0:00 - Introduction/Biographic Information and growing up in Virginia
Partial Transcript: Kenelly: Friday November 29th 2002 and I'm here with Mr. Irving Linwood Peddrew III.
Keywords: classless values; education; Hampton Institute; Hampton Va; middle class; music; newspaper delivery; race; second-class citizen; self-determination; Southeast Virginia; Southwest Virginia
Subjects: African American history; African Americans--Segregation; Childhood and youth; Discrimination--United States; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
20:17 - Deciding on college/ First year
Partial Transcript: Kennelly: Was that Mrs. Hines?
Peddrew: Mrs. Hines was our class adviser...
Keywords: black schools; electrical engineering; George P. Phenix High School; passing for white; private organizations; racial categories; racial epithet; Rual Virginia; scholarship; second class; self esteem; Southwest Virginia; stereotypes; University of Southern California; Virginia State; white schools
Subjects: African American history; African Americans--Segregation; Discrimination in education--United States; Virginia Polytechnic Institute
51:28 - Facing discrimination/Ring Dance
Partial Transcript: Peddrew: My only problem was I was too sensitive as a person and which may have accounted for the fact that eventually I chose to leave here...
Keywords: barbershop; demeaning situations; freedom rides; isolation; lonely; Longwood; Lyric Theatre; perserverance; racist undertones; Radford; regret; Ring Dance; rumors; sit-ins; Stan Moore; subtle racism; supportive; vocal minority; YMCA
Subjects: African Americans--Segregation; Race discrimination--United States--History; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
74:25 - Leaving Virginia Tech/Experience in the Corps of Cadets
Partial Transcript: Peddrew: Although I was equipped to come in and deal with it for a year eventually it took it's toll.
Keywords: Ben Dixon; changing minds; Confederate Flag; David Levering; isolation; living off campus; Multicultural Affairs; University of Southern California; YMCA; YWCA
Subjects: Dixie; Race discrimination--United States--History; University of Southern California; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Corps of Cadets
98:48 - Hopes for the future and the present
Partial Transcript: Peddrew: I'd like to see it grow and develop and evolve to the point where we don't need to have...
Keywords: appreciation; enduring; forward thinking; leaders; second class; visionary
Subjects: African American history; Race discrimination--United States--History; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
112:26 - Current problems at Virginia Tech
Partial Transcript: Peddrew: I was told that there is some problems here on campus.
Keywords: addressing grievances; airing problems; Castle & Cooke; challenging ideas; communication; Del Monte Corporation; differing opinions; express diversity; imagined problems; real problems
Subjects: African American history; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
[Begin Tape A1, Side 1]
Tamara Kennelly: Would you please begin by saying your name and, if you don'tmind, your age?
Irving Peddrew: Irving Linwood Peddrew the third. I was born in August of 1935,and that makes me 67 at this time. 1:00
Kennelly: You were born in Hampton, Virginia?
Peddrew: That is correct.
Kennelly: Would you please describe the neighborhood you grew up in?
Peddrew: It was sort of a middle class neighborhood that was mixed, and wehad--it was predominately black, or as we called it Negro in those days, but it was a mixed neighborhood. I had friends of Caucasian persuasion as well as black friends of course, in that area.
Kennelly: You were the first of five children?
Peddrew: That's correct. I'm the eldest.
Kennelly: You're the eldest. So would you tell me about your family?2:00
Peddrew: Basically, a black family with typically black middle class values. Myfather had finished college, and my mother had two years of college, and they were both very protective but guided me quite a bit through the initial years of--through grammar school and high school. We weren't any different except that I suspect that I was taught more basic American-type middle class values. Meaning a classless type values. That is what pretty much prepared me for Tech. That I didn't sense or feel a need to express myself because I was viewed as a second-class citizen. I never felt that at all, never did. Although I know that 3:00is what I was categorized pretty much as. I refused to let anyone define me as that. I didn't really realize it as being such then, but I know now that is basically what I felt that I was an American that was defined as a black American or as we called it then a Negro American, and that the general society classified me as a second class citizen. Which I refused to accept, because I never knew that to be the case. I never felt that, as such.
Kennelly: You felt that when you came to Virginia Tech then?
Peddrew: Well, it is not a matter of having felt... I know coming here in themore rural area of Virginia, the southwest Virginia, that I would probably run into individuals who had more basic ideas of what constituted a second-class citizenship and probably had me stereotypically situated in a second-class 4:00environment. I knew that was going to exist. I knew that I had to face that, but I never felt myself as being a second-class citizen with someone of inferior intelligence or an inferior being or whatever. That never, never occurred to me. I knew I would run into individuals who would consider me as such. I knew that was a strong possibility. Even more so than in my area of Virginia which was basically the southeastern part of Virginia, which I felt was--largely because of military installations--was a little bit more advanced and possibly more progressive than the southwest portion of Virginia, especially the rural southwest. 5:00
Kennelly: Where did your parents go to school?
Peddrew: My dad finished--it was called Hampton Institute then, and now HamptonUniversity. My mother attended school there at Hampton up until she went through her sophomore year, so she had two years of college at Hampton Institute. They met there when my dad was in school, and he finished. Then they got married before my mother's junior year. She ceased her education, formal education at that time.
Kennelly: So was education really valued in your family?
Peddrew: You know, it was, and it wasn't. I mean what you had to realize as ablack, growing up in the South then, you could have the greatest of credentials academically, and you were still basically a Negro or a second-class citizen. 6:00You had to recognize that. I knew that that was the case, and I was taught that that was the case. Although my parents emphasized education, they didn't possibly lean on it to the extent that other families did. I wanted to finish college; I wanted to have an education. I realized after seeing some of the 7:00Ph.D.'s swabbing floors and acting as janitors that that wasn't the end to end all ends--that there was a very distinct possibility that I could have the greatest of degrees and the ultimate of educations and could still wind up basically in an inferior position. Taking orders and acting like someone who was a second-class person. So my parents were very practical. For instance, I had a beautiful musical education, but my dad always discouraged me from getting into music. I had music lessons, but he said that he didn't think that was a good area for me to aspire to be in because it wasn't that great of a thing to be a musician. He had known a lot of musicians, and he had been a musician himself, and that wasn't that important to him. Although he gave me, or saw that I got, 8:00musical education--saxophone and clarinet lessons, and subsequently played in the marching band and concert band of my high school--he didn't emphasize that at all. He thought that that was not the way for me to proceed. I can understand that having met many musicians since then and having gone through the ins and outs of the entertainment business. I can understand how he felt that way. They were very, very practical. Some might have considered even too practical. They emphasized education but said, you've got to guard it. You've got to be in a position where you can judge what's really good and what's right and what's fair, and you can't think that because you got the education that it is automatically going to make a big difference in your life, because that wasn't true with blacks at that time and to some degree isn't true, even now, unfortunately. 9:00
Kennelly: What did your father do?
Peddrew: My dad started out as a bricklayer at a time when the emphasis withblacks was on the trades, and that's what the education at Hampton Institute was followed in. It was tailors, bricklayers, carpenters, and that sort of thing. He was a bricklayer at that time. The situation changed for him quite a bit after he finished and was eventually hired by NASA. Initially, he had the education as a bricklayer.
Kennelly: Did your mother work?
Peddrew: My father discouraged that as much as possible. He was from the oldschool. He was the wage earner, and he made certain that he brought the money in 10:00and that my mom stayed home and took care of the house and raised the kids. That was his position pretty much all of his life. Unfortunately, that was not to be the case later on. My mom did get out and work a bit. She did some work with NASA where she was eventually terminated during the Nixon reduction in force that he had going, or that he put in force during his tenure. My mother had a number of jobs. One was with the police department in Hampton as a complaints taker, I think they called it then. She did a number of things, but primarily 11:00she assumed duties as a house maker and raised the five of us. That's a big enough job, I understand, the feminists will tell you that nowadays.
Kennelly: Did you as the eldest child have extra responsibilities in the family,special responsibilities?
