Desegregation a struggle for Dougherty County - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Desegregation a struggle for Dougherty County

May 17, 2004

Albany- In a landmark decision 50 years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that public schools should be integrated.

The Brown vs. the Board of Education was hard fought by those in Topeka, Kansas. But even after the decision it took years of struggle to break the color barrier in many school systems, including Dougherty County.

When attorney C. B. King moved his family to Albany in 1953, he was already prepared to fight.

"He was not going to back down on anything," she says.

That included taking on the Dougherty County School Board on 8 separate occasions. "You know if you were married to a King you went along with it. You knew the Kings were going to do whatever they thought was the best for their people."

For King, that was fighting the battle to enforce the Brown vs. the Board of Education ruling in Dougherty County.

"I was elated over the desegregation of first and second grade, because I was a first grade teacher and a second grade teacher."

But, fear quickly set in because the ruling would mean her two youngest children would soon be a part of something so many vehemently opposed.

"Albany was hard. It was hard. It was just that the people here were more prejudice in this community."

So prejudiced that King and her family were the target of dozens of death threats. "Night after night after night I had threats. I was the one that answered the telephone so that C. B. could sleep, but then I had murder threats over and over again."

But C. B. King never let his guard down, and in 1965 both black and white first and second graders, including two of King's own, sat in classrooms together. That victory also included 11th and 12th grades at Albany High School where 6 black students integrated the 1965 senior class.

Dougherty County School Curriculum Director Ted Horton was a member of that class. "We didn't have a problem. It just went real smooth to the best of my recollection and I was a senior and I probably didn't realize everything that was going on but it was very smooth, and very quiet really," he remembers.

Horton credits the leadership in the school system for the monumental transition that for him was seamless.

"I have no idea what was going on behind the scenes. We didn't notice anything, at least I didn't out of the ordinary."

But Horton admits the experience had to be just the opposite for Mamie Ford, Joanne Christian, Shirley Lawrence, Eddie Maude McKendrick, Beverly Plummer, and Rubye Nell Singleton - the six young women whose courageousness and strength broke the color barrier in Dougherty County.

C. B. King also filed lawsuits to get black teachers in the schools, get equal rights for black education supervisors, and earn students the right to participate in extracurricular activities. He also fought to have black children bused to prominently white schools.

Posted at 7:00 PM by elaine.armstrong@walb.com