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Play remembers Raleigh school integration

Posted April 9, 2009

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— In 1960, a second grader named Bill Campbell integrated Raleigh schools. Now a production depicting that era in the city’s history is playing at the same school it started.

“1960” runs until April 26 at Meymandi Theatre at the old Murphey School, which is commonly known as the Burning Coal Theatre.

A photo taken of Bill Campbell in 1960. '1960' plays at Burning Coal Theatre

“The school board in their decision process said, ‘If we’re going to get involved in this experiment of integration, we really need to start at the very youngest age,’” said Ralph Campbell, a former state auditor and Bill Campbell’s brother.

The school board at the time met at the Murphey School – the same location where the play is being produced this weekend – to decide

Ralph Campbell said his brother's enrollment in what was Raleigh's all-white school system, was part of a bigger strategy to integrate the community together.

“It was the integration of the lunch counters, the marches. It was the integration of the pools,” Ralph Campbell said.

Bill Campbell went on to become the mayor of Atlanta. He now lives in south Florida.

The Campbell family also has another connection to the Murphey School. Ralph Campbell was on the Raleigh City Council that voted to save the school from demolition.

3 Comments

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  • Iworkforaliving Apr 10, 2009

    at some point we will stop reliving history. LET IT GO. Our ancestors didn't get along, we get it, lets move on.

  • Brejasa Apr 10, 2009

    And the purpose of that comment was?

    Since we're so smart, the purpose of the play has nothing to do with Campbell on a personal level or what he did or didn't do right in life but the integration of the school system and the impact that it made in our history which is probably why wral left what u found so "minor" out.

    Its always one ignorant person to bring the negative to something that is suppose to be positive and the sad part is its usually an adult and we wonder where the youth of today get it from.

    I think the play is a great idea and although this man experienced some not so good moments in his past I applaud him for having the courage at such a young age to do what he did and to deal with what god only knows was thrown to him at that time. he deserves this recongnition and someone will always try to center attention towards the bad but he's not the first nor will he be the last politician or leader to make not so great choices.

  • candc2009junk Apr 10, 2009

    Bill Campbell went on to become the mayor of Atlanta. He now lives in south Florida. Yes, Federal Prison and and a half-way house in Miami. Convicted in 2006 of racketeering, bribery and wire fraud. Seem that minor part was left out.