|Transcript of Dr. Edward B. Bright Interview|
|Interviewee:||Dr. Edward B. Bright|
|Date of Interview:||May 7, 2008|
|Location of Interview:||Grifton, N.C.|
|Length:||MP3 - 58 Minutes; 15 Seconds|
This is Joanne Phipps interviewing Edward B. Bright for the ECU Centennial Oral History Program.
Might be off-base, but my parents--my mother was a housewife I'm sorry to say and she was a hard worker. She would tend and garden, and cared for the family; my father was--well he was a farm boy and worked on the farm and he--I guess he was a tenant farmer for a year or two or few years but I'm going to say--and went in business for himself--bootlegger. [Laughs] And what he didn't sell he drank. So really he--he became an alcoholic and died very young--39 years of age. And at that time my mother was destitute; he had built--he--he was a carpenter. He-he [my father] did carpentry work and he had--he had built a little house with--of course we had to [inaudible] back and that sort of thing but he had built a house. So we did have a house to live in but we didn't have anything else but that. And so he--he just drank himself to death and he--he died about the time I was 12 years-old I guess--in that range.
And back to the three teachers at school I was--at school I was talking about at the time my father died, talked about helping, and I can't remember exactly the details of how I did it but I
became the janitor of that little three-room school. And I guess it was the Principal of the High School that was down to the road must have been aware of it and used me to build the fires in the morning and then go--catch the school bus up to the [high] school and come back in the afternoon and sweep the floors and clean up and--and then go home. And so I was the janitor of that school for--I guess it was only one year and then the school consolidated and went to the [consolidated Elementary High School] [inaudible] at the crossroads [Chocowinity] and that was the first year of High School. That was the--it was--see, the last Elementary School was seventh--seventh grade for me then and the first year of High School would have been eighth, so anyway we started down at the High School consolidated at the crossroads of [Chocowinity] the next year. And so--
Can I throw a question in?
How--what education did your parents complete; do you know?
My father didn't even complete seventh grade. My mother completed seventh grade.
So they never went beyond seventh grade?
Let's see; I'm--okay, and the year that I was janitor of that school my brother was four years-older than I was and he drove a school bus. So looking back, people were helping us a little bit really. Somebody identified me as being able to do that janitorial work and get paid for it and somebody identified him as a--said that he could drive a school bus, so really people--people were looking out and helping. And we didn't realize as much then as we do looking back
that these things didn't just happen you know. People were considerate you know and we was--of course we was thankful for it, but--okay. What did my parents do for a living--[section school near Charlottesville]. I was a dedicated student from the beginning; I really liked school and as I told you about skipping a grade and [completing] first and second grade the same year and I was successful in school, the Valedictorian of the High School class but the big one was well I think 38 graduates and I was Valedictorian. When I graduated from High School then--in the meantime though while I was in High School again-[a] helping hand [had came again as], my High School Principal Mr. Bob Wyse from Winston-Salem did taxidermy work and he needed help skinning deer and bears and tanning hides and so forth. And so I started working for him after school and on Saturdays and so forth and during the summer. And so I learned to be a taxidermist. So--and of course there were some national youth programs occasionally and I'd pull grass on the yards or pick weeds on the yards at school and so forth for a few more dollars. What opportunities people could direct--they were being helpful; and this is an aside but I distinctly remember when I graduated from High School my mother and my brother, well my brother dropped out of school when my father died, and because we had to have some money coming in. And so they--of course I was too young to earn much money and I was doing well in school too, so he dropped out of school and worked as a carpenter and helped bring in food and assistance for the family then.
And back to the ambition to go further in school, when I graduated the night of my graduation and I had been working as I said for the Principal, Mr. Wyse in taxidermy work and he knew me well and its funny the amount of money when you mention it but at least it was an offer. The night I graduated he said Ed, have you thought about going to college? Well I thought
about it but no way. He said if you--if you decide you want to go I'll--I'll give you $50 to start and if I can give you more later I'll--I'll try. [Laughs] Of course I realized $50 even then wouldn't get you far so I said thank you; but I'm going to Newport News, so--to work. In the meantime my brother, Sylvester had moved to Newport News. The oil boom had started and they had moved to Newport News to--and she [my mother] had remarried by the way, and they moved to Newport News to get work. And so after--finally I--I stayed home myself--by myself the last year because I didn't want to go to Newport News and go to a big High School and knew nobody and anonymous you know; and so I stayed here where I was a leader. [Laughs]
So I--I stayed in the house alone and took one meal a day--one meal a day, two sometimes with a neighbor which they paid for and finished school down here on my own and they would come down and visit occasionally and on holidays why they'd come down and get me and I'd go over there [to Newport News, Va. to visit].
