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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Viola Turner, April 15, 1979. Interview C-0015. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Description of interaction with George Washington Carver at Tuskegee

In this excerpt, Turner talks about how during her time working at the Tuskegee Institute in 1920, she had the opportunity to meet George Washington Carver. According to Turner, Carver was often seen wandering around campus observing and picking up different kinds of plants or weeds. Turner notes that later in her life when she learned what a contribution he had made, having had the opportunity to meet and learn to respect Carver at Tuskegee was one of her prouder memories about that time in her life.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Viola Turner, April 15, 1979. Interview C-0015. 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

Did you feel the presence of Booker T. Washington there, just in the short time you were there? Anything you remember?
No. It took a little time, but I'll tell you what I did find there, and really the way I began to feel Washington was, of course, at first I was amazed at what I saw. The physical plant: I just couldn't believe what I beheld. I had never seen anything like that anywhere, at the time. But it took being there a while to get the feeling of people, who knew Mr. Washington, or who had come under his influence enough. As you listened to them and heard them talk, then you began to realize. Then finally I got to know some members of the family, who lived right across from where I lived at Penny Cottage. What I did get the thrill of much earlier than I got appreciation for what Mr. Washington had done, was George Washington Carver. He was on the campus when I was there. And you couldn't come around him that you didn't take note of it. You might look at him and say, "Who is that funny-looking man?" Or you might say, "Who is that man that's always picking up what looks like a weed?" Then you look and he's got it in the buttonhole or something. After a while, when you'd been there a while, you'd say, "Oh, look, there's Dr. Carver." And you'd always try to get up close enough for him to say something, because he would always say something to you, you know. I remember the last time I saw him. I had left Tuskegee and I was in Jackson, Mississippi, and coming down-I believe that street's called Pearl Street. But at any rate, I was almost to our office and he was coming down the street like this, and just before he got to me, he reached down-and the first thing that came to my mind was, what on earth can he pick here on this paved street, you know? By the time I got to him, I said, "Dr. Carver, I know you don't remember me, but what on earth could you find on this street?" He said, "A wild strawberry blossom." There was a little white blossom sitting up. He said, "See, you look, but you don't see."
So you'd actually met him at Tuskegee?
Oh, yes. I met him there and saw him many times. You know, I knew where his office was and the people who worked in his office.
That would be your outstanding memory?
Really, the one that I think I'm most proud of. Because, I learned to respect him there, not having any idea how wonderful he was. But in a little time, it wasn't long, I realized what a marvelous thing it had been for me to have known the man, and could just walk up and speak to him. And he'd talk to you like anybody else. Then, later, to meet him on the streets of Jackson.