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Title: Oral History Interview with Bonnie E. Cone, January 7, 1986. Interview C-0048. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Cone, Bonnie E., interviewee
Interview conducted by Haessly, Lynn
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Mike Millner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2006
Size of electronic edition: 168 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2006.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2006-00-00, Celine Noel and Wanda Gunther revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2006-05-10, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Bonnie E. Cone, January 7, 1986. Interview C-0048. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series C. Notable North Carolinians. Southern Oral History Program Collection (C-0048)
Author: Lynn Haessly
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Bonnie E. Cone, January 7, 1986. Interview C-0048. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series C. Notable North Carolinians. Southern Oral History Program Collection (C-0048)
Author: Bonnie E. Cone
Description: 204 Mb
Description: 55 p.
Note: Interview conducted on January 7, 1986, by Lynn Haessly; recorded in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Ron Bedard.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series C. Notable North Carolinians, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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The text has been entered using double-keying and verified against the original.
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
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Interview with Bonnie E. Cone, January 7, 1986.
Interview C-0048. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Cone, Bonnie E., interviewee


Interview Participants

    BONNIE E. CONE, interviewee
    LYNN HAESSLY, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
LYNN HAESSLY:
This is Lynn Haessly, and I'm interviewing Bonnie Cone in her office on January 7, 1986. I thought first I'd like to ask you about where you were born and who your parents were.
BONNIE E. CONE:
I was born in a little village, Lodge, South Carolina. It's about 75 miles from Charleston, about 75 from Columbia, and 75 from Savannah. Lodge was the name for the first building that was there, which was the Masonic Lodge building. I could hear the old farmers saying, "We're going to the lodge," you know. But my parents were Charles Jefferson Cone and Mary [Pause].
LYNN HAESSLY:
It's OK.
BONNIE E. CONE:
I'm about ready to say her own mother's name instead of Addie Lavinia Harter Cone.
LYNN HAESSLY:
What were their backgrounds?
BONNIE E. CONE:
My father's family were farmers. My father's father came back after the war between the states and had to rebuild a home, which was just out on the edge of Lodge. When my father's father, my grandfather on my father's side, was building his home after the war, he needed somebody who was a great bricklayer. And I know there were bricklayers in my mother's family, and that's how my mother and father met. They were from an area in an adjoining county. It's in the area called Sycamore, but that doesn't tell us [what county it was]. It's one of the older counties, too.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Well, when you think of it you can tell me later.

Page 2
BONNIE E. CONE:
Alright, I'll tell you later, but it was one of the older counties. You see, I'm saying Berkeley, and that's not it. Barnwell, that's what it is, Barnwell County.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Were they very large landowners?
BONNIE E. CONE:
I don't think in the scheme of things that they were large landowners. I know that their forbearers did have more land, and they had slaves who helped work the land. But my grandparents did not [have slaves] on either side. I still own a little parcel of land that was purchased by my grandfather after the war between the states. It was a little over twenty acres and it's good farmland. Somehow, it's a sentimental attachment that I have to that land, and I just couldn't let it go.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Do you rent it out?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Yes, and it's farmed every year. That makes me feel good, you know. It has some timber on the back of it, and I wouldn't let a piece be cut for anything. Again, it's not a valuable thing, except sentimental value.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Tell me about your childhood. Were you the first child?
BONNIE E. CONE:
I was the fourth child in my family.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Of how many?
BONNIE E. CONE:
There were six children in all, two younger, but they didn't live. I had two brothers and a sister, and I was the fourth child. Then there was a little boy and a little girl after me. One died in infancy and one died about age one. So I was raised as the baby in the family and got, you know, a lot of

Page 3
spoiling, I guess, but not too much. They made me walk a chalk line, you know.
LYNN HAESSLY:
What does that mean?
BONNIE E. CONE:
That meant that you had to do the very best you could at all times. Oh, you knew you had the love and the care, you know, and all of that. But it was great being a fourth child, too. You know, you had your two older brothers. My older brother and my sister were, you know, more partners, and then my second brother and I seemed to be. He went to the Citadel, and he would come home—he knew that I was trying to learn to play the piano—and he would bring his sheet music and things like that to encourage me along in my efforts with playing the piano. We're very close still. He's the only one of my family members still living from that generation. He lives in Saluda, South Carolina.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Tell me about your elementary school education.
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, all of my elementary and high school education occurred right there in the little town of Lodge. It was a community of less than two hundred people, and it's no larger than that today. My brothers both were sent to—after their ten grades at Lodge—were sent to a bidding school, Carlyle Military School at Bamberg, South Carolina, which was about 17 miles away. My father had gone there when he was a young man in his early years. But my sister and I, when we came along, we were sent straight from Lodge to college. I had to take eight examinations to enter college.
LYNN HAESSLY:
What kind of examinations?

Page 4
BONNIE E. CONE:
Oh, they ranged from Latin to English to History, you know. I don't remember the exact areas, but I know that there were eight tests that I had to take. I always say I think I was the last one admitted to Coker College by way of examination. I must have [inaudible] or something. But anyway, they admitted me.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Let me ask you a little more about your elementary education. How many children were in the school? Was it a one-room school?
BONNIE E. CONE:
No, it was not a one-room school but I can still see the school building. I know there was a wooden building which we went to first. I remember very little about that except there was a string there, and we used to like to jump across the string—silly little things like that you remember. But the school building that I remember was a brick building, a two-story building, and we had an upstairs to that building, and there was an auditorium. And I did learn to play and I remember having to go up the stairs and play the march. The children came upstairs for the assemblies when we had assembly. I remember the names of three of my teachers that I've had. One person I would say was the best. I had no better teacher anywhere than that one teacher. He was the man who came as superintendent of the schools, Mr. Ed Rentz. He was great in mathematics. I had finished the tenth grade, which was the top grade we had, and Mr. Rentz came that summer as head of the school system. My older brothers and my sister were in college. It was not easy to keep three in college. So my mother and father agreed that I would

Page 5
stay one extra year in school. I had made my good grades. It was a matter of financial situation. So I will always be thankful that I stayed that year because I had Mr. Rentz as a teacher. Now, he knew that a lot of those young boys and girls were not ready for the tenth grade. He sent one of my best friends back to the seventh grade. She was so scared she dropped out of school and got married. But I had a great time with him because he taught me—well he taught plane geometry—but he taught algebra and other things as well. I felt that I was very fortunate to have a man who gave me a better understanding and appreciation for mathematics. That was the area in which I really majored in college, and I taught math.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Yes. I was going to ask you why, if he was the reason that you chose to go into math. . . .
BONNIE E. CONE:
I didn't know I was going to do it when I left high school, of course, but as I got into college I found that things mathematical, well. . . . In my freshman year they must have recognized I did alright because I was given a scholarship to grade papers for the two professors of mathematics. If either one was absent, I had to teach their class. And so, you know, I graded those papers my whole four years in college. I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't had Mr. Rentz. I might not have had a feeling I could grade papers there. When I was a senior in college, there was the Dean of Women who had never gotten a college degree, and it was all because she hadn't been able to pass plane geometry. So she asked me if I would teach her plane geometry. I had to get permission, of course, from

Page 6
Miss Reeves, the chairman of the department, and then they found there was another person who needed plane geometry in order to get a college degree, and that was a junior, Virginia Benton. So, all year long I taught Miss Taylor and Virginia Benton plane geometry, and at the end of the year I gave them their examination. I had reviewed it with Miss Reeves before I did, and they passed it. Miss Taylor graduated with my class in 1928 at Coker College. She gave me for all my teaching—she was an artist—she gave me a painting about just like that, you know, a small painting, and it was unframed. And, after long years of teaching and work I did have my little painting framed, and I'm very proud of it. Virginia Benton, I think, paid me thirty-five dollars, or whatever the price of a college class ring was, that's how much money she paid me for my year's teaching. So I started teaching while I was still a student at Coker.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Had you thought about being a teacher before you went to college?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Yes, all my early years I just knew I wanted to be a teacher, and I knew I wanted to go to Winthrop College because I had learned that that was the school where they were educating people who were going into the field of teaching. We had a Baptist minister and his wife. They lived diagonally across the street. The parsonage, as it was called, was diagonally across the street. And Mr. and Mrs. Rogers persuaded my parents that—you know, I was a young, timid girl—that I should go to Coker College, a small liberal arts college, and not to the large. I think the student body at Winthrop was probably 1500 at that

