Partial Transcript: I was born in an area...
Segment Synopsis: Pyron talks about his early childhood and his experiences growing up in the black community. Pyron recalls how he was not aware of racial discrimination throughout his childhood as the result of his upbringing and the homogeneity of his community.
Keywords: Annie Schockley Elementary School; Griffin, Georgia
Partial Transcript: There was another minister that lived across the street...
Segment Synopsis: Pyron talks about how his father became the minister of a church in Griffin, Georgia. Pyron talks about the ways in which the community's children would innovate to keep entertained despite having fewer resources in comparison to wealthier communities.
Keywords: Griffin, Georgia; community; ministry; religion
Partial Transcript: She said that she asked my parents...
Segment Synopsis: Pyron talks about how his first grade teacher and describes the community of his elementary school, Anna Shockley. Pyron talks about the ways in which the teachers participated in the Griffin, Georgia community.
Keywords: Margaret Kendell; community; teaching
Partial Transcript: My mama was the PTA president at...
Segment Synopsis: Pyron talks about his mother's job as a maid, and how she eventually became a nurse after graduating nursing school. Pyron recalls the ways in which Georgian hospitals were segregated. Pyron explains the ways in which his mother pushed their family towards better housing and education. Pyron mentions that a local mill eventually started hiring African Americans shortly after mandatory integration.
Keywords: Griffin Technical School; integration; nursing school
Partial Transcript: But blacks could get those kind of jobs...
Segment Synopsis: Pyron talks about how his father's work as a custodian eventually led him to save enough money to own enough machinery to build an independent cleaning business. Pyron recalls how he would often assist his father in cleaning.
Keywords: Presbyterian Church; business; cleaning
Partial Transcript: And we had to move up to Court Nimons...
Segment Synopsis: Pyron talks about the series of moves his childhood family made after his elementary school burned down. Pryon describes his sixth grade principal of Moore Elementary, Mrs. Domidick. Pyron talks about how he eventually moved to Fairmont High School and some of the staff he knew growing up.
Keywords: Dr. Tate; Fairmont High School; Moore Elementary; Mrs. Domidick
Partial Transcript: You talk about a school where it was family...
Segment Synopsis: Pyron talks about how Fairmont High School's community urged a sense of professionalism. Fairmont recalls how members of the Griffin community participated in civil right events. Fairmont mentions some incidents he experienced concerning civil rights and interactions with the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Fairmont recalls how members of the Ku Klux Klan worked to intimidate progressive members of the black community of Griffin, Georgia.
Keywords: Fairmont High School; Ku Klux Klan (KKK); civil rights
Partial Transcript: Crosses were burned at their homes...
Segment Synopsis: Pyron describes how after the mandatory integration of the Griffin community, leading members of the black community were targeted by Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members. Pyron talks about how African Americans who moved in predominately white neighborhoods had crosses burned in their front yards. Pyron recalls how integration led to the death of many black businesses due to the competition of local white businesses.
Keywords: Ku Klux Klan (KKK); Triple 8; business
Partial Transcript: The Ku Klux Klan at one point...
Segment Synopsis: Pyron and the interviewer discuss how the KKK threatened the Griffin, Georgia sector of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Pyron talks about how he eventually became the Assistant Superintendent of Spalding High School. Pyron explains that the process he went through to achieve his position. Pyron mentions how he was still treated fairly even in leadership positions at the school.
Keywords: Ku Klux Klan (KKK); National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); Spalding High School
Partial Transcript: So can you tell us one of...
Segment Synopsis: Pyron talks about some of the challenges he faced as the principal at the newly integrated school, Griffin Spalding. Pyron mentions an encounter he had with one of the teachers who attempted to frame him for the purpose of removing him from his position.
Keywords: Griffin Spalding; Griffin, Georgia; administration
Partial Transcript: See, first they started sending...
Segment Synopsis: Pyron talks about the integration process for Griffin High School. Pryon recalls how his brother, who was sent to Griffin High School, experienced prejudice at the school despite being an advanced math student. Pyron explains how, despite mandatory integration, discrimination lived in Georgian culture. Pyron talks about the impact of the Civil Rights movements on his college experience.
Keywords: Civil Rights Movements; Fairmont High School; Fort Valley State University; Griffin High School; Hosea Williams; integration
Partial Transcript: And the first job I got in Griffin...
Segment Synopsis: Griffin talks about how he became a band director at Griffin High School. Griffin explains how he was drafted into the Vietnam war after refusing to work at a schooling institution that was promoting unfair integration.
Keywords: Fairmont High School; Ford Motor Company; Fort Valley University; Griffin, Georgia; Warner Robins, Georgia
Partial Transcript: I went to the army...
Segment Synopsis: Pyron talks about how he avoided being drafted into Vietnam, as the war was ending around the time of his deployment. Pyron explains how he was instead sent to Germany, where he witnessed the affect the Vietnam War had on soldiers who were transferred to Germany for medical attention. Pyron talks about how he went back to school after the war, and received a masters in counseling and music.
Keywords: Ford Motor Company; Ft. Louis, Kentucky; Germany; University of Georgia; Vietnam War; West Georgia College; infantry
Partial Transcript: After doing seven years as a band director...
Segment Synopsis: Pyron talks about how he became the assistant principal of schools in Griffin before he became the first black principal of Futral Road Elementary School. Pyron recalls how he attended many schools. Pyron describes how he still gets compliments from some of his students for his work as a principal.
Keywords: Futral Road Elementary School; University of Georgia; segregation
Partial Transcript: When we were working on...
Segment Synopsis: Pyron talks about the difficulty of the process of dividing resources for schools during integration. Pyron also speaks about the difficulties of integrating religion into schooling, and opines the importance of religion in creating moral standards for students. Pyron talks about his wish for religion integration in public schooling as an option for parents who can't pay for religious private schools.
Keywords: Spalding High School; public schooling; religion
Partial Transcript: With the changes in...
Segment Synopsis: Pyron explains his belief that the separation of school and church has led to unsustainable family structures in the black community. Pyron talks about how the low-income community of the United States has developed a culture that is unstable.
Keywords: African American community; education; religion
BE-ATRICE CUNNINGHAM:All right, well, good afternoon. Today is June 1st, 2018.My name is Be-Atrice Cunningham, and I'm with the University of Georgia, Griffin campus. And joining us today is Mr. WalterPyron. And we're also joined by --
JEWEL WALKER-HARPS:Jewel Walker-Harps, president of the Griffin branch NAACP.
JOHN CRUICKSHANK:John Cruickshank, librarian, Griffin campus library, Universityof Georgia.
ELLEN BAUSKE:Ellen Bauske, program director for the UGA Center for Urban Agriculture.
CUNNINGHAM:Very good. And today we're conducting an interview as part of theGriffin African American Oral History project. So thank you, Mr. Pyron. Thank you so much for joining us today. And we're just going to start off by talking a little bit about your early life. So if you could just tell us a little bit about your childhood.
WALTER PYRON:Okay. I was born in an area of Griffin called Spring Hill. NowSpring Hill -- and we lived on Smith Street. Spring Hill is an area 00:01:00over near the Griffin Golf Course, and is not extremely far from the hospital. One of the things about the area is that you enter one row at the top of the hill, which is -- that's called Spring Hill.
PYRON:And you go down, it goes all the way around and comes back out at theother part of it. From where we were living, we could see the golf course, and we could watch and see the golfers out there. Now blacks were not allowed to be on the golf course.
PYRON:If any time -- because being children, we would run out there and play onit when no one was looking. But if they saw us, they'd run us off. But between where I lived and where the golf course was located, there were some 00:02:00pine trees. So we could go into the pine trees and kind of hide and watch the golfers. It was all you know, it was just a beautiful sight out there, to be able to look at the golf course and to see all those people in those little carts riding around. It was exciting. But we would go out there and play. Spring Hill was -- I was born there, and we stayed there until I was 11 years old. But it was a place where the community was close-knit. It was segregated; there were no whites anywhere in the area. The elementary school that we attended was called Annie Shockley. AnnieShockley was an all-black school. It was a nice school, it was a brick school.
PYRON:And we -- everybody who lived in my neighborhood would walk there everymorning. We did not see a whole lot of white people over there at 00:03:00AnnieShockley. We, as children, we didn't hear a whole lot about racism or separation. My parents didn't talk a whole lot of negatives about white folks, because my dad was one of these -- my dad was a custodian. My mom was a maid. And they worked for a lot of rich folks, and worked for a lot of white folks. So we never, early on, heard a lot of negatives. Now my dad had a place next to the house, and you would have called -- you would have said there was a "juke joint."
PYRON:Okay. So he ran the juke joint. A lot of times policemen would come overthere, not necessarily because anything was going on, but they just kept an eye on it. And that's when I would see the white policemen come down. To my knowledge, now -- and they wouldn't share everything with us, I'm sure -- to my knowledge, there was never any real trouble at the juke joint, but it was one of those places where people went to enjoy -- I'm not aware of any alcohol being sold there, but I was a kid, so I cannot say for sure if those kind of things went on. I'm sure sometimes there may have been some skirmishes there. But none that I'm really aware of. So we were not exposed to a lot of that. My older brother, however --
CUNNINGHAM:Mm-hmm? PYRON:-- would go down there and was aware of the00:05:00place. He was more aware, I think, than any of us. We were -- there were six of us, five boys, one girl. My sister was two years older than I am, and my brother, oldest brother, was four years older, and the rest of everybody was four years apart. We had a set of -- there was twins, so the rest of us, with the exception of my sister, all the boys were four years apart. And we had what would be a modified shotgun house.
