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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 >>

Lack of discipline among black athletes at a formerly all-white school

Black athletes were less disciplined than their white counterparts, Smith recalls, and black athletes left the football team as the head coach imposed his strict demands upon them. Smith sees the exodus of black athletes as a result of their unfamiliarity with discipline.

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

REID MCGLAMERY:
How did integration come about? Was it an initiative of the community or was it from the government?
CLYDE SMITH:
It was pretty much like it was everywhere else. It was an outgrowth of 1954 and it had been kind of gradually coming about. And I even saw some - and my college was up in the mountains, so it was unusual - but we began to get a few black students there. Particularly playing football. It was new for all of us really. People coming in to teach. It was kind of ironic I guess, my first teaching experience I had one or two black kids in school, so we were learning as we were going. And that's pretty much the way it was going here. About everywhere, everyone was learning, feeling out each other and so forth.
REID MCGLAMERY:
Did you notice some tension between the black players and the white coaches?
CLYDE SMITH:
Didn't see it really as an issue here. One of the things that I really noticed more than anything else is that … again, at that time, we thought it was more lack of discipline on their part. One of the things we noticed, like I told you earlier we had a big turnout for football and you know they really dropped off the team real fast. I don't know, we kind of sensed and whether or not it's true or not I'm not really going to say, they were not used to the type of discipline we were dishing out. Our football coach is a very hard-nosed person and turned out to really be successful. He turned out a couple of All-Americans and he was a very successful coach. He was kind of known for his hard nose.
REID MCGLAMERY:
What was the coach's name?
CLYDE SMITH:
Von Ray Harris. Very strict disciplinarian type of person. Which any successful football coach then, that's what made him successful. We kind of sensed that maybe the black athletes had not been used to the rigors of the type of practices that we were trying to get [unclear] . We had a high turnover of people. They were just dropping off almost five or six at a time. Every practice there would be less and less. Until I don't know how many we ended up with that first season. I can kind of look through the book (flips through the yearbook and counts out loud one to six). I see about six or seven on the varsity squad there, and we probably had about 35 or 40 black athletes out. You see they dropped off, and we kind of thought it was because they hadn't been through that rigor.