Peddrew: Oh yeah. Especially when my mom decided that she would disobey myfather's edicts and assume a position in the work force. I was instructed on how to prepare breakfast and how to care for my younger siblings. That was interesting. Preparing breakfasts in the morning and getting everybody together and trying to get them off to school was a bit of a challenge. I guess I didn't look upon it as being that great of a challenge at that time, but looking back on it, it was somewhat of a challenge. It wasn't something that I had to do on a continual basis. I don't know how long my mother worked. I really don't 12:00remember, but it was for a while, and during that time, I had to see that the kids were fed, my siblings were fed, and that they were off to their various 13:00pursuits. Which meant that they were basically off going to school. So I did that for a while, and I am sure that played a part, an important part, in the building of my character that I had to be able to help the younger kids get off and get situated so that they could get to school.
Kennelly: Did you work when you were in high school? Did you have a job yourself?
Peddrew: I did, but my father didn't want me to. He discouraged it. On my own Ireally wanted to, so I did get out to--I started to deliver newspapers and had a run of my own, but my dad never, never ever really wanted me to work outside of the home. It was important that I had certain chores within the home. He didn't want me to work outside, and I disobeyed, I guess, in that regard because I started out delivering newspapers I think when I was about thirteen. It was 14:00important to me. I felt it important that I have some independent source of income and that I would be able to function pretty much independently although my father felt that he needed to maintain control of the family. I guess at that time that wasn't that unusual for the head of the family to want to maintain control. Maybe that was unusual in black families, I'm not sure about that. I know that it was important for him to maintain control and to be the source of financial support or whatever was necessary you know. When you had to buy books, and when you had to buy the gym uniform or those kinds of things, that I always had to go to him for that. You know, it wasn't all that bad. It was just something he felt that he needed to be in control of. I didn't agree with him 15:00then, and I don't agree with him now. That is pretty much what I obeyed or allowed myself to be directed towards, except that I did go out and get a job as a newspaper delivery boy at that time.
Kennelly: Was race an issue when you were growing up?
Peddrew: It was always an issue. When I was old enough to realize that therewere some people who held me in such low regard, I realized that I had a hurdle to overcome. I guess with the protective atmosphere and environment of my family 16:00it didn't bother me as much as it probably bothered a lot of families, a lot of kids in black families. I never experienced first hand a lot of problems that a lot of black families experienced, because my father and mother were so protective. We lived in an area that was sort of integrated, and when I played with other kids, white kids, and I never realized the difference earlier. Later on, I did only because of how other people viewed me not how I allowed them to view me, but how they particularly cared about seeing me as a person of inferior character and so forth. My parents never allowed me to feel that, to feel the brunt of that, so I never really thought of myself as a second-class citizen. I knew I was being thought of as that, but I never thought of myself that way. I know that now as being I never allowed someone to define myself or define my character integrity. I never did. I didn't think of it being that then. All I knew was that I was not an inferior person. I never thought of myself as a 17:00second-class person. My family was such that they never allowed me to think in those terms, so I never grew up thinking of myself in that way.
Kennelly: Were there some incidents that come to mind when you were treated in away, you know, hurtful to you because of your race or that really hurt?
Peddrew: You know nothing ever--I've tried to reflect on that, certainlyrecently I have. I have never really been able to pinpoint or to isolate any one incident or number of incidents that made me feel that way. When I grew up here in the South, you knew that you couldn't, or that you weren't supposed to sit in the front of the bus. You knew there was a special drinking fountain for you. You knew when you got on the train that you had to sit in a special place which 18:00was behind the coal car. You knew there were certain things that you weren't allowed to do, and practicality dictated that you didn't violate those things 19:00unless you wanted to incur the wrath of those who dictated those laws. I stayed basically within the confines of where I knew I could go and where I couldn't go. It was only in high school when I felt that a teacher advised or instructed me or felt that I basically had enough going for me that I could apply to some of the institutions of higher learning that were categorized for whites only. That I could apply, and basically I had a chance to enter. She felt that I had the basic background to do that. I guess that she felt basically that, and I have had to think about this lately a lot--that there was something within me that would allow me to get beyond the normal confines and restrictions that were 20:00imposed legally and that I could eventually survive in an area or an atmosphere, environment where these laws still basically existed, but where there were people who could rise above the restrictions of that day and era of that time.
Kennelly: Was that Mrs. Hines?
Peddrew: Mrs. Hines was our class advisor at George P. Phoenix High School inHampton. It was there for, as they called it, Negro students only. I don't recall the exact circumstances, but all I remember is that she came up to me at some point during my senior year and said to me that she was under the 21:00impression that there were certain schools within the Virginia white only environment that were positioned at that point to receive black students. That they had at least evidenced to some degree a position that would allow them to entertain the possibility of accepting black students. I wish that I could recall more of it. I can't right now. All that I remember is that she said, "I think you are uniquely situated, that you have the ability to survive in that environment," and that eventually she expected that I would be received positively by some institution. So I applied to all the schools who were traditionally whites or schools in the confederacy--in Virginia that is. I didn't go outside of Virginia. I applied to all that I knew of, and I received only a positive, and at that time it wasn't a positive reception, but it was 22:00sort of a maybe an iffy situation from Virginia Tech, but that was the only school that replied with that in mind, that there was a possibility upon further examination and exploration that I might be considered as a possible entrant. I pursued that while pursuing other applications to other schools. I must say that I apparently had the grades and whatever else to get a positive response from every other school across the country. In fact, I had received a positive response to the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles. At that time Virginia had set up a situation within the legislation or legislator assembly--the body that determines these things--that in order to keep black 23:00students out of white colleges here in Virginia that they would offer a scholarship to some other school--that provided you chose a course that was not given in the one school for blacks in Virginia, the state school which was Virginia State, but was given in a white school in Virginia. They would give you a scholarship provided you qualified. At that time I was really in pursuit of the West Coast. I liked the whole idea of southern California and their so-called lack of discrimination. So I had applied to the University of Southern California and was accepted. The scholarship was approved by the Virginia legislature to attend the University of Southern California, and I was ready to go to USC when I received a telegram saying that I was accepted to Virginia 24:00Tech, but that was after two gentlemen from Virginia Tech had indicated a desire to interview me, and I corresponded back that they could, and they came down to my home in Hampton and personally interviewed me with my parents. They indicated at that time after the interview that they would give further consideration to my application and they would get back to me. After asking if I would take certain tests that were not asked of the white students, which I consented to do because I wasn't in a position, I didn't feel at that point that I needed to contest this whole thing. I never threatened to sue because I wasn't going to. I was happy to go to Los Angeles and attend Southern California University. I 25:00said, "Fine, I'll take the tests, and you can make a decision," and I felt all the time that I wouldn't be accepted at Virginia Tech, so I made preparations to fly out to University of Southern California. Lo and behold, [laughter] I received a telegram the week before I was to fly out for freshman orientation at the University of Southern California. I received that telegram saying that I was accepted at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, as it was called then. Then I had to make a decision whether I would go out to the West Coast and attend school, or whether I would stay here in Virginia and give it a go at VPI, as I 26:00called it then. My eventual decision, which was all mine, on my own, I decided that since my dad was financing my education and then you could understand from what I have said before that that's the way things were. He didn't allow me to go out and make the kind of money that would support an education, because he insisted that it be this way, and that was the way he was raised and brought up. I decided to stay at home despite the reception that I might receive that would be certainly less than acceptable as I viewed it because this was the southwest 27:00portion, the rural portion of Virginia. Not to say anything about rural folk, but because there's certainly many advanced folks with progressive thoughts, but generally you know that that is not the kind of situation that you would want, you would expect someone to prosper in who's a minority in an educational environment. I knew that I would not have it easy here, but I knew that it would be easier on my parents that I attended school locally, within state, as opposed 28:00to flying across the country and going to school there in Los Angeles at the University of Southern California. That's basically--I made that decision. My dad was the one who pretty much wanted me to get into engineering, electrical engineering specifically. That was important because you could not have taken a course that was given at Virginia State, which was set up for minority students, at the time called Negroes. You could not expect to get a course at any university outside of the black educational institutions that was not offered. If it were offered in the black colleges, you could not get the scholarship I 29:00got to go to USC. I knew that I had to take something that wasn't in business, sociology, or some of the more common courses. I say common only to say that they were the kind that were regularly accepted or that you could see or expect to get in most colleges. I could not take that or try to excel in that area if I wanted to go to Virginia Tech, which was not originally in my plans, but I guess my dad sort of skewed me into electrical engineering because of friends that he had worked with who were electrical engineers and were very prosperous and were doing quite well. I accepted that, and that was the kind of thing that allowed 30:00me to get to Virginia Tech, or at least be considered as a student of Virginia Tech. I couldn't have, for instance, taken business and been accepted or been considered as a student, an entrant at Tech if I wanted a mere business degree because that was offered at Virginia State for blacks. I took electrical engineering or decided on that with the emphasis being provided primarily by my father. That was what allowed me to apply in that area, and that's where I went on from there after applying to be accepted as a candidate for electrical engineering school.