PYRON:We had maybe -- to this day, I try to remember where did eight people,counting my parents, where did eight people go in that house? (laughter) Now we were smaller, so I imagine my sister had a room by herself. My older 00:06:00brother slept on the couch -- there was a couch that we could let out in the living room. And the rest -- and probably my brothers and me, my brothers and I all probably slept in the bed together. I would imagine there were three of us, maybe four, in the bed together, my sister and my oldest brother slept in separate quarters, separate beds. Again, my older brother probably slept in the couch. So that's how we met -- my parents had a room.
PYRON:One of the four rooms. And when I say it was a modified shotgun house,meaning that you could look straight through it, but there was a room off to the side. And that, I think, is what we called a "modified." The juke joint was in a building below. Over the 10 years that I was there, the juke joint 00:07:00became a store. My dad (stocked?), and became a store. Then he became a minister. It became a church. So by the time that we moved from that area to a better area, he was a minister. And when he went into the ministry, he held church at the building below. There was another minister that lived across the street, and often he would come over there and preach, and different folks in the community would come over and we'd have service there. Going to church was not an option, even when he had the juke joint. But that's what 00:08:00happened. We lived -- Spring Hill was on a totally red clay street. We actually learned how to skate from the top of the hill down on that smooth clay, red clay. And actually, we were pretty good at it. But that was the innovation, the kind of things we made and enjoyed. They -- that was not, in that whole area, not a whole lot of people making a lot of money. But most of ev-- mostly everybody there worked, had a job. All of the neighbors that I interacted with, they were married. There were two people, two persons in the house. Most folks, we were six there were six children -- most folks had three, four, 00:09:00five children. Most of them had a garden in the yard because there wasn't a whole lot of money coming in, but the people were hard workers. So most of them hard a garden. We had chickens, and there was -- a hog would be slaughtered, and sometimes it would be shared with the neighbors, and so forth and so on. So we were basically happy children, having a good time. We used Chinaberry limbs to play Cowboy and Indians. We were fortunate enough to finally wind up with a television. Well, to have a television in the neighborhood then, it was a very popular thing. So everybody would gather around during the day when the parents were working and we weren't in school, we'd gather around and look at 00:10:00television and just have a lot of fun. We had fights in the neighborhood, in terms of disagreements between young folks and the older folks, but they were all friendly fights. And we were all very -- we all got along fairly well. There were, in the neighborhood, some folks who occasionally would overdrink or get into a fight. One of the worst ones I ever saw was when I was going through the neighborhood, and two ladies were arguing. One of them had an axe, and the other one had a big stick. And so how she did it, I don't know -- we were curious children, so we watched. And the one that had the stick somehow -- no, the one that had the axe somehow talked the lady who had the stick to put it 00:11:00down, and then she hit her with the blunt side of the axe. She did not die.
PYRON:Pretty tough folks. But it was -- I was always amazed at how she talkedher out of that. And yet, we could go through the neighborhood, and folks didn't bother us -- even my eyes were everywhere, and they would make sure your paents knew. It was a close-knit community.
PYRON:We were a diverse group of folks. But the children were watched. Ifanything happened, anything -- they would get on to you for doing anything wrong, you know, if you were in somebody's yard and you shouldn't be there, they were going to tell you. And they were going to let your parents know. And we were very -- the whole neighborhood was very close-knit. And that was one of the amazing things. Another thing that you don't see as much of today as you once did, the neighborhood was clean. We had those straw brooms -- all the 00:12:00parents made sure that you kept your area clean, and you didn't drop paper anywhere in somebody else's yard or place. If not, they would make sure you pick it up. So it was amazing how clean it was in that area. You go down the street now, and you see paper everywhere. But part of that, too, was your parents teaching you. The other part was, when we went to Annie Shockley, you always cleaned your area. We had those broken-in shoes and hand-me-down clothes from older brother to younger brother. We was -- one of the things we cherished was to get one of those free lunches. And how you got the free lunch was, you worked in the cafeteria. Because most of the time we were taking potted meat 00:13:00and spam sandwiches. But every once in a while, you know, we couldn't afford the cafeteria food. (laughs) So every once in a while -- I couldn't wait for my turn, so I could go in there and clean up the -- wash whatever it was that we had to do in the cafeteria, and they'd give us a free hot lunch. Now that was a treat. Could you imagine the days when I wanted to clean up, to get a free lunch? (laughter) But that's the way it was. And the staff over at Annie Shockley -- you talkin' about protective folks, you're talkin' about a family kind of atmosphere, you're talkin' about everybody making sure that you were doing right and wrong, clean up your space. And dare you to be in a fight, because mom wouldn't do it, or dad wouldn't do it before you got 00:14:00home. And we all reacted to that, we all respected that. And we respected the teachers over there amazingly. They were unbelievable. Michael Kendall's mom was my first grade teacher.
PYRON:Uh-huh, Margaret Kendall. And I don't know if you know Michael, but he's --
PYRON:Okay. But she was my first grade teacher. And she didn't have any childrenat that time. So -- and I didn't know this, because she told the story later on at my retirement, she said that she took -- she asked could she asked my parents, could she take me home with her? At the time, people could do that, and it was no big deal. A teacher would take a child home, and there was no problem with the parents for allowing it. So she took me to the house. She 00:15:00lived over there off of 4th Street at that time, in one of the nicer houses that were around at that time. So she took me in there, and I got to meet her husband, Mr. Kendall, who worked at Griffin Tech in Fairmount for a long time, and got to meet him. She just treated me royally. And I was another big-headed, skinny boy at that time. I was just delighted. Loved Miss Kendall. Well, at my retirement, Miss Kendall told the rest of the story. She said she had wanted some boys. And she said, "I'm going to take Walter home," well, may have called me Lawrence then, it was my middle name. "I'm going to take Walter home with me, and I'm going to pray that I get some boys." True enough, she says 00:16:00she wound up with three.
PYRON:She had her first child not very long after my staying at her house. Shetold that at my retirement. And I said, "I wondered about that." But it was those kinds of things all throughout my time at Annie Shockley. In case you didn't know, Annie Shockley is now called Anne Street.
PYRON:Okay. Anne Street is where Annie Shockley was.
WALKER-HARPS:Did you know Ms. Shockley? Did you hear stories about her, what wasit about her that had a school name for her?
PYRON:No, I hadn't.
WALKER-HARPS:No, I don't know, either.
PYRON:No. Mr. (Barty?) was the principal there.
PYRON:You know, he married Ms. (Butler?) later on.
PYRON:And she became -- Ms. Butler was a teacher there, at Annie Shockley. AndMr. Barty had another son that also went there, we used to all play 00:17:00over there at Annie Shockley. But he married one of the teachers later on, I think his wife passed, and he later married Ms. Butler, who is my second grade teacher over at Annie Shockley. And so it went through to the fifth grade, and once again, the protection, the encouragement, you know, we didn't have a lot of parents there that had finished school. My dad, I think, went to the sixth or seventh grade, my mother went to the eleventh grade. And some of the students that were there, the parents didn't even stay that long at school. But the teachers knew that. And most of the teachers live in the Griffin 00:18:00community. That's something that's a big change now. But they lived in the Griffin community, and particularly they were hold up mostly in the black community. It's not like now where you can get an apartment or a house anywhere you want. Basically, they were around, not only at school, but you would also be around in the community. And many of them lived in some of the communities --
WALKER-HARPS:They have a choice.
PYRON:It would be, like, the nicest house in that community. But -- or one ofthe nicest. But that was the restriction. But in some ways, having the teachers that close actually wound up being a plus.
PYRON:Because they became involved in the community in a different way than youmight see now. So many of the teachers don't live in Spalding, or they don't live in the community where they teach. So that, I thought, was a 00:19:00plus, because they had a kind of a care for us that was so different sometimes than you may even see now. They were involved. They could come to your house, and would come to your house. They aren't afraid to go anywhere in the neighborhood. And I think that's a plus. I think that was a plus at that time. You could also see them at church. Parents could interact with them in a different way. And like I said, many, many teachers took students home with them, which you just wouldn't see nowadays. That's very difficult for some to do now, because it's-- so many things are viewed differently than they were then.
WALKER-HARPS:Do you know if any of those teachers are still alive today? I knowthere are a few from (Cora Nimtz?), but are there any from Annie Shockley that you know about, that are still living today? 00:20:00
PYRON:That are still alive?
WALKER-HARPS:I don't know.
PYRON:The last one I saw, well, besides Ms. Kendall, who because, she didn'tlive too very far from there when they moved to their new house, the last one I saw for sure was Ms. Patrick.
PYRON:Ms. Patrick was my fourth grade teacher. And I ran into her over at theapartments. And she remembered me. (laughter) Yeah. I was over at her apartment, I'm trying to think -- I was over there, I can't remember, it was, like, while I was in the area, but I was trying to find somebody, and ran to Ms. Patrick. And we had a good reunion there. And she talked about "parrot boy." (laughter)
PYRON:But and mama was -- my mama was a PTA president at AnnieShockley.She was PTA president there. She later on became PTA president for 00:21:00Dr. Tate when he was at Fairmount. She was president for a year. Mama was -- started out as a maid. She then went to the Griffin Hospital as a aide, basically she would take care of the pans and so forth, and so on. Griffin Tech wanted to have a black class to learn nursing. It was going to be the first black class. Mama wanted to take that class, but she only went to the 00:22:0011th grade, so she needed to do something in connection with, like, a GED test, or something like that. Anyway, she passed it. She was in the first black class to enroll at Griffin Tech -- it was called Griffin Tech at that time -- Griffin ech, and she finished top in her class. Mama became a, what, LE -- LPN, Licensed Practical Nurse.
