Secretly working for a tuition scholarship to go to college
When Tolbert's father decided he could not afford to send her to college right after high school, she secretly studied for an exam to win a tuition scholarship. Her aunt, Mary Waller, supported her through this process.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Marguerite Tolbert, June 14, 1974. Interview G-0062. 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
How I got my
scholarship to Winthrop is the most exciting event in my life, and that
is recorded in my brief biography.
- CONSTANCE MYERS:
But can you tell it in just a few words?
- MARGUERITE TOLBERT:
Yes, I can. My two sisters were being graduated from Winthrop. My mother
was ill at Johns Hopkins that year.
Father was hard-pressed for funds. I believe it was the time of four-cent
cotton. Our economy was nothing to brag on. But I was looking forward
with the keenest anticipation to attending Winthrop. Winthrop was
definitely in the future for me as my two sisters and many
friends had gone to Winthrop. My mother, as I said, was at Johns
Hopkins. She wrote, I want Marguerite to attend Winthrop
commencement and be oriented, so she can feel at home next September
when she enters college. And I did. But, when my father brought me the
letter he said, Margie -- he called me
Margie -- do you think you could wait a year to go to Winthrop.
With the two girls in college this year and your mother ill it's going
to be difficult for me to swing it financially. The world
tumbled in on me. I didn't let him know it, but I was
completely nonplussed and amazed. He said, You wait just a
year, and I'll be ready to take care of it. I said,
"Fine, we'll wait a year," but I cried myself to sleep
that night. Heartbreaking experience. But I had heard, through my
relatives and friends, that you could stand an examination and get a
scholarship to Winthrop, if you couldn't pay the tuition at the time.
The scholarship would pay all expenses. Without asking anybody I went to
the courthouse to the county superintendent of education; I think his
name was Mr. Pitts. He told me all about it. He gave me some sample exam
questions from the previous examinations, and I set up for myself a
rigid program of study. I would slip away from the family, I remember so
vividly, and go next door to Mrs. Guy Garrett's second floor. Here I set
up a little study and I studied rigidly 'til July the fifth, the day of
the examination. I had an enticing invitation to go on the fourth on a
big hayride party with my friends. But I stayed at home and studied and
crammed. On the day of the examination I was ready to go. We assembled
at the courthouse. My Aunt Mary Waller and my Uncle Clarence Gray ran
the hotel on the Laurens square. She always took an interest in me. She
phoned, "Marguerite, you are to come by the hotel first and
then you will have lunch with me on the day of the exam." So,
with all the information I could cram into this
vacuum of mine I went to the Court House to stand the examination. There
were about forty in the room; a lot of buzzing and talking. I looked
over and saw red-headed Kate Wofford and red-headed somebody else and I
said, Oh, I wonder if I'll ever be able to compete with
them. But anyhow, on a hot July the fifth, I stood the exam
and went to my Aunt Mary's for lunch. She served cold milk and a cool
salad;nothing heavy. And after lunch she sent the butler over
with a tall pitcher of lemonade. And I attribute my success to that
pitcher of ice cold lemonade
which I shared at the table with my friends. Then that night I
was invited to a delectable steak dinner; the climax of the