Anyway Mr. Wyse--B.E. Wyse was his name; he--he wanted to be helpful but he didn't have a lot of resources either but he--he did offer. Anyway all of that I think was fuel and so I--I had some vague notion well maybe I can go sometime but I went to Newport News and worked there for--from the spring of '40--let's see, the fall of '41--the spring of '41, little over a year anyway to the--.
Didn't--didn't you go with some friends that you made a deal with?
What was that?
Your friends that you went to school with?
Oh yeah; we'll get to that in a minute. Anyway and so I--I worked in a grocery store and my brother had gone up there and gone to work and so I really worked in the grocery store
where he worked. And--and they had two stores and so we both worked in the same outfit. And so this is an aside but you know everybody wants to get a car--even back then they wanted to get a car. And I walked to work two or three blocks from where we lived and my mother and her new husband had an apartment there and she rented rooms, so she--by the way this was her work; she rented rooms and served meals, so she earned some to help the family in that way then. And so as I walked to school--to school--to work every morning, I passed right by a used car lot and some of the cutest little automobiles you ever saw. But I resisted; I did not buy a car [Laughs] and in the--in the year that I worked up there I saved $500. And I'm determined that I'm going to school [with $500]. And so when I had two close friends from High School, Alton Buck and Monnie Adams, and he had--Alton Buck had gone up there and he was working in the shipyard making better money than I was by far. And Monnie had started working at a filling station at [Chocowinity]. Anyway they learned that I was going to school so they said well golly; I believe we'll go--go with you and so they did. And so we--we--Alton had bought a car; Monnie and I didn't have a car. Alton had a car because he made good money at the shipyard and so we rented a room in a home right next to the campus--Mrs. Warren [Laughs]. And so we shared a room, three in a room and went two quarters [at East Carolina]. And after the second quarter the draft had come along and I was by then 17  I guess--16 or 17; 17--I was 17 by then so--. Did the draft start at 18 or 17?
Anyway I was eligible for the draft and was drafted and went into the military then. And have I skipped over a lot? Well did you get out of that my perception of school? I liked to--. Preparing for the college--what kind of financial--? Well I think we've covered some financial
and emotional support things. Why did I consider college? I don't really know--just a hunger.
Don't make me steal that from you. [Laughs]
And your High School peers--how did they--why did they go to college? Now these two fellows went because I went.
Now the interesting thing is, when I was drafted and when I went to Fort Bragg for--by the way, I was in the US Army Air Corps so then the Army--the Air Corps was under the Army. It was the US Army Air Corps; it wasn't Air Force and Army. It was the US Army Air Corps. So when I went and it was at Fort Bragg, I could have been assigned to the Infantry or Artillery or whatever. But I luckily was assigned to the Air Force and then became a flight crew member in the Air Force, so--. I'm skipping around some.
Now you--you did mention though that you went to college with the GI Bill.
Would you have gone even though it wasn't there?
Well I was determined to go back after I got out. Luckily the GI Bill came along and so as I pointed out I went to school with $500 and lasted through two quarters on $500 before going into the military and I--I pinched my pennies while I was in the military and saved what I could but I--I gave into that urge for a car when I was discharged and I bought a car--pretty car, one of the last ones they built before they stopped building them; you know they didn't let the public have cars for two--three or four years, and the fellow that I bought this car from had bought one of the pretty new 1941(s) and so I bought a 1941 car for $900. That depleted my money quite a bit. [Laughs]
So I still was determined to come back to school but I learned pretty soon when I looked [that I would need money in addition to the GI Bill]. But in the meantime, I re-established the acquaintanceship with Hazel. In fact when I came home for a 30-day leave between being reassigned, I went over to Italy early--I mean late; I went over to Italy late and we did missions over North Italy, Southern Austria, Southern Germany, Yugoslavia, Romania and so forth but we didn't get--50 missions was the quota. You get 50 missions at least in but I didn't get that many and we got just a few in really. So we--we were pulled out early to come back for reassignment to get trained on B-29s to go to the Pacific and I was sent to Sioux Falls, South Dakota for reassignment.
