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Elizabeth Deal Oral History<hr>
This oral history was conducted by Dr. Mary Jo Bratton as she was conducting research for her book, East Carolina University: the Formative Years, 1907-1982. It has been edited for presentation here.

Citation for this article is: Record Group FS0000, Series 1 Mary Jo Bratton Papers, Sub-series 1 Oral History Tapes, Elizabeth Deal Oral History, March 17, 1983.

Elizabeth Deal was the daughter of Ralph C. Deal, professor of Foreign Languages & Literatures from 1923 to 1945. She graduated from ECTC in 1930. Ms. Deal taught school for about three years and then moved back to Greenville to work at the hospital. As a faculty daughter she was familiar with the second generation of faculty and administration of the college. In this oral history she talks about several faculty members and gives insights into the Leon Meadows trial.

Items not included here are details about the Ronald Slay, E.L. Henderson and Leon Meadows families and her work with the hospital.

In part one Miss Deal discusses student life, faculty housing and clubs, fraternities, E.L. Henderson family, and several faculty members.

See also Elizabeth Deal Oral History Part 2

and Elizabeth Deal Oral History Part 3.


Deal: I had the early annual through when I graduated in 1930. The first one I had was 1923 and I think that was the first one the school had. I gave them to Mr. Smiley when I moved.

Bratton: Maybe those are the ones we have.

Deal: I kept mine and my brother's. He graduated in 1940.

Bratton: You had a brother finish too?

Deal: I had a brother and a sister.

Bratton: There were four in your family, weren't there?

Deal: Yes, but my older brother did not graduate from here. He went to State one year and then he took some courses over here. He went with IBM and they trained him.

Bratton: We didn't have much of that over here.

Deal: No, and he was mechanically minded. He didn't finish, but the other two finished here.

Bratton: Your father came here in 1923?

Deal: He taught in summer school in 1922 and 1923. We moved here in the fall of 1923 and that was really when he became associated with the college.

Bratton: He continued to be here until 1945.

Deal: I don't know whether it is 1945 or 1946. You said 1945 and you probably know. I was thinking it was the summer of 1946, but I could be wrong. He was sixty-five in 1945, so he had to retire then. I know he taught into the summer school.

Bratton: He retired right on schedule. He came as the French and Latin teacher.

Deal: He was head of the Foreign Language Department. That's what they called it.

Bratton: They did have French and Latin?

Deal: They had French and Latin. They had a Latin teacher, but I'm not sure what her name was. Then, several years after that, they dropped the Latin, because they weren't teaching it in the high schools. He didn't like that. That's when Marguerite Perry came to teach Spanish. They added Spanish and dropped Latin.

Bratton: She's our senior professor

Deal: She is. She is the only one who was there when he was there.

Bratton: Then Mr. Fleming came. [James L. Fleming, Jr.]

Deal: He replaced Daddy.

Bratton: Your father was also active in athletics.

Deal: He was very much interested in getting the boys' athletics. In fact, I can't prove this, but I think he was the chairman of the first athletic committee.

Bratton: That's my impression.

Deal: I think so too. I don't know whether there is anything written about this either, but Ken Beatty was the first coach and he coached free.

Bratton: Was he just living in town?

Deal: Yes.

Bratton: He was not a professional coach?

Deal: No. His brother or his nephew was at State College, but he was not. He just did it. I think maybe he had been an athlete in college. He just volunteered to do that, because they were so anxious to have it.

Bratton: But the committee, which was composed of faculty members, sort of supervised it.

Deal: That's right.

Bratton: I believe I noticed that your father was chairman of the committee. I think it shifted later, but he was the first chairman and very interested. I thought it was interesting, because you get one image of someone in foreign languages and French, and then he was very much interested in athletics. Was he athletic?

Deal: Yes. He had played football at Davidson College. Then he played semi-professional baseballin these little leagues in different places to help put himself through school. He was small but athletic.

Bratton: Well, in baseball you don't have to be big.

Deal: No, but even in football then, they weren't such big heavy people.

Bratton: How did Dr. Wright get hold of him?

Deal: That I don't know. Daddy was in Bladen County. He was principal of a school in Elizabethtown. Dr. Robert Wright was from Sampson County, which is an adjoining county. I don't know if he just heard of Daddy or whether he knew him already. I just don't know. He was very careful about his faculty. He always had them teach ahead or interviewed them himself.

