Oral History

Howard Lee - On education policy, politics in Chapel Hill, and desegregation

Interviewed by Grace Tatter on March 19, 2013

Lee, who was elected mayor of Chapel Hill in 1969, 1971, and 1973 talks about education policy, politics in Chapel Hill. Overview of Chapel Hill and Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools in early 1960s; closing of Lincoln High School; disparate concerns of black and white communities during his 1969 mayoral campaign; expectations of black and white communities when he became mayor; public transportation and recreation in Chapel Hill in the 1960s; validity of Chapel Hill’s liberal image; trying to buy a house in white neighborhood in Chapel Hill; Mel Rashkis as realtor; being barred from Chapel Hill country club and other evidence that despite its image, the town was fairly conservative; choice to live in Chapel Hill despite job in Durham because children could go to desegregated schools; feeling comfortable in Chapel Hill despite death threats; research at Duke University about Durham schools and early education in the 1960s; student demonstrations about Lincoln at Chapel Hill High School in 1969 and how he “kept the lid on things” as mayor; educational inequality in Chapel Hill, then and now; Saturday academies held at First Baptist with James Peace, Dorothy Bloom, to prevent drop-outs; importance of black high schools to black communities; importance of athletics over education in the black community; education in the state senate in 1990s; merging of Goldsboro and Wayne County, and Durham and Durham County school systems; how desegregation falls onto black community; importance of choice in desegregation; reasons for bad schools across the state; reasons for the achievement gap; charter school being founded in his honor, the setbacks, and why he thinks it’s necessary; origin of charter schools in North Carolina; Discusses how NAACP, others, overvalue desegregation.

Howard Lee - On education policy, politics in Chapel Hill, and desegregation


Oral history interview of Lee, Howard conducted by Tatter, Grace on March 19, 2013 at Carolina Inn, Chapel Hill, NC.

Citation: Southern Oral History Program, “Howard Lee - On education policy, politics in Chapel Hill, and desegregation,” From the Rock Wall, accessed October 20, 2021, https://fromtherockwall.org/oral-histories/howard-lee-on-education-policy-politics-in-chapel-hill-and-desegregation.

Rights: Open for research. The Southern Oral History Program (SOHP) welcomes non-commercial use and access that qualifies as fair use to all unrestricted interview materials in the collection. The researcher must cite and give proper credit to the SOHP. The SOHP requests that the researcher informs the SOHP as to how and where they are using the material.

View this interview on the Southern Oral History Program website

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In this Oral History