Page 7
time. Coker had less than 400, and they thought I should go to Coker. I thought, well, I'll have to do my best to make a teacher, to get prepared to do teaching. So, I went to Coker and I have never regretted going to the smaller school. I'm sure it gave me an opportunity to develop leadership skills and that type of feeling that maybe I wouldn't have had at Winthrop.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Was Coker a single sex college then?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Yes. It became coeducational while I was on the board in the '60s. It was single sex all those years.
LYNN HAESSLY:
And Winthrop?
BONNIE E. CONE:
It was single sex, too, yes. It was made coeducational in more recent years. I remember when they both became coed.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Do you think that it was an advantage to be in a little college?
BONNIE E. CONE:
I don't know. I never thought about going to a coeducational school, you know. Winthrop, I knew, was the place where the best teachers were educated in our state at that time. You know, even after I came to Charlotte to teach, we knew that, and our public school people would go to Winthrop to get teachers because it was an outstanding school for the preparation of teachers.
LYNN HAESSLY:
You mentioned you had leadership roles at Coker.
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, let me see, I was president of the Math Club, for example. I think I was president of the Science Club. They weren't tremendous leadership roles but, you know, things like

Page 8
being on the student government board. Those were the types of things.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Did you have to work when you were in college?
BONNIE E. CONE:
My work was grading those papers [laughter]. I had to give a certain number of hours a week to the grading of those papers, and it was a learning experience, too. The head of the department, Miss Reeves, if she didn't have any papers to grade, I would have to sit in her apartment and talk to her during that period of time. I think she felt obligated to have me occupied with the area of mathematics. We didn't talk about mathematics all the time, either. I don't remember what we talked about but there were rare occasions when I thought she could have let me go work for Dr. Stokes, who had so many students and who I knew needed extra papers graded. But it was her time and I had to be with her.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Did you live in the dormitory?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Yes, I lived right in the dormitory. Right there all together, you know. It made it easy to get to classes and to do things you had to do.
LYNN HAESSLY:
How did you get your first teaching job?
BONNIE E. CONE:
My! I know where it was, and I know all the regulations about it. I don't remember whether it was through Coker that they found me or. . . . It was a little village, Lakeview, South Carolina, in Dillon County, and it was one of three high schools in the county. There was Lakeview, Dillon, and [inaudible]. I know that I can still remember what my contract letter said. It said they would pay me sixty dollars a

Page 9
month for eight months, with a college degree. And it would be in South Carolina script which said South Carolina owes you sixty dollars, and if you needed to have money sometimes, you had to get your script discounted. You didn't get quite sixty dollars out of it. But you had to pay for your room and your board so much of mine was discounted. I never kept any to maturity, I can assure you that.
LYNN HAESSLY:
These would have been state bonds, these scripts?
BONNIE E. CONE:
It was a state obligation bond, I'm sure. But that contract letter, which I still have, says that it was understood that teachers in this school system would do no night riding, no card playing, and no dancing. Well, they did not rule out crocheting, or making quilts, or activities of that type, and some of the teachers—with some of the people in the community—we just got together and we had a good time doing those types of activities. When I see the spreads on my beds now, I say, "Well, no card playing, no night riding, no dancing." But then they required us to live in—not the first year, but the second year—they required us to live in the hotel which had been built for the tobacco market. The tobacco market had failed.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Was this the teacherage?
BONNIE E. CONE:
It was not called a teacherage. It was the hotel in Lakeview. We were required to live there and every weekend, it seemed to us, the people of the community would bring in a live band, and they would have dances downstairs in our parlors. I didn't dare venture forth because I had to have a job. I had to teach. But you could hear the shuffling of the feet. You could

Page 10
hear the happy atmosphere that was there, but you couldn't participate.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Was it a string band? What kind of band was it?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, it must have been, you know, just a little country band, is, I'm sure what [unknown] it was, which sounded good. But that arrangement, too, failed because there was a fire. I remember we had gone to a movie and when we came back we found that the hotel was on fire and burned to the ground. So then we had to go back and live in homes of families in the community. This doctor and his wife, Dr. and Mrs. Elvington, took several of us into their home, and we lived there. I think it was from there that I went to my next job.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Did you lose all your possessions?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Oh, I lost my possessions. I can still see my little steamer trunk, you know, with some of the precious books inside, and my new spring outfit under the bed because there wasn't room enough in the closet to hang it up. You know, everything went that you had. Some of the college books that you had and notebooks that you treasured. You just had to start anew.
LYNN HAESSLY:
You moved and worked in several different little South Carolina towns in the '30s. Why did you move around to the different towns?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, I'll tell you. I left Lakeview. You know, I told you we had certain strict regulations. I had friends who lost jobs because, whether they had done some of those things or not, people were made to believe they had, and they'd lose a job because somebody had seen them out night riding.

Page 11
LYNN HAESSLY:
What is night riding?
BONNIE E. CONE:
That meant you took a ride down to the—you might have been riding just talking to some people because you didn't have very much place, no living room area, in which to have a date, you know. What would you do? You might get in a car and take a ride to Dillon and have a Coca-Cola over there or something like that. It may be very harmless, and I suspect it was. I don't think it was really a very harmful situation, but the mind of man can make some things evil that aren't evil.
Well, they had given me a very hard spot to teach in. My room—I can remember, I can still see it—you entered the front door, went past the superintendent's office and down the hall to my classroom. They had a door off of the closet, and there was a transom. Everything that went on in my room, he could hear it right in his office. That was okay. Big old boys, I thought they were tremendous fellows.
You were asking me why I moved on. Well, alright, I taught mathematics. I had to teach chemistry. The first year I had to teach French, and I never would have made that one if there hadn't been a flood and the school hadn't closed for a few days. I didn't know I was going to have to teach French until I got there. The school was closed for a few days. I got my books, and I got ahead of the students, and I stayed ahead of them. But I had had a good background in French in college, and my teacher was just as contemporary as today. We never heard a word of English the whole two years I was in that class. Everything we read was in French, and all we wrote was in French. But I kept

Page 12
losing friends. They'd get fired, you know. Then, in the middle of the summer after I had been at Lakeview five years, this agriculture teacher came to my home in Lodge and said, "Mr. Thorne has been fired. Mr. Stephenson has been fired, and I am the new superintendent, and we want you to be the principal of the high school." I just let him know that I was not coming back. Now I didn't know where I was going because I didn't have a job, but I said if my superintendent and my principal were not good enough, you know, to serve in that community—I saw no reason for them to be fired—I just could not come back. And so I left at the end of five years. I found another job and it was a promotion. I went to McColl, South Carolina, near Bennettsville, Marlboro County, and I had a tremendous principal there. The superintendent was fine. I enjoyed my work there. I was there four years but then I felt that I got a better offer, a position in Gaffney, South Carolina. There was a college, Limestone College, and I had wanted to have an opportunity to study piano again. I had to give it up when I left high school. I couldn't take it in college because it cost extra money to have lessons and extra money to rent pianos and all those kinds of things. So I did get a chance to study. I'm not any great musician. I did play the little pump organ in my church when I was a child. But I can play for my own enjoyment, and it was fun taking piano at Limestone. And I taught there. All during these summers I was working on my master's degree.
LYNN HAESSLY:
At Duke?

