54 years later, an Echo editor reflects
Shirley Temple James-Holliday pushed students, faculty to take activist stance
Published: Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Updated: Thursday, February 4, 2010 13:02
The 1950s were a dynamic time on the campus of North Carolina College at Durham. As a center of learning for colored people throughout the South, the College attracted a variety of students who would go on to become future educators and community activists.
Shirley Temple James-Holliday, the 1956 editor of the Campus Echo newspaper, recently dusted off her memories of Chuck Berry, B. B. King and Billie Holiday to share with present-day Eagles.
Holliday remembers N. C. Central University legends such as Sam Jones who played for the Boston Celtics, Tex Harrison who played for the Harlem Globetrotters, and actors Robert Cheek and Ivan Dixon.
She also remembers learning to swim in the pool at the old women's gymnasium, located in what is now the Student Services building.
"We still had mandatory vespers [church sermons] on Sundays and had to sit in assigned seats in B. N. Duke Auditorium," said Holliday.
Holliday said the services were stopped because they eventually ran out of seats.
"I didn't have time to watch TV because I was in charge of the student United Way on campus and I would go on TV to talk about money we had raised. It wasn't much," she said.
"We paid $546 for room, board and everything. The Echo was in the library on the first floor back then, before they built the porch. We had two desks and two typewriters, one for the advisor and one for the editor."
The year that Holliday was editor, the Campus Echo won an "Excellent" rating from the Associated Collegiate Press.
She also was the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority representative to the Pan-Hellenic Council and a member of the National Social Science Honor Society, Pi Gamma Mu.
"I had to set type and I had to get special permission from the dean of women, Dean Latham, to stay out past 9 p.m. If you broke curfew you could get kicked out," said Holliday. "We had to go to the Service Printing Company on Pettigrew to print back then."
By college, Holliday already knew a little something about working hard. As a child in Jamesville, in rural Eastern North Carolina, Holliday worked in tobacco and chopped peanuts as well as working in her father's restaurant.
Holliday's adviser at the Echo was Horace Dawson, professor of English. She and her staff of about six people including the sports editor and an editor that would be considered today's arts and entertainment head put the paper together.
Holliday also wrote editorials; she received $50 a month for her services.
Holliday said students should take pride in what past students built.
"The only things that were here when I was were four dorms and four other buildings," she said. "That was it."
Back then, the Campus Echo was six pages long and covered news that affected African Americans.
"I was the hostess for Louis Armstrong and his wife when they came to campus in the spring of 1956," said Holliday. "That was a memory."
One of the most memorable stories Holliday published was the 1956 summer Olympic trials, in which N. C. College student Lee Calhoun qualified for the Melbourne, Australia Olympics. Calhoun won gold medals in the 110 m hurdles in the '56 and '60 Olympics, the first Olympic athlete to do so.
There also were many stories about desegregation at that time, following the Brown versus Board of Education decision in 1954.
"Martin Luther King came to Hillside in '55 but no one went. I couldn't get anyone to go," said Holliday.
She also had trouble persuading professors to participate in civil rights boycotts.
"They said lots of things were tried and nothing still worked."
Holliday said one day a white man with a group called ‘Democrats in Action' came to campus to try to get students to organize.
"Dr. Elder said students could lose funding from the state legislature for becoming involved in politics. Dr. Dawson told me to just ‘let it go' so I did."
Holliday said she and her mother, Iona James, were interested in the NAACP, and in 1954 Holliday went to an NAACP convention in Dallas.
It was after this meeting that she started the first NAACP chapter at the University; about 15 students would meet in the old law building to discuss integration and voting. The old law building, where the William Jones Building now stands, was burned down.
"We were warned to stay away from UNC and Duke or we would be arrested," said Holliday. "Period."
Holliday said she wanted to use the Campus Echo to promote the NAACP but that then-Chancellor Elder told Holliday that she could not do that.
"I told them this paper was just mental Pablum because I couldn't write anything controversial," she said. Holliday explained that Pablum was the name of an infant cereal food during the 1930s.
Holliday said one day a professor told her, "Your name is in the McCarthy papers."
The McCarthy papers were a list of names of suspected communists operating in the U.S. during the period known as the Red Scare.
She said she had met a man whom she only remembered as "Nathaniel" in Texas who happened to be a member of the North Carolina Communist Party.
"I didn't know him," she said. "We just met. I didn't know anything about it.
"My mother said I wouldn't be able to get a job in North Carolina because of it."
After graduation, Holliday went to Simmons College in Boston, where she attained a master's degree in library science because at the time NCCU was not accredited.
From there, she moved to Rhode Island, where she bought her first house for $5,500 and a $500 down payment.
She worked at a library for five years and then lived in New York City for 30 years where she worked at Morris High School in the Bronx, the high school of Gen. Colin Powell (ret.).
In 1992, Holliday moved to Creedmoor, N.C., where she still resides.
Holliday said students should work hard and stay focused in order to develop a career.
"Regardless of your grades, take instructions, follow instructions, and see a job through," said Holliday.
"Anything worth having you have to work hard for it."