Black teacher becomes administrator during desegregation
In this excerpt, Miller describes how he rose from an industrial art teacher to assistant principal of West Charlotte High School. White administrators chose Miller in part because of an effort, spurred by the demands of black parents, to pair a black assistant principal with West Charlotte's white principal. Miller describes some of his duties and how he left West Charlotte for Harding High School.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Leroy Miller, June 8, 1998. Interview K-0174. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Full Text of the Excerpt
PAMELA GRUNDY: This is Pamela Grundy, and I’m here in Charlotte, North Carolina. I’m interviewing Mr. Leroy Miller, and it is the eighth of June, 1998.
LEROY MILLER: My name is Leroy Miller, but my friends and students call me Pop. I came to Charlotte November 19, 1945, after spending four years in the service. I started out as an industrial art teacher at West Charlotte High School under the administration of C. L. Blake. I was an industrial art teacher from 1945 until 1963. Prior to that time I had had the opportunity to become a principal, but I refused it because it was going to take me away from the kids. I continued to stay at West Charlotte and in ’63 blacks were determined to have assistant principals in all of the black schools like they had in the white schools, but at that time Mr. Blake wasn’t particularly interested in an assistant principal. That’s what he said. He had had about fifteen or twenty people that Craig Phillips had sent to him. Craig Phillips at that time was superintendent of schools. I think it was Labor Day, 1963, we always had a teacher’s meeting on Labor Day and started school the day after. Dr. Phillips’ secretary called and said that Dr. Phillips would like to see me the following morning in his office. So I went down to Dr. Phillips’ office, and when I went in there Dr. Self and Dr. Hanes and the other Dr. [John] Phillips were all there. So when I walked in I said, “What did I do?” A black man walking into an office with four white men. I said, “White did I do?” They said, “You didn’t do anything.” Dr. Phillips said to me, “Mr. Miller, I had lunch with Dr. Garinger one day last week, and he said I’ve sent at least fifteen or twenty people out to Blake to interview as assistant principal. He’s turned all of them down. In talking to Dr. Garinger, Dr. Garinger said to me,” to him, Dr. Phillips, “that the only person that Blake would be satisfied with as assistant principal would be you.” He said, “You know the city and the NAACP, and all the blacks want an assistant out there, and we want you as an assistant.” I said to him, I wasn’t surprised, but I asked him, “Are you going to tell Mr. Blake that you appointed me assistant principal?” Dr. Self said to Dr. Phillips, “No, Bob Hanes is secondary superintendent. Let Bob call.” I said, “No, don’t you call him. You wait and let me get back out there.” So I came on back out to the school. We were in teacher’s meeting, orientation for the teachers. I guess I got in there and sat down and the secretary said that Dr. Hanes would like to talk him. I knew what it was. So he went in and spoke to him and he came back out. He said, “I’d like to introduce you to your new assistant principal.” That’s the way I got in administration, but I got in administration because I was an industrial art teacher. Being an industrial art teacher we worked ten months a year. We worked two weeks before school and two weeks afterward. Mr. Blake didn’t have an assistant principal, but I would do all of my work, and when he had to go to a meeting, he’d always say, “Look after so-and-so.” I’d look after it. When he’d start scheduling for the opening of school and he had to go to a meeting, I’d mess around there doing stuff working with him. That’s the way I got into administration. After getting into administration I worked with Mr. Blake. I was just as happy as I could be with him.
PG: What were your duties as assistant principal?
LM: You looked after the busses. You did all the dirty work, more or less. Disciplined kids. Kept up with the teachers. In fact, working with Mr. Blake you had lots of exposure to the different things that were taking place. I did that until he retired. He retired, and then they had Dr. Spencer Durant. He was named principal. I worked with him for three years. I enjoyed working as assistant principal. Then Dr. Durant left to become superintendent. When he left they sent another person out there, and I worked with him for one year. Working with him for one year I knew there had to be something better than working with him. That was the first year of integration, and Ed Sanders was associate superintendent. He was assigned to West Charlotte. He would come out to the school to work with the principal, but the principal assigned me to work with Ed Sanders, and we go to know each other. One day we were downtown. He said to Dr. Self, “Bill, you’ve got a man here that should be principal.” About that time Dr. Hanes came in, so Bill said, “Tell that to Dr. Hanes.” He told Dr. Hanes the same thing. Dr. Hanes said to him, he called the principal by name, “What’s he going to do if he moves up?” Ed Sanders said to him, “He’s going to get off his butt and do some work.” It was like that. We had a meeting downtown all of the assistant principals and principals one Saturday morning. I guess it was in April. That was the year when they decided that if you had a black principal they wanted a white assistant principal. When I walked in down there Dr. Hanes was chairing the meeting. He said, “The two most popular people we have in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools are Pop Miller and Charles McCullough.” He proceeded to say then, “Pop, Harold wants you at South. Bill wants you at North. T. C. wants you at West.” He said, “You don’t have to give me an answer now. You can give me one before you leave after the meeting’s over.” When the meeting was over I started out. I was going toward the car. He said, “Pop, you didn’t give me an answer. Where do you want to go?” I said, “I ain’t going no damn where.” I had made up my mind that I did not want to be an assistant. I’m not prejudice, but I felt that I was just as competent as any of those white principals were. I had to go to Penn State to get my advanced degrees, and I felt that I was just as competent as anybody they had in the system at that time.