Anyway the 30-day leave when I was home I went into a drugstore to get a Coca Cola and there was Hazel, my schoolmate from a year behind me in school. So we went out together a time or two or several times during that 30-days, and so I went onto Sioux Falls, South Dakota for reassignment and low and behold the atom bomb was dropped that summer in the meantime and so they did not assign me to attend further training, so we just killed time there until December '45. And I finally got home and--and discharged December '45 then. And so I hadn't seen her since the summer but we reestablished acquaintanceship and by the following July we decided to marry and did. And in that--that period I was working construction work as I said and in the meantime I was holding onto what military pay I had except I did buy that car. But I did learn--right after we were married I decided well gosh; this is foolish. I don't need this car, so I happened onto a fellow that--that wanted a car like that and so I took in an old 1937 Lincoln Mercury. So this car has got my $900 back--the whole thing and that car. So [Laughs]--so I was solvent again for a while then. And anyway that's the car I drove--I commuted from
[Chocowinity] to--when I reentered school that following fall then. And I commuted to school with that car and it lasted for a right good while. And finally after a while I had to put a motor in it but I could put a motor in it better than I could buy a new car.
And during the early part of my returning to ECU, Dr. Meredith Posey, Dr. Meredith N. Posey--did you ever hear that name?
He was the Debate Coach and I was interested in debating so I went out for debating and even though I was a commuter why I'd stay over and practice. So sometimes I'd hitchhike if gas was short or sometimes I'd drive--just however I could do to get [to Chocowinity] there and back but I never did establish residency on campus. So I just commuted.
Anyway so I became interested in debating and I don't know whether they have that wall of things [awards] or whether they still have a Debate Team or not; do they?
I'm not sure if they do.
Anyway in his classroom he had--or adjacent to his classroom there was a--a place that they had stuff about the debating and we went to a debate contest up at Mary Washington College in Virginia and it was a national debate thing throughout the country. And I don't know how many teams were there but 40, 50, or 60--or 100 I don't know--quite a lot in number, and anyway little ECU came back as one of the top 10 in the nation. And my--my part of that team was--well my part of the team was a negative and affirmative and--and my team, my part of the team won all of ours [debates]. I don't mean the other one--lost maybe one but anyway the team was classed in one of the top 10 in the country, little ECU and [inaudible]. That's an
aside I guess; am I losing this?
Can I backtrack for a second?
Now you mentioned you never established residency--residency on campus so how about the very first time you went to ECU? What was that like?
Well we--we were having a room in a home just a block or so off-campus. It's now a part of the campus but then it was homes on 5th--let's see, on 8th Street I guess it was but 8th Street has been taken into the campus now--with a widow lady, Mrs. Warren. So we really in effect were residents at that time because we got--we were involved in the campus activities. And these are little asides but I remember you know they liked to initiate freshman and have hazing and that sort of thing. So we were hanging around where they were doing it and so we were called in and I decided that's not for me, so I just left. And they didn't do anything about it; they didn't try to drag me back in so I didn't go for the hazing and never have, so--. [Laughs]
Of course they--they could have made an issue of it and tried to drag us back in but they didn't.
What made you choose East Carolina? I know back then it was a Teaching College. Did you know you wanted to go into Education?
I thought probably so and this was the most convenient so that--that sort of led that direction.
And anyway to follow that through then I got the Bachelors Degree and finished the Bachelors Degree in '48. By the way see that only meant two quarters and two years to get a
Bachelors Degree, but in the meantime while I was in the military I had gone to a college in Cookeville, Tennessee--Tennessee Polytechnic Institute as a part of a training program and I had gathered some college credits there. So really I got my first degree at East Carolina by having two quarters and two years to get my degree plus what I had gotten in the military, so--fortunate there because when I came back [in December 1945] Hazel and I had married [in July], as I said actually before I reentered that fall so we had a family before long. It was after a year [about 14 months], so--. [Laughs]
I was born the year you graduated--'48.
Well you were--you were about so big; he was in my arms when I graduated.
I was born in January and you graduated later that year right?
That's right; that's right.
Was that common among the other students to have already--be married because of the War and possibly have families when they were finishing degrees--do you remember?
There were--there were a right fair number of them; yeah.
Did your high school peers go to college? Well I told you about the two that went because of me and by the way I think this is the way it is. After I went in the military and left, the--Alton Buck, one of them, joined the Navy and they assigned him to go to Chapel Hill to go to school again, the Navy V-12 Program. So he became an Officer in the Navy and the other one, he went into the Navy too but as--just a seaman and so we all three were in for the duration of
the War then.
And when we came back out [of the military] the fellow, Alton Buck, the fellow--the one that had the car when we came to ECU and I maintained contact over the years off and on. We'd not see each other for a while and then we would reestablish contact. And Monnie Adams, we did for a while but after a while we lost contact. There was a man or a role model that encouraged you to go to college? Well I--I don't know of a specific person but just generally I thought--I liked school, why not keep going, and why not make a career of it; so--.