PYRON:She was an LPN. She worked at the hospital for 15, 16 years. She was incharge of a night shift floor. See, when they first started over at the hospital, all the black folks were on the first floor. Second floor is where white folks were. Third floor was just -- I think it had something to do with ladies.
PYRON:The fourth floor was where you had surgery. And when black folks neededsurgery, they could go up in a particular room up on the fourth floor. When I was a senior at Fairmount, I worked -- I applied and worked as an orderly at the Griffin Spalding Hospital at that time. And again, the segregation was still there on the floor, but I worked as an orderly, and when I went to college -- the first time, I still worked as an orderly. It still had not integrated fully at the hospital. And sometimes worked in the emergency room. She stayed there, continued there, and eventually when the hospital started to change 00:24:00owners, she wound up going out working at Brightmoor, she was in charge of the floor there at night. She loved the night shift. As a matter of fact, when I worked at the hospital, I worked at the night shift sometimes with her. And then later on, she went out to Renaissance -- it wasn't called Renaissance name -- the other nursing home. And she finished her career out there. Mom was smart and a pusher. And her whole determination was for all of us who wanted to go to college to go to college. And so four of us went to college, and four of us finished. That was her push. The other push she had was, she wanted dad -- my dad loved cars, so he was one of the few that had a black 1949 00:25:00Hudson. It was talk of the neighborhood. (laughter) And but mom was determined that we were going to move in a better neighborhood. And as I say, when I was 11, we'd be at one of the few brick houses that blacks had over there on North 5th Street, not too far from where Ms. (Molette?) used to live.
WALKER-HARPS:Okay, right around that curve.
PYRON:Yeah. Uh-huh. Ms. Molette, who's the teacher, her husband had been aprincipal, hadn't he?
PYRON:So we moved there, and of course, we -- my dad and all of us, we put in afloor, the hardwood floor, and things like that, and paint, and whatever we could cut corners on, you know, because that was a big move. And it was very hard for blacks to get a job at Dundee Mill. It was very difficult at 00:26:00that time, because Dundee Mill was employed the most people in Spalding at that time. I think the teaching was -- education had the second highest single population. Now, with the mills all closing in Griffin, I think education has the largest number now. So but that was the difficult -- now, if you were cleaning up and things like that, you could get jobs. Now, little by little, the industry began to change, and it began to employ black folks at the mill. But in terms of that process, it took a long time before they started employing folks at the mill.
WALKER-HARPS:Except the Pepper Plant.
PYRON:Except -- yeah, the Pepper Plant. The Pepper Plant, which was00:27:00not very far from where we live, the Pepper Plant would employ.
PYRON:But it was quite a challenge to work in the Pepper Plant.
PYRON:And sometimes some people would say it's somewhat dangerous. That was --the Pepper Plant, you could smell, almost all over Griffin, when it operated. So you can imagine how it was to work in it. But blacks could get those kind of jobs pretty quickly. My dad cleaned -- was a custodian. As people used to tease, and they'd say to him, "Well, save some jobs for me. You've got all the clean-up jobs all over Griffin!" And we knew that, because as the boys got 00:28:00older, when I turned 10, it was my time to start going with him in the morning. And what would happen is, I don't know if you know where Burger King is located now.
PYRON:The Presbyterian Church used to be where Burger King is now.
PYRON:My dad, because the activities at the church and nursey then, all thosekind of things, back in the day, my dad would take one of us, sometimes two, and every morning before we got ready to go to school, we'd go over there and help him clean up. He cleaned up -- he had that place, on Sunday morning after they had early worship, even though we would go to church, we would go by to straighten up so they can have a second worship. He had First 00:29:00National Bank, it was called some -- it was called First State Bank back then. Later on it became First National. He cleaned that up. We had several doctors' office. And when I got a little older, I used to clean up for Dr. -- the optometrist who owned -- he was the only one in Griffin that owned a Rolls Royce. And I used to clean his office. And all of us had jobs. So like I say, there's one guy, older, I moved with dad. Dad's dream was -- and he worked a lot of places and kept his mind, he was stingy -- (laughter) but that was a good thing. It made us find jobs.
PYRON:When he -- he always wanted -- he worked on them until they00:30:00finally built the First National Bank where it is now. We used to -- on Fridays, he served coffee to the customers coming in. He had a white coat, I would come up there after school and I'd go upstairs with him, because when they cleared out, we were going to clean up. But when he served coffee, I would go out there with them. And he started serving the coffee on Friday, and I think he started -- because Friday they stayed open until 6:00. I think we started serving the coffee around 4:00. People would come in there to get a cup of coffee, whatever, tea and so forth -- tea and so forth, and we would serve the coffee. Then we would clean up. Well, he wanted his own business. He said, "I'm going to have my own business one of these days." And as he saved his money and so forth and so on, and as he had churches and really had a really good ministerial 00:31:00career, he bought machinery. He bought the big ones where it cleans and washes at the same time, fairly expensive machinery, and so forth and so on. He also owned tractors, and he would go down and had a garden -- had bought -- I don't know if you know where the cemetery is in Milner, it's a old -- it's 100 confederate soldiers buried there, and they all have their little slabs. Well, there's a property above there that my grandfather owned. When he died, the property was split up among the 14 kids that he had, that my granddaddy and grandmamma had, of the remaining ones. And so he did a-- he had a 00:32:00garden in that acre, acre and a half in Milner. And we were going to go down there and plow, and so forth. And he had a garden, he was in a new place where we moved on 5th Street, had a garden in the back. He still maintained a garden. My mother would do canning, and all those kind of things. But when he got the machinery and got the equipment and a carrier, and a truck, and all those kind of things, he had his own business. And therefore, he became an independent cleaner. And he cleaned stores like Piggly Wiggly, Big Apple. And he contracted with those folks. And of course, I finished school and was back working in Griffin, and I used to go with him, because I knew (bank?) would take mom. But mom was still working. So I would be the one to go with him, 00:33:00because I wanted her to get her rest, yeah, even though I was working in Griffin. I'm going to stop now, so I can go--
CUNNINGHAM:Sure, go ahead, take a break.
(break in audio)
PYRON:Well, one thing that did happen at the Annie Shockley, AnnieShockleycaught on fire.
PYRON:I guess it must have been fifth grade. And we had to move up to Cora Nimtz.
PYRON:Cora Nimtz was a small school, but thank heavens the building didn't havea whole lot of folks. So we had to go there while they repaired Annie Shockley, and then we were able to return. Wen I left, when we moved then, and we went over to, like I told you, the property that's near Ms.Molette --
PYRON:-- oh, okay. That's right, because I keep turning that way.00:34:00
CUNNINGHAM:That's okay. That's fine. I just need to move it over.
CUNNINGHAM:When you moved to Molette?
PYRON:Oh, when we moved over on 5th Street, then the school that I was going tohave to go to then was Moore Elementary. Moore Elementary, I don't know necessarily the history about it, but almost all -- behind it, but almost all of the schools were named after some person. And Moore Elementary I think may have been --
WALKER-HARPS:The Reverend Henry Moore.
PYRON:Right. I don't know if that was the same area where the old Cabin Creekschool that my dad went to may have been located, but somewhere in that area, the Cabin Creek area, the older kids had gone to that particular school. But anyway, I went to Moore Elementary, and guess, of all, who was my 00:35:00sixth grade teacher? Mrs.Tate.
WALKER-HARPS:I was going to ask if you knew Dr. and Mrs.Tate.
PYRON:Yeah, Dr. Tate's wife, very excellent, very excellent teacher, was mysixth grade teacher. There was a principal there, a female principal, named Ms. (Domenic?).
WALKER-HARPS:Yes. Terrified of Ms. Domenic.
PYRON:This Ms. Domenic came down the hall, she had a booming voice. Andeverybody moved. I mean, she was just intimidating, just to hear her talk. And we were little sixth graders, you know, we knew the move when she was coming. As a matter of fact, there was a guy in the room one day, and he's (Eddie?), Eddie was much bigger than I was. Like I say, I was a little skinny thing 00:36:00with a big head. And Eddie was approaching, and just cutting up, you know, I guess because I was little at that time. He was just going to bully. And I got tired of Eddie. He just was going on and on and on, and I got tired of Eddie. And I stood up to him, like that, and I slapped him. And I figured he was about to pulverize me. By that time, we heard Ms. Domenic's voice on the outside, and everybody froze. And Eddie didn't do anything. He told me later on, "You did that because you heard her coming." I said, "That may be true." But nothing happened after that. Eddie went on about, just never bothered me again. I don't know if it was because I stood up to him, or what. But he never 00:37:00bothered me. Actually got to be fairly decent friends. But anyway, Ms. Domenic was a tough lady, and respected by everybody. The fear, I think, was more in her voice, but she was very kind to students, especially as long as you behave and you were not cutting up. So she ran a tight school. But Mrs. Tate was just an amazing teacher. From that, I went to Fairmount.
WALKER-HARPS:Was Dr. Tate the principal at Fairmount, where you went to Fairmount?
PYRON:Mr. Daniels had taken over.