Page 13
BONNIE E. CONE:
At Duke, yes. Finally, I finished it in 1940, I believe. Yes, I think it was conferred in '41 but, you know, I finished at the end of the summer, and it was conferred the following spring. Dr. Garinger was the man who invited me to come to Charlotte to teach at Central.
LYNN HAESSLY:
How had you met him?
BONNIE E. CONE:
I had not met him. It was through one of my professors. I think Dr. Garinger asked Dr. Bell about some particular things. He wanted me to do some testing. I think Dr. Garinger and Dr. Bell had known each other at Columbia University. Anyway, I was recommended for the position and offered it and came to Central High School in '40. You know, all those teachers there had been there forever and a day. One teacher wouldn't teach anything except plane geometry. Another wouldn't teach anything except college algebra, and somebody else had to have tenth grade algebra. I said, "Now, Dr. Garinger, there is one thing I do want. I want five different preparations. I do not want to teach one thing all day long. I would grow stale at that." He said, "Well, the only way I can do that is for you to teach a class in business math." And I said, "That's alright. I can teach that, too." And I had some very bright students in that program. So that was my schedule. I had to be moved from room to room. I remember taking my pointer and my chalk, you know, all my equipment I had to take from room to room because I didn't get a room. He assigned me to all my various places. But I had tremendous classes. I taught there from '40 to '43 when the war came on, World War II. The chairman

Page 14
of the math department, Dr. Gergen, at Duke, asked me to come to Duke and help them in teaching math to those navy V-12 officer candidates who were being educated at Duke.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Let me turn you back a little bit and just ask you about what it was like to teach in South Carolina high schools in the '30s. What were the students like and what was the quality of education in the schools then?
BONNIE E. CONE:
I think I taught in some of the better schools, I really do, from Lakeview right on, you know, to Gaffney. I guess I'd say that the quality of the work, well, the students, I know where some of those students went to. Some of them we've kept up with all these years. Some went into medicine. One is teaching—was teaching, maybe he's retired now—from Clemson. You know, I know one was an associate superintendent in Florence County, and he died just this last spring. But there are people I kept up with, challenging and interesting people to teach.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Were there very many school dropouts then?
BONNIE E. CONE:
I do not remember. You know, I think I would have been devastated if some of my students had dropped out. We visited. I know that in those early years I visited in the homes of every student, you know. They expected us to, and if I hadn't been expected to, you wanted to know the families because you wanted to do the very best job you could. I think those close contacts we had, [in] small communities [were important]. Well, I had to teach Sunday School on Sunday morning. At the first I don't think I had to teach. I don't believe I had to teach after

Page 15
I left Lakeview but I probably did teach in McColl. I'm not dead sure, but I know I didn't have to in Gaffney.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Did you have regulations for the teachers' behavior in the other school systems?
BONNIE E. CONE:
I had no such regulations. I remember one, talking about problems. I had one young man who was, I was sorry to say, a relative of Daniel C. Roper. He had been in a reformatory school. Now you don't go to reformatory school?
LYNN HAESSLY:
Yes, for bad boys!
BONNIE E. CONE:
Anyway, I do remember that Hunter McColl, that's back in McColl days, he would get very angry with somebody, a teacher maybe, and he might throw a brick through the window of a car or something like that, you know. But Hunter was in my homeroom, I remember, and all of his problems, if he had misbehaved during the day, or if he made somebody angry with him, if he had any sort of problem, they'd send him back to me in the afternoon.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

Page 16
START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, I may be telling too much.
LYNN HAESSLY:
No, I'm interested. Tell me about when Hunter would come to your room.
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, Hunter would come to my room after school. I had to teach some biology those years, too, I remember, and we making an aquarium in the top of a big old drum, a metal barrel drum. We'd have the sand and stuff in the bottom, so we could have fish, and we could have plants that, you know, could grow underwater. We had some water hyacinths, and they bloomed in there for us. Well, anyway. Hunter would come in, and he'd say, "Now, just beat me, Miss Cone! Just don't talk to me, just beat me!" I said, "Hunter, I never beat anybody in my life. What in the world do I want to beat you for?" He said, "I won't resist you. Beat me!" You know. Well, anyway, we worked together, and we talked, and we understood each other. You know, I heard from him every year until one year at Christmas I got a nice note from him and it was about the happiest note I've ever had from anybody. And he said, "I just want you to know I've at last"—he had a wife and children by that time, you know, your students do grow up—and he said, "I want you to know I at last have what you wanted me to have, and that is self-control, and I have it." And you know, he died after that. You know, that was a joyous thing to me to know that he kept working on this thing—that he knew he had this problem. But he'd been used to being beaten and beaten some more, you know, and that wasn't helping him at all. I don't

Page 17
know how I got back to Hunter. But I have characters all up and down the line.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Let me ask you about what it was like to go from the smaller schools into a big city high school like Central High.
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, now, Gaffney, was the largest school—larger than these first two.
LYNN HAESSLY:
How many students would it have had?
BONNIE E. CONE:
I can't tell you but it was a county school. I remember the building was bigger than these other buildings and the community was larger, with the college in the community. But then coming to Central High . . . .
LYNN HAESSLY:
How many students did it have?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Central must have had over 1600 at that time.
LYNN HAESSLY:
In four years?
BONNIE E. CONE:
In three. Let's see, they had tenth, eleventh, and twelfth. I don't know. I don't remember any real problems I encountered. I remember students, definite students. I can even remember where Ernest Hunt, who is an administrator at Sharon Towers, I can remember exactly where he sat in the room. You know, why would you remember silly things like that? But he was an excellent math student, and he had college algebra.
LYNN HAESSLY:
What were the differences between a big school like that and a smaller one?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, you know, in the big school in Charlotte at Central, they had sections according to ability, and, you know, you could move more rapidly and more happily if you had a section that was able to go, that was able to be challenged. It's hard

Page 18
to teach when you don't have them. You've got to teach to the lowest level, and you're apt to lose your best students if this happens. But it was easier for me at Central because we did have them sectioned according to ability. We could be more challenging to the more able students, and you could be more helpful, I felt, to those that were slower learners. And then, I knew at Central that I was teaching in one of the top high schools in the state, and I knew our students went everywhere. You were challenged to do your best for them. We had boys going to Harvard, and we knew that. I remember so well the president of the student body that first year I was at Central, was a man who is in orthopedic work right here in Charlotte, went to Harvard. And Carlyle Adams, who was vice-president of the student body, is in pediatrics. He's still a doctor here in Charlotte. I think I was able to see people really achieve life goals, big life goals, more readily, from a big high school.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Why had you begun to work on a master's degree?
BONNIE E. CONE:
I wanted to go ahead and do a doctorate. But you see, I didn't have the time. I didn't have the money to do that, and I wanted to get a broader background. So from the early '30s I started in on my master's degree and kept working. I had responsibilities. My parents were getting older. I was the only single child, and I felt that I wanted to be near them. I didn't want to be away doing doctoral work when I felt I needed to be close to them. And you know, that takes you away if you are going to really do it the way you should. I've never regretted, though, doing what I did do after my father's death in '49. My

Page 19
mother, a few months later, said, "If you would get an apartment, I think I'd come to Charlotte and see." It was amazing to me that she would even consider it. And I didn't push her at all. And she came and was very happy. She lived here from '49 until '58. You see, when you have responsibilities, you just do what you do.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Were you interested in going to graduate school because you were interested in college teaching?
BONNIE E. CONE:
I wanted to be a better teacher.
LYNN HAESSLY:
You didn't want to go into college teaching?
BONNIE E. CONE:
I wasn't thinking about the level of teaching, but I felt that I wanted to become the very best teacher I could be. So I was not aiming for that. I have a tremendous experience at Duke teaching in the program there.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Tell me about that.
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, we had these young men from the fleet, and I had marines as well. They were all sectioned after they came in. They were supposed to be very bright when they came but then they were sectioned according to mathematical ability when we got them there. I had some of the best sections to teach. We taught twelve months a year, six days a week, and it was a thrilling experience to work. One of my students was Bill Styron, the author, and I remember, Bill wasn't so interested in what I was doing in that math classroom, but he was an officer candidate, too, and we had to stay together. He was already writing at that time. I remember when we finished our work together, he said to me, "You know, if I ever achieve anything in writing, I am going

Page 20
to send you a copy of my first book." Well, you know, he saw something in Time magazine in '65 when we became a campus of the University. He was going overseas on a trip, and he had this magazine. He saw where I was, and he had already published several books by that time, and so he wrote me a nice letter, which is in the archives, and sent me a copy of his first book which he autographed. So, he was not interested in mathematics, but interested in writing, and he stayed with it and has succeeded. You probably know his . . .
LYNN HAESSLY:
Sophie's Choice.
BONNIE E. CONE:
Yes, and others, and others. And I think it is right remarkable that he has kept his contact with Duke. He finished his degree after the war was over and has been on the library board at Duke and has given copies of all of his works to Duke in all the languages into which they have been translated. I'm very proud of him, of my non-mathematical [unknown] Navy V-12 boy.
LYNN HAESSLY:
How long was the course that you taught to the military men? Was it just a matter of weeks that each course was taught?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, they were semester-length courses just like regular college work, and we did have some non-military people in these classes, too.
LYNN HAESSLY:
What was it that you were teaching?
BONNIE E. CONE:
It was college algebra, and trig, and analytical geometry. I don't believe I taught calculus there. I believe those were the areas which I taught.

