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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 two Miss Deal discusses the Leon Meadows trial.


See also Elizabeth Deal Oral History Part 1

and Elizabeth Deal Oral History Part 3.


 
Bratton: It must have been a terribly, terribly traumatic event as intensely involved as everyone was with the college and as close knit as the faculty was. To be fair, I have read everything that I can read about the situation. I've read the paper and every other source that I can find. I cannot decided about that man.

Deal: Well, I do know that he handled the student fund and that is what started it all. The students didn't think that they had any say-so in that fund. They paid into this student fund and he handled it and lots of times he paid people in cash with that money. There may have been nothing wrong with it, but he got people to do things and paid them with cash from this fund. I remember when he got some workers to do some work on a church or something. He would always let them pay him in cash and he would pay the people in cash. It was kind of underhanded whether it was wrong or not.

Bratton: Cash always raises a little suspicion.

Deal: Another thing that he did was to change the figure when he sent reports in later. I talked to a man years later and he said that he was in Raleigh with the state at the time. He had hunted with Dr. Meadows. Who was the governor during that time?

Bratton: Broughton.

Deal: This man had to come down here and testify in court. He told Governor Broughton that he didn't want to come because he and Meadows were friends. But he did say that Meadows had changed figures on reports that had been sent in.

Bratton: He changed them when they began questioning him?

Deal: Yes.

Bratton: To make it add up.

Deal: Yes. He said he knew there was some wrong doing.

Bratton: I get the feeling that after Dr. Wright died, Dr. Meadows seemed to be everybody's choice for president.

Deal: Well, he had had charge of the summer school. I think that was the reason.

Bratton: He went in with general approval, is that right?

Deal: Yes, as far as I know.

Bratton: People assumed he would be the next one and there was general support for him. But then somewhere along the line there got to be a lot of friction between him and some of the faculty.

Deal: One summer he was sent the money for summer school and he cut down on what he paid all of the faculty. He sent some of the money back or did something with it. He said he was sending it back. This man up at Appalachian had sent money back from time to time and it got him in real good with the state.

Bratton: Yes, B.B. Dougherty. He was the president of Appalachian.

Deal: I guess Meadows thought it might do the same for him. The faculty taught summer school that year for $100, the whole twelve weeks of it! Of course, that was during the Depression and they were just thankful for anything. But he did do that and I know that stirred them up.

I think the students just didn't trust him. They felt they should get more out of the student fund. Maybe they were getting all they were supposed to get. He paid those entertainers that came. Entertainments, the annual, and the newspaper came under the fund, I think, at that time. He paid a lot of those entertainers in cash, too. He kept no records, which was very much suspicious whether it was wrong or not.

Bratton: Yes. There was never any question as far as Dr. Wright went, was there?

Deal: No. Of course, Dr. Wright didn't own any property all around. Unfortunately for his wife he didn't own anything. But Dr. Meadows had built those little houses down there that he rented. No, I never heard anything ever about Dr. Wright's character, morals or anything. There was never any question about Dr. Wright.

Bratton: He could have handled the money and no one would have questioned him.

Deal: He must have had somebody else handling it. I don't know what they did then. But I don't think Dr. Wright would ever have handled the money himself. I guess we had that student fee then?

Bratton: Yes, you did. Part of it has to do with the personalities and the character.

Deal: That's right. Now, a lot of people did not feel close to Dr. Wright. I did because of our family friendship. But a lot of the students didn't, but they respected him. There was never any lack of respect. They knew where they stood and they knew where he stood too.

Bratton: I guess with Dr. Meadows they weren't sure.

Deal: That's right. I guess so.

Bratton: I cannot tell overall if he took the money. I think that it is clear that he falsified the evidence.

Deal: You aren't sure if he gained anything from it? I do think, and other people thought, that he did use surplus paints and things of that kind on his own houses. Whether it amounted to anything I don't know.

Bratton: It seemed to be a combination of hostility among some of the faculty and then among the students, plus the auditors finding this. It was a combination. It wasn't just one thing.

Deal: Yes. But the students were really the ones who caused the investigation to start. They asked some of the faculty to meet with them and they met at one of the faculty homes. I don't know why Dr. Carl Adams was not let go, because that is where they met. I never have understood that. As I said, we tried to stay as neutral as we could.

Bratton: I guess during that time that people just sort of kept in their own little orbit.

Deal: The faculty and those connected with the college did.

Bratton: They wanted to be neutral. Your father was able to maintain his neutrality. I think Dr. Frank was also able to do this.

Tell me about Dr. Flanagan. I don't know much about him.

Deal: Well, I'll tell you what happened to him about that. He was taken sick. He had a heart attack. He was one of those who was slated to go. After he had the heart attack, they withdrew his name.

Bratton: I think the ones who were slated to go were accused of being disloyal and inciting the students. Was he involved with the students?

Deal: I think he would have been more involved with the students.

Bratton: Sympathetic with them.

Deal: Yes. I don't think he would have gone as far as inciting them, but he was sympathetic with the students.

Bratton: That was my impression. I don't think they were influenced by the faculty.

Deal: No. I think that was a mistake.