Other motivations other than education--hmm; well I just liked school and I liked the challenge [inaudible] so--that's probably it. You got an idea?
When you looked at it daddy and your High School Principal had a lot of influence of you wanting to go to school.
Well he did.
And then when you got out you tried to use being a Principal's influence of other kids because I remember hearing stories about you getting them out of the pool halls and getting to class.
You chased them down at the pool halls?
When I--when I graduated Hazel and I were married and we had Tim already then, so--. My first job was at Aurora Union School; it was Grades 1 through 12 and I went there as a Coach and Social Studies Teacher, coached basketball and baseball and taught a full schedule. [Laughs] And I think we had a supplement but it was either $300--somewhere between $300 and
$500 for coaching both sports. However they didn't have a teacher there so we had an apartment and teach it right across from the school so--of course it was small.
And I--I guess I had somewhat of a reputation for being a tough Principal but I'd go--I'd expel somebody one time and then if they didn't come back to school I'd go back and get him to come on back. You've done your--you've done your penance; now come on back and let's get going. So in a sense I was tough but I tried to be--tried to keep them in and help them get into-- [a positive direction for their future]. Is that what you--?
How it is about college; what were your preconceptions about college? Well just learning and I wanted to learn. [Laughs]
Did you ever feel there was some adversity because you were the first in your family to be going to college?
I didn't think about that at all. I did think about the handicap of graduating from a small High School and not having some of the advanced academic courses. And I think that influenced what I took a great deal, but I wasn't prepared for it--Advanced Science, Advanced Math and that sort of stuff really. I had to do a lot of preparatory work to get prepared for those, so--. I would say that's why I was not in higher Math and higher Science and something like that; well that was just my-- [preparation that guided me] seeing that I just drifted toward Administration and Social Sciences.
Some of the other first generation college grads I've spoken to mentioned they experienced something like culture shock when they first went here. Now since you didn't live actually on the campus did you feel like there was a major adjustment you had to make?
Well it--I don't think it bothered me really. In the Wright Building now they had
socials there, I guess almost each evening; you'd go and you'd lounge around and you'd dance and so forth and I took one dance course so that I could dance a little bit--couldn't dance very well but that was a social gathering place in the Wright Building and--. That helped me some.
Were there many men at the College while you were there?
No; [Laughs]--I can't remember the numbers exactly but men were a very small minority. And gosh the numbers are astoundingly low--1,500; 2,000; 2,500 total student body with only a fourth or fifth of them men--something like that.
You knew the first male graduate of East Carolina Teachers College.
Henry Oglesky--you ever hear the name Henry Oglesky?
And his degree says--whereas she has successfully completed--. [Laughs]
Henry Oglesky became Secretary to Congressman Bonner and was in Washington, DC for a long time but yeah; he was the first male graduate. [Laughs]
Oh my--dubious distinction.
What were your preconceptions about college? I didn't touch that much but I just--just wanted to learn. What was your first day like? Well I didn't notice any particular culture shock; just had to pass the classes so we passed the classes.
Do you remember a particular teacher that stands out to you that was either a challenge?
Dr. Posey, the English--English Department, and yeah he would have to be the
outstanding one. It was really being on his Debate Team and that was a nurturing thing.
Were there any that you had problems with?
I wouldn't say I ever had any problems with an Instructor. There was one and I can't remember his name, a little short runt, little bit deformed and he--he really raved and ranted and shouted a lot but we just rolled with it. What in the world was his name? [Dr. Tall] [Inaudible], he was just a character. But he wasn't a problem; no. We did what we needed to do and went on through.
Who took me there; who took me to school you mean?
Well I hitchhiked. [Laughs] I did a lot of hitchhiking but after--after I came back I had an old car but if I had gas money I'd drive it and if I didn't have gas money I'd hitchhike back and forth.
Even the--the first day you went to--to East Carolina you hitchhiked there on the first day?
Well when we first entered before I went into the military my friend had a car and so I rode with him to get settled there. From there on he didn't have enough money and we didn't need to drive the car much but if we wanted to go somewhere we'd go in his car. And that wasn't much really. How did you adjust to college life? I really didn't feel any difficulty adjusting. I never did get into the full swing of the social scene but the academic scene and the things pertinent to the academic scene I got in that--and I was satisfied.
How did your relationship with your family change? Did they visit or keep in touch? Well my mother and brother were the only family I had and her--her new husband--stepfather; they [were good relationships]. My mother and brother in particular were always real, real positive and proud of what I was doing and they were supportive, and were not able to be monetarily supportive but were encouraging and believed in what I was doing.