PYRON:Dr. Tate had moved on to Fort Valley, where he became a he had aposition down there, and later on he became the GAE president, and so forth and so on. And he was a part of my life at a earlier time, before I got 00:38:00to know him. You see, I wound up staying in Dr. Tate's house.
WALKER-HARPS:Yes, I know.
PYRON:All of the folks who had been before me had become either principals orassistant principals.
PYRON:Mr. Walker stayed in Dr. Tate's house, before finally moving out. That wasthe house up on 4th Street, which was across the street from Raymond Head, who later on became the mayor, the first black mayor, of Griffin. But it was Fairmount was a good experience. When I started at Fairmount in seventh grade, went through seven through twelve, and the school had -- it was about 1958, so the school hadn't been built too long. It was a fairly new school. I'm thinking it was built '57, '56. But it was a fairly new school, because they 00:39:00moved from the old building up on the hill --
PYRON:Uh-huh. Uh-huh. And Mr. Daniels was there, I guess he would have been thefirst year principal, because Dr.Tate had just left. And Mr. Daniels was the principal. Ms. Foster was my teacher that particular year. She was part of the county Foster, I think, family. And we had some tough boys in there. I saw her grab one of them one day and put him in a hug, and he couldn't get loose. (laughter) She was a pretty tough lady. And he was a big boy. But we -- you talk about a school where it was family; the people wanted everybody to 00:40:00achieve. The expectation was, you behaved. I don't know when the last time any of you may have been in a school where the seniors in the school all dressed up on certain days, they would put on suits --
PYRON:-- ties. And nobody was making them do it. This was just a part of theimage. The teachers wore sharp dresses, suits, high heels. And those old ladies wore them all day, up and down those halls. Their professional look, their professional behavior, again many of them, most of them, were still in the communities, were still in the churches. And the professionalism there, the camaraderie there, the feeling of community, it was almost like you were living in a neighborhood with these folks, and you had that interaction to 00:41:00them. You tried your best not to get in trouble, because you had great respect for the schools. We had a very good football team. We were certainly more aware of segregation, because we'd all gotten older. We had -- there was participation in some boycotting. We had a store, (McLellan's?), that was Downtown Griffin. And McLellan's, it was like a 10 cent store. And they had a black-white fountain. You could go in, you could buy anything you want. You were watched very carefully, they generally had a cop, a policeman in there, and 00:42:00he particularly watched -- you were aware that he was watching you when you came in. And they would particularly watch black customers, young and old. You couldn't eat at the -- it's a little caf they had in there. And it was boycotted. My younger brother was a little more outspoken about that at that particular time. And they staged a boycott, we stayed out of there. Finally, the store decided to get rid of the black-white, some years later, get rid of the black-white water fountains. And I think for a while they just took them both out, and nobody could use them. They then started serving 00:43:00blacks. So a group of us went in there just to test it, you know, we were high school. And we were all bold and brave. So we went in there to test it, and they served us burned hamburgers.
PYRON:And you know, but we knew -- we had already been told not to cause aruckus, not to be over -- you know, impolite, and those kind of things.
CUNNINGHAM:Were you told that by your family? Or were you told that by the teacher?
PYRON:Well, it was a little bit of the organizers.
WALKER-HARPS:Organization, yeah, when they were --
PYRON:It was the -- the communication was not to be violent, or anything.
CRUICKSHANK:What year would that be, now?
PYRON:That would have been --
WALKER-HARPS:Sixty-one, sixty-two, somewhere like that.
PYRON:Somewhere there, '61, '62, because I had yet to go off to school. I didn'tgo off to school until '63.
PYRON:So it was '61, '62, right in there. Right in there. And there00:44:00was -- those -- they were tense times. See, I mentioned about the neighbor, that Mr. Head, RaymondHead had a Clean Well press, laundry, served by blacks, whites would send all their stuff to him, because he was just --
WALKER-HARPS:The quality was worth --
PYRON:The quality. It was quality service. And he later on, like I said, becamethe mayor, the first black mayor of Griffin. Well, the Ku Klux Klan would do a parade where the post office is now. I don't know if you ever been to the Griffin -- where the post office is now, the street coming up in front of the post office, the Ku Klux Klan would come there, making a lot of noise, and they would go right in front of Clean Well, which was on the corner 00:45:00at that time, facing the post office, I believe. And they would come up and they would march, and they'd just raise just a whole lo of saying. And they particularly, I think, targeted Clean Well.
WALKER-HARPS:And the Triple H --
PYRON:And Triple H, that's right, the Heads on Triple H.
WALKER-HARPS:The three Heads, the Triple H's.
WALKER-HARPS:Raymond, Otis and -- it was Philip.
PYRON:Yeah. Yes. And they would come in front of it, with all the colors, themasks, or some without masks. And they had a parade right in front of Clean Well. They would do that several times a year, trying to, I guess, intimidate, and so forth. 00:46:00
CRUICKSHANK: Why were they targeting Head in particular? Because he was doing something?
PYRON:These were prominent blacks, Mr. Head, the Head family.
CRUICKSHANK:Was he seen as being a leader of -- a Civil Rights leader, or something?
PYRON:Well, I don't know if they considered him a leader. But they wereprogressive blacks.
PYRON:And sometimes that brought about reactions. They were progressive. Theywere kind of downtown, so to speak. It was -- I know, well, it was Wall's Alley?
PYRON:Wall's Alley --
WALKER-HARPS:Because there were tight businesses at the time.
PYRON:But they were on the corner, and it actually faced the
CRUICKSHANK:That was not -- if that was where the post office is now, that wasnot in Fairmount community, was it?
PYRON:No, no. This was strictly downtown.
PYRON:Clean Well's was located -- see, the post office used to be on00:47:00the corner of where Clean Well was. But they built a new one across the street --
PYRON:-- where Clean Well would have been facing the new one. But it was righton the same corner of the old one. And therefore, it was downtown, where you got a black business downtown.
CRUICKSHANK:So you're talking about where the main post office is right now?
PYRON:Where the main post office is now, Clean Well would be just across thestreet, would have been just across the street from it. You know, the old post office, I think, they turned into a DUS, you know, something like that. But that was where Clean Well and Triple H was there, too. And these were two prominent businesses, and these were two prominent families, the Head family and the --
WALKER-HARPS:Crosses were burned at their homes.
PYRON:Crosses were burned in their home.
PYRON:And it was touch and go in Griffin --00:48:00
CRUICKSHANK:This was Raymond Head and Otis Head?
PYRON:Raymond Head, Otis --
CRUICKSHANK:How did they take it? I mean, how did they --
PYRON:How did what?
CRUICKSHANK:How did they take it? I mean, were they intimidated?
PYRON:And I look at you, because she's connected with NAACP.
WALKER-HARPS:And some of it perhaps had to do with -- if you remember when wetalked, we are trying to get information on that biracial or human relations, or whatever, biracial committee which existed at that time. That had a lot to do with the paving of a semi-peaceful -- but they was not being any worse than they were. There were white folk who were working for, well, maybe not integration, but for peaceful survival of the races, as well as black people. So 00:49:00it wasn't that they were just out there on their own. Miss. Millie (Crossville?), Missus (Fitzou?), RaymondHead, and there were other white folk and black folk meeting together, Gary Reid, to ensure that it didn't just blow up as it were happening in some parts of the country. So that had a lot to do with the fact that there was an alternative to being out there all on your own. You knew that they were --
CRUICKSHANK:So at the time, did you know any African Americans, like in Griffin,who really were in fear of their safety?
PYRON:They burned, what was it, a cross that the teachers, the --
WALKER-HARPS:There were several cross burnings.
PYRON:Yeah. But he had moved -- the gentleman -- the light skin gentleman hadmoved over on -- over into what would have been a predominant white neighborhood. 00:50:00
WALKER-HARPS:You're talking about the (Calhoun?)s?
PYRON:Yeah, they burned a cross in his house.
WALKER-HARPS:Yes. Yeah, we hope to bring her in here. Yes, that was Brooks?Wasn't it Brooks? Somewhere in that neighborhood (inaudible).
PYRON:Somewhere in that neighborhood, going down where -- what's the street --it would be over that area, there was a change in area. And --
WALKER-HARPS:And black folk were moving in.
PYRON:Black folks were moving in. And the cross burning was an attempt to keep-- you know, to intimidate.
PYRON:And the Ku Klux Klan going through downtown so boldly. Do you rememberabout when the Ku Klux Klan wanted to be in the Christmas parade?
WALKER-HARPS:Yeah, vaguely. This is --
PYRON:They went to the superintendent's house.
PYRON:And they wanted to be in the Christmas parade. True story!
CUNNINGHAM:I believe you. I believe you! (laughter)00:51:00
PYRON:It's good you edited. But they wanted to be in the Christmas parade.
PYRON:And they went to Dr. (Greene?), and they went up to the central office andthey were trying to get Dr.Greene to allow them to be in the Christmas parade. And I'm thinking that -- what I cannot remember is whether he refused them, or they actually participated in it.
WALKER-HARPS:I don't remember.
PYRON:Dr. Greene was superintendent at that time.
WALKER-HARPS:I don't remember. But I do remember --
PYRON:But it was definitely requested to be in the Christmas parade, definitely.It's a true story.
WALKER-HARPS:Some of us were intimidated. I remember when we were having -- theNAACP was having something, some kind of program.
WALKER-HARPS:And the Ku Klux Klan had threatened us. They had threatened. Wherehe's talking about, where Triple H was, that was sort of the mecca of black business. (Lon Teshto?) had a (Atlanta Light?) building there. 00:52:00
WALKER-HARPS:And that whole area --
WALKER-HARPS:-- was a growing black mecca for business.
