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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Alester G. Furman Jr., January 6, 1976. Interview B-0019. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Integration of Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina

Furman discusses his involvement with Furman University as an important part of the civic activities he participated in following his retirement from the family business in the textile industry. According to Furman, Furman University had always been "an open college as far as race" and he says that it was among the first private colleges in the state to voluntarily integrate in 1954. He briefly describes public reactions to this process and discusses its relationship to college athletics, but he continues to emphasize Furman University's goal to offer excellent education to all of its students.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Alester G. Furman Jr., January 6, 1976. Interview B-0019. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Of course, I am very much interested in Furman University. That's my avocation. I have tried to make contributions to them through the years. I was chairman of the board during the time that this big move was made and we raised a lot of money. We were able to do it against a whole lot of odds, if you want to know the truth of the matter.
Odds, from what? Financing or . . . ALESTER G. FURMAN, Jr.: Financing and people were prejudiced about it. Of course, Furman University has always been an open college as far as race. Now, we didn't have any blacks out there before '54, but we were the first ones in this state that opened up a private college.
What kinds of comments were there about that? ALESTER G. FURMAN, Jr.: Oh, plenty. (laughter)
And you probably heard them. ALESTER G. FURMAN, Jr.: Oh, I heard them well. I said, "Let me tell you something. The ones that have come out there, if they can pass their work, we'll do something for them. If they are not able to pass their work, they are going to leave. We don't have to send them off, they are just not going to take it." That was true and it has been true and today, I think that out of the two thousand odd or more that are in the college today, I think there are twenty-five or thirty out there and some of them have done excellent work. We have even had some pretty good athletes. We never had a star black football player, we've had some very good ones, there are two good ones out there now, but they are not nationally recognized. We had a boy last year who played basketball and he's now with the Milwaulkee Bucks, his name was Mays, Clyde Mays and in the paper, they had a piece about him Sunday quoting him, he said, "I'm learning a lot up here." He's playing ten to twenty minutes in a game now, going in and out, but he is a local boy.
Yes, he from South Carolina. ALESTER G. FURMAN, Jr.: Yes, from Greenville. And I'll tell you this . . . this might be very interesting to you. When he was recruited to go out there, of course they gave him a scholarship. When he got out there and really got tested, he didn't have the qualifications to get this scholarship. Well, his father lives in New York, his mother lives here and his uncle, who is in one of the maintenance departments at Furman University working, they paid his way through that freshman year when he couldn't play. And he qualified and then they got him a scholarship and he graduated. Well now, to me, that's . . . and I was so interested in the football team this last year, if I may say that, because I used to run after athletics in the twenties when we didn't ask anybody any odds. We played them all. And very small squads we had in those days, but when the Southern Conference selected their academic teams, that is, the members of the teams who have a high rating in academics, of the eleven men, five of them were from Furman University. I don't know whether Dr. Blackwell told you that or not . . .
No, he didn't. ALESTER G. FURMAN, Jr.: Well, to me, that's what we . . . we're trying to educate people. Athletics is good and fine, but if you loose the sight of education, you've got nothing to work on.