FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — This week marks the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education -- the landmark ruling that allowed schools to integrate.
A Fayetteville man who was affected five years after the ruling is still dealing with the impact to this day. Tony Edwards just received his high school diploma -- 45 years late.
In 1959, when Edwards was in the 11th grade, local white leaders closed Robert Russa Moton High School in Farmville, Va. to avoid integration. The school stayed closed for five years and affected hundreds of students.
"A lot of us had nowhere to go" Edwards said.
Edwards says some kids just gave up. Instead, he joined the Army and was awarded the Bronze Star in Vietnam. He was also exposed to Agent Orange and was diagnosed with cancer that is now in remission.
Would his life have been different had the school not closed?
Edwards says he cannot say for sure, but he says he may have gone to college.
"As a result, I probably wouldn't have ended up in Vietnam. It has devastated a lot of people," he said.
This week, the school awarded honorary degrees to those men and women who never had the chance to receive them as students.
"At last I had an opportunity to walk across that stage that I was not able to walk across 50 years ago" he said.
Edwards is not bitter. He says the past cannot be changed, but it changed him.
Edwards eventually received degrees from Fayetteville Tech and now works as a real estate broker.