Were they ever able to come down and see you?
Well while I was in High School and I was finishing that last year in High School they'd--they'd drive down a weekend occasionally and then on holidays they'd come down and get me or I would ride the bus and join them up there, so we stayed in pretty good touch.
How did the relationship with your family change? Well even though my father was what he was and the way he was I--I think the rest [were approving of my efforts]. [Chimes Ring]--. And my brother never did get interested in further education. He didn't go back to school ever again. He started his own family and he remained a carpenter all his life and he took up my habit--my father's habits of drinking some too but--but he's still--he was--he was proud of it and he showed it. He just was supportive.
And an extremely good military career.
Oh yeah; I went in the military before he did but with all the training I was getting he got overseas before I did and he was assigned to the Airborne. The Infantry [101st Airborne] was in--what's--what was the--I'm trying to think of the number, but anyway he was at Bastogne, you know about Bastogne? He was at Bastogne and he got [frozen feet] but he didn't get wounded. So he had a more distinguished military service than I did
but I was in before he was because I went through so much training to get to be in the air and they got him on the ground over there right quick, and he didn't go in until gosh six months after I did or more, maybe six months to a year after I did. They got him in the--in the--on the ground right quickly.
How do you think your military service impacted the way you approached your academics?
Well I--I think I was determined already but not discouraged by determination and I guess it enhanced it, so I guess I saw that I can't--I can't go back to what my brother was doing. I needed to keep on the direction I was in and--and he had a lot of good qualities but he just--he just never did get a spark of ambition that would lead him out of what he was doing. And I--I must see even though we had a much different goal in life and a much different direction we--we remained close throughout his life. He died from really the way he lived; he lived to his dying and I guess he was 60 something when he died, and that was better than 39 though that my father died. And I'm 81, so I'm--I'm shooting for 90--I'm shooting for 90 or 100; anyway. [Laughs]
How did the relationship with your family change? Well I'm sure it changed some but we were still close and I think we stayed close even though we had--[different directions].
Dad you're 83.
Eighty-three excuse me; I'm sorry. [Laughs] Sorry about that.
Eighty-one, eighty-three--what's a few years? [Laughs]
Right; right yeah you're right.
I'm just reminding you. I still think you're young.
Yeah; you're right. Did they visit? Yeah; they--they visited as much as they could
and I--I would either hitchhike or ride with somebody up to where they were in Newport News. How did you change as a person--your self-perception? Well my determination and my direction didn't--didn't really change for me you know; [inaudible] really.
How do you think all the educating changed you though?
Oh yeah; to pick back up the--I finished with the Bachelors Degree in '48 and I went to teach in Aurora and kept on taking classes at ECU commuting up once a week to take a class and then coming in the summer also, so I got my Masters in '51. And then I--I went from Aurora and after being in Aurora for five years, I came to Grifton as Principal and was--was the Principal here for 11 years--16 and then went to Pitt Community College as a Director of General Adult Education and Extension and then later became a Dean of Instruction after I started taking courses at NC State. And so I finished at NC State with a Doctorate in '72 but I did that over several years, commuting once or twice a week for each year and going for a full summer up there to establish residence.
My goodness; you are patient. People these days they--they go full force and a PhD in five years solid.
Daddy went to school all my life. [Laughs]
Well what was graduation like from East Carolina when you were finishing the Bachelors? You told me you had--you already had a son there with you.
Well we've got a picture with Tim in my arms and then at the Masters he was standing beside me and we had--Tony was there then and then for the Doctorate we had Kay and the foster-child then.
Did your--did your mother and your brother make it for your graduation from East Carolina?
No; my mother in the meantime--no, she didn't make it.
No; she didn't.
I'm trying to think what year she died. She--she and her new husband lived in Newport News for a number of years and then they came back to Washington and I'd see her real often then. And then well old--old--what's that term about booze--demon rum, [Laughs] got her husband, the second one, and he left her [Phone Rings]. He left her and went back to Newport News himself and then she moved in with us. So she lived with us--we were living in Grifton then and she--she--they were there in Washington [N.C.] and when he left her we packed her up and brought her to us in Grifton. And she lived with us several years but she you know became disabled and went to a nursing home.