Page 21
LYNN HAESSLY:
So these were not courses specifically designed to enable them to do the statistical work that they were doing?
BONNIE E. CONE:
It was basic college work which they had to have if they were going to go on to be officer candidates in the Navy. They were going to be officers in the Navy. They were candidates.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Why did you agree to go to Duke to do that?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, I just know that on my own I would not have done it. I needed to be sure I was not getting out on a limb because I needed to continue to work. Anyway, Dr. Gergen contacted Dr. Garinger, who was my principal, and Dr. Garinger said yes, he wanted me to do that but he wanted me to come back to Charlotte. My job would be available when I came back. So that assurance, you know, made it easier for me to do that. It was not easy to work twelve months a year as we did. But, what was easy during the war? Everybody who was a loyal American citizen had to do the best he could do for his country, and they made me feel that was it. Well, Duke was not going to let me, with my little bit of math ability, not be used. Before the teaching thing came up, I know they recommended me—the WAVES was a brand new thing then, and they were trying to get officers for the WAVES—they recommended me and, well, I had to go through with the process of being checked out completely. I thought if I had been eligible, if I had really been an officer, I think it would have killed my mother because, you know, women didn't do things like that in those days. But I have a missing molar, and the missing molar, if I had been a man would have been alright,

Page 22
but to come in as an officer in the WAVES in those days you had to be perfect, even to having all your molars.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Did you want to be a WAVE?
BONNIE E. CONE:
No, I really have to say that is not what I would have chosen to do. But no man chooses to go into the battle either, but you were an American citizen and if this was where you could serve your country best, you know, I just felt I had to do what I had to do.
LYNN HAESSLY:
You talk about knowing that you had to continue to have to work because you were a single woman. When did you realize that you were going to be a single woman for all your life?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, I'm not sure I'm going to be a single woman all my life.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Your life's not over yet.
BONNIE E. CONE:
I'm being facetious but that's okay, isn't it? Well, you know, I don't think one ever realizes one is going to be single. I didn't deliberately set to be a single woman. I have had some very strong and wonderful friends of both sexes. So I can't answer that. I didn't set out to be a single woman.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Tell me about the statistical work you did for the Navy in Washington.
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, then, after we got our men off, still the war was going on [but] the program was waning, and Duke felt that they could handle all the teaching. I didn't know I was being recommended when this position in the Naval Ordinance Laboratory became available. I was in our division. I remember Dr. Rock was the head of that group and I was his assistant. When he was

Page 23
not able to be at the office, we had our offices at the Navy Yard in southeast Washington, and I lived in Maryland near Bethesda Naval Medical, and I could see it from my room. I had to commute.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Were you renting rooms?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Yes, all I could have was a room, and I did well to have a room. I lived with just wonderful people at Duke, for example. I lived in the home of Duke's first librarian, Mr. Breedlove [first Head Librarian at Duke University]. Mr. Breedlove's wife was the sister of one of my friends here in Charlotte, the Aikens. She was an Aiken before she married. I don't happen to remember that name. Anyway, when I went to Washington, I lived with another sister of Mrs. Breedlove, Lenora Aiken, and she had a home out near Bethesda and that's why I lived with her. So, you know, it was being a part of a family. It was not like going out and having to find an apartment. I couldn't afford an apartment in the first place. Salaries were small.
LYNN HAESSLY:
What was the statistical work that you did for the Navy?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, anyway, it was working with classified materials, and, as I say, I was next to Dr. Rock. I had charge, when he was not there, I had to open up files that had combinations. I had in my group, I felt like there was one man there who was—I just didn't trust him, you know? I was just really kind of wondering, "Are you really a loyal American citizen?"

Page 24
LYNN HAESSLY:
Why was it that you didn't trust him?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, he'd always miss work if he earned a day. You know, we were there in the middle of the war. At first, when we got into that war, we didn't have any mines. We had to develop that kind of equipment that could be used to counter what was being used against us, and then we had to learn how to get rid of it. So we were working on mine laying, mine sweeping, you know the statistical work. We were trying to develop mines that would be more efficient, more destructive, to the enemy's vessels. So it was just interesting that at the first we just had magnetic mines, you know, that would be actuated by magnetic lines of force. But then, as the war moved on, we were able to develop mines that could be actually movement and sound and magnetic fields in combination, and you'd try to make them because you wanted them be activated at the point where you could do the most damage to the ship.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Could the kind of work that you had done then, how much easier would it have been with computers?
BONNIE E. CONE:
We didn't have any computers.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Would it have gone much more quickly?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, I'm sure it would have, yes. I'm sure it would have. But we used what we had. I was in Washington, I remember, when Roosevelt died, and [inaudible] standing waiting for the caisson to roll by. You know, you just felt devastated. I hadn't been there very long—just [inaudible] weeks. But anyway, those war years were not easy years because in Washington we were working six days a week, nine hours a day.

Page 25
LYNN HAESSLY:
Was there any possibility of your staying on after the end of the war?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Oh, I didn't even think of that. That year they made me stay on to finish up the work that we were doing. Now that was hard. As long as we were in the war you didn't think about anything else. You knew. But then I got to yearning to come back to teaching. I wanted to come back to my high school students. I was offered work in colleges but I had promised Dr. Garinger I would come back to Central, and I could hardly wait to get there. In '46, that was the fall of '46, but you know what else was happening then? The veterans were coming back, and they needed a place for them to use their GI Bill. They wanted to go to college, and a lot of these were people who were first generation college students. So I came back. I think I got out in August, and I started work in September. I hadn't enough time to get home and get back here. As I say, the North Carolina College Conference working with Chapel Hill, with the Director of Extension, which was located in Chapel Hill, decided that they would have to open some centers to take care of these veterans. Dr. Garinger worked to get one of them here in Charlotte, and it was in the same building that I was teaching in at that time, over at Central High School. And so, when I reported to my duty he said, "We want you to teach the engineering mathematics for the [inaudible] college, where the students [inaudible]. We want you to test them in college, testing the high school, teaching a full load, and I had a homeroom, too, a senior homeroom, which means you had to be sure they had everything so

Page 26
they could graduate that coming June. Seven hours a week in the college plus the testing, and it was engineering math. And I knew those men would be men, after they fought in the war, they were men. I knew they would be, you know, going to other engineering schools. In the directory of extension we had N. C. State, and Chapel Hill, and Woman's College which was at Greensboro. So I started immediately working with the people at N. C. State, and I finally asked them—Dr. Fisher I believe was head of the math department—I said, "You give tests every week." It was a uniform test on the campus at N. C. State, and they gave it on Thursday. And I said, "Would you let my students take the same test?" I used the same outline. I used the same books, because I wanted them to be able to transfer. Most of them would be going to N. C. State. So they did. Every Thursday those tests would come in, and I said that they were as much a test of the teacher as they were of the students because if I hadn't stayed on target, you know, they wouldn't have done well. I graded those two hour quizzes myself, and, you know, it was just great. I know where some of those students [inaudible] too.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Let me ask you, before I talk to you more about Charlotte College, you lived in Charlotte for several years on and off before Charlotte College really began. Other Piedmont cities had developed universities—some of them through the state like Greensboro or Raleigh, and others like Winston-Salem or Durham had private universities—but there is no real university here in Charlotte, and I wanted to ask you for your assessment of

Page 27
why you think a university hadn't developed in Charlotte before that.
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, it really was very hard for us to understand why this most populous region, where we had more than twenty-five percent of the high school graduates within commuting distance of this area, why a university had not developed. I know some of the stories. But we knew that we had to have a university, either publicly or privately supported. That's exactly why we tried everything we did to move so that we would be able to get this institution that was very much needed in the city and area and state. It's a service to all.
LYNN HAESSLY:
What were some of the stories about why a university hadn't developed?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, you know people will tell tales that say, "Oh, Chapel Hill and State want all the money up there. They just want your area to pay thirty percent of the taxes." You have this tremendous population needing to be served as long as you pay the taxes. They get the income to operate those institutions in the effective manner in which they operate, and they are going to be very satisfied. They don't go pushing to get a permanent institution.
LYNN HAESSLY:
And there is nobody comparable to one of the Dukes in Charlotte?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well I'm not going to say that this is a true story, but I know that in the early history of the location of Chapel Hill, if you go back to—what was it, 1789—I understand that there was a real push to get the university here at that time.

