Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Piedmont Academy (1969-1984)

Piedmont Academy

Piedmont Academy
Caswell County, North Carolina

Scholars estimate that, across the nation, at least half a million white students were withdrawn from public schools between 1964 and 1975 to avoid mandatory desegregation. Reasons why whites pulled their children from public schools have been debated: whites insisted that quality fueled their exodus, and blacks said white parents refused to allow their children to be schooled alongside blacks.

The drive to establish a private white-only school in Caswell County, North Carolina, apparently began in February 1963, after sixteen black students transferred to formerly all-white schools. Until then, local whites opposing an end to segregation believed that delaying tactics would continue to work. After all, those tactics had been successful since 1954.

However, the Civil Rights Act of 1974 changed the rules, resulting in Piedmont Academy. This memorandum explores the history of that school and concludes that the evidence supports the conclusion that quality of education was not a concern - Piedmont Academy was created so white children would not be forced to attend schools with a majority black enrollment.

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At a February 1963 meeting at the Caswell County Courthouse in Yanceyville referred to above, several spoke in opposition to further integration and advocated private schools, using Virginia as an example. Here are excerpts from newspaper reports:

Yanceyville -- Further plans are being made by the North Carolina Defenders of States Rights to determine what may be done in establishing private schools in this area, according to Bernard Dixon, a farmer who was among the leaders at a meeting yesterday.

The pro-segregationist organization met yesterday in the county courthouse here to discuss the private school system, following admission two weeks earlier of 16 Negro children to previously all-white schools.

Among speakers here yesterday were Allison James, a Winston-Salem pharmacist; Lon F. Backman of Richmond, Va., public relations director of the Virginia Education Fund, Inc., which sponsored private schools in Virginia; and W. N. Jefferies of Burlington, hosiery executive who also is a director of the States Rights organization.

More than 400 people, an overflow crowd, attended the meeting here and heard the speakers denounce integration. The meeting was interrupted at one point when Jim Graves, a Negro who was standing at a rear corner of the courtroom, was asked to leave. He left without protest.

The second speaker was Blackman. He said the "choice of association . . . a basic right under the consittution," is being denied white people by the Supreme Court decision: that the federal government is "usurping the power of the states."

Virginia met the problem with "massive resistance laws," he said by voiding compulsory attendance laws and finding a means of financing private independent schools, which he challenged Caswell Countians to establish.

"My point is that it has been done and it can be done," said Backman. If such schools were established here, he continued, "you will find you are a villified community. The press will be against you. You will be called arch-segregationists, renegades, diedhards who are opposed to education."

He related the experience of his organization in financing private schools in several localities, including an academy in Prince Edward County. Prior to this, he said, Negro children there had far superior facilities to those of white children, and he bitterly condemned the nation's press for not taking note of this.

"I believe we can maintain segregated schools in Caswell County," said Dixon, "But we've got to use our heads."

Dixon then got the floor again to introduce the final speaker, W. N. Jefferies of Burlington State Defenders. Jefferies said that "the obligation we owe to our children is the reason we are here. It is to protect society, not to hurt the Negro.

"I'll put it bluntly. We want to keep them from making bedfelows for our sons and daughters. That's the real reason. Destruction of the race. This amalgamation is not right in the sight of God!"

He expressed the opinion that the people of South Carolina will "win" their fight against integration, and then declared he had a fond feeling for Negroes.

"I will do anything for him if he is a decent upstanding citizen. I like decent self-respecting niggers. but I also know, if he comes in my house and sits on the sofa with my wife, I am going to kill him, so help me God!"

The Daily Times-News (Burlington, North Carolina), 4 February 1963, Monday, Page 12.
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In 1973, Mr. Davis of Piedmont Academy stated: "Piedmont's library isn't up to the standards required for eventual accreditation." But, Davis said: "We can't afford to expand on the library at that rapid a pace." The school was facing accreditation problems.

In 1973, Piedmont Academy lacked gym facilities. However, Mr. Davis stated that that problem "ain't high on the list of priorities."