Bratton: I think it showed, because he had such a fine faculty.

Deal: That's right. He was very serious about doing that.

Bratton: That was a good idea to get him for summer school.

Deal: I think so too. It was a small school and it meant a whole lot to have those who were congenial and were doing their work, too.

Bratton: Then he wouldn't have the awkwardness of getting rid of them.

Deal: That's right. There was only one that I knew who left. He lived next door to us when we first came here. He only stayed one year. I don't know what happened. His name was Leggett.

Bratton: He was in Education.

Deal: Yes. Dr. Haynes and Dr. Adams came the next year and they lived next door to us too.

Bratton: You all had a real faculty row.

Deal: Yes, we did. It was a real close-knit group. I was thinking not long ago about when the whole staff and faculty was less than a hundred people. Some of the wives would go in together every fall and entertain the new teachers. They did that for years. They had a Faculty Wives Club. I'm pretty sure that was organized after we came.

Bratton: Yes, Mrs. Cummings sent over the minutes of that. I believe it was organized in 1928.

Deal: I couldn't remember.

Bratton: It didn't continue.

Deal: No, it stopped and then they reorganized it later.

Bratton: At least the minutes don't go on.

Deal: I'm sure that it stopped. I'll tell you what I think stopped a lot of those things was the war. It may have stopped before then, but I think they all got busy in that. I know Mother and Mrs. Slay were real active in the USO. They had a service club which they organized here first and then the USO took over.

Bratton: You mentioned Dr. Slay. He is someone that I haven't gotten to know very well. There is none of his family around now, is there?

Deal: No, they're all dead.

Bratton: They came about the same time?

Deal: They came the same time we did because the faculty houses were not complete and the Slays, the Hendersons, and my family stayed on the top floor of the Austin Building. They had built some little bedrooms up there when they added on to it just before we came. They were going to let the alumni stay in them. I think they later made them into music rooms. They had a lavatory in them and some baths down the hall, but it was kind of miserable.

Bratton: Camping.

Deal: That's right. We came down and cooked in the Home Ec Department. My sister was a baby and Mother couldn't get out and do much of anything, so Daddy went out and got these big cans of beef stew. It was years before we could ever eat any more beef stew. All we could do was heat up things. I think all three families were there. I know the Hendersons were and I think the Slays, because we children were all suppose to be in school. Well, the Henderson's boy was not old enough, but we were and the Slay boys were. The public school had already started. They didn't run along with the college for a long time. It started earlier.

Bratton: Dr. Slay was a science teacher. Tell me something about him.

Deal: He was a very interesting, friendly, and capable person, I think.

Bratton: He seemed to have been well respected.

Deal: He was.

Bratton: I haven't seen him involved with the athletics.

Deal: No, I don't think he was.

Bratton: Some of the others seemed to have been more active in the student areas.

Deal: Now he was when they assigned students to him as their advisor. He had his group.

Bratton: I noticed after Dr. Meadows left that Dr. Slay was made dean of the college for a year or two, then he left, which I thought was rather strange after he had spent his entire career here.

Deal: I don't know why, unless he was old enough to retire. I didn't think he was old enough to retire, but he did retire from this college. He went up to Staten Island and taught up there. He died up there.

Bratton: He is just a person I haven't gotten any impression of.

Deal: He was very well liked by his students. He was a very fine teacher.

Bratton: He was head of the Science Department.

Deal: I didn't have any classes under him because I didn't take any science.

Bratton: What were you taking?

Deal: I was taking English and French for high school teachers.

Bratton: I guess you had Mamie Jenkins.

Deal: Yes, I did. She was one of the most interesting teachers.

Bratton: She is just fascinating to me.

Deal: The best teacher that I ever had was Miss Davis.

Bratton: Really?

Deal: Yes. She taught North Carolina history and I elected that. Unless you were majoring in history, high school teachers didn't have to take North Carolina history. I just thought so much of her, we did of all the faculty members. I just loved that North Carolina history. Most people didn't like it. The grammar grade teachers and I guess, the primary grade teachers had to take it. They were afraid of her, but I just thought she was wonderful.

Bratton: Was she austere?