PYRON:They were thriving at that particular time, very successful. We all usedto go to Triple H and eat.
PYRON:And we've all used Clean Well. But Clean Well also brought in quite awhite population, because they did very good service.
PYRON:Yeah, quality work.
BAUSKE:I'm sorry, I don't understand, what did Triple A sell or do? What wasthat business?
PYRON:Oh, it was food.
BAUSKE:Food? Grocery store?
PYRON:Mm-hmm. Well, no, no, no, it was --
PYRON:Uh-huh. They were a very popular restaurant.
PYRON:Yeah, very popular. But almost -- so many of the black businesses died.
WALKER-HARPS:Oh, yes. Yeah.
WALKER-HARPS:And no more existed.
PYRON:As integration came in, there were black-owned service stations,there were cleaning, just a number of businesses, Triple H. 00:53:00
WALKER-HARPS:All along (Slaton?) Alley.
PYRON:All along Slaton Alley. And --
WALKER-HARPS:From here, straight down to that Street.
PYRON:-- and some -- and a few of them were on the front street, facing thatpost office. And I think that is what just riled the Ku Klux Klan. And they really -- they really had problems with businesses being downtown, where other white businesses were located. And actually right next to the post office, it was --
CRUICKSHANK:The white business had to start competing with black and AfricanAmerican businesses, did they?
CRUICKSHANK:You're saying that black businesses were moving into other areas, sothat meant the white businesses had to compete with African American businesses?
WALKER-HARPS:I don't know if it was competition.
PYRON:I don't know if it was competition.
WALKER-HARPS:But we had o show us.
PYRON:It was just the location.
WALKER-HARPS:It was prime.00:54:00
PYRON:I think the location of those businesses --
WALKER-HARPS:It was prime location.
PYRON:-- being downtown --
CRUICKSHANK:Yeah, oh yeah.
PYRON:-- with other white businesses riled the Ku Klux Klan. The Ku Klux Klan,at one point, was fairly active about presenting themselves. I don't know, other than going across, I don't know if anybody was just --
WALKER-HARPS:Well, I know we were intimidated, and almost not having a programduring that period of time, the NAACP, because of the threats to me and to Jimmy Holland, who also owned a business on the corner, right there at the side.
WALKER-HARPS:Triple H businesses. And we were the ones who were named. So we hadto get the Atlanta, the state, to come down, and they demanded that the building be swept with dogs, and whatever.
WALKER-HARPS:And every precaution taken before we were allowed to go in thatbuilding, not to get that --
CRUICKSHANK:How were you threatened, like, in what form did the threats come?
WALKER-HARPS:Well, if they -- I don't know what the writing was now00:55:00that was on thee --
WALKER-HARPS:-- and whatever else.
CRUICKSHANK:Writing on walls?
WALKER-HARPS:On the businesses.
WALKER-HARPS:And names -- you were named. That's how I happened to get ineverything, my name was used. So I knew I was not about to go in there --
CRUICKSHANK:Maybe they were writing on business walls, or what --
WALKER-HARPS:I believe there was a message left, if I remember correctly.
WALKER-HARPS:Yeah. At the stores.
PYRON:You would tend to receive things in the mail.
PYRON:I've never mentioned this before, Jewel, you remember back when I thinkyou were down talking to Board of Education? And at that particular time the position was open for superintendent.
PYRON:Well, I had applied for it.00:56:00
PYRON:And not really expecting to get it, but I had applied for it. And Ireceived a letter. I never mentioned this before. I received a letter, and what they did with the letter is, it had -- they had cut out stuff from somewhere else and probably had gone -- maybe mailed it from Atlanta somewhere, some other town, and not Griffin. And what it said was, "No nigger who's a part of the NAACP will ever be superintendent in Griffin Spalding school system." And that letter came to me in the mail. It had to be somebody who was somewhat -- I always had my suspicion, but that came to me in the mail. Now I had never had mentioned it before.
WALKER-HARPS:Well, you may not have mentioned it, but there were people at myschool watching my car, who would check my car before I got in it 00:57:00every evening, every afternoon, before. Once it was parked and I went in, there were people who monitored my car throughout the day, and checked it before I got in, for the bomb.
CRUICKSHANK:Checking for bombs?
PYRON:Because you never know. But whoever it was certainly know where I stayed.And but nothing -- nothing else happened after that, because the election was over, and it was done.
PYRON:And we wound up with a superintendent, that we because best friends. Hewas from Tattnall County. But things -- interesting things happened.
BAUSKE:Did you ever end up working in the central office?
BAUSKE:In the superintendent's office?
PYRON:Yeah. I wound up being assistant superintendent.
PYRON:Uh-huh, yeah. And Dr. Bradley, when Dr. Bradley came, I had been what Mr.Walker was, administrative assistant. 00:58:00
PYRON:And the first thing that Dr. Bradley did after he got there was, hepromoted me the first black assistant superintendent.
PYRON:So I was the first black assistant superintendent.
PYRON:Then the guy who re-- I stayed over there 10 years. Then the gentleman whocame to take my position as assistant was Curtis Jones.
PYRON:I trained Curtis Jones into my position, then I retired. And after whenDr. Bradley left, then CurtisJones became the first black superintendent of Griffin Spalding.
CUNNINGHAM:How does that make you feel?
PYRON:I'm very proud of that. Very proud of that. Curtis was a good guy. And hedid a nice job before moving on to Macon. But it was -- see, when I applied, it was 10 years before -- 14 years before Curtis finally took over. So 00:59:00the time when I applied, it just wasn't right. It just wasn't going to happen. But I did it anyway, to put the name out there, because I think the effort needed to at least be made. But Curtis came 14 years later, and things had changed a little bit.
CUNNINGHAM:It sounds like you paved the way.
WALKER-HARPS:Having been there, he paved the way.
WALKER-HARPS:But also, Dr. Bradley opened some doors that would not have opened.
PYRON:He sure did. Because he immediately made me assistant superintendent. AndI was the first to have that position. So I -- and Dr. Bradley and I, we still go out to eat now. We're good friends. Good man.
WALKER-HARPS:That spoke millions, because having come from a rural, Southernarea in Georgia to come and be able to enforce --
PYRON:Not only that, he worked for Paul at the prison system down in --
WALKER-HARPS:Reidsville. Reidsville State Prison.
PYRON:Reidsville. He worked in Reidsville prison. But he wasn't -- he01:00:00was a very open man.
WALKER-HARPS:He even liked me.
PYRON:Yeah. (laughter) I mean, he was different. He was a guy that you would like.
CUNNINGHAM:Well, it sounds like Dr. Bradley was different. But what abouteverybody else within the system where you were working? How were you received as being the first black superintendent?
CUNNINGHAM:Assistant sup-- that's what I meant to say.
PYRON:What happened was, I had been a principal at the ninth grade for sevenyears. I was the first black principal at the ninth grade. Before that, I was the first black principal at an elementary school called Fourth Ward. So I had gone through, you know, about -- I was well-known in the system.
PYRON:And most of my staffs at those predom-- the white schools were01:01:00white. So the interaction was good. I -- we -- they were just treated fairly, and believe it or not, I was treated very fairly, even in schools where I walked in and, you know, 70, 80 percent of your staff is white, and same things in the eighth grade, 70 percent of your staff is white, or 75 percent. But when they were trying to decide who to hire because the white gentleman, Mike (Bryans?) was leaving, the staff that knew me when I was there as an assistant put in a word for me, that we'd like to have him back over here.
PYRON:So it was a good transition. Not to mean that you didn't run across aperson here and there that you had to deal with, and the parents had to adjust to them, you being the first black guy -- 01:02:00
PYRON:-- in the school. And as one parent told me at the ninth grade, he said,"I was so sure that you were going to be prejudice toward me." And he said, "But I have to admit, I was wrong." He said, "I have to admit I was wrong."
CUNNINGHAM:So can you tell us one of the greatest challenges that you faced as aprincipal at an integrated school?
PYRON:When I first went into the integrated -- to the first school, theelementary school, it was one of those elementary schools where it was fourth grade through sixth or third grade through sixth. Because at that time it was split up. And part of the kids were going -- children were going to Anne Street, which used to be Annie Shockley. And the upper part were going over 01:03:00to the school where I took over. Well, there, I was warned of one lady to be very wary of. The woman was -- and I got it from one of the administrators -- the woman was, she would take you down. Be very careful. She had all kind of attitudes.
BAUSKE:That's not a good warning.
PYRON:It's not - (laughter) no, it's not. And you're going into your firstprincipalship, too.
BAUSKE:That sounds like a threat, not a warning.
PYRON:Just be careful. Well, lo and behold, I remembered that. And theadministrator told me that. He said, "Now be careful. She would take you down." Very pretty lady, pretty blonde lady. Said, "Be careful." So I went 01:04:00there, and lo and behold, before you looked around, she was causing trouble. She had a run-in with one lady, she had caused some difficulty. Well, I had to discipline a situation where she was involved. I had a counselor, very good counselor. And she was white. But I loved her to death, she was, I mean, just a good lady. And I told her, I said, "Now if ever I have to call you and I'm in my office, come immediately. Something would be up." I said, "I don't 01:05:00want to get set up."
