Title: Oral History Interview with Cecil W. Wooten, July 16, 2001. Interview K-0849.
Interviewer: McGinnis, Chris
Interviewee: Wooten, Cecil W.
Abstract: Cecil W. Wooten grew up in Kinston, North Carolina, in the 1940s and 1950s. Wooten begins the interview with a discussion of his early awareness of his homosexuality. Although he did not have the terminology to describe his orientation, Wooten knew as early as age seven that he was gay. However, it was not until he was a graduate student spent at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill during the late 1960s and early 1970s that he found a gay community, which he describes in some detail. Fearing that his homosexuality could jeopardize his career as a classics scholar, he limited his involvement in that community. After he received his Ph.D., Wooten moved to Bloomington, Indiana, where he taught for several years at the University of Indiana. During those years, Wooten began gradually to live more openly as a gay man. By the late 1970s, he had come out to his family and friends. In 1980, Wooten left the University of Indiana and returned to the University of Chapel Hill as a professor, a decision fueled in part by his desire to blend his academic and personal life in a way that would allow him to be more involved in the gay community and with gay activism. Upon his return, Wooten became faculty advisor for the Carolina Gay Association [later renamed the Carolina Gay and Lesbian Association (CGLA)], a position he held for several years. He describes early tensions between the CGLA and student government, the evolution and growth of CGLA, and the process of including the matter of sexual orientation in the university's nondiscrimination policy. In addition to describing his work with campus activism, Wooten describes the various networks and organizations that were available to gays in Chapel Hill during the 1980s. Chapel Hill, he says, was comparatively tolerant of gays and lesbians during this time.