serve three years so, you know, by the time you got out of basic training and went to, through leadership school, and then to OCS, you would have had one year in, and had to serve three. That made four, you know, and I wanted out.

Mims: I hear you on that. How did you come by picking out State for your school?

Medlin: Well, the best engineering school in the country. I mean, that's a no-brainer.

Mims: Uh huh. So definitely that's all you wanted to pursue was engineering.

Medlin: Yes, mam, ever since I can remember.

Mims: O.k. What was State like during this period of time? You entered there in what, about '55, '56?

Medlin: Fifty-five, in the- in the fall. Uh.. Crowded.

Mims: Really?

Medlin: Oh, yeah. A lot of veterans from the Korean War, plus the normal bunch of high school graduates and kids, three or four girls, and that was it. And the curriculum for engineering has changed like then if you were going into civil engineering, which I did, you had to take a course in surveying, and a course in- and a- an advanced course in drafting, and now neither one of those are required, you know. So you don't- so times have changed.

Mims: What year did you finish with State?

Medlin: 1958.

Mims: And then what did you do?

Medlin: Went to work with the State, State Highway Commission and stayed there 'til I retired.

Mims: Really, were you up in the Raleigh area?

Medlin: Raleigh, Durham, Greenville, here, Asheville, Hendersonville.

Mims: You traveled for your work?

Medlin: Uh.. They moved me quite a bit. Yeah. Sometimes it was for promotion, you know, which you would accept a transfer. Sometimes it was for political reasons.

Mims: Yeah. So how did you come back to Wilmington?

Medlin: There just happened to be an opening here and I uh.. took a cut in pay to come back uh.. not because it was home. I just could not stand the- the atmosphere in Raleigh. I did not like the home office environment, if you would, and so I got a chance to come back here.

Mims: Well, coming back here put you closer to your roots with Wilmington College.

Medlin: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Mims: How did you get involved with the Alumni Association?

Medlin: Well, back in the early '70s, Dave Warner, I think, was the executive director of the alumni association. And if I'm not mistaken, he was also a professor and did the alumni stuff on the, sort of on the side. And I don't remember how, but we got involved and I don't remember the year, '72, we had the first alumni reunion, '71, '72, something like that. And Albert Corbett was the first president, 'scuse me, was the president at that time. Don Blake was the first president of the alumni association and I think he was elected in maybe '49. And Walter Biggs happened to be the secretary or treasurer, one of the officers anyway.

Mims: So this is an established group that you're coming into, but they had not held a reunion before?

Medlin: And uh.. I- I wouldn't say that it was an established group because I- the best I can recall that first reunion we got in- involved. I remember we had a cook out here on campus. I remember I made the sign and it took up three walls in my garage. I hand-painted the sign. Then..

Mims: So the University had moved here already by 1972, so.

Medlin: Yeah. It moved here in uh.. I think '61.

Mims: Sixty-one.

Medlin: And became a part of the University, the greater University, in '69.

Mims: Right. So where did you hold this function? You just pointed over here. Was it near Hanover Hall?

Medlin: I guess somewhere around Hoggard or Alderman. I don't. You know, that's been too long ago for us old folks to remember.

Riggins: I'm not sure. I'd have to look at some pictures of it.

Medlin: Yeah.

Mims: You've seen them?

Riggins: I don't know if I've seen pictures of that. That was an alumni reunion for Wilmington College?

Medlin: Well, that's for UNCW. I- I don't remember. I don't think it was called Wilmington College Alumni. I just think it- we just referred to it as alumni association. Because at that time, there hadn't been- well, yes, there had. That'd been what? Twelve years since- not 12 years at Wilmington College. It'd only been one or two years of UNCW. So it had been Wilmington College, I- I guess. And we got- I left and I don't know how active the alumni was. It came pretty active. I know when uh.. here maybe eight or nine years ago, how our group got started uh.. My neighbor, Alex Robbins, uh.. he suggested that we carry Marshall Crews out for lunch one day, which we did, and I think maybe twice. And Marshall said, why don't we get somebody- you know, and he named off one or two to join us. And that's how we started with people remembering other folks. And we've been meeting regularly the uh.. third Wednesday of every week at Jackson's Big Oak Barbecue. It's open to anyone that went to Wilmington College. Basically it's students from the '50s in there, you know, and we're- our ranks are getting thinner and thinner and thinner.