Kennelly: Did you receive a scholarship to Virginia Tech?31:00
Peddrew: Nope. Not the slightest. The only scholarship I was given--well I wasoffered other scholarships to other colleges, but the primary scholarship that Virginia wanted to give me was to keep me out of Virginia Tech and other white schools and to get me out to the West Coast. That was the scholarship that I was given by Virginia. I was offered other scholarships to other schools in Virginia and out of the state of Virginia. I wonder about my decision to come to Virginia Tech, and I think about it from time to time and wonder about if I would ever do that again. I think not. I think not. At that point, I decided that I would brave it because I pretty much was ready to encounter the other folk thinking of 32:00me as not really ready. I was ready. I was ready. Virginia Tech wasn't ready for me, but I was ready for them. I really felt good about the fact that I had the backing of my parents and, of course, the black community, which I wasn't really concerned about. I was concerned more about my parents and their being there for me. I knew that scholastically I could handle it. The only problem would be that I was so individualistic that there may not be a chance for me to persevere because of the strong strict upbringing that I was a person who had what it took 33:00to be a good citizen, to be a positive contributor to society. I've always felt that. I feel that now very strongly. I felt then that I didn't really need to be relegated to a second-class type situation. Although I admired the black schools then. I took a pre-college course at Hampton University, which was called Hampton Institute at that time, and came out at the very top of the students that participated in that. That was the very first year that they offered that. That was the year, that year I entered Virginia Tech that I received the telegram of acceptance. I never really felt inferior or that I should feel 34:00inferior at any time. I never, never ever felt that, but I knew how folks viewed me and what stereotypical idea they had of me. Not because they knew me, because no one knew me here, but what they had thought of me because of the exterior manifestations of color and that sort of thing. I knew how I would be looked upon. That never frightened me. I was never frightened of the idea. I guess the one thing that I think about, that occurred to me, was when my parents brought me up here and I registered for school and got measured for my cadet uniform and so forth. I went to the home of the black family where I had to live. When I saw my dad and mom drive off, I said to myself, "What have I gotten myself into?" That's when it really hit me. That was the first time, when they drove off, and I realized that I was really by myself, and I was on my own. I was really 35:00totally on my own. Although the black family that I stayed with was very supportive, very beautiful people. I knew basically that they weren't going to class with me. That whatever I was subjected to I had to endure, on my own, basically. For that first year it was quite an existence. Though it turned out to be an existence that was considered to be quite positive because of the people who called me in from the administration, Virginia Tech administration, and told me that "the only reason that we have accepted Charlie Yates, Lindsay Cherry, and Floyd Wilson in your sophomore year was the fact that you did so 36:00well in your freshman year, when you were accepted." It wasn't the fact that I was totally accepted and embraced as being one of the other students. I wasn't. What they were interested in was that there was no problems--there were no difficulties to speak of during my freshman year. I guess I did as well as maybe I wanted to. Not as well as really I could have done but enough to satisfy the prerequisites and enough to satisfy myself that I was no longer viewed as an inferior being, who was brought into this great euphoria. Who are we talking about? This is a college, you know. It wasn't like it was some great thing that 37:00I should have been, that they should have me lauded for all their great, the fact that I was accepted and so forth and so on. I thank Virginia Tech, and I think they should receive some accolade for having stepped in front of the rest of the colleges and in front of the rest of the basically the white educational world in the South and accepted me as a student. I wasn't totally accepted. I had to live off campus. I couldn't go to the campus cafeteria, the university cafeteria. There was a number of things I couldn't do on campus, and certainly a world of things that I couldn't do in town, in the town of Blacksburg. Virginia Tech should still be lauded for the fact that they stepped out front and said, 38:00"We are going to give you a shot," and because of what they allowed me to do during that first year, they accepted the other students, one of which who eventually finished here and now has a Ph.D. At that time, I wasn't out to really prove a lot. That wasn't the purpose of my attending school here. It was my coming to take something, to be a part of something, that I felt that I had a right to be a part of. My parents live here. My parents had been paying taxes, and poll taxes included. They just brought me up to realize that I was a very important person and that I shouldn't regard myself as being inferior. That was 39:00the important thing that I should not ever develop that inferiority complex. I never did. I never have. I have encountered all kinds of discrimination since Virginia Tech, all over the world and never have given in to the idea that I should be, that I should even consider myself as a second-class citizen or anything of that nature. I never have, and I thank them for that because they planted that seed. Even though I grew beyond them and what they thought. They--my dad was a member of a very prestigious social club in Hampton, which 40:00only had black members. I remember coming back from California and asking him if a roommate of mine could belong to that, who happened to be of Caucasian persuasion, and he said, "Oh no." And I said, "Why, why not?" He said, "Well they don't accept us to their clubs." That wasn't adequate to me. That didn't suffice. I could never belong to something that wasn't open. I remembered that that was part of the thing that denied admittance to a lot of folks like me who wanted to belong to other organizations, so I could never be a part of that. I don't mean that to put those organizations down. They've got their reasons, and 41:00they do their thing, but I feel that if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. If I couldn't bring anybody, or have anyone belong to an organization that I liked or thought well of, or a friend of mine, or even someone I didn't know for that matter, but who was qualified in other areas, but disqualified as a result of ethnic origin, I couldn't belong, I couldn't belong to that. I could never be a part of that. I will never be a part of that. That may come as a surprise to some of my so-called friends, but that's the way that I am. That's the way that I was brought up. Although my ideas are that evolved and developed and grew to the point where I was a little, I don't want to say 42:00above my father, but let's say different from him. I could never be a part of that. I don't look down on those people who have those ideas because they come up with different parents or different perspectives or they may have hurt a lot more than I was hurt or my parents were hurt. Who knows there before the grace of God? I can't say that I could act as they did or that I could put them down for what they believe. I know what I believe, and I wouldn't allow them to influence me as I expect they wouldn't let me allow me to influence them. I can still relate to those people. I'm sorry they're not as open or that they don't have as broad of a perspective as I have, but that's life. That's the way it 43:00goes pretty much.
Kennelly: When those two--back to the people coming from Tech to talk toyou--did they lay down any ground rules about what limitations on your activity as a....
Peddrew: You know, I really, I've reflected on that, and I really don't recalltheir ever saying to me this is what you can expect, and this is what you can't. I do remember that they asked me how I would respond if I were called out of my name. I remember that one question more than I do anything else that they ever said, the two gentlemen
Kennelly: You were called out of your name?
Peddrew: Out of my name? Yeah, indicating a racial epithet.
Kennelly: I see.
Peddrew: I thought about that, and all I could say to them, all I remembersaying to them was, "I know there are people who are capable of that. I just 44:00think that I am a little stronger than that, and I am above that, and that I don't think that it will cause the adverse reaction that is caused in a number of other situations." Because of the support of my parents and the way I was brought up, I thought that I could handle that, and that is exactly what I told them. I can't ever remember saying anything more, because I didn't know anything more, because I was never confronted with that situation living in Hampton. Although I am sure that a number of other blacks were confronted with that, I never had that particular confrontation. All I could say to them was, "I don't think that I would. I know I wouldn't succumb to it and be devastated by it. I 45:00don't know quite how I would take it except that I know it wouldn't devastate me. I just feel that I could get beyond that." Apparently, that was sufficient enough to convince them that I was the person, the first black person to be accepted.
Kennelly: Did that happen when you came?
Kennelly: That people called you...