PYRON:Something will be up. Well, she came in my office one day in a rage. Andshe bent over my desk. By that time, I hit the button to (Nana?) Nana came in right away, because I knew where this was about to head. Nana came in right away, and she stayed there. And she stayed there the whole time. And the lady had no choice but to calm down. But I knew I was about to be in the process of being set up. After that, at the end of the year -- by the way, she had come in with a lawyer, and all that kind of stuff, later on. Later on, she came in with a lawyer and all that kind of stuff. But end of the year -- but nothing came of it, because she had nothing, because I had Nana. Nana's one of those 01:06:00persons, if you want to trust, Nana was rock solid. At the end of the year, guess what she did? And I think one day she came in with a lawyer and her husband. She resigned and became a stewardess.
PYRON:Yeah. A stewardess.
CRUICKSHANK:Was it African Americans she had a problem with? Or just people generally?
PYRON:It was an African American administrator that warned me. She was difficultin general.
PYRON:But I think I brought rage out of her.
WALKER-HARPS:But Nana was a fair-minded --
WALKER-HARPS:Nana was fair-minded.
PYRON:Oh, Nana -- Nana.
WALKER-HARPS:She was white. And you couldn't ask for a better person.
PYRON:Lord, have mercy. Mmm.
BAUSKE:Just for clarification, she was trying to set you up with sexualharassment, or something?
BAUSKE:That was your guess, then?
PYRON:-- believe that's what it was.
PYRON:Because she -- you know, people don't come in your office and01:07:00just come all over your desk like that.
PYRON:And I was pushing back.
PYRON:By that time, Nana was in the corner. (laughs)
PYRON:But I --
CRUICKSHANK:All she would have to do is start yelling and make a scene, andstart asking questions --
PYRON:Yeah. I told Nana, say, "Any time I hit that buzzer"--
PYRON:-- "you come immediately, because something's going on." And see, she --what happened, I knew something was coming. She walked -- you know, people don't generally walk in your door and slam your door shut. And I knew there was about to be a problem here. So thank heavens for Nana. Yeah. Yeah. If Nana hadn't come, I wouldn't have gotten out of that. No way I was going to stay in that--
CRUICKSHANK:So that was the end of it? Just that, that was all ittook to clear the whole thing?
PYRON:That was the end of it. She had nowhere to go with it. And I wouldn't --and after that, I wouldn't be -- if I had talked to her, it was out in the open.
PYRON:Yeah, I'd go down -- Nana would always travel with me.01:08:00
PYRON:See, that was early on, we're talking about 19- maybe '85?
PYRON:That was just about the year or so before I finally went to the ninthgrade to become the first black principal over there.
PYRON:Then ninth grade was a whole different animal. The people, the teachersthere -- ninth grade had a very good reputation as being an excellent staff. And it was. The ninth grade had a very excellent staff. It was a whole different staff.
PYRON:Whole different attitude. They embraced me in ways that I never thoughtthey would have. Yeah.
WALKER-HARPS:Would you think that the fact that the choice was01:09:00eliminated because there was one ninth grade, one seventh grade, one eighth grade, one ninth grade? Or what was it, the way we had it, it was structured? During the planning of the integration, yeah.
PYRON:Oh, during the planning of integration, and like I said, 1970 when theystarted making those changes --
WALKER-HARPS:Mm-hmm, '70, '71, '72.
PYRON:-- because my brother -- see, first they started sending -- to beperfectly honest with you, they sent some of the smarter black students from Fairmount over to Griffin High School. That was the beginning of it. And my brother, one of my younger -- my younger brother, Wayne, was a -- was a very good math student. Matter or fact, he went on to later on have a 01:10:00career in technology and math, and stuff like that. But anyway, he was one of the ones that went over to the Griffin High School. They were sending -- like some of Fairmount's brightest. And it was just a few of them. He hated it. He hated it. He was smart, very good at math. And he just couldn't understand the treatment, the subtle treatment, the little jabs in the language. And he absolutely hated it.
CRUICKSHANK:Was it coming from teachers, or --?
WALKER-HARPS:Wayne was not the comeback county kid, either. He was --
WALKER-HARPS:-- Wayne was very mild-tempered.01:11:00
WALKER-HARPS:And he would not have been -- out, obviously opposed, he would not havemade an issue out of it. He wouldn't have.
PYRON:No. It just -- I think it just really threw him back. I had to talk to himlater, because he had a kind of an anger that --
CRUICKSHANK:But who was the treatment coming from? I mean, the teachers, or the students?
PYRON:You know, sometimes it can be so subtle, and just sometime that studentswould tend to be a little more open.
PYRON:Teachers can do it subtly. And I think -- I think it just wore on him. Hewas having a great time at Fairmount. All of a sudden, the whole 01:12:00atmosphere changed.
CRUICKSHANK:So did that continue after integration?
PYRON:For a while.
PYRON:For a while, when all of them got together. My first job, it happenedduring the time, the '70s, my first job in Griffin was around '74. And --
WALKER-HARPS:Do you remember the young man who earned the right to bevaledictorian, James Walker, and that was denied him?
PYRON:Stuff like --
WALKER-HARPS:They didn't have a valedictorian, rather than to have him. Thingslike that.
PYRON:Things like that. It was just subtle --
BAUSKE:How did they deny that to him?
BAUSKE:They just named some other kid?
WALKER-HARPS:They just decided they wouldn't have a valedictorian.
BAUSKE:They didn't have one that year.
PYRON:See, you don't -- now you could fight it differently.01:13:00
BAUSKE:But you couldn't --
PYRON:Back then it was still not a whole lot of control you had. Segregation --I mean, segregation was ending, but full integration was still a slow process. There are subtleties that you can do that you can carry out anger for years, and resistance for years. You know, resistance can be a very subtle thing.
CRUICKSHANK:How long did that go on? Like, what year would you say itdisappeared, if it disappeared at all?
PYRON:Well, when I went to the seventh grade in '74, I went as a band director.I came out of the Army in '72, and that's another story. I have to tell you why I ended up in the Army.
BAUSKE:We skipped college here somewhere, too.
PYRON:Okay. Okay. Well, of course I went to Fort Valley State.01:14:00
PYRON:And a lot of things were going on even at Fort Valey State. HoseaWilliams came down to Fort Valley State because some -- because there was some concerns happening in Fort Valley at that time. Hosea and different folks were traveling a whole lot of places. And so they were doing some kind of (inaudible), or something, in Fort Valley, as I recall. I remember being at a meeting. Once they see people with their -- Gary Reid was down there once, wasn't he?
PYRON:But anyway, there were -- that was, you know, subtle things going on,resistance at this place, resistance in this plant, resistance I this job -- those things still happened, even though laws had been passed. So sometimes, to get things going, people still had to visit the places and carry on. 01:15:00But I finished Fort Valley, and I had gotten a scholarship for band. Mr. Tucker -- Mr.Tucker, who was an outstanding teacher at Fairmount and a very good band director, and a gentleman, a man of class you just loved. But he looked out for and got scholarships for a lot of band students, because Fairmount had a very good program on -- we went to the stage on Friday night Saturday night, excuse me -- Griffin High School used the stage on Friday night, we had it on Saturday night. Fairmount was on 3rd Street. So we always lined up, and we 01:16:00would march from 3rd Street, where Fairmount was located, all the way to the stadium, which was a pretty good walk.
PYRON:But along the way, to show you black pride, it was like a parade. Thestreets were filled on the side. They watched us as we marched, the blue and white. And it was an excellent band. That was -- so every Saturday night we played in Griffin was like a downtown parade. But Mrs. Tucker just had a respect in that community, that just was amazing. And the first job I got in Griffin was Mr.Tucker's, he had retired and I became the band director at the seventh grade. At that time, he was no longer Fairmount, because the 01:17:00integration made it all seventh grade school, and an all eighth grade school, and an all ninth grade school.
PYRON:They just said, look, we're just going to pile them together, and bethrough with it.
PYRON:And that's what school --
BAUSKE:Your degree was in music education?
PYRON:Was in music education, to start off.
PYRON:Yeah. And -- oh yeah, thank you. When I -- I'll tell you, I'll tell you,the humidity and heat --
PYRON:So I was -- thank you. I was at the seventh grade, and then what happened,the reason I got the job was, (LaymonHattaway?), the principal of the school, I was working -- when I came out of the Army, I was working at Ford Motor Company. You know, I couldn't find a teaching job when I came out of the Army. So I worked at the Ford Motor Company. At that time, the plant was up 01:18:00in Hapeville. And I worked there for two years. We were doing 10 hours a night, 5 days, 8 hours a night on Saturday. Ford was putting out cars left and right. And that's all I did. I went to work and I slept, ate, and went back to work.
PYRON:Finally, Mr. Tucker retired. And we went to his -- they gave him a greatretirement. And I had taken a day off from going to Ford to substitute at the seventh grade. It was called Spalding Junior High, Unit Three. At the seventh grade, Mr. Hattaway, I didn't know was outside, the principal was outside looking at me work with the kids.
PYRON:The kids were having a good time, I was enjoying the music, we was allhaving fun. It was just a great session. When Mr. Tucker retired and 01:19:00I applied for the job along with some other band directors, he remembered the day that I'd taken off and come down there and substituted. I lost $150 for $250. But it was worth it.
PYRON:And so he hired me. And that started my career.
BAUSKE:How did you go from college to the Army?
PYRON:Okay, that's going to be a civil rights story. I graduated from FortValley, and had started working first at Warner Robins, Georgia. I was going to several schools, teaching band. Then from there --
BAUSKE:May I ask what year this was?