Riggins: You still meet to this day.

Medlin: Still meet to this day. I've got- me- yeah, and I- I'm going to say six years. Uh.. Yeah. We meet uh.. every month. And uh.. we've accomplished two things that I'm extremely proud of and like- would like to tell you about if you don't mind.

Mims: Would love to hear it.

Medlin: We have endowed a scholarship in the name of Wilmington College. And we did that in uhm.. less than 18 months we raised the $25,000. And, 'course, it's handled through the Alumni Association. And through the goodness of two of our alumni in our little group, they uh.. contributed a $1,000 each. And we have a historical marker across from the high school that commemorates Wilmington College. We tried to go through the State to have it erected and they turned us down because they said we were not uh.. a state-wide school and, you know, we tried to explain to 'em here where kids coming, you know, from three or four of the surrounding counties, and uh.. out of South Carolina, but that didn't phase 'em. They turned us down. Then like I say, uh.. two of the alumni each contributed a $1,000 apiece, and we had that sign erected because Wilmington College is gone. The building is physically gone. It was razed where it's just a parking lot there now. And we- don't know if you've seen the sign or not. It's..

Mims: Sure. I have a daughter at Hanover.

Medlin: Oh, okay.

Mims: So I'm over there.

Medlin: Yeah. Right across the..

Mims: Where the tennis courts are now, that they call the Pembroke Jones tennis courts, right there. Was Isaac Bear behind it?

Medlin: No. Isaac Bear was in front of uh.. Brogden Hall.

Mims: In front of Brogden Hall?

Medlin: Yes.

Mims: So it was on the same side as New Hanover.

Medlin: No. Across the street.

Mims: O.k.

Medlin: Across Market Street right in front of Brogden Hall, where the parking lot is now.

Mims: Parking lot is, okay. Okay.

Medlin: And the old girls' gym is the only building left in that block of Wilming- of..

Mims: Because the sign..

Medlin: Board of Education.

Mims: in front of the tennis courts.

Medlin: No, uh huh.

Mims: It's not?

Medlin: Uh huh.

Mims: Oh.

Medlin: The uh.. sign is right in front of where the steps were that went up to uh.. the Isaac Bear building. Yeah, within a hop, skip and a jump of Rose Ice Company.

Mims: Yes. Uh huh.

Medlin: You know, it's just.

Mims: Was that company still in business when? It's like a convenience store now, but it was a ice company.

Medlin: I don't recall. I know on the corner of Thirteenth Street was a filling station.

Mims: And that- that structure is still there, isn't it?

Medlin: No. It's gone.

Mims: What is- there's a building right on Market Street, down from New Hanover, that's just a shell of a building now.

Medlin: That was a service station and a tire place.

Mims: Okay.

Medlin: But I- and right next door to it was a mortuary.

Mims: Okay.

Medlin: Yopps Mortuary.

Mims: And now they have that for like various community..

Medlin: I think so. I'm- I'm not.

Mims: There's a chiropractic office there, or something. And you continue with the alumni association today.

Medlin: Yes.

Mims: You're saying that it's primarily people that graduated from Wilmington College, right? Is that what you're saying?

Medlin: Yes, uh huh.

Riggins: In his group.

Medlin: In our group.

Mims: Okay. So that's what I'm trying to find out, is the structural organization here.

Medlin: We're a grassroots non-profit chapter.

Riggins: A chapter.

Medlin: We have..

Mims: Chapter. Okay.

Medlin: Yeah.

Riggins: There's different chapters, like there's Young Alumni.

Medlin: Well, the Atlanta group, and..

Riggins: Charlotte group.

Medlin: ..West Virginia, and Charlotte, and all. But we're unique. We're- we're unique.

Riggins: The last group. Yeah.

Medlin: Well, not only that, but we have no officers. We have no dues. We have no program. We just meet and eat.