Source: The Danville Register (Danville, Virginia), 12 August 1973, Sunday, Page 17.
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Many Caswell residents played "catch up" Friday as former students and friends of Piedmont Academy shuffled into the Yanceyville Rotary Hut on Club House Road for the school's second reunion since its closing in 1985. "We haven't had a reunion in more than 10 years so this was well overdue," 1974 graduate of Piedmont Academy Keith Blalock said. "We have been trying to plan one for years. This one is kind of impromptu so we have no idea who will show up but I think we will have a nice crowd."

Entertainment for the evening was provided by the Paul Roberts Band of Reidsville, friends of 1976 Piedmont Academy graduate, Jean Wright Antoniades. "My fondest memory of the school is playing sports there, we played all the sports," Blalock said. "That and the friends that we made through the academy, not just students but parents as well."

Danville Register, 21 Dec 1969
Piedmont Academy opened to students in 1969 with the beginning class size reaching four to five students. "We didn't have a high school when we first started, it was just first grade through eighth," Lunch Wagon Manager and bus driver for Piedmont Academy for seven years Wilma Campbell Gauldin said. "I think the largest graduating class we had was 21 students. We were very close, like family."

The Academy was located on Old N.C. Highway 86 North where the Providence Fire Department now stands and cost approximately $1,000 a year to attend.


"There were 13 people in my graduating class so we were a close knit group," Blalock said. "You didn't have to be from Caswell to attend though. A lot of students were from Rockingham County and Virginia."

Many sited low enrollment as the reason for the school's closing in 1985 but former students still remember the site, which brings back fond memories with each passing. "I loved getting to know all the people and getting to know all the children," Gauldin said whose own daughter Michelle attended Piedmont Academy. "I loved all of them. I felt like they belonged to me. They were like home away from home from kindergarten to twelfth grade. I loved every one of them."

Source: The Caswell Messenger (Yanceyville, North Carolina), 20 January 2009.
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Click to See Large Image
Academy Slates Bronc Rodeo This Weekend [1977]

Piedmont Academy will hold its second annual bronc-riding, calf-roping, steer-dogging rodeo Saturday at 8 p.m. on the grounds of the Providence, N.C., school.

. . . .

Participants will come from all over the southeast to participate first in a parade down Danville's Main Street at noon.

Source: The Danville Register (Danville, Virginia), 28 May 1977, Saturday, Page 12.

Piedmont Academy High School Commencement [1972]

Piedmont Academy High School graduation exercises will be held at the school in Providence, N.C., on Tuesday at 8 p.m. Guest speaker will be the Rev. Ellis Adams of Brightwood Baptist Church in Greensboro, N.C.

Top honor graduates in the class are Marthann Carroll, valedictorian, and George Malloy Shelton, Jr., salutatorian. Both will speak at the commencement before diplomas are awarded by Headmaster A. A. Willette, Jr.

The valedictorian, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Carroll of Providence, is a past president of the Student Council, editor of the French Newspaper, member of the French Club, and of the yearbook staff.

The salutatorian is the son of Mrs. Louise P. Shelton of Yanceyville, N.C. He is a member of the football team, and Monogram Club, served as treasurer of the junior class, and is a member of the yearbook staff and homeroom representative for Student Council

Source: The Bee (Danville, Virginia), 3 June 1972, Saturday, Page 3.
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Piedmont Academy

Headmaster in 1969: Boyd Barrier
Headmaster in 1970: Al Willette
Headmaster in 1977: Jeff E. Warner

Who was in the group of Caswell County residents who purchased the Providence Elementary School and formed a non-profit corporation to operate it for their children as a private school? In 1969, parents pay a $100 application fee and a tuition of $300 for a child in grades one through six; $400 in grades seven through ten.

Initial funds for the purchase of the school building and lot were raised by the sale of $22,000 in bonds, which were sold out four hours after being put up for sale.

Piedmont Academy school policy is adopted by an 18-member board of directors elected from the parents of the children who attend the school. They delegate to the headmaster the actual operation of the school, but retain the final authority on all his actions.

