Remembering C.A. McDougle
In this abstract, Hackney describes the mythology of Lincoln High School. At the head of its pantheon was principal C.A. McDougle. While many interviewees remember McDougle's powerful presence, Hackney explains why McDougle approached his job the way he did: the all-black Lincoln High was starved for resources, and McDougle was forced to focus on "personal development more so than anything else." Hackney describes McDougle's professional demeanor, his physical appearance, and the ways in which McDougle cultivated ties between the school and the black community.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Burnis Hackney, February 5, 2001. Interview K-0547. 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
BG: You went to Lincoln what years and what grades?
BH: I think I went to Lincoln in ’63. I graduated from Northside, which was originally Orange County Training School. I went directly to Lincoln. It’s funny; Ms. [Lucile] McDougle was my teacher from the 3rd grad thru the 6th grade at Northside. I graduated and went to Lincoln where Mr. McDougle was principal at Lincoln. I guess I should tell you one other thing, RD Smith, another renowned educator, his wife, Euzelle Smith was my 1st thru 3rd grade teacher. I had some super, super teachers all the way through. I went to Lincoln in ’63.
BG: What was Lincoln like when you went there?
BH: It was a bit overwhelming, I guess, as the freshmen transition usually is. You’re going to a situation where you are new; you’re the youngest class there. We looked at the upperclassmen as being giants or mythical figures. Even the upperclassmen started teaching you from the time that you came in. The guys would teach you things about manhood and about standing on principles. A little bit of a transition in that you’re going from one teacher all day to going around to different teachers. I was fortunate there at Lincoln also to have some good teachers. Of course Mr. [C.A.] McDougle was a legendary figure.
BG: What made Mr. McDougle legendary?
BH: I guess the tragedy of it all is that we all were working with what we had to work with and Mr. McDougle had little other than human material basically to work with and so he focused on personal development more so than anything else. I can rarely recall an encounter with Mr. McDougle that was strictly academic. Usually it was some type of philosophical higher principle that you always felt that he was trying to get across to you. He was such an authoritative figure and uncompromising.
BG: How did you know he was authoritative? What did he do that made him an authoritarian person?
BH: He just carried himself with the dignity that he is in control, that things will be done his way or you would go your way. [Laughter] He never really compromised principles and he was usually right.
BG: What sort of things did he want done his way, can you remember any of those specifically?
BH: Well, of course, conduct. You had to maintain good conduct. You had to maintain good appearance. You had to keep a focused mind. You had to be focused on accomplishing something and that was our personal development at the way that I interpreted it.
BG: Did he meet the students at the door in the morning?
BH: He was at the door in the morning or whenever you entered the building it seemed that particularly if the individual was late or somewhere he didn’t need to be, Mr. McDougle was always present. His office was about midway down the hall, and I guess he could just step out of his office and see both ends of the building as well as to the gymnasium that was straight across from him which was another entry point. He seemed to be always ever present.
BG: Did the students fear him?
BH: I never really detected a sense of fear. People would imitate him. I see some of this today that when youngsters respect an older individual even though the individual might be in an authoritative individual. A lot of times they would in play imitate that individual; repeat the things that he said or did, and it was somewhat of a comedy, but I never did really detected a sense of fear.
BG: How about respect? Was that a better word?
BH: Respect, I think respect would be the word, the descriptive phrase there.
BG: Did he ever teach?
BH: Not to my knowledge, I never knew Mr. McDougle to teach.
BG: Did he ever come into the classroom?
BH: I never really knew him to come into the classroom. He mainly, as far as I knew, he stayed in the hallways or you went to his office and he did what he had to do there.
BG: What can you tell me about his walk, his look, and his voice? Was there anything distinctive about those things?
BH: My memory is that he walked very upright and tilted somewhat to the back. He was a balding gentleman, but he wore glasses and was light skinned. His voice, I can’t really recall if it was a deep voice but I know it was a very strong voice. I wouldn’t say that it was a bass, but he spoke very distinctly and very strongly.
BG: Did you remember or maybe as a student you wouldn’t remember this, but did you perceive him having influence over teachers and what they taught and the way they taught?
BH: Maybe I wasn’t developed to the point to where I could observe this. I never really detected his influence. The main perception that I had of Mr. McDougle was that he was interacting directly with the students. I never really got a sense of his interaction with the teachers. I don’t know if he had staff meetings, I’m sure that he did, but I just wasn’t aware of his interaction with his teachers. He had very strong teachers. He had a core of teachers, I guess a minority was from the community that had grown up in Chapel Hill or were connected in Chapel Hill. They had a strong influence within the school. Then you had others that were coming from different areas of North Carolina to teach.