Page 28
But that the availability of the land [prevented that]. Apparently we didn't go out and provide it, but the land was provided in Chapel Hill. And that's perhaps the reason that it went to Chapel Hill, the initial one. Secondly, I understand that Mr. Duke came here, too, and tried to acquire land in the Plaza area. This is the story—I have not checked.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Where is the Plaza area?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Do you know where Hawthorne land is? Do you know where Presbyterian Hospital is? It's in that general area but on out to the north. He tried to get land, and he felt that the landowners were jacking up the price, and he said, "Oh, well, thank you," he would go back to Durham. This is a story we have heard, too, that we lost Duke University because of the [inaudible]. It seems that land would be a terrible thing to keep you from having an educational institution. So when we went out, we tried to get land.
LYNN HAESSLY:
What kind of impact did it have on [inaudible], not having a university?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, first of all, it seems to me, there were people who needed higher education whose families could not send them to these institutions. The nearest one to us when we became a higher educational institution was at Greensboro, Woman's College. It was still a woman's college. The first year we operated at that old college center we had more students coming to us from old Tech High School, where the mill area of the city was, than had gone from that high school in its twenty-odd years of history. You see, the availability. I can tell you where

Page 29
some of those men who were in that first class went. You know, one of them who came the second year from old Tech, is now one of the vice-presidents at [inaudible]. But he would never have had a chance to be an engineer if we had not been there. You think about the young man who is the chief neurosurgeon at Chapel Hill, in the medical school there, Steve Mahaley, who says that he never could have started at college if there hadn't been a Charlotte College. He could never have come there if there had not been a partial scholarship, and here he is doing cancer research. We were able, after his two years with us, to get him into Wake Forest. He graduated Wake Forest and was admitted to Bowman Gray, was admitted to Duke Medical School. I said, "Steve, you better take Duke because you don't have any money." His people couldn't have sent him, you know. And we were able to get help at Duke. He graduated from Duke. He was the only graduate with an award. He got the Borden Award for Advanced Study, and he was able to go on and get his Ph.D. degree in microbiology. Then he stayed on at Duke, and he got his M.D., too, and taught at Duke, and, you know, in his work at Duke he was doing cancer research there. Then when Chapel Hill needed a chief neurosurgeon, they looked around the country and where did they go? Found one of our early students back from the '50s, and he's there, I think, doing a fine job. He wouldn't be there if he wasn't. I think we need to take a rest now.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Yes, I think so, too.

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[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
LYNN HAESSLY:
We were talking about the beginnings of Charlotte College, and you had talked some about how individuals had come to the college who wouldn't have had a chance before. What kind of impact did the lack of a university have on the city's intellectual and cultural life and the city as a whole?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, it's hard to answer that one. It's hard to measure that. You know, we know that there were parts of Charlotte, the southeastern part of Charlotte, where those young people from that area afforded the best education. You couldn't find better educated people than those people. But, it seems to me, that a community is the poorer when one of its citizens is able to receive a broad education, and therefore to make a greater contribution to life, [rather than] for them to be denied it simply because they were born in a section, in an area, where they didn't have those opportunities. We found there was just nothing wrong with those people from north Charlotte and from the Harding High School area. They had good minds, and they had the ability to do the work. They just had parents who were not able to financially afford to send them to college.
We found that we could send a student in those days to Woman's College for less than it took to go to Queen's. You'd say you had Queen's here, but Queen's was a woman's college, and, you know, mainly the people we served in the early years were men, male students. It just hurts to think that you've lost the parents of our first students but, you know, we know that they were first generation college students. But already we have seen educated the sons and

Page 31
daughters of some of those students that we were able to help forty years ago. One young man, I remember, was a veteran in those years, and he now is with one of the engineering firms in Florida. Both of his children have come to this institution. One has graduated as a nurse and the other has graduated as an engineer. There is not going to be any more of that failure to educate in that family, you see. So the impact that the college center and the college had in those early years on lives, we already can see it.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Do you think the college has made any kind of negative impact on the small colleges like Belmont Abbey or Davidson in the area?
BONNIE E. CONE:
I do not believe it because they were not getting these students. They were not serving them.
LYNN HAESSLY:
They were too expensive?
BONNIE E. CONE:
It was too expensive and maybe the program that was being offered was not the same program. You see, a lot of ours wanted engineering. It was not offered at either of these places, you see. We worked very well with Davidson and with Belmont Abbey. I remember when we got our first building down at the old Central High School campus—it was built back in about 1857—we had an electrical laboratory which we shared with [inaudible] College. They asked if they could send their students to use that. But we worked with them, you know, in those years, and they worked with us. Davidson professors taught part-time. Some of those men are still there. Belmont Abbey, I know very well. WBT's Jim Babb got his first two years with us. They were able

Page 32
to get WBT to change his work hours so he could go to Belmont Abbey to get his last two years. Then he's been back. Just tremendous. He has been a very effective alumnus of Belmont Abbey and of our college. We did team up. At Davidson, Wayne Hooks, I know, right down here, he's in some equipment company. He provides rental equipment. Did his first two years there, went to Davidson and graduated with honors. Bill Sinn graduated cum laude over there, you know. It's just amazing what these men who, given an opportunity, what they could do and they could achieve when they went to these other institutions. I don't think that we have hurt, we've never been accused, that I know of, of hurting either one of these institutions.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Let's talk about the beginnings of Charlotte College, when this extension program began for the GIs. Did you have any inkling then that that would lead to the establishment of a university?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, you know, you didn't know. You knew that it was doing for us some of the things we needed to have done. We knew it was not enough. That first year we just offered freshman work. We had twelve centers in the state. We had 274 freshman students enrolled. The next year we knew that those 274, a lot of them, were ready for sophomore work but we knew they could not get it. There was no way they could have gotten it through any other place. So we worked very hard in the summer of '47 to get permission to do the sophomore year of work. We were able to get permission.
LYNN HAESSLY:
And Charlotte was the only place that did get that?

Page 33
BONNIE E. CONE:
The only place that was allowed to do the sophomore year of work was here. I was at Duke that summer studying, continuing to work.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Were you still working toward the doctorate?
BONNIE E. CONE:
I was just taking additional work that summer. I was taking work there. It was good I was there because Charlie Bernard, who was head of the center the first year, had asked me to try to see Dr. Hillman. Dr. James Hillman was in charge of the—what was program he headed? Anyway, it was under him. The director, no, it wasn't the director of extension—he was with the North Carolina College Conference. Anyway, I know that we had to work through him to try to give him a feeling of the need that we felt. He understood it and was able to work with the university and get permission for us to offer the sophomore year of work. Then, in late August, we found that Charlie Bernard was leaving us. He was going back to Chapel Hill to work on his doctorate. So Mary Denney was with me that summer at Duke. She was our first full-time professor. We came back a little bit heavy-hearted because, you know, we'd gotten permission to do the sophomore year of work, and the institution was given that permission, and yet Charlie was leaving us. So the university and Dr. Garinger said that I would just have to be the Director of the College. The director was the person who was in charge of the operation of our branch. So, you know, I just couldn't understand why I was chosen but you had to do it. Dr. Garinger said so. He was my boss.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Did you want to do it?