Peddrew: No. No, and that's--to me it's strange only because I expected it atsome point. Not that I was looking for it, or that I wanted it, but being a realist and pretty much a practical person, I expected that to happen. This was 46:00almost fifty years ago, but I don't recall a specific incident on this campus where I was confronted by a student or instructor or whatever, being called out of my name. I never, that never happened. There were some other incidents and things that happened, but that in particular never happened. I think, I don't want to pat myself on the back about this, because I don't think it was really me, but
[End of Tape A1 Side 1]
[Begin Tape A1 Side 2]
Peddrew: Myself in the back about this because I don't think it was really me.Not me specifically, but the kind of mentality or makeup that existed within me did not provoke that kind of thing. I could've been more confrontational, and I wasn't. I wasn't here to prove that I was better then anybody, I wasn't here 47:00really to prove anything. All I really thought of was that I deserved to go to that school. I am a resident of the state, my parents paid taxes. There's nothing I have done to disqualify me. Why should I be not considered? I'm not a felon. I'm not convicted. I've never had any problems. I've never done anything outlawed. Why would anyone consider me to be less than qualified for something that I know that I could easily qualify for? It was like I said. I was interviewed by an ABC affiliate yesterday, and they asked some pointed questions, and I told them, what basically I believed was that I was ready for 48:00them, and they weren't ready for me. That was not to say that I could encounter and defeat everything that came at me, that I was a greater student, academically and socially and whatever. It just meant that the way that I was raised and brought up, I considered myself ready for an environment that was less than acceptable, or folks who felt that I was not an acceptable being, a person. I wonder how could they do that. They don't know me. There's no way they could know my background or my parents or what I've been told or how I've been instructed or how I was brought up or raised. They had a stereotypical concept of what I was supposed to be, which I could never give into. I never fit that. 49:00The stereotypical concept was not valid to begin with, and you find people of any ethnic background who fit certain categories and that sort of thing. That's not owing to any particular ethnic background or racial makeup. It's anybody, anybody can be a bad person or who can be the kind of person who causes trouble or problems. I certainly wasn't that kind of person. Anybody can be illiterate or dumb, or who holds disdain for higher education, and I wasn't that kind of person. I looked different superficially. I understood that, but then again that 50:00was so stupid because I've got people in my own family who had passed for white. How stupid this whole thing of racial categorization is, you know. When these people could have--if they wanted to be categorized as black--would have to sit in the back of the bus and not eat in certain restaurants and those kinds of things, but there were certain people in my family who could pass for white, or do certain things. It wasn't my thing to put them down. If they wanted to do that, it was fine with me, I don't care about that. I cared about what I thought and how I was viewed as a person, as an individual. I just knew that I was as good as anybody else when it comes to being a human being. That was important to 51:00me, and that was drilled into me as an individual growing up, and like I said, I carried it beyond the point that my parents did. I never had a problem with myself, and I knew that was the first thing you had to consider going into a situation like that. If you didn't think of, if you didn't have any self-esteem, and you didn't think of yourself as being worthy, what could you do in a situation like this? My only problem was I was too sensitive as a person which may have accounted for the fact that eventually I chose to leave here and continue my education otherwise, and not to return to the degradations, the demeaning situations that I found myself in at Tech. That's not owed to all of 52:00the students or to how they viewed me, totally, but to a certain vocal minority, particularly. I knew that was the case. I didn't want to continually to confront that. They caused problems when I wanted to go to the Ring Dance. They circulated rumors that the girls' schools locally--Longwood and Radford--wouldn't allow their girls to attend if I attended the Ring Dance, which was the biggest social event of a cadet's education, a situation where the campus.... I wanted to go so badly. My girlfriend was willing. She was going to 53:00West Virginia Wesleyan, and we were ready, and I explained what was going on, but I was talked out of it by YMCA, who thought that it was probably not the time to do it, and as much as I wanted to do it, and I was ready. I was ready because I was ready when I came here. Not to encounter a lot of ugliness, but I was prepared for it because I thought that I had the inner fire to exist and to persevere. I did. I thought that about the Ring Dance, but I wrote a letter telling that I would not attend if they... I felt that it wasn't that important to me. I wanted to come. I really really honestly wanted to go, and my date wanted to as well--the young lady I was dating at the time. I felt that after 54:00having talked to my friends at the YMCA, who were very, very supportive of me, they made sure that this thing wasn't as bad as it could have been, they were really super supportive. I allowed them--and I have to put it that way--I allowed them to talk me into not going, but...
Kennelly: Who was that?
Peddrew: It was in--Derring was, as I recall the head of the Y, and it wasn'thim particularly but the people that were under him, and I think that the gentlemen's name was Stan Moore, and I am not sure about that, but I allowed them to convince me that that was not a prudent move at this particular 55:00juncture, although I thought that I should've gone. I still think that to this day. I can't blame them. They were so supportive of me and were largely responsible to a great degree for my, for the success I had attending and the fact that I maintained some sense of equilibrium and stability while I was here on campus. The Y, the YMCA was largely responsible for that.
Kennelly: And how did they do that? In what way?
Peddrew: There were meetings, and we talked, and they discussed, and they hadspeakers to come in and such, and we talked about my situation and what I was feeling and what my responses were, what I felt like, which was important to me, 56:00because very few people had ever asked me, "What's going on? How are you doing? Are you continuing in some sort of stable environment, mind-wise? Are you, do you feel okay? Are you bothered? How is this getting, is this getting to you at all?" These were the only people on the campus at the time who were really concerned about my response and how this whole thing was affecting me, and it was because of that and the fact that I respected them so much that I decided not to, because it went against my grain. I did not want to give into that. Particularly after the Y called Longwood and Radford and found out that the 57:00rumors that were circulating the campus here at Virginia Tech were only rumors, and the girls' schools were not restricting their girls from attending. They told me that before, before I decided not to go. They said, "We've called the schools, and they are admitting only to the fact that they said the situation is like it is, but we are not restricting you. You go if you want to." There was a chance of troubles or problems or difficulties as there would be in any situation like that at that time. This was 1956. Things weren't that warm for me here, not on the campus as much on the campus as in the town of Blacksburg. I 58:00knew that I had my place, as was dictated in any southern community, particularly in a rural southern community. Although, things I think were better here then in a lot of places in the south, I still knew there were places I couldn't go, and there were things I couldn't attend. I had to be aware of that because not to be would be unrealistic. I certainly consider myself as a realist. Not as much of a pragmatist as maybe I should've been, but I knew that there were certain places I couldn't go and things I couldn't do
Kennelly: Like what?
Peddrew: Ahhh, I couldn't eat in any of the restaurants in the city here. If Iwanted to go to a movie, I had to sit up in the balcony. There were just--I 59:00couldn't get a haircut downtown in Blacksburg, although friends of mine owned the barbershop, but they catered only to whites, but they were owned by blacks. I mean the barbershop was. I just knew that there were things that I couldn't do, places I couldn't go, and you had to accept that. I couldn't go into the soda, into the drug store and eat and sit at the soda fountain. I knew that I couldn't do that. Why should I bust my head against the stone wall? That would be stupid of me to try to do that at a time when I couldn't count on the support of say fellow blacks as sit-ins during that period of time. I was here in advance of Brown vs. the Board of Education. I knew that I had to do certain 60:00things or incur the wrath of those that thought I was an inferior person and not able to be considered as one of the crowd, so to speak, or one of those who were entitled. Although I knew no such thing really existed in my mind, I knew that practically that I could not get into a situation like that without causing a lot of problems. I felt there was a quieter way of doing this, or a stronger way, a more convincing way, and that was my way. I wasn't a freedom rider, or I wasn't in the forefront of those movements, and God bless them. [Several deep 61:00breaths] That had to be tough.
Kennelly: It must have been very lonely for you, when you were here. I meanespecially that first year.
Peddrew: Yeah, it was.
Kennelly: With you not living with the other students.