Deal: She was. She reviewed each time and she just frightened them by the way she acted. Of course, I knew her and had known her for several years, so it was little bit different. But she would ask them a question and some of them would say, "Oh, I can't remember." She would say, "Oh, yes you do remember. We talked about that last time." I don't know why they were so afraid of her. I never could understand it. But she was, as you say, austere. I know my father said one time that they ought to keep her teaching as long as they could wheel her in a wheelchair. He thought she was a wonderful teacher too.

Bratton: They just about did, because she was well past sixty-five I guess when she retired.

Deal: I think she was. That was before they had as many rules as they did later.

Miss Jenkins was interesting too. One thing about her was that she worked with or for various writers that she knew. She worked on that Literary Digest which used to be published many years ago. She substituted for people. I think one of them was Joyce Kilmer. I think he was in World War I and she went up there and worked during that time when he was gone. I think she was affiliated with it in some way. She could tell very interesting things about different people and it made her classes very interesting.

Bratton: She sounds like a more informal type. Is that right?

Deal: Yes, that's right. I also had Miss Mary Greene. I had Miss Andrews. She didn't stay very long. She came and taught while Dr. Meadows was away for a year or two.

Bratton: He was working on his doctorate.

Deal: She was quite a good teacher too. I never did have a class with Dr. Meadows. It was strange, but it just happened that he was gone the year that I would have had his classes. I had Miss Lucile Turner. She was here when I was a freshman.

Bratton: They had fine faculty.

Deal: I had Miss Hooper. I had all the English teachers except for Dr. Meadows.

Bratton: He was a right popular teacher.

Deal: Yes, I think he was. It just happened that the year that I was suppose to have his classes, he was not here. Then Mary Greene came the year I was a senior. I think it was that year, 1929/1930.

Bratton: By that time had the Depression begun to settle in? Did it many any impact on the college?

Deal: Yes. It had and it did because they were having trouble getting jobs.

Bratton: The teachers who were graduating?

Deal: Yes. The graduates of this school never had as much difficulty as the ones from these church school and schools where they were not trained to be teachers.

Bratton: Yes, we had a good reputation.

Deal: We did, very, very good. I had a friend who went to Greensboro College, a Methodist school, and she came back and took courses over here in the summer. She said, "I've wished many times that I had graduated over here, because I apply for a job and they always ask me, 'Why didn't you graduate from East Carolina.'"

Bratton: This has so impressed me. Our reputation as a teachers' college throughout this period under Dr. Wright was so outstanding.

Deal: That's right. I think another thing that people forget now, because so many people are interested in getting teachers who have masters and doctorate, is that they graduated two-year students. They gave them the basics and they went out and gave those children the basics. They were good teachers. They would come back every year to summer school. We knew a lot of those students who kept coming back.

Bratton: To get their degree.

Deal: Yes. They would eventually get their degree. They wouldn't always come here. Some of them who lived up near Raleigh would go to State College or anywhere they could go work on their degree. But lots of them would come back here summer after summer.

Bratton: That's what kept the summer school so heavily filled.

Deal: That's right. If there was not a call for French in the summer, not enough students wanted it, Daddy would teach history. He liked to teach history. People have told me that they studied government under him.

Bratton: I think they sort of all ran together.

Deal: I think they did. He and Beecher Flanagan taught what they called contemporary history. It was a lecture course once a week.

Bratton: Dr. Frank did that some too.

Deal: He may have. He probably did. I had it under Dr. Flanagan. My father taught that, I know, for several years. But I never did have it under him. It was a good course in that it introduced a lot of those students to the newspapers and the news magazines.

Bratton: It introduced them to the facts of life as far as contemporary events.

Deal: Yes, and they wouldn't have had it otherwise.

Bratton: I have been so impressed with the innovations that Dr. Wright developed here. Was he recognized then as really an outstanding educator?

Deal: He was in this state. I don't know about other places. Of course, we thought he was. You know he had his ideas. We had to go to chapel and if there was the least noise in there, we heard from him. He was very strict. One reason they didn't have any fraternities here was because he was opposed to fraternities. My father said that he thought that when Dr. Wright went to the University of North Carolina, he was older than most of the students and he felt that the fraternities were frivolous. That's the idea that we got from him. So he opposed the fraternities very strongly.