PYRON:I graduated in '68, so it would have been probably '69.01:20:00
PYRON:So I worked in Warner Robins, and I -- the next job, which was ahigher-paying job -- I'm sorry. I was in Butler, because they were integrating the schools in Warner Robins, and they were going to turn that high school into a middle school.
PYRON:So I went to a high school in Butler, Georgia, Dr.Hicks.
WALKER-HARPS:Yes, Charles Hicks. Charlie Hicks.
PYRON:Big GAE person.
PYRON:So I went to Butler, and during the end of the year, Butler, they wantedto integrate the schools, it was all-black schools that particular year. But they wanted the girls to go to one school, and the boys to go to the 01:21:00other. We thought that unfair. The black -- because you're separating because you don't want white girls around black boys.
PYRON:That was the bottom line. Dr. Tate came down and talked to us, and he waswith the other GAE, the GTAE.
PYRON:He came down and talked to us and said, "Well, you all have got a decisionto make. You can hold out your contracts and see if you can put pressure on them." Now here's the thing that you're going to learn very quickly; I was a very young man then, you know, 21, 22. Everybody supposedly agreed that they were going to hold off signing contracts, hoping to pressure them into not having an all-boys' school and all girls' school, just because they was afraid of the white girls being around black boys, and vice versa. Well, 01:22:00some of the people did hold out, but some of them went ahead and signed. That was what you call a life lesson.
PYRON:Well, so when I found out, when a bunch of us found out what had happened,some of us tried to go back and see get our contracts back. No. By that time they'd hired new people. So a bunch of us were left out without a job. Without a job means that you're open to the draft, the Vietnam War was still going on.
BAUSKE:Mmm, yeah. Mm-hmm.
PYRON:Yeah. So guess what?
BAUSKE:So you got drafted.
PYRON:I got drafted. Came to Griffin. Believe it or not, Norma Williams rolledup there with the group that went into the Army, got drafted. I tried 01:23:00very quickly to try and find another job. I could have gotten a deferment if I could, but it was so late in the -- so I went to Griffin. I went into the Army, I went to Fort Lewis, Kentucky. Went to Louisiana, Fort Polk, Louisiana, which was a very interesting experience. I laid out in a bus like everybody else. I did the running. See, I was an older guy, I was, like, 24 then, 24, 25 then, going in. So I was going in as one of the older guys. Most of those guys was 18, 19, and could run like rabbits. So I went in, and I had my orders to Vietnam. I was also Infantry, which means I was going to be on the front lines. So you could imagine the changes you go through, but I said, life is as life 01:24:00is. You go over and do what I need to do. So I got up to Fort Lewis, Washing-- I came -- after basic training and advanced, they gave us orders, and I was going to Vietnam. And Nixon had started calling the Infantry troops home. So when I got to Fort Lewis, Washington, there was an order change. They wanted the Infantry soldiers to go somewhere else, they didn't want any more Infantry soldiers going over. They wanted the people who trained as clerks to come over there, so that they could process folks out. So we went, the group that was me, we went to Germany. 01:25:00
PYRON:Yes. Yes. Yes!
PYRON:I said, Lord --
BAUSKE:So it was Germany.
PYRON:I spent 13 months in Germany. They didn't want us to stay the whole timeafter 13 months, because -- and while over there, on a sad note, you saw soldiers coming over, and they were sent to Germany for a break before they sent them home, and some of the guys were just really messed up. One guy came there, and he had gotten on speed while he was there. And we had tried to talk to him, an tried to get him to settle down and stop taking that speed. And he was about off of it. Then he went home -- smart guy he went home, and his 01:26:00girlfriend had dumped him, and he hung himself.
PYRON:Yeah. And they sent word back to the barracks, he was a likeable guy, youknow. Just a good old guy, just kind of got off on some things that he shouldn't have. But when he went home and his girlfriend had dumped him, it was too much for him, and he hung himself. But in general, we had we spent 24 hours out in the -- I was on the naval site, when we were watching the silos, the bombs, I mean the rockets that are inside the silo. And we spent 24 hours out there. You sleep four hours in a little hut, and then you go four hours where 01:27:00you walk into town, and making sure that -- because they actually had -- I forget what they call them, but they had people who attempted to break in silos because they wanted to blow them up. But I must tell you, the experience in Germany was amazing. The history, the cathedrals, the castles -- we did our jobs, but then you worked one day and you had two days off. Once you get through basic and advanced training, believe it or not, it's not that bad. It becomes a job. Except, like I said, if you were in Vietnam, that's a little bit different, yeah. But anyway, so after finishing the Army, I came back, I worked at Ford Motor Company. I final found a job, you know. I was married at that time. So I had to find a job, then before you know, the baby's on the way. 01:28:00
PYRON:So Ford Motor Company did me well. But then Mr.Tucker retired, so I gotMr. Tucker's job. I went to Georgia State during the time when I was working at Ford, I started going to Georgia State. So I got a degree in -- a master's in counseling, and certification at the master's level in music. So I stayed at seventh grade. And then for seven years, go into a couple of elementary schools, and then ended up to the seventh grade. From that, I went to West Georgia College. And West Georgia College, that's where I got my six years in administration. I then went to University of Georgia. I had to pass the GRE first, so I worked on my math for a year. I was at Whalen, in the verbal 01:29:00section. But I worked on my math for a year, with all that refreshing the algebra, and so forth. Then because I didn't want to write a letter to get in, I wanted to get in just like everybody else. So GRE score was good. Got into the doctorate program. Dr. (Holmes?) at University of Georgia, I don't know if he's still there. But he was my mentor and advisor. And I finished University of Georgia with a doctorate in about a year and a half. I went to the summer. And I had to pay for one quarter, you had to do three quarters of your dissertation, or something like that. And I had to pay one quarter while I was doing nothing, we were not doing anything because we had already finished it. 01:30:00
PYRON:And Dr. Holmes gave me an opportunity to come down there and work. But atthat time, I had gotten -- I was ready -- I had gotten ready for the ninth grade, and I was just going to start after leaving Fourth Ward. So I didn't go.
CUNNINGHAM:Were you going to school and working at the same time?
PYRON:Yes. When I was --
BAUSKE:Yeah, with UGA so far away.
PYRON:Well, what happened was, when I was an assistant, after doing seven yearsas a band director in the seventh grade, I was then hired because I had gotten the certification. I was then hired as assistant principal at the seven grade for three years. So Dr.Greene, who was the superintendent then, said, "Well look, I want you to go over to the ninth grade and be assistant 01:31:00principal there." I said, "Okay, doc, if that's what you want." He says, "Don't worry, but I need you there right now." So I went over to Mike Bryans for two years, and was assistant principal there. I left there, by the way, Matchet followed me there. I left there and went -- I was assigned principal at Fourth Ward, which was the elementary school for a year. So that was my first principalship, and first black principal there. After that year, Dr. Greene, when Bryans left the ninth grade where I had been assistant, Dr.Greene gave me that job as the principal of the ninth grade. And I stayed there for seven years.
PYRON:And then the new superintendent came in, Mr. (Kirbo?) sent meto -- gave me a job at the central office to replace Mr. Walker as 01:32:00administrative assistant.
PYRON:Then when Dr. Bradley came in, he made me assistant superintendent. So itwas a whole lot of movement for a while.
BAUSKE:And all that while you were going to school for big chunks of that, too.
PYRON:I finally finished -- I started going to University of Georgia asassistant principal at the ninth grade. I started there, and I spent that year over at the fourth grade -- at the Fourth Ward, at the elementary school.
PYRON:And that -- and I was finishing up my doctorate when I was finallyassigned to the ninth grade as principal.
PYRON:So that was the quarter I told you I paid, but the work had been done.
PYRON:Yeah, I had to float that time.
CUNNINGHAM:So you actually went to four schools?
CUNNINGHAM:Fort Valley State, West Georgia, Georgia State and UGA?
PYRON:Right. and also, when I was over in Germany --
PYRON:When I was over in Germany (laughter) I went to the University of Mainz.
CUNNINGHAM:Okay. --(overlapping dialogue)-- education, that's for sure.
PYRON:But so I could (inaudible).
PYRON:It was a very short course. So I wanted to be able to at least count themoney when I was out in Germany.
BAUSKE:Yes. Oh yeah, oh yeah.
PYRON:But it was interesting.
CUNNINGHAM:So now looking back over your lifetime, what do you think thegreatest impact that you had on your community?
PYRON:Well, a lot of students, both from band and at the ninth gradeand elementary, I still run into students that say good things. I run into 01:33:00students, and they generally greet me well. And I'm talking about black, white -- when I go, they'll come up and they'll give me a hug, or they'll, you know. I remember back in band, I had some of the best years. "I remember what you said to me over the ninth grade." "I know you got on me, I'm glad you gave us those whippings." But towards the end of the ninth grade career, we had almost stopped spanking kids.
PYRON:And it had become a past way of dealing with children. But a lot of them,I've rarely run into one, even when I go to the fitness center I run into people that I've taught, and have good things to say. And you feel good 01:34:00about it. I was also chairman of the Salvation Army during that time, and there's some people out in the community who remember those activities, and some of the things that we did away from the school system. But people have been gracious. And like I said, I get as many -- and I don't care where I am -- as many white students as black students. And that means that I treated them fairly. And that was also important to me. That was always important.
BAUSKE:I have another question. So here we are more than 50 years after thedesegregation of schools. What are your thoughts on racial equality in schools now, as you look at it here in Griffin?
PYRON:It's, you know, from -- I don't necessarily hear -- and Jewel may hear itmore than me -- but I don't necessarily hear racial fights.