And we haven't said a lot about Hazel but through all this she just was--what that Degree said--was--Mrs. Good Wife. She--she really was a--a dedicated wife and mother and--and she and my mother got along very, very well. In fact you know my mother did not pick sides with me against her on anything. Hazel and my mother were together; I was the odd one--if--if there was any taking sides. [Laughs] And she enjoyed some things that Hazel didn't enjoy so they worked together very well with the housework. We had a very congenial arrangement there while she was with us until she got so sick she--she had to go to a nursing home.
Where have you been since then? How do you feel the college experience prepared you? Well nowhere to go now but I always respected education and I'm proud that--of what my three children have done and of course the fourth one, the foster child, she--she fell apart. But our
three own children have done well and I'm proud of them. I think we have a very close family. So and they don't hesitate to correct me if I'm wrong too as you noticed. [Laughs]
I was [inaudible]; you ought to talk about your citizenship and what developed out of the learning process into some of the--.
Well have--have you got your agenda? I've made some notes here and I don't know what I've said that fills this in or whether you want anymore or not or--. Oh, while I was in Cookeville, Tennessee--just to show you how close our family was--while I was in Cookeville, Tennessee my mother got enough money together to catch a bus and come out there and visit me there.
I didn't--I couldn't get off time enough to come here so she came out there and spent a weekend and so forth, so she would come and see us.
I think we got the sequence of things all right--graduated from High School in '41--16 or 17 the following August 11th. Newport News for a year or little over and then back to East Carolina in the fall of '42. No--yeah; military '42 to '45--I was in the military just a little bit under three years. I think it was about 32--33 months.
But we were busy the whole time, so--and my overseas time was--in fact I became an Air Crew Member; I was called a Flight Engineer and on a B-24 which they call it a Liberator, the B-24. On that four-engine bomber--it was called--called a heavy bomber at that time, three people on the--called the Flight Deck, two--Pilot and Co-Pilot at the controls and the
Flight Engineer behind them handling instruments that related to keep the batteries charged and gasoline transferred from tank to tank and Chief Assistant to the Pilot and Co-Pilot. While I was in the training before becoming a Flight Engineer I had the experience of--I was in Keesler Field, Mississippi twice--at Basic Training and then Aircraft Engineer Training and then we were sent to Detroit for some Special Engine Training--to get real familiar with engines. And while I--I did what I needed to do in all that engine stuff and I never got into real trouble [Laughs] with keeping engines running I just didn't take to going that way with my career and I came back to [Liberal Arts direction] you might say.
Had an interesting experience though; when we were ready to go overseas they had us take an airplane over and gave us a brand new B-24 airplane to take over and we picked it up in Kansas City--no, St. Louis--St. Louis, Missouri and flew from there to--no Topeka, Kansas. We picked it up in Topeka, Kansas and flew it there from to Bangor, Maine and then Gander, Newfoundland and then the [Terceira] Islands which is off of Portugal and then on down to South Africa, Tunis, Tunisia, Marrakesh, Morocco, and then over to Italy from there. And so we were based in Giara, Italy, a place called Mari-Catch--no, called--called [Inaudible], [Battaglia, Battaglia], Italy which is south of Naples. At that time the Germans, you know the Germans and Italians were allies at first but at that time, the Italians had sort of dropped out by then but the Germans had North Italy occupied all the way from between Naples and Rome were German-patrolled. And so we actually had to--on our missions we would bomb in North Italy, the Germans and we would bomb their supply line through the Brenner Pass, rail and highways there. We'd try to keep them out of commission so they couldn't get re-supplied and then selling off--Southern Germany, Yugoslavia, and Romania and so forth
[other missions were over North Italy], so--our bombing missions but as I say I didn't do a full term. And therefore, I came back early and so I really got out early--you accumulated points. You were supposed to get out according to how many points you'd have; you'd get eligible for discharge, but I got out with less points than a lot of people had because I was unassigned. I wasn't in an active Unit; I was waiting to be assigned [to train on B-29s for service in the Pacific] so that's why I had to get [came] home before someone who had more service than I did.
And they did send me back to be discharged in Seymour Johnson Air Base [Laughs] in December just before Christmas, right at Christmas in '45.
I had--I had a question for you; you went on to do a Masters and then your PhD; what--what possessed you to keep going and get more degrees?
Well I saw that to command a hire of administrative jobs you needed the--however I in fact I got to be Dean of Instruction [at Pitt Community College] before I had accomplished my Doctorate but I was well along with it and they assumed I would get it so I became Dean of Instruction which required a Doctorate, a little bit before I got the Doctorate.
Now after you've had the Dean of Instruction position did you go back to being a Principal?
No; see five years in Aurora, 11 years here [Grifton]; there is a balance of 25--Community College; the rest of my career right at Pitt Community College first with Continuing Education and then with the Curriculum Programs and then Dean of Instruction.