Page 34
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, you know, I knew it had to be done, and yet I didn't know how to do it. But I said, "Well, I'll just have to do it if he says so." So, I had one month to get ready to go with the sophomore year of work, and the recruiting had not all been done for faculty or students so we had a busy, busy month. We opened that fall, and we had 304 students, and we got our sophomore [program] launched. Five centers were left, and we were still the largest of all, indicating that there was a real need here. Then, the next year, there were only three centers left. You could see that the university and the college conference knew that the need was being met throughout the state. But our enrollment was still large, and we were larger than the two other centers combined.
So in the spring of '49 they said that they were not going to continue the college centers after June 30th of '49. That was a very sad day for us. But it was an odd numbered year, and the legislature was in session, and we knew we had to. So we were able to get legislation prepared, introduced, and passed to stay alive.
LYNN HAESSLY:
How did you do that?
BONNIE E. CONE:
It took all the effort we could muster. You know, it took teamwork. First of all, you had to sell your community on it.
LYNN HAESSLY:
So you went to the legislators from Charlotte?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Yes, you had to work with the school board because it was the entity under which you had to operate. There was no other agency. Then we came under the school board, you see. At first, that's where we were. We gradually got into our board but

Page 35
that took several years to do that. So we were able to get that legislation prepared and introduced and passed. That was five years before the Supreme Court decision, and we knew that there were blacks to be served. We were able to get—they called it a community college system but it was not much of a community college. It was not the diversified operation that you would expect of a Central Piedmont today. We were offering mainly the first two years of regular college work. We were not able to give the broad program that they give now in Central Piedmont. But we stayed alive, and we were able to get the black center started at second ward. I know it's been torn down.
LYNN HAESSLY:
So you were starting a separate. . . .
BONNIE E. CONE:
entity for the blacks, but they were given the first year of college work and the second year, at least at [inaudible]. I remember, I did a very bad thing that I guess I didn't question, though somehow we were out from under any board except the board of education. That first year we were operating, the public health nurses asked us to give a course in sociology. They needed to upgrade their certificates or whatever documents they worked on. You know, they were public health nurses, and I didn't question that there were black ones. We had all of them we could get in sociology five years before the Supreme Court decision. When we got through, you know, we wanted to celebrate. We didn't think we were doing anything bad so we just went ahead and had a picnic. Everybody just had the best time, and I guess that was the first that we had really been out that way with our black counterparts.

Page 36
LYNN HAESSLY:
And there was no problem with the community? The white community didn't object at all?
BONNIE E. CONE:
No problem. We didn't go out and put it in the headlines. We didn't do it in private. We just didn't publicize it. I mean, there was no reason to publicize it. It was a normal operation, we felt. So we did have that first year that course in sociology, and all the public health nurses were there. I worked very closely with the black college.
At first, it was called Carver College, and they operated second ward. I know that the head of that school was Dr. Brown. Of course, he could drive a pink Cadillac. He had his doctorate but I still had to work with them trying to keep the finances right for both schools, you know. Gradually we strengthened our program. The thing that we were able to get done that was the most help for us—we were under the school board and they had very little time for us. There were too many war babies born, not too many, but there were many war babies born, and they had to get buildings and teachers and money to supplement teacher salaries. They had a tremendous job with that aspect of educational needs, and they just had very little time for us. But I was able to get them to name us an advisory board. I had people like Dr. George Heaton, Woody Kennedy [W. A. Kennedy], who helped us to find our beautiful land. We had Murray Adkins, a tremendous fellow, for whom the library is named—people of this stature, Pat Gilchrist and others, on that advisory board. The advisory board was very aware. They met with us regularly. They knew our needs. They knew what we were doing. They knew our problems, and they were

Page 37
trying to help us meet those needs. But at the time we were made a community college and had the black counterpart, they also said that they could give us ten thousand dollars each of non-tax monies. Gosh, I thought that was going to be ten thousand a year to supplement tuitions, but it happened to be it was ten thousand dollars for each of us, and tuitions. We could see that that was totally inadequate. We couldn't continue to operate that way.
LYNN HAESSLY:
And that had to last you for six years?
BONNIE E. CONE:
It had to but we didn't know. Each year we'd think we could persuade them to have a tax election, which was provided for in the legislation. So finally, I remember at the meeting of the advisory board [inaudible], I made a motion that we go to the school board and say this tax election needed to be held now. They listened to us, and they called it for May of '54. Oh, we worked so hard to get ready for that tax election. Two cents on a hundred dollars.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Now, this was a tax levy for the property taxes, not sales tax?
BONNIE E. CONE:
No, property tax, for the city. We were under the city school board. You see, we had two separate boards—the county school board and the city—but we were under the city because we were both operating in the city in city high school buildings.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Now, Brown v. Board came out in May of '54. Was that before the election?
BONNIE E. CONE:
It must have been after the election. Anyway, I don't remember that.

Page 38
LYNN HAESSLY:
You don't remember any conflicts there?
BONNIE E. CONE:
No, no conflicts. The election day came in May of '54, and Eisenhower was here, and there was a picnic in the park. We struggled so hard to get everybody to go to the polls to vote. When that vote was over, we had won it by 600 votes. That's all. But we won it, and that gave us our first tax support, in May of '54.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Let me turn you back and ask you about 1949 when you were lobbying the legislature. Did you go to Raleigh yourself?
BONNIE E. CONE:
I'm sure I did. I'm sure I did, and I'm sure I did in '65. I know it. I was there. I had to. I remember '65 better than I do '49.
LYNN HAESSLY:
I just want to try to ask you about all along through your career. You'd been doing your own kind of individual work, but when you became the director of Charlotte College, you had to take on a wider public role and work much harder at persuading people to support something. How did you begin to learn how to do that?
BONNIE E. CONE:
I guess it was in the school of experience. I mean, you just did. I don't know. I knew that we had to have the support. And, you see, working with that advisory board, I realize that you couldn't have been on just one body that had all these other responsibilities.
LYNN HAESSLY:
The school board, you mean?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Yes. We just could not depend on them, and so I knew to ask, I will [inaudible], Lynn. But I felt that we needed a group that could concentrate on our needs and help us to

Page 39
interpret our needs, and with a group as powerful as we were able to assemble, we were able to interpret the needs and get support that we would not have gotten.
LYNN HAESSLY:
You attend Myers Park Baptist Church?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, I wasn't in Myers Park Baptist Church always.
LYNN HAESSLY:
I was just wondering how you met with people and made contact with people that you chose for the advisory board. Was it through church?
BONNIE E. CONE:
I knew Dr. Heaton through the church, and I was in the church by then. You see, my father had died in '49, February '49, and my mother had come for us to live together. I had always kept my membership down home at the little old country church because my brothers and sisters had all left and felt I wanted to be with my parents. That was probably not a very good way to think about it but that's what I did. So when she came, you know, from a little rural church—where I was baptized in the [inaudible] River—you know, you come to a place like Myers Park Baptist Church, and it amazed me. I was attending church. I was participating. But she very early said, "I'm going to move my membership to Myers Park Baptist tomorrow. Will you come with me?" I didn't say, "Mama, will you come with me?" It was a tremendous decision that she made that made it easier for me. Then Dr. Heaton was my first minister. I was very anxious for him because he was a man who had tremendous influence. I have a feeling that his keeping the college before our congregation—you know, reminding them about voting—I have an idea that he could

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have helped get out those votes that we very much needed, you know.
LYNN HAESSLY:
With the location of Myers Park there must have been some very powerful members in that congregation.
BONNIE E. CONE:
Absolutely.
LYNN HAESSLY:
How did you meet people beyond that congregation?
BONNIE E. CONE:
You know, some of these people, for example, Woody Kennedy, was not a part of that church at all. But he was so powerful—he was with Wackey Industries. Was an N. C. State graduate, and he knew that Charlotte needed an engineering school. This is what he knew, and he was so dedicated to trying to get a program of that type here, and other programs as well. I knew of his interest, you know. He didn't fail to let you know. I knew of Pat Gilchrist's interest. He was in chemical concerns.
LYNN HAESSLY:
What company?
BONNIE E. CONE:
I can't tell you that.
LYNN HAESSLY:
How did you meet these people? Were you involved in other kinds of community activities?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, I was involved in the community. I had to be involved in the community. You know, I know that you accepted responsibilities in the community as well as in your church.
LYNN HAESSLY:
What kind of responsibilities, United Way sort of things?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, I worked with United Way. I had one year that I thought, "Well, how in the world can they ask me to do it with all I have to do?" I had charge of the women's division for the