PYRON:I don't know, hear nasty things being done to one another based on race. Ican't say for sure something hasn't gone. But I don't -- I don't hear it. You know, they have -- I go to the football games, and there's been kids at the football games. I see black and white interaction, I see mixed couple. I see girlfriends and boyfriends, and they're black and they're white, and the cheerleaders, and so forth, tend to be fairly integrated. One school has 01:35:00more of one than the other one. That is a fact. Griffin High has more black folks --
WALKER-HARPS:Spalding High hasmore.
PYRON:And Spalding High has more whites.
WALKER-HARPS:Not because of race, you know, but because of living. Thedemographics of how it's been.
PYRON:The demographics are somewhat different at the two schools. And I don'tknow -- you know, anytime that you're trying to divide lines, where who goes where, you run into interesting complications sometimes. You really do. When we were -- back when we were working on what's going to be Spartan High School, and what was going to be left at Griffin High School, crossing those -- figuring those lines are very complicated and very difficult. And you get 01:36:00compliant from this, and you get complaints from blacks, you get complaints from white -- excuse me -- it's very, very difficult. Then you also had the moving patterns. People who can afford to move and want to be in a certain kind of area. We also have the extreme competition from the religious schools, because there are lots of people that want their child to have a religious background. I always remember Madalyn O'Hair that basically took religion out of the school, or prayers, so forth and so on. But a lot of, particularly -- some black students, but a lot of white students attending places like Eagles Landing in McDonough, Henry County, the first, what is it, Presbyter-- I mean -- 01:37:00
PYRON:That First Assembly. A lot of -- and some black kids, because -- matter offact, the principal of First Assembly is a black guy.
WALKER-HARPS:He was, I don't think he's still there.
PYRON:Or was, I mean. He was -- and but the religious aspect is still veryimportant to a lot of folks. And if they can afford to send to the private school, the private schools -- basically a lot of private schools are doing very well, because there are principles that will be taught in religion that we have some restrictions in the regular school. I remember in ninth grade, trying to figure out how to let the clubs have the pastors, and so forth, coming over with our -- dealing with the restrictions that you got; has to be 01:38:00before this hour, and all kinds of things. And my point, viewpoint, is, religion has more of a positive effect than negative, when it was there. Because at least you knew straight down the line what's supposed to be right, and what's supposed to be wrong. Though we try to do character treatment and so forth and so on, it doesn't have the impact, believe it or not, that religion did. But that's another story.
WALKER-HARPS:Were you a Bobozon? Were you one of the --
PYRON:The Bobozons may have been -- was it mostly before my time?
WALKER-HARPS:It might have been after your time, I don't know, still ahead.
PYRON:Because I finished Fairmount in '63.
WALKER-HARPS:Then it probably was after your time.
PYRON:And Philip, he was at my school. He was an eighth grade teacher.
WALKER-HARPS: Bobozon to go with that.
PYRON:I was trying to think when that came in.
WALKER-HARPS:I don't know. Jill (Motley?) and Philip Head, I believe.
WALKER-HARPS:Philip Hood, not Philip Head. Philip Hood.
WALKER-HARPS:But you would have been -- had you -- it must not have been yourtime, because --
PYRON:I'm thinking not.
WALKER-HARPS:Or you would have been a part of it. And when you talk about thedifferences in religion, and what have you, that brought my attention back to Fairmount, because even though there may not have been ministers who did it, but with the white gloves and the other groups that you instructed, that readied your students to be the Jesuits, that had the same kind of values.
PYRON:To be perfectly honest with you, when the schools weresegregating, black folks could do things in the schools that others -- nobody 01:39:00questioned. Superintendent (Cheeves?), who was there -- and I'm trying -- who's the lady that would come --
PYRON:Ms. McCrary was kind of the representative from the white superintendent.
PYRON:And my point about white, because blacks were not really up in centraloffice. So she would come to the school. But the truth of the matter is, schools -- the black schools could have prayer, would have prayer, because they weren't overseen like it is now. You do it now, somebody's in trouble.
PYRON:But back then, the separation, and no watchdog, except for Ms. McCrary,you could do things that you just couldn't do now. You could -- there were some teachers that could read a bible verse in the middle of a science 01:40:00class, to say -- as she was saying "goodbye" for the day. That couldn't happen now.
CUNNINGHAM:So standing on that point, so looking back now, was integration apositive thing for the black community? Or can you see some negatives that have come from integration? Of the schools?
PYRON:In the sense that with integration, and also with finance. For instance,if I have the money and I want my child to be exposed to a religious part of the teaching, I could put him in a private school. If you don't have the 01:41:00money, but you would like to have your child exposed to it, you don't have a whole lot of choices. And some kids benefitted from the confines of religious teaching. And blacks were very -- and I think everybody knows -- blacks were very involved with religion during slavery. That was a lot of things -- that was a lot of it that kept you going. "And nobody knows the trouble I've seen" -- all the songs had relationships to communication. The belief was we survived because of our belief in God. That's a part of it. It's embedded in a 01:42:00lot of ways, a lot of it's old-school and slightly old-school. But it also had some controlling points of our kids. With the changes in -- with the changes in the structure and the fact that we have so many rules of things you cannot do anymore without breaking rules of government, and the parents of these kids are young, you got some kids, some children have -- you got five children in a single mama's home, you got three babies' daddies -- that is a family 01:43:00structure that is going to struggle. And males, black males, have almost disappeared from 60 percent of the homes. They may have children there, but they aren't there. And even if they weren't there, they had become irresponsible because they never were there. So you got a teaching that is not reaching those situations. And how do you get -- how to get back to that family structure that was so strong, believe it or not, during the worst of times --
PYRON:-- that you're going from 70 percent or 80 percent two-parenthomes, or somebody there, to 30 and 40 percent. That is a family structure that 01:44:00is deteriorating. That is why the gang guys can get a hold of the boys on the corner so easily, and sometimes the girls, too. And how are you going to break back into that structure is going to be a mammoth task, because you're talking about changing a whole -- a culture that has changed from what it was sometime -- that was a time black parents and mothers were tight on their children and keeping them straight in line, education, educate -- Fairmount was education every day, education every day. It's, that was the way.
WALKER-HARPS:So you're saying --
PYRON:How do you get that structure back?
WALKER-HARPS:Are you saying that had separate but equal not been challenged in1954, we would be better off?
WALKER-HARPS:That's a hard question, I'm sure. I mean, it takes some thoughts.
PYRON:That's what --
WALKER-HARPS:Yeah, it takes some thoughts.
PYRON:That's a -- that's a question. But --
CUNNINGHAM:But definitely issues to explore.
PYRON:It's issues to explore. And it's hard to come up with a good answer,because we really -- would separate but equal have survived, even separate and equal in the society we have now. You see, that's why it's hard to answer that question.
WALKER-HARPS:But it never really existed. Only on paper.
PYRON:It was never separate --
PYRON:-- but equal.
WALKER-HARPS:-- it was never equal, yeah.
__:Well, it certainly sounds like within Fairmount High, there was aculture nurturing for mutual concern from the staff for all of the students. 01:45:00
PYRON:Yeah. See, that was a four -- back in the day, that was a four-prongedattack. You had the parents agreeing with the schools, the community agreeing with the schools and the parents, and you had the church that was just as involved. You had four things working for that one kid.
PYRON:And they were together on it! The problem is, it is no longer together.
PYRON:It's no longer together.
CUNNINGHAM:Well, do you have any words of wisdom that you'd like to share withme --
PYRON:It was just -- it was just --
CUNNINGHAM:-- for young people of today before we wrap up?
PYRON:We used to have a thing at the -- it's a (inaudible), and -- that we usedto say. Boy, where is it? It's here somewhere. Okay. We used to always say every morning that, "It's better to be prepared for an opportunity than to have an opportunity and not be prepared." That was one-- that one, we said it every morning. And it still holds water. You know, after being in education and the Army, you had everything, as 37 years counting our sick leaves, 37 years, 34 without -- you look back and you think about how great some things were that happened in those 37 years. But when I sometimes look at particularly 01:46:00the people who, black, white, Hispanic, and low-income, a different kind of culture has developed, and that's sad to me. But it's still going to be one tremendous challenge. I don't know, as I look at -- I hope the dedication of teachers and principals, I hope that dedication is just as strong now as we felt it was when we were all out there.
PYRON:I hope that it is. But when you see in Chicago, Southwest Chicago, and yousee a football player in Atlanta just got killed by a guy who could care less, and this kid was head of Valdosta, four teenagers, four young people killed in the last week or so, it's troubling. Chicago is almost out of control. Certain parts of it, I mean, I mean, just the South part. And I've been there. But you still have to believe that things can turn around, but it's going to take a mammoth effort. And Lord knows, I hope it happens, you know.
CUNNINGHAM:Well, before we wrap up today, is there anything else that you'd liketo share with us that we haven't covered?
PYRON:I'm amazed that you all listened to all this stuff that I've said!(laughs) 01:48:00
BAUSKE:It's been wonderful. It's been wonderful.
CUNNINGHAM:Well, thank you so much, Mr. Pyron.
PYRON:It was my pleasure.
CUNNINGHAM:Thank you so much for coming in today. We appreciate your time.
PYRON:I truly enjoyed talking to you.
WALKER-HARPS:We truly enjoyed having you. You actually lived what you're talkingabout, so that made it really a good interview, to me. It was real.
PYRON:Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate that.
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