Peddrew: It was extremely lonely. Even though there were no outward incidents ofrejection, there were no--I never sat down in a class when a student got up to move. That never happened to me, but there was this insidious subsurface thing or feeling that I felt that I knew existed that was very prominent but not in the open. It wasn't an overt thing that was there where when I walked in the 62:00class they said, "Peddrew this is your seat, or you sit over there." That never happened, and even when a young lady would sit next to me, there was not a problem. If you are sensitive, and I was extremely sensitive even though I was practical and aware, you've got to feel that, and I guess I can't explain that to you unless you have really ever felt that whether it is an ethnical bias, or a gender bias, or whatever. It exists. It's there, and you have to deal with it. Even when it's not open and overt. When it's covert or under the surface, it is sometimes more harmful and more insidious and more pungent, more powerful than if it were on the surface, and you were told you can't sit here, you can't do 63:00that. It was a sense of loneliness that I can't explain, or I can't adequately describe to others. I don't know whether it's my inability to articulate it or what. I don't know. All I know is that there was a feeling there that I had that permeated my whole being. That was a part of me that I felt when I got back to where I lived. It was tough. It wasn't the kind of thing that certain students, or that certain black students, experienced in more southern areas in Mississippi or Alabama, but there was that serious, insidious, undertone that was there. You knew it existed, and you had to be a fool not to recognize it. I 64:00only wish maybe that--sometimes that I think about this--that I was less sensitive, or more like the gentleman who eventually graduated who--he described it as being more focused. I would say probably an indication of less of a sensitivity that allowed him to be motivated and moved. We are all individuals and different, and there is no way that you could really describe two people in the same terms. Even identical twins defy that, but to me there was a level of sensitivity in spite of the fact that I had this practical realistic upbringing and I was strong as a person. There was still a level of sensitivity that 65:00allowed me to be--What's a good word? --allowed me to be, to feel some negative vibes, maybe to put it in the words of some of the folk who were considered to be prominent during the era of flower children and so forth, but there was something there that I felt that I knew that wasn't right that I didn't need to be a part of, because I had no--I didn't participate in structuring it. I wasn't a part of it. I was an individual who came from a good family, who had good values, middle class values. I didn't need to be considered something less of a human being. There are certain people who can rise above that, and I applaud 66:00them in that way, because you need those people. You need a Patton during a war. You need somebody who can be a driving force and who can rise above the situation. I guess I wasn't truly really one of those types although I was able to satisfy my fellow students and certainly the administration that I was not an inferior type of person while representing the blacks or the Negroes as they would call then, which allowed them to extend, or to accept the invitations of subsequent entrants or applicants rather, of black students who came later on. That was great. To me I had done a valuable job and pretty much had done 67:00something I didn't set out to do, 'cause I didn't come here to do that.
Kennelly: Make the way for other people?
Peddrew: I wasn't here to change the world. I wasn't here to blow down all thedoors and to say here I'm some sort of superman. I wasn't. I wasn't. I'll never be. It's just that simple. I think I showed that I was one of many, and that's not to say that all folks of any color or any persuasion should be in all groups or be accepted in all types of settings, because that's not true. There's some of us who aren't ready. The prisons are too full of folks who are antisocial and don't feel that they have any responsibility towards society. There are a lot of 68:00people who don't, who feel that way. That's unfortunate, but that's realistically a part of us. They're humans. They're human beings, and for whatever reasons they feel they can do anything. They can take the lives of others or take the property of others or do other untoward things like that, and I never thought that about myself or anybody I've been close to. They're not these kind of people. There are those kind of folks in the world, and realistically you have to admit that there are those kind of people that are to be, I think, separated from the rest of us. I don't know if they haven't developed their awareness to the point where they can be a productive member of 69:00society. I'm not into all of that. I'll let the other folks who are well schooled in those areas to think and to give ideas about that. To me I understand that there are folks who are not ready to be a productive member of society, and they need to be separated. They don't think anything about taking somebody else's property or taking their lives or that kind of thing. You've got to be realistic and honest and enough of a pragmatist to realize that those people exist. They are very much a part of society, for whatever reasons. Basically, I just wanted to say, "Hey, I'm just a guy who needs to go to school 70:00to get an education, good family, good upbringing. I have the same basic values as most of us, and I need to be allowed to do what I think I ought be allowed to do and that is to get a simple basic education." That isn't a tough thing. That isn't a problem we ought to consider as being insurmountable. I mean, what was wrong with that? The only thing was that I was a little bit ahead of a lot of folks in thinking that. That was my situation.
Kennelly: And acting on it too, because...
Peddrew: Yeah, and acting on it, yeah, not just thinking it. Right. Exactly. Iacted on it. Not to prove anything when Mrs. Hines came to me and said, "Irving, I think you'd be a good candidate. You'd be a good person." Just a nice lady, 71:00she was not a particularly great teacher of mine--not someone I just really looked up to, but she just came to me and basically said, "I think you'd be a good person to do this," and she said, "Why don't you try?" Being the person that I was, and the individual, with the strong family thing, why not? I just couldn't see or foresee something developing that I couldn't handle. Maybe I was hopelessly naïve. [Laughter] I did it. I did it. I did it, and I did it successfully obviously for a full year or else there wouldn't have been the guys to follow, and that's exactly what I was told by the administration. I felt that I did what I could. It just didn't register with me. Because I was more of a 72:00social being, I needed to interact with the people around me. Although they weren't the overt acts of discrimination or segregation on campus, I still felt that loneliness and some isolation that's hard to describe. It's so difficult that I couldn't, if you paid me a million dollars, I don't think that I could adequately describe how I felt. I've tried to reflect on it, particularly since Tech has asked me to come and be a part of the fiftieth-year commemorative events. I have racked my brain. I couldn't, I can't tell you what it meant to me internally. What it did to me, and how it affected me, and how it was good for 73:00me to get away finally. I regret not finishing because in a very practical sense I wish that I would have gotten a degree here. It was just a bit too much for me to stomach at that time in my personal development. I wasn't able to deal totally with the various stimuli, the input that came in from what I felt and how the students, how I felt or lack of acceptance I guess I felt, although, there were no overt acts. There were none really to speak of outside of the Ring Dance situation and the obvious encounters I had in the community. I always 74:00thought that something was going to happen to me between the campus and getting back to 306 East Clay Street where I lived. Nothing ever really happened, not overtly. I mean no one ever called me out or singled me out, or I was never fired at [laughter] thank God. There was that undertone, that thing that was always there, and although I was equipped to come in and deal with it for a year, eventually it took its toll. I'm really glad in the sense that I got away. When I went to California as a member of Virginia Tech and the YM/YWCA sponsored Students in Vocation, I really felt good out there. They made me feel good out there 'cause they knew of my situation. They had a lot of contact with the YMCA 75:00here at Tech. So they knew what I had gone through, and they did their level best, and they succeeded, in convincing me that I shouldn't not only have had to go through that, but certainly I shouldn't have to continue to be exposed to that--to the level of, the level of isolation that I felt within me. Not of people moving away from me--not physically being isolated--but the mental and emotional isolation that I obviously felt. As a very sensitive and very--I don't want to say anything that's too self-serving, but I know that I was full of love 76:00and caring and concern. I was just that type of person. That's just the way I was. I was an outgoing, easy-going, loving, caring person. That I did a thing that allowed others to come in and do their thing, and others rose to the occasion and got their Ph.D.'s and whatever. That's great. I've got absolutely nothing against that. Oh it was so beautiful that they were able to persevere where I wasn't. That was something that happened--something that I am, I like to look back upon, and I don't like to relive because I don't like to go back through what I went through. I reflect on it and think, you did what was right 77:00for you at the time. My parents hated the fact that I didn't come back from California when I went out to that Students in Vocation project as a representative of Virginia Tech, but we had students--we had a girl from France, a girl from Norway, a guy from Germany, and we had guys and gals from all over the U.S., the continental U.S. We had a tremendous time in that project. They rented--the YMCA /YWCA rented a frat house from USC, strangely enough, from the University of Southern California. Isn't that weird, ironic? The guys stayed up front; the guys stayed in back. The girls had the house up in front. We just worked together. We all got jobs in Southern California, and we shared experiences, took trips and stuff together. Those folks who were in charge of 78:00that particular project, particularly David Levering, who was head of the projects there, had apparently a lot of communication with the YMCA people here. They did everything in the world to convince me that my--the best thing for me to do was to continue my education out there and not to come back here and continue to expose myself to the conditions. That's not to say that they were just horrible things, but for me as an individual with my particular makeup it wasn't. They all felt that it wasn't the right thing to do. Between the Y here at Tech and the Y at Southern California where they conducted the project, they came up with the idea that the best thing for me to do was to continue my education out there or outside of the atmosphere or the environment here at 79:00Tech. I agreed with them, and they didn't have to work too hard to convince me of that. They were such beautiful people. Oh, yes. I really admire those people who stood out. There were two other blacks in that group. They were mostly whites, but see--and I hate to even have to say that because that doesn't matter to me--they were people who were concerned. They didn't stick their neck out. They just stood up and said, "Look, we want to be counted when it comes down to what you ought to do and where you ought to go. We think that this is best for 80:00you, not what is best for Virginia, or Virginia Tech, or for the black group, or for whatever, for your family even. We think this is best for Irving Linwood Peddrew, III. We think you deserve better then what you've been exposed to." It didn't take much effort for them to convince me of that because of my own particular makeup. I consented to stay out there, and that was the move. Like I said, I would love to have graduated from here and had my degree and gone on and done glorious and wonderful things, but life isn't always that way. I mean we like to think of it as being the kind of thing that the typical Hollywood ending where everything works out to be right. As much as I believe in those Hollywood endings, I had to see in this particular situation a case where it really wasn't 81:00all that much for me. Initially it was because I was able to let a lot of folks know that the bad guys come in all colors and the good guys come in all colors. I remember one guy coming up to me. I think it was in my junior year. He was a senior and graduating, and we were all in the Corps of Cadets, and I can't recall his name, but he is what I call, or what we called in California as a tow head he was so blonde, blue-eyed, and really nice looking gentleman, and he came up to me and said, "Irv, I want you to know one thing. There are no blacks in my community where I live. I didn't grow up knowing any blacks." He said, "You 82:00possibly could imagine what I thought and what I've been lead to think." He said, "But I want to tell you one thing. You've changed my mind." [Long pause] That was a great experience.