Bratton: There was a movement in the thirties to get the fraternities?

Deal: Yes. My father helped them to get this Phi Kappa Alpha. That was his fraternity.

Bratton: Was that the French?

Deal: No, that was something else. He also did that. Now, we had those societies, the honor societies.

Bratton: You're talking about the social fraternities.

Deal: Yes, Dr. Wright didn't object to those societies.

Bratton: When did your father help get that fraternity?

Deal: It was after he retired. One of the Jorgensen boys was a member of that. He would come and get my father and take him to the meetings.

Bratton: Your father was a member of it at Davidson.

Deal: Yes. I think the one here was created in the fifties.

Bratton: But he did start the French society.

Deal: Yes.

Bratton: I guess Dr. Wright might not have liked the exclusive nature of the fraternities.

Deal: I think that was part of it, too. I don't know why, because my father worked his way through school too. He certainly did, because his father died when he was a senior in high school. He had no help from home, so he was no different from Dr. Wright in that respect. I don't know what it was other than Dr. Wright was older when he went to the University. He did feel like it was exclusive and that it would not be for all the students. I'm sure that had a lot to do with it. He was a very serious person.

Bratton: About everything.

Deal: Yes, I'll tell you something else about him too. He could not stand to lose anything. He loved to play bridge. We had this place at the beach. Dr. Wright and Mr. M.L. Wright bought the lot from somebody down there when Mr. Wright was county superintendent. This was before he came to East Carolina. He bought the lot and talked it up among the faculty. He intended it to be all faculty, but not enough of them were interested. The Wrights stayed in it and we did too, until Mother died.

Bratton: Is that the Seashore Club?

Deal: Yes, that was what it was called. Dr. Robert Wright, as I said loved to play bridge, but if he didn't win, he was through.

Bratton: Is that right?

Deal: Oh, yes. It was a strange thing about him. Now Mrs. Wright wasn't that way a bit. But he just wanted to win every single time.

Bratton: He played for blood as they say.

Deal: Yes, he did. If you caught on to his little tricks that he had, he didn't like it a bit. He'd say, "Well you weren't suppose to notice that."

Bratton: I guess that was a sort of relaxation in a way for him.

Deal: It was. They loved the water, too. He enjoyed the water down there. Of course, you wouldn't be down there if you didn't.

Bratton: When did that start?

Deal: In 1930. They could afford to build it, because it was cheap to build then. It wasn't built very well, but it was good enough for a summer place.

Bratton: That must have been a lot of fun.

Deal: It was a lot of fun as long as Mr. M.L. Wright was in it. He set up the rules more or less.

Bratton: He was kind of the chief.

Deal: Yes. He was in charge of building it and he sort of stayed in charge of it.

Bratton: Tell me a little about him.

Deal: Now he was another real interesting person. He was in the Sociology Department. I really thought a lot of him.

Bratton: He was brought here the first year as executive secretary. Do you know anything about that? It was for about a year that I see that reference to him. Then he was director of the Sociology Department.

Deal: I was in college when he came. I started in the fall of 1926. I finished in 1930. He was here. I don't know that he was here when I started, but I know I had classes under him.

Bratton: I think he came in 1925 or 1926.

Deal: He may have come in 1925 when I was a senior in high school. It might have been something like that, I don't know.

Bratton: I have the impression that Dr. Wright was trying to organize a little more and distribute some of the school's responsibilities. Whatever the reason, it apparently didn't work. He was pretty much the one-man ruler wasn't he?

Deal: Yes he was. Mr. Wright retired early. I think he just resigned and opened an antique place about the time they had this trouble with Dr. Meadows.

Bratton: Yes.

Deal: I don't think he was released. I think he left of his own accord.

Bratton: I think he was released.

Deal: He was? Well, I wasn't sure about that.

Bratton: There is a letter in his file that indicates he was.

Deal: It is very strange. We didn't get into a whole lot of that. My father was in the hospital when that meeting was held between the students and some of the faculty. We didn't know anything about it.

Bratton: It was a good time to be sick.

Deal: Wasn't it! It really was, because he could remain neutral, as neutral as anybody could. It was a very difficult time for Greenville. It was a small enough town that people took sides. It was sad.