Page 41
whole county. I worked with, I don't guess I worked with the symphony board that far back. That came later, but you know, your involvement in the community. I know in '54 or '55 that WBT, for example, recognized me as the woman of the year, and I was the second one chosen. I was chosen by the community agents, you know. So I guess I must have had those contacts.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Had you been involved in any of those kinds of activities when you first came to Charlotte?
BONNIE E. CONE:
I was involved in the church there.
LYNN HAESSLY:
It was only after you became director that you expanded?
BONNIE E. CONE:
I'm sure it was. Except I know I was interested in cultural things, and I was always having my tickets to the community concert, things like that, you know.
LYNN HAESSLY:
As director, part of your strategy was to. . . .
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, you worked with community agencies, you know.
LYNN HAESSLY:
. . . develop a network of support. You made your advisory board your own kind of personal board and to be your kind of lobbying agent with the general assembly and fund raising.
BONNIE E. CONE:
And with the community, yes. Well, the main fund raising at that time was to try to get that tax support. That was the first thing we had to do. The bonds came later, and we had to extend the bonds to the county in order to get state support. You see a tremendous network of people working. The engineering club was always a friend from the very earliest. I remember some of the Rotary Clubs. I'd go and speak to them, you

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know. I had to go speak. I had to go, when we first were organized, I had to go to every high school. We had high schools in the county, you wouldn't believe how many, little teeny high schools, and you were going not to try to take them away from Chapel Hill or from Duke or from Davidson. You were going to say, "You know, there is a place for everybody, and you can stay home and come." I was personally the one who had to go. I did go.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Some place like Pineville?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Pineville, yes, I remember very well going there many times, that little school on the left hand side of the street. I can still see it.
LYNN HAESSLY:
You talked about the development of the two separate black and white institutions. When did those merge, and how did that come about?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, let's say we stayed as two separate entities. Let's see, we got our first city tax in '54 and then we moved on. I worked with trying to get the state to make the college system, and it wasn't ever what it wanted to be. Finally, I kept working, though, and when we became a four-year state supported college, this state system, I worked with Dallas Herring on that project. We knew that as long as we were under the university, the community college system was going to offer things that would transfer to the university. That was not a community college. You wanted what you did in the college parallel area to be transferable to senior college, but you also wanted to provide for the broad educational opportunities for other people who were

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not interested in going on. They wanted to be a better secretary, or they wanted to be a better bricklayer, or they wanted to be a mechanic, or whatever. But state support came only for those things that were transferable to the university in those early years when we were a part of it.
LYNN HAESSLY:
So, how did the black and white sides come together?
BONNIE E. CONE:
When we became a four-year state supported college in '63, our black counterpart, which was then Mecklenburg College, was combined with the old Industrial Education Center which was also operating at Central High School. Those two entities, the IEC and Mecklenburg College, came together to form Central Piedmont Community College.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Was industrial education a white group at that time?
BONNIE E. CONE:
I think they must have had both white and blacks. I can't imagine in those later years of the late '50s and early '60s. I think maybe both groups.
LYNN HAESSLY:
So, there wasn't a merger, then, between them?
BONNIE E. CONE:
They became [CPCC] with the property which we had helped them to get. We helped Mecklenburg College to get a fifty acre tract of land out near [inaudible] buildings. There were two beautiful buildings are there. We helped them to get city water. They got their city water before we got city water. I've helped work with the architects, you know, for them. Those buildings eventually were sold and that property, all of that went into Central Piedmont Community College. I think the way Central Piedmont has developed, I'm just so proud of them. Dick Hagermyer has done a tremendous job.

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LYNN HAESSLY:
Let's turn back to Charlotte College. Can you just talk a little bit about the expansion through the '50s after you got your tax base?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Yes. We got that tax in '54, that was city tax, and then we still were working to get state support. The first state support, I believe, came in, let's see, '57. We got low-bid in '55, I believe, and then—if you let me get my little notes that I had this week-end, working on that project. I think it was '57. Is that alright if I do that?
LYNN HAESSLY:
Certainly. It's hard to remember all the dates. It was in '57 that the college became state-supported under the Community College Act?
BONNIE E. CONE:
In '54 we got the city vote and in '55 we got our first state appropriation. In '58 we were able to go back to the city and county and replace the city levy with a county levy which qualified us to become a part of the North Carolina Community College System. As I say, that was the first non-community college system. It was a levy that had definite [inaudible]. You know, to go back to the voters that many times, if we had not had friends, if we had not developed friends for the institution, we never would have made it.
LYNN HAESSLY:
I thought you were turning out graduates for the community, too.
BONNIE E. CONE:
That's right. They were seniors, and then the families of our people who were there. In '59 there was a statewide bond election to provide capital for us.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Just for Charlotte?

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BONNIE E. CONE:
No, no. It was available in certain other areas but they had to get local money to match so you couldn't just say, "Give us some state funds." So we had to back to get those funds. Then, when we got that money, you know, we could come out and get some land. We didn't buy any land but old Woody Kennedy was out after we found this was the area that we thought was the best for it. It was accessible to the highways coming from Monroe and Gastonia and Concord, and we felt that people, you know, the commuters who needed to be served, would be served by a campus in this location more readily.

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[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]
BONNIE E. CONE:
[inaudible] got ahead and got a building build down at Central High School, our first building. Now, what [what were we talking about]?
LYNN HAESSLY:
We were talking about the site. I have read a story in, what was it, Dr. [inaudible]?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Dr. [inaudible].
LYNN HAESSLY:
[inaudible]'s book, talking about how, "Did Bonnie Cone pick the site by instinct, and all the men had to go and get surveys to pick the site?" Is this true?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, he might have been a little bit [inaudible]. I give Woody Kennedy the credit because he, well, we went together, but we looked at every possible place.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Why not on the western side of Charlotte?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, we had some possible sites over there, but this one seemed to us, you know, to be more accessible to more of the state. I know the southeast people in Charlotte feel that we went a hundred miles away from them but we still feel that it was the ideal situation for more of the people to be served, not just from Charlotte but from the region.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Did you know 85 would be coming through then?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, no, we did not. We knew a little bit later, and I know that we were able to get an access road to serve us, too. We had to do some selling of a little strip of land. We had to do some swapping. They did get some of our land for I-85. But we would have been cut off completely if we hadn't gotten

Page 47
that access road, at first. Now we have plenty of access to I-85 and to I-77. We'll have direct access by way of [inaudible].
But there was another area that I didn't want to skip, and it was back when we were getting, wasn't it the bond? I do want to talk about how we got this land first.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Well, you had annexed the building next to Central High School. Is that what you were going to talk about?
BONNIE E. CONE:
We built the building. We had the tax money for, let's see, started in '54, and in '57, by that time we had saved up $50,000 of that money, and the county let us have 50,000, and we built the first building. It's a little two-story red brick building. It's the only red brick building on Central Piedmont's campus. That meant I could get more help, secretarial, administrative help. I was doing so much of it myself because we didn't have room for anybody else. We didn't have money to hire other people. We were able to get some classrooms that we could have daytime classes in. That was very important. We got our engineering graphics lab, and we got an electrical engineering lab, and things like that, in that first little brick building. We moved into it in '57, that fall, and in that fall we had already been working with the Southern Association to get our accreditation. They came to visit us. We already had enough land out here under option, and they saw and felt the force that was behing us—that was going to get this land and get these buildings here on this campus—so that they accredited us that fall of '57. We didn't get the buildings completed, the first two, until '61. So this gave us a tremendous boost.