What was the most memorable job for you?
I guess I was fascinated with the Dean of Instruction job. That was responsible for
all of the instruction of the whole institution, all the curriculum and non-curriculum, and all the extension classes and all over. And one time we was serving extension classes over a five-county area--Beaufort County, Martin, Beartie , North Hampton, Halifax; see they didn't have any community colleges so we were serving Adult Education Classes in those areas also and then as they got schools then we would draw back in. So the Dean of Instruction job I thoroughly enjoyed and it was--it was multi-faceted. It, I felt, was having a--was able to have a great impact on what the Community College was doing and being in the--being there early I was able to be in on establishing a lot of programs--brand new programs. The Nursing Program for example; they had no Nursing Program when I went there. The first time I approached the hospital about working with us on a [nursing] program; they weren't interested. So after another two or three years they got interested and we got the Nursing Program started and well it's a big thing now--big, big, big. And so of course now as the Dean of Instruction I must say you really didn't get--you didn't work with all the details of doing Nursing. You got somebody who knew Nursing and who could do it, but you were instrumental in getting it done and I--I like that part. I didn't have to get bogged down with the details of all the curriculum but I had to forge the way to get things done.
Hmm; now when you were Principal at the High Schools did you see a lot of those students go off to college or did you encourage them to?
Encouraged them to but of course back then not nearly as many went as do now and oh, I pioneered a few things too. I was the second school in Pitt County and for being a little small school to have Driver's Education. Ayden High School, the Principal there started Driver's Education and the Principal here [Grifton]--me, started it here, and in order to get it started we
taught it ourselves. [Laughs] And then pretty soon we got to where we could assign it to somebody else, so I--I sort of liked pioneering and getting something going.
What other kinds of things did you--? Oh I know--I know I wanted to share something here for you. I had here then--then later at NC State graduation with a Doctorate, Tim, Tony, and Kay--all three of my children and the foster girl here in Morris Hall were there for that. And Hazel and I had--had 61 years together and she really qualifies for that Good Wife thing. She had been a good wife and mother and very talented and productive in--oh by the way; this is hers.
She did this and she taught our daughter to do that and in the living room there's a number of things and she's got things stored under all the beds in the house that she pulls out on occasion but she just is a very talented needle--needle crafter and she sewed first and then knitting and crocheting and she finally got into traditional [rug hooking] and that's her real favorite thing which is what this is. And she taught part-time classes in these also for many years, and then she also worked at Walter B. Jones Alcohol Rehabilitation Center with the Rehab Department there. So all this in addition to being a wife and mother you know; so that's why I thought I would mention it.
Son of Dr. Bright: Did you mention anything about athletics? The first ballgame I remember seeing when--when football was played behind Christenbury Gym, played on the bleachers before--. And it was just like a High School; we'd go out there and play on the bleachers.
But daddy would take me to that and he still takes the kids and
grandkids to football and it's baseball tickets and basketball games that we all go to and it's part of expanding the University to the family and encouraging education not only in his family but has always encouraged education.
And I just can't sing enough praises for the GI Bill of Rights. I feel like I would have done it anyway but I would not have done it and been in nearly as good as shape financially if I had to do it totally out of my own resources. It was--and not only was the GI Bill good for people like me; it helped to build the institutions and the economy. It really was a great thing; the GI Bill was a great thing. You know what GI Bill was?
Okay; and do you want to talk about something else and give me a clue we'll talk. [Laughs] But I--I did enjoy Education and once after a short while I had no thoughts of going anywhere except Education.
And you sent all your kids off to college?
Yeah; as long as they wanted to go. Tim--
Son of Edward Bright: I was the only one that had to get out in the real world and work.
But--but Tim has done a great job anyway. He--he went to ECU a while; he went to Pitt Community College a while. He worked with the [inaudible] Intelligence and pretty soon he went on his own and now he's a General Contractor and does pretty good. So he put the pieces together for what his direction is now; it's just like the pieces--my pieces came together to put me where I am. His pieces came together to put him where he is. The pieces go in different directions. [Laughs]
And your other son, Tony, and your daughter, Kay, were Occupational Therapists?
Both of them are and his [Jim's] wife is an Occupational Therapist, so--so yeah. Went from no education to a variety of education among the family; and even though he didn't graduate from East Carolina he-he [Jim] attended there, I don't know how many quarters--a few quarters. But he's one of the most dedicated ECU fans you ever saw. [Laughs]
You don't go out painted in purple and gold do you?