Mims: Ha ha ha. That's a program.

Medlin: Yes.

Mims: Meet and eat program.

Medlin: But, you know, for that type of uh.. structure, uh.. a non-structure, I think we did really good in raising the money for the endowment and- and I'm proud of the historical marker because a lot of folks don't know where Wilmington College was, and if the marker out front here doesn't say anything about it other than it started, I think, as Wilmington College, and gives no directions or anything, and so I- I was- And I'm glad that- that the University has honored some of the professors, you know, Randall Library, uh.. Wagoner. He was- came later, but- but Crews and Hurst have streets named after 'em. And Shannon Morton, the English Teacher, she has Morton Hall. That's- as far as I know, that's the only.

Mims: Do you recall Shannon Morton?

Medlin: Oh, yes. Uh huh.

Mims: What was she like? She looks stern in her pictures.

Medlin: She was. She was.

Mims: But yet, she had that Pen Pushers Club. She did like social stuff with the kids. I guess that came later on.

Medlin: Well, we had a newspaper called The Seahawk.

Mims: Right.

Medlin: And uh.. that published the annual, The Fledgling, so we were not, you know, completely out of it, but we certainly couldn't compete with Chapel Hill or State or ECTC, or some of the larger universities. Mrs. Morton just died here.

Mims: A year or so.

Medlin: Yeah. And uh.. she was over a hundred, I think.

Mims: She was incredible.

Medlin: Yeah.

Mims: And Sue Cody showed me the obituary, and I couldn't believe it when she did.

Medlin: I think she was a 104. Does that sound right?

Mims: Yes. That does sound about right.

Medlin: Sounds right.

Mims: Um hm.

Medlin: Yeah. And Mrs. Johnson, Mildred Johnson, you know, she had her cap set for Dean Randall, you know. She was an old maid and she really made a play for him, and he wound up marrying her sister, you know, which was a disappointment.

Mims: Uh huh.

Medlin: She and uh.. was in a nursing home up somewhere around Halifax several years ago. I'm going to say like, well, golly, it's been.

Mims: About 10 or 15, isn't it?

Medlin: Yeah. A friend of mine uh.. he lives in Greenville, so it's been longer than 10 years ago.

Mims: Did she die before Dr. Randall?

Medlin: I don't know.

Mims: Not sure..

Medlin: But I remember he came down to see us one weekend and he said uh.. "I ran into an old friend of yours the other day." And I said, "Who was that?" He said, "You'll never guess." He said, "She is uhm.. in the same room with my aunt in a nursing home." I think it was in Halifax. And I said, "I have no earthly idea." He said, "Mildred Johnson." I said, "Lord, I haven't seen that lady, you know, in uppty 'leven years." He said, "Well, she remembered you and spoke highly of you." And I told him, well, that was repentance on her death bed, you know.

Mims: [laughs]

Medlin: But she lived, you know, a pretty good while 'cause seems like when I was in school, you know, in high school, and then college, uh.. she said.. Oh, you know, when you're 17, everybody's old. But she seemed like she was an older lady at- at that time.

Mims: I think Dean Crews refers to them as the spinster teachers, and they were unmarried.

Medlin: Oh, yeah.

Mims: Mrs. Morton and Mr..

Medlin: Oh, yeah. They were both..

Mims: Yeah.

Medlin: That's a nice word. I called her old maid, I think, now. Ha ha.

Mims: Did you, you know, in your travels throughout the state, did you pay attention to what was going on here with the changes? Was it becoming part of the university system? Moving? And..

Medlin: I knew in '61 that it uh.. had moved out here. And, oh, wait a minute. When did it become a four-year school? Maybe that was '61.

Mims: No.

Riggins: Four-year school was '65.

Medlin: Was it '55?

Mims and Riggins: Sixty-five.

Medlin: Sixty-five. O.k.

Riggins: Was when our college..

Medlin: Yeah.

Mims: 'Cause that all happened under Randall. The move, the becoming a four-year, and then right about the time that he stopped being president, and Wagner picked up, and it became a university.

