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50 years later, man recalls entering Raleigh's all-white schools

Posted September 6, 2010

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— In 1960, a local couple made history by enrolling their 7-year old son in Raleigh's all-white Murphey Elementary School, integrating the city's public school system. The boy would later grow up in a world of triumph and turmoil.

In September 1960, Bill Campbell began second grade at Murphey Elementary, becoming the first black student in the all-white Raleigh school.

“I felt unsafe every day,” he said. “That’s three years before the march on Washington, and North Carolina was a very ugly place.”

Campbell was elected mayor of Atlanta in 1993. Now living in Florida, he spoke with WRAL by phone about his turbulent upbringing.

“I was a second-grader in a school that went to the sixth grade, and there were older, more hostile, more difficult people that were prepared to make my life difficult, and they did very often,” he said.

Campbell's older brother, Ralph, is a former state auditor. Their parents tried to enroll both boys and a daughter in Raleigh public schools, but at the time only Campbell, the youngest, was approved.

Man recalls entering Raleigh's all-white schools Man recalls entering Raleigh's all-white schools

“My family prepared me by simply saying, 'This is important, and you’re going to have to do it. You’re going to have to endure it,’” he recalled.

Schools in Raleigh and Wake County are much different today, in large part because of the sacrifices made by families like the Campbell’s.

The former Atlanta mayor says he's proud of his role 50 years ago, but disappointed at the direction being taken by the new school board majority in Wake County – a majority that favors neighborhood schools over a long held policy of busing to achieve diversity.

“The fact that it’s now being changed without any appreciation for what has gone before, and certainly without any understanding of the loss of diversity that makes out school system work so well, I think it’s just a great tragedy,” he said.

In response, Wake County School Board Chairman Ron Margiotta said: "What happened 50 years ago was necessary, but today we are not helping students by busing them out of their neighborhoods. That isn't working for student achievement. We must help these kids."

Campbell was the only black student at Murphey for the five years.

39 Comments

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  • mad_dash Sep 9, 2010

    Whaaaaa.. get over it already.

  • MissB Sep 8, 2010

    I personally am very excited that my child will go to school with people in our local neighborhood instead of from wherever they are bused in from. I chose to buy a home in an area for certain reasons. If certain people don't like their kids going to certain schools you can move or chose to make a difference in that school. Whining about it gets you no where!

  • etshoney Sep 7, 2010

    That was 50 years ago. So, you're telling us NOTHING has changed in the past 50 years. I disagree. It's time successful blacks told everyone that IF you work hard, stay in school, and don't get pregnant until you're married anyone can make it. All this racist talk makes me ill. The NAACP lives off racism so in their educated minds it NEVER go away! How else could they afford their $500.00 suits and collect money from people who can't afford it?

  • 44freecandy Sep 7, 2010

    Wasn't this the same guy who was indited in Atlanta?

  • delilahk2000 Sep 7, 2010

    I AM SO TIRED OF HEARING ABOUT THIS DAY AFTER DAY WRAL. WE HAVE SO MUCH GOING ON IN THIS COUNTRY THAT REALLY NEEDS TO BE DEALT WITH AND YOU HAVE GOT TO KEEP STIRRING THE POT. THE NAACP AND YOU MUST CERTAINLEY BE OF THE SAME CLOTH.. AND CAN NOT GO A DAY WITH OUT THIS BEING IN THE NEWS.

  • weasel2 Sep 7, 2010

    Anything to keep the image alive. Bravo WRAL

  • wildcat Sep 7, 2010

    He was not the first to do this. This is not really news.

  • Peace Love and Cold Meds Sep 7, 2010

    that's nice. tell him to hang on and he can attend them again starting next year. can't wait!

  • csplantlover Sep 7, 2010

    Exactly - people need to put their own kids in the schools nearest them - it cuts down on so many problems. Diversity is a big bunch of hooey! Just another word for "entitlement" and "gimme what YOU got cuz it ain't fair." Bussing is also a crock - total waste of gas, money, time, etc. How many fights and horror stories have we heard from bussing. Bus the kids in from the country because they would have more trouble getting in from the farm, but send them to the nearest school as well.

  • lorivalentine1 Sep 7, 2010

    People need to get over this... Parents should get to choose where their kids go to school and if they choose to send their kid to a different school from the original assigned school (diversity or what ever the reason), then it comes down to if there is room in the choice school and no one other child is displaced because of their decision. Kids should not be forced to go to school away from home and friends because of some one elses choice. Barber is full of hot air and incites trouble.
    I do not get that there are all black, hispanic, asian, indian communitties where people worship, shop etc but god forbid they go to the same schools together?!? These same people choose to live where they live... So go to school there as well.

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