Kennelly: Oh, that must be powerful. It must have been difficult just...I meandidn't you like have to go back and forth like that. When you were living off campus?
Peddrew: Yeah, well I had most of that owing to some very good guys who wereobviously progressive thinkers or in spite their backgrounds or because of their backgrounds, who knows, who allowed me to change in their rooms so.
Kennelly: Some of the students?
Peddrew: Yeah, some of the students. Even some of the students after my freshmanyear requested me for a roommate, and that was disallowed of course.
Kennelly: By the administration?
Peddrew: Yes. What they did, and I've spoken--in fact one of the guys I'vespoken to as late as a couple of years ago who called me and said that he 83:00remembered my changing in his room. [Deep breaths] Some of this is difficult to talk about.
Kennelly: Yes, it's horrible.
Peddrew: [More deep breaths] But he wanted to say how glad he was to have hadthat experience.
Kennelly: Things were changing just for black people to change in white rooms.
Peddrew: Yeah, you know it wasn't a super terrific thing. Like I said, I was nosuperman. I was just somebody who was sensitive and aware, and I tried to make 84:00the best impression I could. [Sigh with long pause] It was a valuable experience talking to this one chaplain who I think he eventually--he told me he had become a chaplain in the navy, but I used to change in his room. That was a difficult thing, but that was difficult for Charlie Yates and Lindsay Cherry and Floyd Wilson because we all had to do the same thing, and he had to make a formation 85:00on campus. You couldn't walk off, and you know, he had to come in and make sure.
Kennelly: Come with a rifle
Peddrew: Yeah, yeah, you couldn't...[laughter] so it was tough for everybody. Itwasn't unique to me, and other guys made it better then I did, but it worked well enough because I was asked to enter all competitions for military bearing for my company and platoon. I was always asked to that because I naturally had that strong military bearing. It was something that I guess I grew up with also. That appealed to me, and that's why being a cadet wasn't unappealing and wasn't that negative. It was tough coming off campus and living off campus and having 86:00to walk on and go to some guy's room and impose upon him to help you get prepared because the guys all helped each other out. The roommates helped each other get ready. The way your belt squared away and your brass was shiny enough, and your shoes were right, and all of the things--the meticulousness of the military bearing--all of this was important because that is the essence of being a military school and being a cadet. You had to be a part of that, and you had to have this military bearing. Well I had that. The only thing is that it was difficult to come from off campus and to walk on and have to do that and go through all of that. That was something that wasn't enjoyable, but at least in talking to this guy a couple of years ago--I can't remember his name right now, but he was such a beautiful person. He was there for me for what he could do, 87:00but he had to get himself ready too, and here I was walking in off campus dragging stuff around trying to get myself together because they couldn't hold my stuff there because they had inspections every day, every morning. They couldn't. I just had to impose upon them, but luckily there were enough guys, and the other guys--Charlie Yates and the other guys who went--they had to go through the same thing that I went through. Like I said, you know, when you are less sensitive and you're more driven, it is easier to put up with these kinds of things and to act as though they don't bother you because they really don't have the effect that they would have with a more sensitive, caring person. Now I don't know if they should initially accepted a person who was less caring than I was, who was less sensitive than I was. I don't know that. I haven't really studied psychiatry to the point where I could feel qualified to even to offer some sort of explanation for who they should've, who should've been first, and 88:00who should have subsequently followed. I don't even know that. All I know is that I think I did well for that first year and in the subsequent years that I stayed here, and I am glad that the people who were more powerful than I or less sensitive or however you'd like to characterize it, but those who came behind me and were able to put up with the situations that they were subjected to and to be unscathed or less scathed then I was, but I was too sensitive and caring a person to be continually... And this is what was impressed upon me in Southern California during that students in vocation project. [They] said you, hey man, have done your thing. To put it in the street vernacular, hey, you've done your thing, man. You put up with it, and you got your scars, and I had, but just social scars. I mean not physical scars, because I wasn't subjected to anything physical, but there were those scars there, and this is what they told me in 89:00Southern California. You don't need to come back to try and carry that thing through its logical conclusion, which is a degree. I'm so proud of Charlie Yates that he did it. But that wasn't my thing. I was convinced that I didn't need to 90:00go through that, to encounter that. I listened to them like I listened to the Y here about the Ring Dance. I listened to them. Although it was against my better judgment, I followed and went through with what I thought under the circumstances was sort of the best move. I still have second thoughts about that. I wanted to go to that, and my date wanted to go, and she has since passed. We had such a nice, beautiful, honest, sincere relationship, and I was ready, and she was ready, and although the evidence that there might be some problems, I was ready to encounter them because I had endured up until that 91:00time, what is another, not open, or overt rejection but sort of an insidious under, and like I said, I never had anyone get up and move away from me or anything in class. It wasn't that kind of thing that was so open that you could deal with it directly. It was just a feeling, a sense, my being so sensitive of really understanding. That's what they convinced me of in Southern Cal, that you've got too much going to continue to submit yourself to that. Let the guys who got a thicker skin, let them handle it. Let them do it. Let them come through with their main focus to whatever. Let them do that. Let them be that. You be who you are. You continue to be your sensitive, caring self, and let the 92:00chips fall where they may, which is eventually what happened.
Kennelly: When you were in school, was the Confederate flag a lot in evidence?
Peddrew: [Laughter] Was it ever, and they used to play "Dixie."
[End of Tape A1 Side 2]
[Begin Tape A2 Side 3]
Peddrew: They used to play "Dixie," and I refused to stand along with a numberof northern students who were here. It wasn't treated as something insidious. It wasn't. They would all--the southern students who by far populated the Corps of Cadets--would all try to pick us up, myself and the other northern students that were here, because I was the only black student at the time, but they picked me up. I never really felt, I just knew that I couldn't stand and pay homage to something that looked upon me as something that I wasn't. The flag was very prominent always and the playing of "Dixie" during the football games.
Kennelly: What were they grabbing your arm to try to make you to stand up?
Peddrew: Oh, I mean not only my arm but picking, I mean literally picking meup--my body to try and make me stand up. It wasn't done insidiously with harm 93:00meant to me as an individual, but they--guys all seemed to think that I, being a southerner, that I should rise and salute "Dixie" when it was played during the football games, and I never did, as well as the northern students who were in the Corps of Cadets and attending VPI at that time, who wouldn't stand when they were doing that. I never did, I never did stand, and the flag was very, the Confederate flag was very prominently displayed along with the playing of "Dixie" during the football games and the Corps trips that we took to football games.
Kennelly: What company were you in?
