Mission accomplished, an activist moves on
In the mid-1970s, Mangum began to feel a conflict between his ministry and his membership on the school board, so he left the board. He felt, to some extent, that he had accomplished his mission, since Native and African Americans were now members of the board.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Robert Lee Mangum, November 18, 2003. Interview U-0008. 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
During that time, ‘74, I ran for the school board and became a member of the school board for about four years. Then when I went to Prospect Church as pastor I felt it was too close a relationship from the school board to the church to the local school there that I felt for me to be the most effective pastor that I could be I didn’t need to remain on the school board and serve that local church, so I resigned from the school board when I became pastor of that church.
MM: So your priority was ministering.
RLM: Ministering to that local community and to that church which is a large church, as you know, the largest Native American church in the nation in our Methodist connection.
MM: Right. Describe that tension a little bit, what you saw as the kind of conflicts you would have come up against, and how that was playing out.
RLM: Well, I’ll not mention any names, but we had teachers and leadership in that local school that were part of the church, and we had tensions in that community over the school and the community. It would have just made it difficult for me as a school board member who has to make decisions that aren’t always middle of the road, but sometimes fall to the right or to the left of an issue.
It put me in a position where I could have part of the congregation cheering and celebrating, and part of them angry as fire because I may have voted the way they didn’t want me to vote. I just felt that before it wasn’t a major issue because we didn’t have a school right next to the church. We didn’t have people who were in the church that belonged to that school either as teachers, or employees of some sort, or administrators.
I just felt that to fulfill my calling first as a pastor of the church, we had others on that board now, we had Native Americans on that board, African-Americans on that board. It was a new day. That board was beginning to open up because of the voter registration, because of open elections now, and because of the process of breaking double voting.
I went there because I thought I was needed and I could give a voice for the Native American, and for the African-American, and for the white community in the county. I felt for the county system that it was important to go on that board, and to take my voice to the board in ‘74. By ‘78 that was not that necessary, and so I didn’t feel like I was backing off from any major justice concern at the school level that was more important that being an effective pastor at a church. That church had its tensions and its problems, and my staying on the school board I felt would just contribute to tension and division.