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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Marguerite Tolbert, June 14, 1974. Interview G-0062. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Tolbert's success with the Winthrop College organ fund

One of the highlights of Tolbert's career was raising donations for the Winthrop College organ fund. She raised the seventy thousand dollars necessary for the project even though Winthrop got less financial support than other state colleges.

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.

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Yes, then I went back to Winthrop, maybe somebody had died or passed on; either Dr. Johnson or Dr. Kinard who followed him would call Miss Marguerite to come up here and take this job to fill in. They thought I was a jack of all trades, I think. So, I went back again and again. I was elected trustee at Winthrop for eight years for the alumni association. That was a highlight. Another highlight was when, and I'll say this, they tried their best to get somebody else to head the organ fund for the college, to raise seventy thousand dollars for the James F. Byrnes Auditorium. Nobody would take it. I'm sure they presented the challenge to everyone who was warm and nobody wanted it. It was too dificult. Finally, Ruth Williams begged me to take it. I said, No, Ruth. I'd be glad to help you find somebody. And I did my best but we couldn't get anybody to say yes. I was then, it was right after the war, heading a thrilling project I ought to tell you about for delinquent boys at King's Mountain, as a war measure. I was very near Winthrop; it was in York County, you see. The camp for the delinquent boys was right at Winthrop. So, down the committee came to see me the third time and they said, Will you accept this challenge and be responsible for that seventy thousand dollars? In a weak moment I said yes; and we did it. We did it. One of the hardest jobs I ever tackled. And I thank Edgar Brown to this day. Together Ruth Williams and I went to see Edgar. We said, You've just given Citadel $50,000 extra over and above their appropriation. You've just given Carolina fifty thousand dollars extra for thus and so and Clemson fifty, but not one sou to Winthrop. We want you to promise us fifty thousand dollars on that organ. 'No, Miss Marguerite, we can't promise you fifty thousand dollars on it.'
Why not?
He gave his reasons, a tight budget. 'But we'll give you thirty-five thousand if you raise thirtyfive. I grabbed it. I grabbed it; I didn't argue; I didn't say, We're discriminated against. I just took it gratefully. And I started writing more and more to the alumni begging for help. One day after seven long tedious years I got a telegram. The organ fund today went over the top with the last payment. I was working in the state department of education, I think, and they say I almost fainted. Then I checked; we had everything with one exception: the chimes. They would cost fifteen hundred dollars more. I called together my classmates; the good old class of 1914. I said, Will you assume with me that responsibility? I'll give credit to Catherine Davis. I said, Catherine will you make the motion at our reunion at Winthrop this year, that the class of 1914 give those chimes. If they'll put a marker up on the wall that we gave it and give us credit? She agreed wholeheartedly. She led the way with a gift of a hundred dollars. Julia Gaillard gave a hundred. I gave a hundred. We went on down the line. I remember the McNair girl also gave a hundred. And before you knew it, we had it, but we had to work for a year on that. That marker is there, now a highlight. When they dedicated the organ they had Virgil Fox from New York City to come. He put on a most thrilling concert in the James F. Byrnes Auditorium. The whole southeast was invited in; all of the colleges, everybody. And the music departments came from near and far and filled the auditorium each evening. Yours truly was given five minutes on the stage to render her stewardship and what I had done and the ups and downs of raising that seventy thousand Aeolian Skinner pipe organ, handcrafted by the finest craftsmen in America. I could go into detail on that. That evening they dedicated a number to me and to the class of 1914 as those chimes rang out. The sky . . . I was on cloud nine.
I can see that you regard this as the most singular and most significant of your achievements.
Yes. You have no idea.