Now, Miss Holtzclaw was one of those slated to go too. She hired her a lawyer and she didn't go. She did leave the next year, but she stayed that year and held on. She did the most interesting work in Germany after the war. She went over there and worked with the government.

Did you ever know Dr. Bessie McNiel?

Bratton: No, was she here?

Deal: Yes. She was the head of the Home Economics Department. This was in recent years. She hasn't been retired too many years. She has traveled extensively and still does. She has even been to China since she retired. She is now living in California. She went to various Methodist mission stations in Africa and Asia. In one place, they were using a washing machine that Dr. Holtzclaw had had made in Germany for those people after the war. It was not electric.

Bratton: Did she go to Germany after she left here?

Deal: Yes. I'm pretty sure she was in Germany. She was with the State Department I think.

Bratton: I would love to find out more about her. She sounds like a very interesting person.

Deal: Yes, she was.

Bratton: Is she dead now?

Deal: Yes. I'm trying to think of some of those home economic graduates who could tell you something about her.

Bratton: Well, I wondered how she got caught up in this.

Deal: I don't know. I didn't understand that either, except that she was a real good friend with the M.L. Wrights.

Bratton: Was she the one who lived in the house behind the Wrights?

Deal: I think she did. I think Mary Greene did too.

Bratton: Did she live over across from the Episcopal church?

Deal: Yes. He built that little house right behind his house. She lived there and I think Mary Greene lived there for a little while. I expect that is what happened. She was so close to the Wrights.

Bratton: Guilt by association.

Deal: That's right.

Bratton: M.L. Wright was identified as being one of those who was sympathetic to the students.

Deal: Yes. Also, he probably was not loyal to the administration, because he was that type of person. He was very decided in his views.

Bratton: It is a different question of loyalty if its a matter of a little rivalry in there.

Deal: What he called loyalty was loyalty to the administration, not loyalty to the college. There is a difference.

Bratton: Well, that's what the charge was, wasn't it? Loyalty to the administration?

Deal: I remember my father saying that they would have to fire everyone at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, because a lot of them were not loyal to the administration.

Bratton: No, you're right. Were you here during that time?

Deal: Yes, I was in Greenville. I was working in the hospital. I was right here through the whole thing, but I wouldn't have dared to have gone to that trial or even to have walked by the courthouse if I could help it.

Bratton: I imagine the whole town was there.

Deal: We didn't dare! But most of the people did go.

Bratton: There was, then, within the faculty a hostility among the groups who supported Dr. Meadows and those who were hostile?

Deal: Well, whether they supported Dr. Meadows or not, I don't know.

Bratton: I've gotten the impression in the English Department that there were some very strong supporters of Dr. Meadows.

Deal: Yes, there were. People like Miss Hooper.

Bratton: Yes. Miss Hooper and Miss Grigsby. I don't ever see Miss Jenkins in there.

Deal: Miss Jenkins was more of an independent.

Bratton: She probably tried to keep her distance. Would you say there were more faculty that were opposing or more that were in favor of him?

Deal: I'd hate to say for sure, because I really didn't see a whole lot of the faculty then. I played bridge with some of them, Lena Ellis and Mary Caughey, she married Marshall Helms. And Mary Greene, that group. There was a bunch of them who were younger and had come here before then.

Bratton: What were they trying to do, just keep their distance?

Deal: They just kept their distance. They tried to be neutral. I don't believe there was as many that really came out favoring Dr. Meadows or being very supportive as there were those who were neutral. None of them on the faculty really opposed him because they didn't know what was going to happen.

Bratton: You mean they were intimidated?

Deal: That's right.

Bratton: Since there were those who were fired, I can see why there would be a little feeling of protection for their jobs.

Deal: Of course, Dr. Henderson was one of those. Now, he was disloyal to the administration, because I don't think he and Dr. Meadows were ever real friendly. I understood at the time that he had been here twenty years and that was when they introduced a bill saying they could withdraw their retirement. Were they paying that then?

Bratton: I think they had just started in 1936 or 1937.

Deal: Well, they could retire and get that retirement provided they had been here for twenty years. I understood that a friend of his introduced that bill in the legislature. Now whether that is true or not, I don't know, but I had heard that it was because of Henderson. I don't mean that he was necessarily a friend of Henderson's but he knew about it and felt like it was unfair for them to lose their retirement completely. He introduced that bill in the legislature and it passed. Whether it still holds or not I don't know.

Bratton: I'm not sure about all the rules.

Deal: I think he had been here just twenty years then, I believe.

Bratton: I think he was short just a little bit. Then there was a suit so that he did get retirement. He has been living on that and whatever else he had accumulated.

Deal: Since then they have had oil wells on their farms in Texas, so they have been able to live well.

Bratton: He was one of the ones who was more critical of Dr. Meadows along with Wright, Flanagan and ReBarker. I don't know much about ReBarker either. He was in math, wasn't he?

Deal: Yes. He was very well liked by the students. I didn't know him as well. He came, I think, after I graduated. I'm sure he did. He lived next door to us though and we knew him that way for a long time. I really can't tell you too much about him. He did something besides just teaching math didn't he?

Bratton: Yes. He was part-time Dean of Men, so he was involved with the students.