Oh yeah. [Laughs]
Most days of my life. [Laughs] Yes; that's part of our life. The University is still a part of our life.
Yeah; we've had a great family and a great life and we moved through a traumatic period now with Hazel's [health] deterioration emotionally.
Daddy--daddy's involvement with East Carolina and subsequent jobs back in Pitt County, [he] has stayed involved in Pitt County and East Carolina Alumni Association, Pirate Club; he is one of the Century Club. He's done the Civic Leadership President on the Board here in Grifton, the [Pitt County] Board of Commissioners and he still serves on the Mid-East Commission [Eastern Region for Economic Development and the Pitt County Development Commission].
Back--back when I was Principal here I served two terms on the Town Board and I was one of two people--the Cox boy and I started the Chamber of Commerce and--.
The County Commissioner?
Oh yeah; two terms--eight years on the County Commission and I was glad I was there because I--I really don't mean to brag but there was five of us--five out of eight [nine]
people that did something that has been very, very good for hospitals in Pitt County.
And the University.
And the University--the--the hospital was--Pitt County Hospital for many, many years and then they established what they called a public not-for-profit situation and the County Commissioners still appointed one more than half of the Board of Directors of the hospital and the hospital could not borrow any money with Bonds without approval of the County Commissioners. The idea came up well it would be better if the status was private not-for-profit rather than a public not-for-profit. And the only change would be the County Commissioners would appoint one less Board Member; they would appoint one more--they would appoint one less than half now and then the hospital could decide them selves when they wanted to float Bonds. That's the only change but people in the County just did not understand it; and there was a big hababalu [hassle by some saying] you know you're going to give away the hospital; you're going to give away the hospital--give away the--and by the way, the County was not getting any income from the hospital, see. All the money went to operation of the hospital and I--I just never have understood how people are so stupid that they can't understand something. But [Laughs]--but anyway--and we could have put it to a vote, but we were afraid it would not pass if we put it to a vote. So we took it on ourselves to make the decision to make it a private not-for-profit with those two changes. But in the process we--we studied the State and all over the State hospitals were going private not-for-profit. Most of them were doing it without any exchange of money. We found one or two that got maybe $10,000,000 to the County for--for changing. Low and behold, the hospital is happy that we would change to private not-for-private and we got $30,000,000 payment from the hospital over a three-year period. We also get payments in lieu of
taxes of all the hospital--hospital profits [property] that we would not have gotten otherwise. Oh God what a deal for the County you see. What a deal for the County. But people just did not understand; they said you're giving away the hospital. And Glen Bauer from Ayden became County Commissioner after I was there; I was there eight years--two terms, but in the latter part of my last term this question was coming up. And I really was one of the five that really determined that look [that change]; this is the best thing in the world for the County and for the hospital. Let's get it done. The Election came up and Glen Bauer ran for the position I was in and he won the Election. See I'm going to be out when the term is up. Between the Election and the time term was up we got this job done, see; you understand what I'm saying?
So he didn't--his intention was to block it. He and those that followed him were to block it and not let it happen. We got it done anyway. [Laughs] The only thing was I just had--had two terms instead of three or four terms; that's all right. But I'm proud of that; I really am.
And the hospital has been recognized by the Commissioners--have you seen the little Obelisk in front of the hospital? They put their [the chairmen] names on it.
Yeah; I was Chairman at the time and my name was--. I thought of something else; what was it--well I guess it was the Chamber of Commerce. And we didn't mention church. I've been on and off a Deacon of the Mormon [First Baptist] Church from time to time and taught for a number of years [of Sunday School in]--church.
Do you miss being an educator now?
Somewhat but somehow I might--. [Laughs] I don't know; I don't know.
Daddy still takes the opportunity to educate the grandkids on the value of getting an education. So he's--he's not far from it.
Oh good. Well Dr. Bright that's all I have. Thank you very much.
Well I've--I've enjoyed it.
I much appreciate it.
Now how will--how will this be used and will it be available and that sort of stuff?
Well the plan is to create a database and I think this is the first wave that they're doing. They're doing about 20 interviews in the first wave and then make the transcripts and the audio files available to people who would like to do research. They may also put it on the ECU website at some point as one of their Special Collections.
Well now do you know the names of some of the others that are being interviewed or are you--?
I might know some of them.
[End Dr. Edward B. Bright Interview]
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Audio interviews convey so much more about earlier times and experiences. I was 4 years old when Dr. Bright was at E. Carolina with my dad coaching the remarkable debate team. I am a retired special education teacher (Chesapeake schools) in Norfolk. Thanks for another connection.
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