In 1969, the Piedmont Academy Board of Trustees was headed by Ira Dameron, Jr. In 1970, David Sartin was a member of the Piedmont Academy's Board. Sartin was president of the Piedmont Patrons Association and a member of the Board of Directors of Piedmont Academy.

Piedmont Academy's operation is modeled after that of private schools in Enfield, N.C., and Lawrenceville, Va.

The Danville Register (Danville, Virginia), 21 December 1969, Sunday, Page 15.
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Raleigh -- North Carolina Defenders of States Rights, Inc., was chartered today in the office of Secretary of State Thad Eure. Dedicated to the preservation of "national and racial integrity, state's rights and individual liberty," the organization lists among its board of directors men prominent throughout the state.

Directors whose names appear on the charter included Bernard H. Dixon of Providence, Caswell County, North Carolina.

A summary of the purpose for which the organization was formed is found in the Preamble of its Platform, the chief purposes being the preservation of a white society and culture and preservation of white and Negro racial integrities.

"We are of the belief that the western European culture which is our heritage is superior to the African and Asiatic. it is, in any event, our preference, and we are proud of our heritage."

"A gigantic movement is afoot to destroy Constitutional Government, to seriously curtail the rights of the individual States of the Union, to foster a form of Socialism at the expense of our traditional American freedoms, and to destroy the social mores of our country and thereby both the White and Negro races by encouraging the integration of them. We believe these things to be evil in themselves and to serve the interests of the Communist Party program to dominate this country."

Statesville Record and Landmark (Statesville, North Carolina), 21 November 1958, Friday, Page 1.
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Planning a Caswell County All-White Private School: 1963

The drive to establish a private segregated school in Caswell County, North Carolina, apparently began in February 1963, after sixteen black students had transferred to formerly all-white schools the previous month. Until then, local whites opposing an end to segregation believed that delaying tactics would continue to work. After all, those tactics had been successful since 1954.

Bernard H. Dixon, a Providence farmer (and father of a four-year-old son), was chairman of the Caswell County chapter of the white-supremacist North Carolina Defenders of States Rights in 1963 when he hosted a meeting at the Caswell County Courthouse in Yanceyville. High-ranking organization speakers were invited, along with those familiar with private academies in other states (especially Virginia).

Newspapers of the time reported: "Further plans are being made by the North Carolina Defenders of States Rights to determine what may be done in establishing private schools in this area, according to Bernard Dixon, a farmer who was among the leaders at a meeting yesterday."

Among the speakers at the meeting were Allison James, froma Winston-Salem; Lon F. Backman of Richmond, Va., public relations director of the Virginia Education Fund, Inc., which sponsored private schools in Virginia; and W. N. Jefferies of Burlington, hosiery executive who also was a director of the States Rights organization.

More than 400 people, an overflow crowd, attended the meeting at the Caswell County Courthouse and heard the speakers dencounce integration. The meeting was interrupted at one point when Jim Graves, a Negro who was standing at a rear corner of the courtroom, was asked to leave. He left without protest.

"I believe we can maintain segregated schools in Caswell County," said Dixon, "But we've got to use our heads."

Lon F. Backman then told the meeting that Virginia had been successful in creating segregated all-white private schools and that it could be done in Caswell County. "My point is that it has been done and it can be done," said Backman. If such schools were established here, he continued, "you will find you are a villified community. The press will be against you. You will be called arch-segregationists, renegades, diedhards who are opposed to education."

Dixon then got the floor again to introduce the final speaker, W. N. Jefferies of Burlington State Defenders. Jefferies said that "the obligation we owe to our children is the reason we are here. It is to protect society, not to hurt the Negro.

"I'll put it bluntly. We want to keep them from making bedfelows for our sons and daughters. That's the real reason. Destruction of the race. This amalgamation is not right in the sight of God!"

He expressed the opinion that the people of South Carolina will "win" their fight against integration, and then declared he had a fond feeling for Negroes.

"I will do anything for him if he is a decent upstanding citizen. I like decent self-respecting niggers. but I also know, if he comes in my house and sits on the sofa with my wife, I am going to kill him, so help me God!"

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