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LYNN HAESSLY:
This is when you had to go and buy your library all at once for your accreditation?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Well, you see, we had access to Central High School library, and they had a tremendous library, and we had some of our own books. I guess Louise Plybon, who was our first part-time librarian who was there. . . . We had to buy a lot to get our accreditation but we did it. We got the help. I know they said we had to have somebody in student personnel, and I was able to get [inaudible], who was still with us. That was the only additional person we had to employ. But the first accreditation in '57, of course, gave a tremendous boost. And then, with this land under option, Mr. Kennedy would say—you know, he was doing all this because he had the money to do it and he was with us—and he would say, "This man will not renew the option, and I'm buying that tract of land and adding a codicil to my will that says that if this site is used for the campus, then the trustees will have it for what I paid for it. If they decide not to use it, this site will be sold for the maximum, and the profits put into the scholarship for the college." When we became a community college, that was when we got our first board of trustees. Woody Kennedy was to be on that first board in '57, and he died that weekend before he was to be sworn in. So he had done his work properly.
LYNN HAESSLY:
So then his will went into effect regarding this site.
BONNIE E. CONE:
Yes, for these parcels that he had. We were able to assemble the site before we came into the university system. We had a thousand acres of land, and the state bought only 140 of

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it. The first 270 acres we were able to get from the little tracts that Woody Kennedy had assembled, and I think there were thirteer or fourteen different parcels. Then we knew that the county would give us 500 acres, and we knew that Mr. Tom Belk had acquired a ninety-acre tract, and we knew we could get that. He had done it specially for us but hadn't given it to us. And then there was 140 acres in there that we needed to tie the 500, the 270, and the 90 together. So we said to the state, "If you buy this, the county will give us those [inaudible]." That's the only land the state has bought for us, unless they bought it in these last few years, and I don't believe they have.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Not very long after you began to establish a campus, you went from being a community college to being a UNC affiliated campus, and I'd like you to talk about that transition.
BONNIE E. CONE:
After we got our first two buildings, those first two [inaudible] 270 acres of land, that was in '61, we moved in that fall. Terry Sanford was the governor, and he came and dedicated those first two buildings on our first campus. Terry Sanford, being governor, named that commission to study the higher educational needs of North Carolina. I know, I was on that commission. Bill Friday was on that commission. There was a State Board of Higher Education instead of the Board of Governors at that time. We met in different places, but usually met on a university campus. The commission, you could see they were very aware of the need for higher educational institution in this area of North Carolina. I know they were ready to recommend university status for us at that period of study. Dr. Friday

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reminded them that it was the prerogative of the ninety-nine man board of trustees to decide where they would move other campuses. So, instead of university status, they recommended that we become a four-year state-supported college. Number two, they recommended that legislation be prepared, introduced, and passed to prescribe how the university could move to other campuses. They gave the plan and ultimately, you know, the board of trustees of the university would determine where it would go.
LYNN HAESSLY:
You are talking about the [inaudible] Study Commission?
BONNIE E. CONE:
This was the result of Terry Sanford's commission on education, the commission that studied the higher educational needs of the state. They recommended that this legislation be there. At the same time, we were made a four-year state supported college. The plan for how the university could expand other campuses, that was enacted into law. It set up the procedure, and it said, you know. . . . I know that we had to have approval by the faculties of the three campuses. We had to have approval by the board of trustees, you know, the one board of trustees, the ninety-nine man board. We had to have approval by the board of higher education. Then we had to have approval by the legislature. So we knew that was approved when we became a four-year state school and college. So we were already working on the next step. We did not wait until '63 when we were made a four-year state school and college. We were getting ready for these other visits and other hopeful approvals.
LYNN HAESSLY:
But you had several steps you had to go through.

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BONNIE E. CONE:
Yes. First of all, you had to have the faculties to see us. Can you imagine faculties coming here, looking at us, from Chapel Hill, and N. C. State and Greensboro Woman's College. We had had very little to do with them, and we didn't know how they would, the faculties, you know, we didn't know they would think you were worthy to become a part of the university system. But we felt we were worthy. We knew our track record. We knew what our students were able to do, the ones we had graduated and sent on, you know.
LYNN HAESSLY:
What did you do to try to cultivate these other faculties?
BONNIE E. CONE:
They came to see us. They came to these visitations and we, the faculty and the trustees, would try to be ready, you know, to answer questions. We were ready on our speeches. I remember, we would meet to get ready for any of these presentations. We would meet at, say, the home of John Paul Lucas, who was a man with Duke Power, a tremendous, brilliant man. Pete McKnight was on our board and he would be with us. He was a great supporter of the University, and he was going to see us all the way, you know, from our angle and from theirs as well. But we tried to anticipate the things they would want to know about us, and we would try to be ready to make speeches and present these things. Then we were ready for them to ask questions and to visit the operations, to see the records of the students, to see what they had done when they left us. We had to be ready to show—we didn't want them to accept anything on faith. We wanted them to see what they really ought to see about

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us. We didn't want to be a part if we were not really a quality institution because we knew they were. But the faculties certainly thought we were worthy of being considered for a fourth campus. Then I remember the ninety-nine man board of trustees. Their representatives came to visit us, and we were ready with our speeches, and we were ready with our tour. I know they stayed downtown, and I went out and we would bring them out on a bus. I went downtown and met them and then rode out with them on the bus and with Watts Hill, you know, he's still there in Durham, and I sat with him. When I went to President Friday's recent medallion—you know, when the board of governors. . . . I had received that in '83, and I was invited to come, and I would not have missed it for anything because I wanted to be there for that. But Watts was at my table, and so we just had a real good time that night remembering.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Had you worked with Dr. Friday before the study commission under Governor Sanford?
BONNIE E. CONE:
No. That was really my first time to really work closely with him.
LYNN HAESSLY:
How would you describe your working relationship with him?
BONNIE E. CONE:
I thought it was a very [inaudible]. There was not any tensions and pressures. I did not feel any.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Did you feel that he was not open to the idea of this campus getting university status?
BONNIE E. CONE:
No, I felt that what was being done was important to be done. And I did not want the University just to extend its

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campuses just willy-nilly. I'm a citizen of the state, and I don't want us to just go out and do things just because pressure is there. You know, we didn't want anything if we were not the proper nucleus for such a function. We certainly did not want to be that. So, [I don't know] whether that answers it or not, Lynn.
LYNN HAESSLY:
It answers it as best that I think it can be.
BONNIE E. CONE:
Yes.
LYNN HAESSLY:
When the campus then finally did become part of the University system, you were made acting chancellor but you weren't appointed to be the chancellor after that. Why do you think that was?
BONNIE E. CONE:
You now, I went out to try to help get an institution. I was not working to get a position.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Why?
BONNIE E. CONE:
I had no reason to work to get a position for me. I know other people that felt very differently about it. They felt that this was very bad, you know, some did, and some felt that it was right. But it wasn't for a position. I was working to get an institution to serve the people who were not being served. I felt that I had accomplished what I set out to do. The rest of it was okay with me.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Now, I've heard people say you were not made chancellor because you were a woman. I've read a comment from one of the professors here, John Robins, who thinks that Bill Friday didn't want you to be chancellor because you were too powerful.
BONNIE E. CONE:
I didn't know that.

Page 54
LYNN HAESSLY:
That was in Dr. [inaudible]'s book.
BONNIE E. CONE:
Is that right?
LYNN HAESSLY:
Do you think there is any truth in either of those?
BONNIE E. CONE:
Oh, I don't think so. And really, you know, I was a novice at all these things, and we had worked as hard as we could work to get what we felt the community and the state needed to have here. I felt that we had succeeded and these other things—that's certainly not what I was working for. I think we succeeded in what we went out to do. And I feel it was tremendous. I'm happy about what happened. I did the best job I could do, and I think I was able to get some of the most wonderful people, so many people who came. I still, Lynn, find myself saying they are my men. You know, this is my man. [inaudible] is my man, [inaudible] is my man, you know. Because I was able to bring them. We did not have the powerful committees that could go out and find. I had to do a lot of the hunting for personnel myself. You say, "How did you know how to do it?" It was just, I don't know, it was just, you have some ideas of what you feel you need in a person if he's going to be responsible for teaching chemistry in this institution, or religious studies, or whatever, or to be in charge of the health center. These are things where you just did the best job you could do. And I know we were always very careful not just to take what people wrote about people. We always had to find out what people said about people because there were things we needed to know that they would not put in writing. We tried to be very careful. We couldn't make mistakes in choosing personnel because that could

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just be devastating. We had to do the very best job we could. Sure, I wasn't prepared to do this actually. I had not come up in the pattern that you normally come up to do any of those early things. You just didn't stop along the way and say, "You know, I'm not equipped to do this." You just went ahead and used your best judgments and used the best wisdom that you had to try to do the job that you felt had to be done. Then the rest is okay because you weren't going out and building a position for you, for me, you know.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Well, I think we've finished.
BONNIE E. CONE:
I think that's great.
END OF INTERVIEW