Peddrew: I don't even recall. [Laughter] I've been asked that before, and Ican't recall. I couldn't begin to remember what company I was in. I just remember that I was there for company meetings and formations et cetera, but I didn't have to go through all of what the campus students, the resident 94:00students, were subjected to. I didn't have to make all those formations, and when my classes were over, I went home, and I didn't have to stand any of the formations at night or the formations in the morning that they had to. I wasn't subjected to that extent of the military theme that's a part, that's an intricate part of the Corps of Cadets. Then if you were physically able and you hadn't served prior service with the armed forces, you had to be a member of the Corps of Cadets. That was the law, and so I had to. They made an allowance for me living off campus. Normally you couldn't be in the Corps of Cadets and live 95:00off campus. Not in your first year, not in your second year. They made that allowance for me to keep me off of the campus, and I had to live, I had to be able--the state law was that I had to be a part of the Corps of Cadets. At that time I just had to be, but you weren't allowed to normally live unless, I think at that time, and I don't remember all of the rules specifically, but if you were married, you were allowed to live off campus with your wife. As a single student coming in, if you were physically qualified and didn't have prior military service, you had to be a part of the Corps of Cadets. You had to live on campus. Except, they made allowances for me like they made allowances that I couldn't go into the cafeteria or other things, or they tried to discourage me from the Ring Dance, which they were successful in doing. There were some 96:00students that that didn't bother. There were others that it bothered, and I don't recall when the first black student attended the Ring Dance, but there was one year eventually when they did, just like I know right now it's great that maybe, maybe that I integrated the campus fifty years ago, or the university fifty years ago, but I know by now certainly that they would be integrated. I mean I happened to be out front and a little forward in the thinking of a lot of folks, and I did it in 1953, but by now--we're talking about the twenty-first century--certainly there would have been integration here and all. It happened then, and Tech was a part of it then. It was a little ugly for me, but certainly not as ugly as it could have been. Not nearly as ugly as it could have been as other students experienced in predominantly all-white universities at the time. 97:00No one ever took a shot at me. No one ever defiled the home, the place where I was staying, and no one shouted at me when I was walking through town to school, and that's got to say something about the civility of this environment that that didn't happen. There's also that insidious undercurrent, the tone, that as an individual I had to face and go through. Because I was the type of person that I was. If I were a different type of person, less sensitive, with that strong parental guidance and that support, maybe it would have worked out that I could have gone through the whole four years and done my thing and graduated, but it wasn't that way. It didn't work out that way, because I wasn't really all that type of person. Although it took that kind of a person to endure for four years 98:00maybe, maybe possibly it took the kind of person, maybe, that I was to break through and to establish a level of openness, not the kind of openness that there should have been, but a level of openness that allowed the subsequent events and entrance of persons who came in after me to go through and eventually someone to some through with a degree and for there eventually to be not a big thing when a black graduated. That's--I'd like to see it get to a point where there's no Department of Multicultural Affairs, and I don't say that, I say that with all respect to Ben Dixon who's done a wonderful job here, but I would like to see it grow and develop and evolve to the point where we don't need to have separate thinking and separate groups and have to have a black this and the 99:00other this. I'd like to see that, and that's--I might have been ahead of my time, but in '53 that's what I was here for. I say that in reflecting on it, in retrospect, because I couldn't have known or foreseen all of the things that have happened subsequently. I couldn't at that point. It was too harsh. It was too cold. It was too cut and dried. It was you here and them there, and it wasn't that. But I can see in retrospect in my mind that that's what I was shooting for, that's what I was hoping for, and that's what I hope, eventually, 100:00although I couldn't see it and articulate it then, that's in essence what I had hoped would eventually have happened. Although, there's a Department of Multicultural Affairs, and I thank Tech for having that because maybe in the logical sequence of things that was necessary. I just hope that eventually we can get to the point where we won't need that, where that isn't a part of the university experience. I'd like to see every student come in here accepted as an individual, and there not be a need for a department that addresses the individual needs or the collective needs, for that matter, of a particular group of students, particularly a group of students with a particular ethnic background. I would like to see that happen. I am sure that we will reach that 101:00like we have come this far from 1953 when I was accepted. You've got to have some people out there. You've always got to have that. You can't sit and operate on the premise of what the majority of people won't accept because if we had a referendum on the end slavery, do you think we would have gotten rid of slavery? Absolutely not, it was too economically feasible. There were too many people profiting from that. Do you think if it were submitted as a referendum to the people in 1861, '62 or so do you think we would have been able to get rid of it? Absolutely not. They wouldn't have voted it out, but as in any case, in any 102:00situation, it takes forward thinking visionary people who can see beyond the morass of involvement and all of the so-called problems that these situations generate because there are always problems. You try to put two people together who are convinced that separately that they are the only things that are right and good for the world because what happens if one happens to be black and another one happens to be white? They would never come together if they were totally staunched in their own ideas or their own self-worth, and what they were about. You can't have that group and this group, but that's not what this is about. It's about people who can see beyond the separateness, the individualness of these particular ethnic groups or whatever groups that they constitute, and the folks saying to themselves, this is something that needs to happen. Whether 103:00it is an underground railway during the slavery, or whatever, there need to be people who can step forward and say, "That's not the way it should be. That's the way it is, but we don't accept that." You need people that run the railway, the people who get them out, because you need the people that think that way and are forward thinking and visionary enough to say, "Hey, this is the way it is, but it darn sure isn't the way it ought to be, the way it should be," and you've got to have that. I wasn't all that visionary 'cause I didn't think that far ahead, I was just thinking right now. I was thinking in '53 that I shouldn't have been a second-class citizen. I shouldn't have had to endure the pain of a second-class citizen. I shouldn't. Why? I didn't deserve it. I had those same values as those who were decreeing that I should be a second-class citizen. We always need those sort of people, those kind of people, who think they are Henry 104:00David Thoreau. The people who say, "Hey, this isn't right, and we shouldn't subject our people to this, and whatever it takes we are going to stand up front." The freedom riders, they are the people that should be commended, not so much me because I didn't endure the all of the torture and the pain of those folks. They were so beautiful. We have got to have people who could say, "What we're doing and what's happening now is not where we ought to be going." We've got to look beyond that and see that these, the kind of things that we are enduring now we are subjecting certain people of our society to shouldn't be 105:00happening. That's what, that's what we need, and that's what ought to be happening, and that's what ought to be going on now. Basically, that is what is happening now. We've got people now who are speaking out whether it's in reference to a possible future war involving a country, or whether it is possibly someone entering a club or setting where they weren't allowed a few years ago. Whatever, there ought to be people out there who say, who have a conscience, and who are saying, "I'm going to enact my conscience in some way, and I am going to step forward and be counted. I am going to stand." The measure of a man is not where he stands in comfort and convenience but where he stands 106:00in conflict and controversy. It is so easy to get up and be one of the guys if everything is going well and all. That's not what it is all about. You've got to stand up and be counted. You've got to factor in another thing-- there, but for the grace of God go I. You know, I've often thought about some of the whites who, some of the guys that came to me and said, "You know, Irv, I'd like to take you home, and my parents would love to have you as a visitor, but it's the neighbors." Do you know how many times I've heard that? I can't...
Kennelly: Your fellow students here?
Peddrew: Yeah, fellow students here. Like the guys that wanted me as a roommate.I mean they stepped out, or the guys that allowed me to change in their rooms. They didn't have to do that either. You know there's always a segment of our society of people who are not content to go along with the crowd, who see things 107:00as they should be seen not as the way they are. There will be those forward thinking visionary types who are going to do that. Those are the people we ought to look to for guidance and direction. Not the ones that group together and seek the safety and comfort of the average or the so-called majority and this kind of thing. It is the people who stand out and say--we always look, and look back at them and regard them as our real heroes. People who stood up and were able to say, "What we are doing is not right. Even if I can't change it, I've got to let you know that that's the way I feel." They have an impact, and eventually that will occur. This life, when I integrated things and think it through, I never thought, well not that I never thought, I never thought of it, I guess, that 108:00somehow that I would be honored in some future time. I never thought that I could come back here and walk, and go into any restaurant on Main Street. It wasn't happening. I never thought that the campus, the theater that was off campus...
Kennelly: The Lyric?
Peddrew: Yeah, we had an integration one day out of the time that I was here,and they showed Cry the Beloved Country. It was during brotherhood week that they showed it, and we, the blacks mainly, we were allowed to sit downstairs. Any other time that--I mean I was in cadet uniform or whatever I was in--I had to march up to the top and sit up in the balcony with all the blacks. There 109:00always have to be people who can think and see beyond that. We call them crazies now sometimes, but they're all visionary. They are people who can see beyond the extent of our current situation, see that what we are doing is not right and good. It's not valuable, and it's not what it ought to be. Those are the people that are going to lead us, hopefully, into a different world. They're the folks who are at the forefront of change and who say, this is what's happening, but this is not what should be happening. They're the folks that should be lauded and applauded. So often they are labeled as the strange one or the ones who are out front or the crazies or whatever. A lot of times, they are the very people who ought to be leading our movements, who ought to be looking at what we are doing and ought to be out front saying, "Hey, guys, follow me, this is where we 110:00need to be, not where we are right now, but this is what needs to happen. If you could visualize totally what I experienced in '53 and see what's happening now, you could see what I'm saying. It would be so obvious. It would be so apparent, so evident, but it's hard unless I could convey, and it's difficult. I talked to black students who can't imagine what I experienced in '53. I mean they have no way, but they should be made aware of that history. Who was it that said, "Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it?" That is so true and so beautiful.
