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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Carl A. Mills Jr., June 30, 1999. Interview K-0182. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

One black student integrates and eases path for those that follow

Cary High School integrated with just one black student, who so impressed his teachers and peers that he eased the way for other black students who arrived the following year.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Carl A. Mills Jr., June 30, 1999. Interview K-0182. 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

Can we go back for a minute and talk about when you were Principal. I'd like to talk a little bit more about integration if I could. While you were Principal, you had a student, the first male black student, come into your school, Douglas Pennington. Could you talk about that a little bit and how that went.
CARL A. MILLS JR.:
Yes. That was the most amazing situation. Even though on a non-paid basis, I was at the school all summer enrolling kids. I could still expect half the auditorium to be filled with new kids on the first day. So this black youngster came in without his parents, so I thought this is going to be interesting. I've got something like two hundred new kids to put in classes in the auditorium so I turned him over to a teacher that I knew she could handle the situation. What happened, it was noon by the time I got back to see what happened with the youngster. And he had those kids entertained, he was telling jokes and he had these Caucasian kids just eating out of his hand. We had the first Junior Beta Club in the State, the second one in the South. And within the year there was no question about him being selected.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Junior Beta?
CARL A. MILLS JR.:
Junior Beta Club.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Is that for gifted.
CARL A. MILLS JR.:
No that's a take-off on the National Honor Society. Some took that and others took… Cary High just recently changed over from Beta Club to National Honor Society. So this young man, he was terrific. So you see, we integrated at the least expense to anybody. We gained so much by having a black youngster in our student body.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Wonderful. And in the following year were there more black students?
CARL A. MILLS JR.:
I think about that time I was going into the Central Office. We just did not have many black families in the Cary attendance area.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
That must have made it difficult to keep up the percentage ratios that the laws mandated.
CARL A. MILLS JR.:
There was no mandate at the time.