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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 >>

Allowing local control of desegregation eases the process

Mills and others devised their own plan for integration, allowing committees within each attendance area in the county to direct the process independently. That there were few black families in the area made the process relatively easy. Integration in Cary went "beautifully."

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

PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Now, could you outline a little bit what your plan was? That you came up with your own plan for integration. Could you talk a little bit about what that plan was?
CARL A. MILLS JR.:
You know, I'd have to review that a little bit. We just had committees within the County within each attendance area meeting and deciding how integration would take place. So it was done on a volunteer basis. But we would send a statement in as to what we were going to do and H.E.W. always wanted to send somebody to inspect us and see if we were doing what we said we were going to do. And that we would meet with occasionally since he was the City Superintendent and he would have the biggest laugh over… All I do is go to the judge and I'm not going through all this turmoil of integrating. The judge tells me what to do, I do it, and I go home and I get a good night's sleep.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
But whatever you put together obviously met with the mandates of the laws that were being enforced at that time.
CARL A. MILLS JR.:
They did. The group in Cary was very cooperative, mainly maybe because there wasn't many black families in attendance area.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
How do you think Cary compared to other parts of North Carolina and the South in terms of integration and how it went?
CARL A. MILLS JR.:
In Cary it went beautifully. It so happens that when the decision was made by the Advisory Council recommended to the Board of Education to integrate, it made sense to put all the ninth graders over at West Cary. Out of three hundred and some ninth graders, thirty were black students. That was somewhat token. The people in that area, though, there was a certain element who were just opposed to… They took the case to court and protested integration. Just as soon as the case was presented to the judge, he immediately called a time out to confer with the two Attorneys and as soon as they returned to their seats, he said, "Case dismissed."
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
So they threw it out.
CARL A. MILLS JR.:
Now the part of the situation was that we had a black Principal at West Cary. He was very careful. He'd come over and meet with the eighth grade kids in the auditorium and come over during orientation so that was the first formal look they had at him. He had a terrific personality.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
So they got to know him a little bit a year before they joined his school.
CARL A. MILLS JR.:
Well, during the spring. Then he would have several Sundays when the parents were invited to come in and visit, so if people didn't know him, if the kids didn't know him, it was their fault.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
So there were no surprises at that point.
CARL A. MILLS JR.:
No surprises. I'll tell you, things operated so smoothly in Cary, you wouldn't believe it. You would have to experience it. And the key to me was the Advisory Council. The Advisory Council was very important. Whatever we got into, if there was a vocational program, a new athletic program, what-have-you, they'd raise the money to get it started.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
So they didn't go to the Board of Education, they raised it themselves?
CARL A. MILLS JR.:
Well, they'd go, but the Board didn't have an awful lot of assets and so they'd just raise it. For example, I happened to have a Mongoloid youngster who is now deceased, but to get a program started that would include him would take twelve students. Okay, the state didn't allocate any positions. The first full-time person was Mary Atkins, we got a lot from her. The first kids that we got into her program became the vanguard for the Life Experiences group at South Hills. We started the program though at Apex which was formerly the school for black youngsters. Anyway, the PTA or the powers to be, I'd find notes and money in the darndest places. All according to what you would want to do with an exceptional child, for example, the handicapped kids, this will get you started.