Kennelly: Not just black students...
Peddrew: Yeah, oh absolutely. Oh yeah. I didn't mean to limit it to the blackstudents, but they should have a greater, black students should have a greater 111:00appreciation of what has gone before. They think that it is so easy now, and they complain about some of the trivial things. I remember a couple a few years ago the students at Duke University asking for separate water fountains, excuse me? I know what they are saying. I know where they're heading. I know what they're doing. They were, they're trying to compensate, and overly so, for all those years of segregation and demeaning and being put down. But I couldn't, but at first when at first I saw it, and they were interviewing some of the black students that were asking for separate water fountains, I'm thinking, oh my goodness. We were forced to, at one time, have separate, but it's their pride now is building up to the point where they are trying to say, I'm better than 112:00you. I do deserve a separate water fountain. I understand where they are coming from. I couldn't have said that, and I couldn't have been a part of that movement. That was only a few years ago. I'm talking about '53. If you look back, and you've got to see all of these things in perspective, you view what has happened, how far we have come. You'd say, we have come a long way, but we have a long way to go. That's what I see now. I see here because of some of the problems now on the campus that I was informed of before I agreed to be a part of the fiftieth year celebration. I was told that there was a possibility of --I talked to certain people. Some people assured me that there were no problems here. That's totally unrealistic. You can't convince me that there are no problems. What you need to say is that you don't think that they're substantial enough to require the attention that these folks are asking for. I went beyond that, and I said, "My dad used to have a little expression. He used to say that there's too much smoke, there's got to be a little fire." That was to me, you've 113:00got all of these folks saying something there's got to be something beneath it. There's got to be some underpinning that the folks that are crying out for some 114:00attention and need. That's before I agreed to come here and be a part of this, these ceremonies. I asked simply that these problems be aired and addressed. Not that they all be resolved, because I wasn't convinced that there was totally with all that much credibility. I just didn't know because I wasn't aware of all of the problems. I wasn't aware of the history of the problems and the people who were complaining. I just asked, simply, "Just an honest answer. Could you open the channels of communication and address some of these problems? Just hear them out." A lot of times that's all that's really necessary, that they be heard. People ought to know that they matter, and that they count. Again, you are going to have some people who sit back and say, "Well, my problem is that I am black, and you just don't want to accept me." Well that's not always true. Sometimes it is, but it's not always true. What you need to do is to have some 115:00sort of machinery in place that allows these kinds of grievances or concerns to be addressed. You need to have that. Whether they are real or imagined, somebody needs to deal with people. If they aren't real or not creditable, they need to be told that. You need to be showing why they are not, but you don't need to walk around with your fingers in your ears pretending they are not being said. That's the terrible part. You need to open up some channels of communication, and that's all I said initially when I talked to the folks here at Tech. I said, "Please allow these people to be heard. I don't know where the problem is because I haven't researched it or anything. I've been brought in at the end of 116:00this thing, so I don't know all this. I don't have the perspective that allows me to adequately address the problems or to hear them, or to know if they are real or imagined or whatever. You can't tell anybody whether they are real or imagined, or whether they are creditable or not if you don't hear them. If you don't allow them, allow these folks to address these problems, to open up a channel of communication. That's what I would like to see." There is always going to be some sort of differences, real or imagined. There are going to be problems, real or imagined, because we are all different, and God bless the differences. I hate to see us all one homogenous [laughter] and all look like each other. Seriously, we need to allow the diversity that exists to be 117:00expressed, to be open, to be allowed. We need that. That's the beauty of this country, is our diversity. It's not a problem. It's a big plus. It's not a negative. It's a huge plus, and the more cultural differences and diversities that we address and allow, the better off we are. You're not going to have a good complete society with the understanding that we are all there and we are all a part of it unless you allow these diversities to be expressed. When I went to this project Students in Vocation back in 1956, the beauty of it was we had people from all over the world, male and female, from all over the country, from 118:00the South and the North and the West, and we could all sit and talk. We could all express our views, and we had people in control of that who were really not in control, can you understand that? They allowed us to be ourselves, but not to channel the thinking of any individual, but to allow us to all be our individual selves. This was the thinking that promoted the idea that I should stay out there and finish my education. We had all different ethnic backgrounds, people from all parts of the world, all parts of the continental U.S. We were functioning; we were having a fine beautiful time in that setting. That is what you need globally. Not even restricted to the U.S., but globally we need to understand that we all have problems, we all have wants, desires, we all have aspirations. It's not restricted to any. No one has a corner of the market. No 119:00one has a corner on the blues. I'm sorry. I'll get a lot of [laughter] negative vibes from that. No one has a corner on the market of anything, and we should each be allowed to seek our level of accomplishment, and be allowed to go anywhere our mind and thoughts and energies and efforts can take us, in spite of differences, culture, ethnic, or whatever. That should never be brought to play, in that situation. It should never come up except to express the fact that 120:00that's a difference. Well, it's not bad, but you're different. It's not bad that you look different or think differently than I do. There's nothing wrong with that. A lot of times we put down people who don't think like we do. I think I've got the answer to the world [laugher]. That's not arrogance. That's just a matter that I thought through a lot of situations, but I can't put down the people that don't think like I do. You know, eventually they have changed my mind about a lot of things that I thought because I allow myself to reexamine what I think, all the time. If I am so good, so sharp, and I am so visionary, why shouldn't I allow my thoughts to be challenged? Why shouldn't I allow you to think differently? If I am so good and so righteous, why shouldn't I? Why 121:00shouldn't I consider what you think? What I think is that--I think basically as--I think a person should, but I'm not always right with that because I have changed my mind on situations. I have. That's only because I have allowed myself to be open enough to accept other inputs. You've got to do that, but with people who are in charge of this, or in charge of different groups or this department or this university or that university, or you've got to have people in those positions who allow the differences. You can't put down the thoughts and differences of other people. Even because they are different from the masses, or the so-called average. You've got to allow those things to be voiced, and you've got to allow yourself the opportunity to examine them in light of your own 122:00opinions. Whoever said that they've done all the right things in all the situations of the world? They've got to be idiots. I mean you don't, they don't exist. What we've got to do is to allow ourselves to understand, to hear, to analyze, to critique, the opinions and ideas of others. If we are so right, so right on, to think we know what we are doing is absolutely the right thing. Why can't you allow yourself to be challenged? I think so much of my ideas that I never ever think that they should be challenged. I welcome the challenge. Those are the ways that I have learned. The challenges that I have accepted, those are the things that have changed my mind. You can't, no one has all the experiences in the world, and no person who understands all of the problems who knows all, 123:00sees all. That individual doesn't exist. Until you have allowed yourself to entertain the ideas and difference, the ideas of all kinds of differences whether they be ethnic or cultural or social or whatever. Until you have allowed those ideas to be challenged and allow yourself to think through these situations and to constantly allow yourself to examine and reexamine your own ideas, you've not really fulfilling, to me, this is my own idea, you are not fulfilling your mission. I think your mission, anyone's mission on earth ought to be to make this a better place for us to live. How could you ever expect to 124:00ever change, or to ever have situations evolve unless you express, unless you look at different situations, different ideas, different philosophies, different cultures? I learned so much traveling as a businessman in, when I worked out of San Francisco for Castle & Cooke, and when I worked out of LA for Del Monte Corporation. I got a chance to travel all over the world and meet different people, to work with different cultures and languages. You know what it all did? It all served to support what I always thought, even when I was a student here at Tech. You've got to open up, and you can't go with some predisposed pattern of thinking, some predisposed idea about what everybody else should do. How could I sit here and dictate to you what you ought to be doing?
[End of interview--tape ran out while Mr. Peddrew was speaking.]