And I decided that I wanted to go to the University of Michigan. I applied and was excepted and went there for two summers, and at that time it was 1961. This was when I saw the newsreel about Charlayne and Hamilton, and I decided, “I am going to go to the University of Georgia. This is where I should go."
Tell us a little bit about that admissions process. Not a pleasant experience.
No, it wasn't. And you know, I found, I guess, about five years ago that there was an investigative report. I didn't know until five years ago that they had done one. I knew that they had done one for Charlayne and Hamilton, but I didn't know they had done one for me. And as I read it today, it is very upsetting because of the things that they were looking at. Whether I had venereal disease, whether I'd had an illegitimate child, if I had a police record, if I'd been shoplifting, you know, just things that would never have even occurred to me. And I thought, “You know, I'm a teacher. Why would they think that I would do that?" But one of the reasons…there were three women who applied to what is now Georgia State. I think it was the Georgia College of Business at the time. And two of them had had illegitimate children, and they disallowed them admission based on moral charges. And I thought, well, you know, I'm sure there's some white kids at Georgia who have had similar problems. Why is this used as….but anyway. I applied three days after the riot here.
That would have been in January of…
It was January of '61. I think it was January 14 when I applied. I got a letter back and forms in two days, which was really fast. But of course, they didn't know, I just told them I was a teacher and wanted to major in…wanted to get a masters in music education. They sent the forms, I completed them and sent them back, but I guess when they got my transcripts they found that I was African-American. And that's when it started. It just…it went on, and on, and on. It was a cat and mouse game. I didn't know what the status of my admission was. I didn't know if they were going to accept me or whether I'd go back to Michigan. See, when you went out of state, they paid us out of state aid to go to another university so that you wouldn't have to go to Georgia. And I accepted that, of course, but when I decided that I couldn't march on the picket lines because I was a teacher, they would have fired me, but I could go to school. So I said, “You know, I can do that. That can be my role in civil rights and trying to get equality." And so that's when I decided to do it. My mom was not really interested in my going initially, because, as I said, she grew up in Monroe. And there was a lynching in Monroe. I think it was 1946, but I'm not sure about that. And she thought, “That's very close, and you know, they're still doing some bad things and you need to think about it. Do you really want to do this?"
Concerned for your safety?
Yes. And I said, “Yes, I do. I am not really concerned about being safe. I think that this is…the time is right and this is what I want to do." And then she was fully in support. But, it took five months for me to actually get in. I came down…you were supposed to have…well, first of all, you had to go to the court house with a form and get the clerk of the court to sign, or the judge, saying that you were an upstanding citizen. And you were supposed to get two alumni signatures. Well, I didn't know any UGA alumni, so I didn't do that. But I did go and get the judge, well, it was the clerk of the court, to sign. And he signed with no big problem, and I sent that in. Then I found that they had requested my high school transcript. Well, fortunately my grades were very good. I graduated valedictorian in both places and my high school transcript was really better than my college. They were trying to find some way to keep me out, but there was a required interview with the registrar, Mr. Danner, Walter Danner. But nobody asked me to come for the interview. It was getting…I guess it was April, and we were having spring break in school. So I called down and said “I'm coming down, and I want to have an interview." Well, I was able to talk with Mr. Danner, and his assistant, I think his name was Paul Keys [Kea]. At any rate, he asked questions that I thought were inappropriate. He asked me if I had ever been in a house of prostitution, and I said, “No, I'm a teacher. I don't do that. I don't need to prostitute myself. I was really insulted. And then he told me that if I came to the University of Georgia, I would lose the credits that I had at the University of Michigan, and I said, “Well, if you don't transfer them, I won't lose anything, because what I've learned, I've learned. I'll just add to that.”It wasn't a long conference, but it was rather upsetting. I sort of expected that, I didn't really know what to expect, but I didn't expect to be welcomed with open arms. Because I knew by that time, they were trying to find a way to keep me out. Well, Charlayne and Hamilton were already here. And they had accepted the two, and I guess they were trying not to accept a third. But there were a lot of newspaper articles, and a lot of calls back and forth. I telegrammed the president, the dean of graduate school, and Mr. Danner. I never heard from anyone except the dean. He…what was his name…I can't remember. At any rate, he did say to me that all matters about admission had to come from Walter Danner's office. And finally in May, I think it was May the 12th, 10th or 12th…I got a letter with the red mark across it, I guess it's the one everybody gets, saying that I had been admitted. And from that time on, I knew I was going to go. But it was a long process, and I thought when I went to the University of Michigan, which was one of the top ten schools, I didn't have this problem. And here I am in my own state, and they are trying to say that I am not suitable to come. But, it was the same thing that had happened with Charlayne and Hamilton, of course. It took, I think two years. But they were still, you know, they had that barrier there. And I was determined. I was a citizen here, I paid taxes, and by the way, in the investigative report they said that I didn't pay state taxes. But I mean, I taught, and they took out state taxes, you know, before you even get your check.