Medlin: I know one of the things that uh.. a lot of people referred to it as Wilmington Junior College.

Mims: Yeah.

Medlin: And Dean Randall was very adamant that we were not a junior college. We were Wilmington College, you know, and somebody would call it Wilmington General- Junior College, it would raise his hackles. He was very much against it being called a junior college, and I think good foresight because it did become a four-year school.

Mims: I think he had a goal and he wasn't letting go of it.

Medlin: And I think, you know, the- the people that don't get any credit for Wilmington College, and I tried to pass this on, was our parents and their peers. See, they voted themselves a tax increase to found Wilmington College and a uh.. on the same ballot was a TB sanitorium, where Cape Fear Hospital is now. And they voted themselves a nickel per uh.. hundred dollar valuation ad valorem tax to support it, and since then I think there has been either three or four tax increases that they have voted for to sustain it. And then Wilmington College had some, in later years, had- 'scuse me, some good friends in the legislature. Ashley Murphy and Roy Rowe from uh.. Pender County, were very, very influential in getting funding and maybe they led the fight to get it a part of the university system. I just- just don't recall. I remember about that time Ashley Murphy happened to be our highway commissioner, and I know he was to and from Raleigh with a lot of things as it related to State. And I- I feel comf- confident that he and Roy Rowe had a lot to do with it. So, you know, we got some help from the legislatures in Pender County and also the- Mr. Ellis out of- Senator Ellis, out of Onslow County. The airport happens to be named for him up there. He was very, very influential in the funding.

Mims: Well, Addison Hewlett, I know, was a big proponent of..

Medlin: Yes.

Mims: ..forcing- of getting that legislation. And John Burney, too, was there.

Medlin: Maybe. Addison Hewlett, at one time, and I don't remember the timeframe, was speaker of the House of Representatives which was a, you know, a very big..

Mims: Yeah.

Medlin: But I can't recall the years that.

Mims: I think he was in the critical years, 'cause I know funding was channeled through here due to his efforts, you know, in the capital area.

Medlin: If you read Dr. Crews' book, From These Beginnings, you know, that is a real good chronicle of the beginnings of Wilmington College, and on up to, you know, uh.. the university.

Mims: Well, our tape is about winding down. Are there any additional comments you would like to put forth here?

Medlin: No, mam. I think I told you everything that I know.

Mims: Adina?

Riggins: Well, I was just going to ask, how prepared did you feel when you got to NC State with your background at Wilmington College? I know you had a break because of the Army. Did you feel equipped to succeed at NCSU?

Medlin: Yes and no. Uh.. Yes, I felt like I'd had a sufficient background in uh.. mathematics, uh.. physics, you know, to pursue an engineering degree. But I was not prepared for the academic and teaching conditions. You know, I had one professor, he would write with his right hand, and erase with the left.

Mims: Oh, my goodness.

Medlin: You know, and here was 60 or 70 of us in a room, and here at Wilmington College, you know, we had Dr. Crews and two others, and, you know, it was more a family atmosphere. I really- of course you adapted. But it was just different to begin with, and there was uh.. oh, I don't know. There's probably been 10 or 15 students from Wilmington College during that period that went on to State and graduated. I can think of four of us right off hand that graduated.

Mims: Maybe we can get those names from you later. I think our tape is done.

Medlin: Alright.

Mims: I just want to thank you for being here with us today.

Medlin: Yes, mam. Thank you for putting up with me. And I appreciate you asking me because like I told the uh.. people, the other day, that one of the things that sort of irritates me in a way is Wilmington College is not remembered here to my satisfaction like I think it ought to be, you know. The..

Riggins: That's what we want to work on in the Archives.

Medlin: The picture of Dr. Randall, Dean Randall, is almost hidden if you don't know where it is, and yet the library's named for him, and his portrait is.

Riggins: Alright. Because it's not with the other ones.

Mims: We're definitely working on that.

UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database
Found in:
Randall Library | UNCW Archives and Special Collections | Online Database | Contact Us | Admin Login
Powered by Archon Version 3.21 rev-1
Copyright ©2012 The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign