Kenneth Hammond Oral History, September 11, 2009.


Kenneth Hammond

Patrick Cash
East Carolina University

September 11, 2019
Greenville, North Carolina

PC: Alright, Today is September 11 2019. This is Patrick Cash assistant University archivist from East Carolina University here interviewing Mr. Kenneth Hammond about his time at East Carolina. If you could start by please introducing yourself and tell us when and where you were born.

KH: I am Kenneth Hamond, I was born in Winterville, North Carolina. So I'm a local. Lived most of my life in Pitt County. The last 27 years or so, I've actually lived in Durham, North Carolina.

PC: And what years were you a student at East Carolina?

KH: I started at ECU in 1969. No, yeah. 1969. I got my first degree there in 73. A week after I got my bachelor's I joined the staff there, and then subsequently got a Masters of Arts at ECU, I guess that was in '83 and then in '85 a certificate of advanced studies from ECU. (1:15)

PC: Okay, and what was your undergraduate bachelor's degree in?

KH: My degree was in history and political science.

PC: And what made you decide to attend East Carolina?

KH: This is probably crazy. I was the youngest in my family. I had a brother and a sister to graduate from North Carolina Central University and I had a brother and sister graduate from A&T State University in Greensboro. I was the last kid going to school and the assumption in the family was that I was going to go to North Carolina Central or A&T and then that would just decide within the family, the better school. So I decided that I did not want to either keep the family together, let the discussion go by not choosing either one and decided I want to go to East Carolina. I think another motivator for me deciding to go to East Carolina is I had some weird study habits and that is when I studied, I needed to be in a situation where there was total quiet and isolation. So at that time, all my other siblings had left home and it was just my parents and I at home. I did not want to stay on campus because I figured if I was in the dorm with the noise and so forth, it just wouldn't work for me. So that was the other motivator. And then I had a, I had a my senior counselor, high school guidance counselor was an ECU grant just came and she was most helpful when she found out that I wanted to to consider ECU brought me over the campus introduced me to the focus in the financial aid department and so forth and so that was also significant and the decision right. (3:12)

PC: During your time as a student do you remember anything about the use of the basement in the Wright building or any events you went to the use of in the basement of the Wright building before the student center was switched over to Mendenhall?

KH: Not so much activities in the basement of Wright that I was involved with. There were more activities I was involved with in let's see, the dorm I guess Scott. That was a basement and we used to have parties there. Some. But ultimately, I do remember going to some of the activities in Wright - in the basement.

PC: Is there any specific activity, event, party, program that sticks out to you? Are you still remember from your time either for good or bad that the university sponsored, either in the Student Union or elsewhere on campus? (4:09)

KH: I think probably one of the most significant events, events activities that I was a part of that sorta got wide recognition in the university community. We subsequently started the first African American Greek organization Alpha Phi Alpha on the campus, and the line was chartered in 1971. And that following year at homecoming, which is kind of traditional in on HBCU campuses, as a part of the homecoming celebrations, oftentimes, they would have mock funerals. And my brother was a part owner of a funeral home here in Greenville. And so we got the hearse, the limousines, casket and all and we had a mock funeral sort of New Orleans style on campus in Wright auditorium, where campus really knows what is happening. Some administration and security obviously knew what was happening when you pull up the Wright circle and you know, there's a casket going in and, and we had mourners and the whole nine yards. And the whole idea was that we were burying the mascot. I'll remember the team might have been Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles that we were burying so we had the funeral and then in Wright and people just, you know, curiosity seekers came in and the newspaper ultimately covered it, and then we proceeded to bury the person during football practice over at Ficklen Stadium so that was a you know that was a big deal.

PC: Did you actually bury the casket or.? (6:05)

KH: No, no, it was just, you know, we didn't open it at the, at the Wright. We got there. I mean, we had a picture of an eagle in the casket there. So that was fired up the team. And interestingly enough, I was the individual who did the eulogy. And I had a lot of people say, we knew then that this guy was headed toward ministry. So

PC: Do you remember anything else about your time as a brother of Alpha Phi Alpha, especially with it being the first African American fraternity on campus? (6:43)

KH: Well, a couple of things. The year that we came on campus, we were part of the you know, the I guess the Panhellenic Council, or the Inter-fraternity Council, was the So it was kind of an interesting mix in that we were the only African American fraternity on campus. At that time the Inter-fraternity Council, you had to pay dues and the dues were based upon the number of members and the Inter-fraternity Council did things from time to time throughout the year as an organization. We always kind of felt that we were paying money for reaping no benefits because, you know, having a beer badge or whatever, and we didn't have a house, so that it was not something that appealed to us. And then subsequently, we just kind of dropped out of attending and I was actually the liaison as a matter of fact, one point in time, I was actually the Inter-fraternity Council secretary, but we knew that out of the gate on campus, we had to be a part of it. So I did that. And we did that. And then subsequently, as other historically Greek organizations, the Deltas and AKAs and subsequently the Kappas, we organized what was prevalent on most HBCUs, the Panhellenic Council. (8:21)

PC: Outside of Alpha Phi Alpha, where you're part of any other student group on campus or student organizations?

KH: Yes. One of the things and individuals who probably had, other than my dad, the single most impact upon my life, was a professor named Albert Connelly. Dr. Connelly was a professor in the School of Business. And I don't know the dynamics of how it started, but there was a program on I think it was at UNC Charlotte, UNC Chapel Hill, NC State, A&T, and East Carolina, called the North Carolina Fellows Program. From how I understood the process, there was an initial screening of all applicants to the university some way I don't know how they did that. And subsequently, a group of students were invited to participate in a weekend activity sponsored by the North Carolina Fellows Program. And I was one of the students invited, I think there were about 15 students that ultimately are invited. Started on a Friday afternoon reception, you meet with folk from those other campuses, leaders, advisors; you go to individual interviews, continue into Saturday, and they do mock drills and that kind of thing. And then Saturday evening, they select a group of people that will be invited to become North Carolina Fellows. And we were told, going in that the plan was that there were going to be 10 persons chosen. It turned out that all 15 of us were selected. And a part of what the North Carolina Fellows Program was about was encouraging individuals to get involved both campus and community wide with activities and events. So I got involved. I was in the Student Government, I was Secretary of External Affairs for - in the SGA. I was involved with serving on a number of committees - campus committees and so forth so that that sorta kind of set the trajectory for my involvement. As a part, Dr. Connelly was the advisor for the North Carolina Fellows Program at ECU. My initial goal was to go into law. I wanted to go to law school. But I always enjoyed public speaking. And Dr. Connelly took me under his wings and way before you had the regular video cameras, he bought a closed circuit camera through North Carolina - got funding through North Carolina Fellows Program, so that I could practice public speaking and be filmed and critiqued and not only me but others. I worked in his office. As matter of fact. Dr. Connelly put together the first sort of a master plan for the creation of a convention center here in Greenville. And I did a lot of the research, contacting groups about their needs as a convention for convincing facilities, what they did, what kind of space actually went down. We were trying to get funding through Kellogg Foundation that Kellogg had established a number of centers, one at Michigan State, the one closest was at the University of Georgia. So I went down to Athens to see their center and so forth my way, my first time flying and so I remember that, but Dr. Connelly had a tremendous impact upon my life in terms of motivating me. I subsequently ran and was elected president senior class at ECU. So those were things that were certainly part of my experience.(13:02)

PC: All right. Um, and I know once again, you mentioned being brother Alpha Phi Alpha and some of the events and parties that you would go to and Scott dorm. What type of entertainment did you or your fellow students partake in during your time at ECU? And was any of that entertainment in the Student Union or what would have been the Student Union during your time?

KH: Well, there were parties as the number of Greek organizations increased, we had step shows virtually all fraternities had pageants. And so those were sort of highlight events in the Student Union itself, which when I started obviously was in the old Wright building for in fact most of the time when I went there, we participated in card tournaments and they had different recreational kinds of things that took place in the Union. And so we subsequently were involved with those kinds of activities. We had individuals who served on union committees in terms of bringing speakers or planning concerts to campus and so those are some things that we were involved in.

PC: Are there any speakers or concerts that specifically stick out in your mind as for either good or bad reasons? (14:31)

KH: Well, I can remember concert wise, of course this was my senior year, although I knew that I was going to be joining - it was in the spring semester of my senior year - spring quarter of my senior year, because we were in the quarter system. A few weeks before graduation actually it was around the spring football weekend. We had a concert in Ficklen Stadium and Billy Preston and while I worked, I was a student a night manager in the old college union and Wright building, knowing that I was going to be joining the staff and and because my office for the first year I was there was in Wright on the second floor, right. But we had a concert in Ficklen Stadium with Billy Preston. And I can remember although I do not have direct responsibilities, but working with staff because this was something that I subsequently will be doing in terms of the execution of a concert, and I remember very vividly in Billy Preston's writer, it called for the university to provide a Hammond B-3 organ with two Leslie speakers. And of course, we had to rent those they were rented from a music store in Kinston. So the organ was brought in and one Leslie speaker was brought. And so we're doing the sound check and Billy's road manager says he's not going to play because there's only one Leslie speaker and his writer said two. And the bottom line was this is, this is at 6:30 at night, the concert starts at eight o'clock, and the organ and Leslie comes from Kinston. And I remember being a part of the discussion about what are we going to do, because I mean, we would be contractually obligated - paying. And we literally had a member of the ECU police department to contact the security in Kinston to contact the owner of the music store there to get a Leslie speaker to us. And we got it while the opening act was on, but that was a really interesting experience. (16:46)

PC: Alright. Um, and you mentioned being when you were a student in your role as a manager in the Wright building, what kind of - what type of activities or what type of responsibilities did you have in that particular role before you joined the staff right after your graduation?

KH: So I was the Night Manager and it was kind of interesting. I was working - I had a self help work job, working at the Regional Development Institute and at that time I worked 15 hours a week and the minimum wage was $1.60 cents an hour. And Rudy Alexander approached me and asked me if I would be interested in a night managers job in the college union. I could work 20 hours and it paid $2 an hour so for me it was a no brainer. About three days after I had started he called me and offered me a position to join to staff but as Night Manager when I graduated, but as Night Manager, I was responsible for working evening - evening shifts, evening shift started at six o'clock, six o'clock to closing Then the night managers were responsible for the evening and weekend operation. So we opened up on Saturday mornings, Sunday afternoon. And we managed the facility during those hours, the night hours or on weekend hours. (18:16)

PC: Alright. And just a final question about your time as a student before we move into your time as a staff member, you talked about, you know, your social events and things you would partake in as a student. You talked about the concert, were there anything outside of like a social gathering, outside of a concert, or a party, that happened on campus or in Greenville during that time that really sticks out to your mind? I know that 1969 into the early 70s was a really - not only in Greenville, but a big time for the state and for the country. (18:52)

KH: So one of the things that happened, I also worked as a student Attorney General in the judicial system. I guess it was my junior year - although it may have been the senior year at homecoming, there was a fight that took place between the then Vice-President of Student Government Association, Phil Dixon, and a young man named Kenny Galloway. Kenny Galloway was a member of the SOULS, the Society of United Liberal Students. And the altercation took place as best as we can tell, regarding the SOULS float in the parade - you had to be in the parade, you had to be there by a given time. The SOULS float was there at the right time, it was just not in the right position. And so when they were going and checking the line-up, they subsequently found that it was out of position and so there was an attempt to get it in position. And Phil basically said that you were late so it's not gonna be in and that started the fight. So they press charges against each other for the fight and it subsequently came to the judicial system on campus. And I was tasked with defending Ken Galloway against Phil. And so it was a trial that got a lot of press, went on for about a week - most of the time you had judicial cases that were solved in one afternoon, 30 minutes, but this one drug out for a week. And so basically it ended up with the university saying we aren't going to do anything with it. And I would say that Phil Dixon and I became very good friends as a result of that experience. As a matter of fact, until I moved he was actually my attorney, he was a big support at ECU. The other thing - and related to the judicial system - is I ended up also defending Bob Thorn, who was editor of the Fountainhead newspaper about an editorial that he had - it was a cartoon really - that was published regarding the Dean of Students, Dr. James Tucker at the time, and he was disciplined for supposedly printing an obscenity. And this case ultimately went up to the Supreme Court and subsequently ruled in Thorn's favor so I was involved with that, and that was a pretty big issue on campus. (21:52)

PC: And know those two events from my own research are very big events during your time on campus, but what about in Greenville? Do you remember anything that happened in Greenville being a resident here?

KH: Yeah. I'm not a whole lot that I can recall going on. Not really. I know that - well, let me change that, modify that. A couple of individuals of significant note during that time, and the first one I would mention would be Dr. Andrew Best, because Dr. Best was an Alpha and was the impetus behind us getting the Alpha chapter. At the time the chapter was organized, it took 13 months by the way - the time the chapter was organized, the university - and this was when the school began desegregation - had a rule that if you received any kind of financial aid, scholarship loan for anything you could not pledge to a social organization. Well, that impacted white students also but the real intent was to make sure that there were not black students who were going to, you know, try to join the white group organizations. And so when we got ready to organize the alpha chapter that was something that Dr. Best and Dr. Jenkins had to negotiate how do we get rid of this so that you know, we can have that organization. And so, Dr. Best, his involvement, subsequent involvement as a member of the Board of Trustees of the University, and even before that, you know, quietly being there to help set in motion the process of integrating ECU and that's obviously been well documented, his role there. The other individual D. Garrett, Denison Garrett, who was a local businessman, but very actively involved, particularly in voter rights and civil rights. Although there's an interesting case, Dr. Tom Ayman, who was one of my professors as an undergrad in political science, taught a course in Southern politics and the textbook, we use the one that was a professor at Chapel Hill wrote and he targeted certain counties and gave them malicious names, but one of them was actually Pitt County. And it talked about - I just happen to know the dynamics of this when a black person decided to run for city council here in Greenville, and his brother was recruited to run against him to make sure that the vote was split, and it was D. D. Garrett and his brother, George Garrett and so it kept, you know, a black person from being elected to the city council at times. I remember that as being an issue that was called a budding-in, during the time I was a student at ECU. (25:05)

PC: Alright interesting, so you mentioned several times in the first several minutes of the interview that you, after graduation moved onto the staff, what exactly were your roles during your time in student affairs?

KH: Okay. So, as I mentioned, about three days after I started working as a Night Manager, I was summoned to Rudy's office and he said, I want to talk with you about a job. And my initial thought was: Well, I've only been working here three days and said if there's anything I've screwed up - to get a second chance. And they were actually building Mendenhall, and so he told me that they were building a new Student Center and the staff was going to be - he needed to put together a staff and there were two positions: that of a program director and that of Assistant Program Director, and he had asked another graduate - guy by the name of Jim Hicks, if he would come on his program director, and if I would come on as Assistant Program Director. So my first job was as Assistant Program Director. And Jim actually graduated and the plan was that we would start June the 1st together. We graduated and in '73 and Jim actually took another job so he never started, although we had gone through a series - from November, when I was offered the job, through May - we were going through training, but Jim never took the job and so I started as Assistant Program Director in June of '73. And another individual - guy named Divor Martin - was hired as the program director. Interestingly enough, Denver - Divor and I both got married on the same day, August 3rd of 1974. And so we were both gone, we came back from our honeymoon and Divor submitted his resignation. He married a young lady from Spartanburg and actually found a job at I think, Wofford college. And so I was then promoted from Assistant Program Director to program director. And I served in that position for probably six years, and then I was promoted to Assistant Director for programs and I'm not sure I think maybe another three, four years served in that. And then the final position I had was Associate Director of the Department of University Unions. (28:12)

PC: All right. Um, and you mentioned earlier that when you began your role as Assistant Program Director, that your first office was in Wright. Did you immediately relocate to Mendenhall when they opened in 74? Was there a delay or.?

KH: No, when they opened we occupied - we moved out of Wright into Mendenhall. So we were in Wright from June of '73 until we moved in '74 into Mendenhall, and that was just a sort of a humorous experience. Rudy Alexander, who was my boss, he was a meticulous person, for doing things right. And so we would do weekly inspections of Mendenhall in the final stages. And when I say weekly inspections I'm not talking about just walking through. I mean, we had a nightlight to test every receptacle in the building to make sure they worked. We had field glasses so that you went down cracks, crevices on the outside to make sure that the caulking was there so people used to see us and they'd be laughing, saying he didn't have the staff, we did it. You know, the punch list came through and you know, obviously construction if they were problems they were taking care of. (29:43)

PC: And what part of Mendenhall was your first or your office in? Do you remember where you moved in?

KH: Okay on the second floor, there was a lobby that had an art gallery and then there was a hallway and series of offices that went down the hallway. And that was my first hub - there were three offices: one office for the office secretary, and then the first office was my office, secretaries in the middle office, and the next office the program director was in. As our staff grew, we had a reading room and a music listening room, diagonally across from those offices. We subsequently added another secretary and a marketing director. And so we moved then into the reading room though that space was renovated and we moved offices into that area. (30:38)

PC: And what do you remember about your initial reactions? Mendenhall, I mean, is such a different building when you compare it to Wright. So what do you remember about your initial reactions, whether it's during those weekly walkthroughs or when you first move into your office or the first time you saw it complete?

