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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Bill Hull, June 21, 2001. Interview K-0844. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

McCarthyism's impact on gay culture in Chapel Hill

Hull attributes the openly accepting experience in Chapel Hill to anti-McCarthyism.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Bill Hull, June 21, 2001. Interview K-0844. 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

CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Let me see here, so you know, you mentioned. Something that was really hard for people to understand now, people who were just coming out, that you had in terms of the gay centers, there was Washington D.C., there was Atlanta, maybe Miami and Chapel Hill.
BILL HULL:
Yes.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Can you elaborate on that a little?
BILL HULL:
Chapel Hill was like an oasis of liberalism, and oasis for gay people, I mean, I walked into Chapel Hill and I was in—Well, let me put it this way, it was neat, not that this had anything to do with what you are asking, but just the feeling that I had. The weekend that I was supposed to go to Chapel Hill and become a student, get a dormitory and get it all there, at that age had reached 18 years old and so I could go in the Jack Tar Hotel. I walked in, someone who still is a lifelong friend, who knew my brother Tommy. They knew me, but not in the bar sense, they said that there was a party the next night and to please stop by this certain address, to be introduced to Chapel Hill Society. I took two friends from Durham, we went to this address, walked into this house and I met everybody that I. [END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A] [TAPE 1, SIDE B] [START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
All right, this is the second side of my interview with Bill Hull and the number for this tape side of the tape is 06.21.01-BH.2. All right, so we were talking about how Chapel Hill was a gay friendly town, how it was very accepting. Some people have talked about it being more laissez faire, more than—
BILL HULL:
Very much so, very much. Something in your original paper that I did not see, which was something that was made very evident to me was talking about going to my first gay party ever on Chapel Hill on Meadow Brook Lane right behind that cow or whatever it is that Sunshine Biscuit place up there. There was this wonderful house and everybody that I met there, I am still good friends with. But, the next day, the Monday that I went to my first orientation, I went to which was, to me, the most wonderful place in the whole world was Lenoir Hall. That cafeteria was at that point, in 1963 of September was the meeting place of everyone to plan out their schedules. I went there by myself, sat at a table with my tray of food, two people that I had met the night before came up to me, no they had seen me there, I did not meet them, they came up, mentioned that they had seen me at the party and could they join me. I said, of course, we became instant fast friends and I missed the rest of orientation sitting there because people would come in, pull up another table and before I knew it, dinner was being served and there must have been twenty five or thirty people there, meeting, talking, meeting me, welcoming me to the community.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
And they were all gay people?
BILL HULL:
All gay people, and faculty and students. It was wonderful.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Isn't that amazing.
BILL HULL:
I have never felt more accepted and more real in my entire life.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Wow, that is very impressive.
BILL HULL:
I would go to Lenoir Hall, you ate all of your meals there, and there was invariably just tables of people there that would all pull the tables up to this big enclaves of gay people, some were outrageous, we were hootie, we were loud and not one ever looked at us—
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
No one ever batted an eyelash.
BILL HULL:
No one ever batted an eye. It was wonderful. Lenoir Hall to me was sort of like my introduction to Chapel Hill Society, other than the gay party that I went to the previous Saturday night of my Monday orientation; I knew probably a good portion of the spectrum of Chapel Hill gay people.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
So the gay community was very integrated then and very—
BILL HULL:
Totally integrated.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Were those, were these professors openly gay, or did they—
BILL HULL:
Yes.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Did some of them have wives?
BILL HULL:
They were not openly gay, they were just obviously gay. I mean, they were not cruising and accosting people.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
[Laughter] I didn't mean it that way.
BILL HULL:
I know, but they were not, in any way, no. They were openly gay and probably less openly gay than they might have been ten years before I got there, because Chapel Hill in the 50s, I understand was really quite outrageous—
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
In terms of repressive?
BILL HULL:
No, as far as people being flamboyant—
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
So, people were even more outrageous.
BILL HULL:
Yeah, maybe so, people were sort of—well, you could get away with it in Chapel Hill.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
And that was during McCarthyism.
BILL HULL:
Yes, was it ever. It became almost a counter reaction, I think.