Deal: The students were very fond of him.

Bratton: It seems like the ones who were fired were all very popular with the students. That may have been why it was thought that they were supporting the student "rebels."

Deal: Evidently. Of course, I think my father and Mr. Slay also were well liked by the students, but it just happened that they didn't get into that group.

Bratton: I'm wondering if this is when the college began to get sort of a complex. There was such pride and such a sense of confidence with Dr. Wright. Later, there seems to have been this sense of embarrassment and chagrin, and it seems to me that this was probably an enduring result of that situation. I don't think that the quality of the school or the quality of the education was hurt, because it looks like to me that the faculty continued right on and was a mature group that could continue. It wasn't that that was finished.

Deal: No, I don't think so either. Dr. Robert Wright encouraged the faculty members to make commencement addresses at various schools. They could make whatever arrangements they wanted about their classes. They usually just gave them some work to do if they had to be absent. It was hardly ever more than just an afternoon class and sometimes not any classes. I know my father did and I know some of the others did, a lot of them did. Dr. Wright thought it was a real good thing for the college and that maybe it would help get students to come to the college too.

Bratton: It was good public relations.

Deal: Yes. I can't remember whether it was Dr. Meadows or later, but at sometime during that time they had to get a substitute if they went. It was not during Dr. Wright's time, but later. It was probably Dr. Meadows because I don't ever remember his making a one of those talks. It discouraged a lot of them because it was hard to get somebody else to come hold class.

Bratton: That's true. In college it is hard to take over for a day.

Deal: It was very difficult so they didn't do as many or go as far. Sometimes they had to go far enough that it was hard to get back in a day. I know that several times Daddy went to Manteo and Hyde County and Morehead City, and at that time it was hard to get back that same night. I don't ever remember his missing many classes, except maybe in the afternoons. They were usually on Friday anyway. Of course, we had classes on Saturday when I was over there.

Bratton: You had them on Mondays and Saturdays?

Deal: Yes. When I was there we had classes six days. Earlier they had not had Monday classes so they wouldn't have to study on Sunday.

Bratton: I like that idea.

Deal: I like it too. But when I was there we had them on Saturday mornings, but not on Saturday afternoons.

Bratton: You stayed at home?

Deal: Yes.

Bratton: I know that most of the people from Greenville going to East Carolina did stay at home.

Deal: Most of them did. I had some friends who stayed over there in the dormitory maybe one year and then stayed home after that. Some of them who were out in the county stayed in the dormitory because it was difficult commuting in a day.

Bratton: Dr. Wright and Dr. Meadows were just two entirely different people.

Deal: Oh yes they were.

Bratton: It is always a hard adjustment after a long tenured person, but this was even harder.

Deal: They kind of resented Dr. McGinnis, too. He was acting president after Meadows left. Mrs. McGinnis resented it too. She didn't think he ought to do it.

Bratton: She didn't think he should have had to have done it?

Deal: Well, she didn't think he should do it. I don't know whether she thought he ought not have had to or that it just wasn't fair for him to have that responsibility or what. A lot of the faculty didn't care for him and didn't like his doing it. I don't know why.

Bratton: It was a thankless job.

Deal: It was and I'm sure that he did the best he could to hold things together. Of course, during that time they didn't know what was going to happen.

Bratton: Yes. I imagine you have to factor that in. Of course, now it is easy to overlook but all of that job insecurity was certainly a very real thing for everybody during that period. It really seems unthinkable that people after twenty or twenty-five years could be fired so easily.

Deal: With really no grounds.

Bratton: Yes. Was there any hostility toward the trustees for backing Meadows?

Deal: Some. There was some feeling that they didn't know. Yes, there was good bit.

Bratton: Was it because people felt that they had not done their job the way it should have been done?

Deal: Well, they exonerated him. Every time they met they said that they knew he hadn't done anything wrong. Of course, I always felt that if he had just gone and told the trustees that he might have done something wrong and would they investigate it and let him pay for it, nothing would ever happened. He could probably have stayed right on. That's my opinion.

Now, he may have really felt that he hadn't done anything wrong. The attitude of the trustees was resented, because the people didn't think the trustees were informed or that they had bothered to inform themselves. The trustees just felt like he couldn't be guilty of any wrongdoing.

Bratton: I've noticed that. There were some alumni chapters that had no knowledge whatsoever of the facts, because at that time the facts were not out as to whether he had or had not, but they assumed he couldn't have done it. It seems that the people who defended him took that stand regardless of the facts.

Deal: Well, there were people that he had helped get jobs when he was head of the English Department before he became president. He had helped some of the students get jobs. Of course, other faculty had too, but they were were so loyal to him no matter what he had done. They just felt like he couldn't have done it.

Bratton: Was there hostility from the faculty against Dr. McGinnis for taking the job?

Deal: I don't think it was for taking the job.

Bratton: Was it for the way he handled it? He seemed to have assumed a very rigid position didn't he?

Deal: I think it was the way he handled it. I don't think he could help it. I think that he felt that was the right thing to do.

Bratton: It was during that period that the students were disciplined. It was about two years at least that this went on.

Deal: That's right.