KH: It was like wow, I mean to think about the amount of space, how cramped we were in Wright building. I just thought we had all of this space for utilization. It was a beautiful facility. You know, I soon became indoctrinated as most of us who work in student affairs particularly in or around student unions or college union buildings, and we just believe that the union was the living room for the campus and so, Mendenhall proved to be that it was a place that I think most of the students and faculty, staff, administration took great pride and it was kind of a showplace and so I just felt, you know, great to be a part of that. (31:47)

PC: And continuing on with reactions, you talked about your fellow colleagues in student affairs. But is there anything specific about the day that Mendenhall opened or that first semester, that first quarter or academic year that you remember about the campus community were the students excited, were the faculty and staff excited, was it another oh here's another building that we have to now remember what's in here or what was the general campus feel? (32:14)

KH: There was quite a buzz around. I mean, to show to put it in perspective. In the old Wright building, we had two pool tables now we had twelve pool tables; You had a bowling alley; You know, we had a whole pinball room; You had all of that coalescing craft center. And so it was like, wow. And we would have I guess probably for the first six to eight months we were in the building, there probably wasn't a week that went by that we didn't have somebody from the campus or - coming in to take a tour of the building just going to see it up close and personal. And you know, it was a source of pride. We did a lot of things to try to keep it in tip top shape. Some of the things now that we look back on as staff and we think we're kind of crazy, but we did for example, there was a formal lounge we called it the Cynthia lounge, but the there was a portrait that hung of Cynthia Mendenhall that the building was named after her and we didn't let people put their feet on furniture and we go in said would you please not do this or eat in there and, you know, just stuff that you wouldn't even think about it. Man, it's just a part of it so I think that you know about the I left the notion of Student Union being the living room, it kind of changed to the den, then the family room, and that's kind of what - you know, over time how it had evolved. (34:01)

PC: Alright, um, you mentioned pool tables, you mentioned the bowling alley, pinball, what do you think in your memories was perhaps the most popular activity for students once Mendenhall did open? Was there that one thing that it seems students were always drawn to or like kind of spread out because there were so many things for students to do?

KH: I think, undoubtedly, the thing that captivated most of the students was the movies. And ironically, I won't say I hate this probably a strong word. I very rarely go to the movies now. And it started my first year on staff, I was the advisor to the film's committee. As advisor of the films committee. I had to be at all of the movies and all the screenings, and so we would show international classic movies on Wednesday night, one showing on Friday night, we would have two showings Saturday nights. We'd have two showings and then as the student body grew, it went from one showing on Wednesday night to two showings on Thursday, three showings on Friday, three on Saturday and two on Sunday. And so it got to a point where I said if I ever get out from having to advise, I will never go into a theater again. So it took a long time for me to start going back to movies, but that was you know, we got films kids could go see, didn't cost anything. So it was kind of a built-in date situation. (35:42)

PC: Um, do you remember any specific films that you were there at that time, it kind of. You didn't, not like being there? I don't want to use the hate word as well.

KH: About three times a quarter or semester, we would have what we called late night, they would start at around midnight. And probably the crowd favorite was Rocky Horror Picture Show. I mean, and you just knew that you were going to have folks that knew all the lines and they were going to dress up and so you just, you know, got ready for an eventful evening.

PC: Yeah. Okay. Um, now in preparation for this, I, you know, did a lot of researching about Mendenhall, the events that went on there, and there were several students who talked about different speakers that were brought in by, either Student Affairs or by student organizations. Do you. One, did you ever attend these speakers as a part of your role?

KH: Yup.

PC: And two, were there any that really stood out to you either again, for a good reason or bad reason that really stuck with you? (36:54)

KH: Interestingly some that I really remember as creating a lot of discussion around campus, good or bad - Christine Jorgensen, who was the person who I guess had gone - undergoing the first sex change, she spoke on campus. Ralph Nader was another person that generated quite a bit of interest. Julian Bond is another one that - a lot of interest that comes to mind.

PC: Now when you say interest is it more just attendance by students, were there campus discussions, were there any, you know, demonstrations against these individuals on campus? (37:49)

KH: There were not demonstrations, but it generated a lot of discussion regarding. And you would see that often when we would have speakers to come in, what we would try to do with in terms of putting into contracts is that not only would they make their speech, which you know most instances, were can move from one place to the other but we would try to also have a time for questions from the audience and so that's where we could - we we saw the the amount of dialogue both pro and cons around certain issues that these the speakers were presenting. And there were times when in a few instances we would have receptions after the speech, but that was one way we can - ways we kind of gauge what was happening.

