Decades after leaving school, Fayetteville centenarian gets diploma
Posted March 28, 2013
Fayetteville, N.C. — For Walter Drake, the world outside school walls has been his classroom.
Born before World War I, he attended schools in Fayetteville as a child but never graduated high school.
"I quit going to school to help out my parents. That was during what you call the Great Depression," Drake said Thursday. "I was glad to get out of high school. High school wasn't all that beautiful back then."
He dropped out of a segregated school at 17 to learn the brick-laying trade. His handiwork can be found all over Fayetteville, including E.E. Smith High School.
His family felt that the knowledge and wisdom he accumulated over decades of life and work should account for something, so they arranged for him to receive an honorary diploma from E.E. Smith High on March 21, which was his 100th birthday.
"I showed it off," a beaming Drake said, noting that he even bought a $200 suit for the combination birthday-graduation party.
"Y'all be careful on how you talk to me. I'm educated now. You don't mess with me," he said.
Drake has lived in the same house on Ramsey Street since 1936. He has one daughter, four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren – not to mention one happy life.
"I don't try to convince people to go to school as much as I do to live," he said. "I try to get them to don't drink liquor and don't smoke."