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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with I. Beverly Lake Sr., September 8, 1987. Interview C-0043. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Strong anti-integrationist beliefs led Lake to seek political office

Lake expresses sentiments which will be repeated later in the interview. He explains that his rationale for running for governor centered on public education. Lake argues that good schools relied on superior teachers and students, and not integration. To Lake, integration would result in the abandonment of solid public schools as wealthier white and academically stronger students would attend private schools. He points to Washington D.C.'s public schools as the model for the failures of integration.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with I. Beverly Lake Sr., September 8, 1987. Interview C-0043. 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

No sir! Going on, what prompted you to run for Governor in 1960?
Well, my opponents thought that I was running for Governor because I wanted to ride in on the racial program and racial animosity. That I can truthfully say, always have said, that was not my motive. My motive was that I could see, as the Legislature had said, and as everybody else could see, that the public school system in North Carolina was in very grave danger. The great danger perhaps was not our official abolition of public schools but a desertion of the public schools by children of all the white families who could afford to send them to private schools. That did develop and has continued. The private school in North Carolina began springing up. We have many, many excellent private schools, academies, in North Carolina, such as--Ravenscroft was already established--such as Hale School in Raleigh, Wake Christian Academy, and various other Christian Academies, Enfield Academy, Albermarle Academy down in Elizabeth City. Those are the ones that particularly come to mind. Those are good schools. What I foresaw has actually happened, perhaps not as completely as I thought it would, still, remarkably so. The white children, with the natural ability, would be withdrawn from the public schools and be sent to private schools. The remaining white children in the public schools, to a large degree--of course not universal, there are always exceptions--but to such a large degree, would be composed of white children who came from underprivileged homes; homes not quite so interested in education, not affording the background of culture. Those children going to the private schools would leave the public schools--I mean the other children going to private schools would leave the public schools crowded with colored children who, for various reasons, and no need to go into all of that, various reasons, not all the colored children, of course, were not as well qualified for high calibre school work. I knew from my own teaching experience that the success of the school depends on two things: one, as I said, was the ability of teacher, and the other is the ability of the pupils. A good teacher with substandard children cannot produce as good a product as a good teacher with a cross section of students. The students do their best work when they have to do good work in order to make good grades. When you take out all of your top students, or most of your top students, and leave the class composed of, well I'll say, mediocre students, for one reason or another, either in ability or background, then your quality of teaching and instruction goes down. I have always said, as I said in my campaign, it is one thing to keep the school physically open. It's another thing to keep the school efficiently operating as an educational institution. I thought the Legislature was right in saying that to integrate the schools completely would destroy the schools of North Carolina as an educational institution. I think the result of the last twenty years, twenty-seven years now, have pretty well born out what I said. That is more especially illustrated in the schools of Washington, D.C. which, under Eisenhower's administration, were supposed to become a model for the country. Well, the Washington public school system became a model but not the kind that he was talking about. The schools in Washington became disorderly, in extreme, unsafe for teachers and students, and basically did not produce good education. I wanted to save the State of North Carolina from that. I felt like, and I still feel like, that had I been Governor, we could have promoted a much better system of education, whereby not only the affluent children but other children would be aided financially so that they too could go to the superior schools, white or black. I have never had any animosity for the Negro people. I have today, and I always have had, numerous, devoted friends among the colored people, particularly at Wake Forest and also in Raleigh.