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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Clyde Smith, March 17, 1999. Interview K-0443. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

General openness to integration at a Lumberton school

Smith describes a Lumberton community relatively open to integration. A "freedom of choice" approach had brought about 125 black students into an all-white high school of 1,000, a gradual introduction that may have eased the way for the more complete desegregation that took place later. Smith noticed the change from his position as a coach: suddenly his teams included a number of black athletes. He noticed also some apprehension, but for the most part "people in general were kind of open about [integration.]"

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Clyde Smith, March 17, 1999. Interview K-0443. 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

In that fall they first integrated the schools fully for the first time. About two years prior to that I think they had - either one or two years, I think two years they had like all school systems had "freedom of choice." And a few selected blacks, if they wanted to came to the all white Lincolnton High School. But like I said, it was just a handful. But the year that I came, they closed down Newbold High School which was the all-black county high school. It was an influx of probably 125 to 130, somewhere in that range, of black students, and it was then that Lincolnton High School was about a thousand students, so really it became roughly all of a sudden about ten percent matriculation of minorities. Prior to that, I didn't know really anything had existed here as far as being a close-by county neighbor, so that's kind of how I ended up here and on the scene as it was at that time.
What were you doing when you first came here? Were you coaching?
Yes, when I first came, I came as an assistant football coach, head track coach and the head basketball coach. Which really was a key thing with the blacks particularly. You know we had a real influx of - in fact the first year here when I coached basketball, all of a sudden the basketball team really became predominantly black even that first year. I mean I think I had like eight or nine black kids out of a squad of fifteen. But that was quite a change of what Lincolnton had experienced before. You know they had had one or two on the team from freedom of choice but all of a sudden we became - I think we had either nine or ten kids that first year.
Do you remember, what was the response or attitude of the community towards integration?
It was kind of an open attitude. I didn't really see anything … of course the schools I had been at in Gaston County, it had been freedom of choice kind of deal too, so it was almost the same kind of situation I had experienced elsewhere. I guess one of the first things really when we - first that fall, in that summer, there was a really high turnout of black football players for the first practice. Closing down an all-black school. And there was a lot of apprehension I guess with people that ‘this is finally going to happen,’ but my first couple of years I was in education, we began to get a few black students. It seemed like people in general were kind of open about it. I guess some apprehensions, you know, but from everybody - You know, ‘How is this going to work?’ and so forth.