PC: Right. Um, another thing that I saw in my preparation for this is that there have been some great work done by University historians talking about the - I guess student unrest will be the best term for this, regarding proposed renovations to Mendenhall in the early 1980s. And the question about who should have the autonomy of running the center? Should it be administration? Should it be student organizations? Do you remember anything about that, that time in the early 1980s, or there was some unrest on campus centered around Mendenhall? (39:24)

PC: Yeah, a part of what I remember related there too, is at that time, part of the responsibilities that we had was for the old Y-hut, which had become the party center for most of the minority students on campus. And there was some dialogue discussion about building a Black Student Union and so that was kind of a piece. We as a staff, and I personally kind of felt that I had a problem with that approach and the problem that I had is I knew that, number one: it was going to be a long shot if we got one. And secondly: the prospects of having funding in a viable program would probably not exist. And so my position was let's try to figure out a way that we can enhance what we do and respond to some of the needs and concerns. And so when the plans were being developed, regarding renovating, expanding the initial Mendenhall building, one of the issues that came up was the issue of the need for a place that the black students could use for social events and what really sort of encapsulated a lot of discussion around that - [unclear] around the issue of when is it going to be available? Mendenhall closed at 11 o'clock on weekends on Friday, maybe 12 o'clock on Friday and Saturday. And most of the parties that minority students were having started at 10am ended at two. And so there was a whole series of meetings and dialogue around that particular issue. As we looked at what would be in the renovation, the idea of putting in a faculty/staff dining room was part of the equation and that engendered some significant dialogue about, you know, who are you concerned about? Is it the faculty? Is it the students? This is a student center and yet it appears that you're going to allot a significant amount of space for that, which it initially it turned out that the the space that ultimately was used for quote faculty dining ultimately was opened up to anybody but it kind of had that label and the facility for weekend parties turned out to be one in the same. But there was, you know, some some significant conversation that took place on campus around that issue of the management and responsibility along with why should we invest more money here when we should be building or enhancing, you know, this area of [unclear] (42:41)

PC: And kind of that same topic with the Student Union kind of being the centers for life on campus, outside of the dorms and the academic buildings. Do you recall any political activism or student activism that was centered around or based in Mendenhall, whether it be related to campus issues that you were just talking about, local issues, regional issues, state issues, even national issues as you get into the 70s and 80s there on ECU's campus.

KH: I think, probably what I remember most in terms of things that were happening within the center - the Student Union, Student Activities Board now, the various student committees - they were vitally concerned about, at that time the whole issue of alcohol. I remember, we had a coffeehouse in the Student Center. Student Union - Student Center really, and the committee started serving the I guess would be like wine spritzers, they weren't wine or alcohol, but they had a percentage of something. And there was a whole series of conversations. And part of the conversations were by some of the religious groups who kind of felt that we were promoting alcoholism by allowing it to be served, so that was an issue. I don't remember a whole lot of issues there was some dialogue and and remember protests but not so much that stemmed from Mendenhall. But some of the things that were going on regarding unrest on other campuses was something that triggered some activity on ECU's campus, but I don't really remember a whole lot beyond some of those kinds of things. (44:58)

PC: All right. In your role with the programming for the student center, how did the social life in downtown Greenville and other surrounding areas affect participation in those events like the films and the speakers and the parties, as Greenville grew, as campus grew, as more things became available for students?

KH: So one of the things that I would often advocate with the committee's who plan activities and with staff in student affairs, particularly as it related to the minority students on campus is that they did not have access to other activities as the majority of students, I mean, if you went downtown - the bars, the clubs downtown, we're not really conducive to their programming, was really not conducive to what the minority students were interested in. And so from that standpoint, you know, we felt obligated to try to address that need. There were some clubs in Greenville that did, but we didn't feel that the environment was the safest to have our students. And so, again, that was a sort of an impetus that - and I think that argument was heard and it allowed us to be able to do some things, particularly with the - what became known as the party room we we didn't want that just to be the image but in the renovation that took place the commitment that we made there; the commitment that we made in terms of when Wright auditorium was subsequently renovated and some of the program activities that we brought on there was an attempt to address what we kind of saw as a void for some of out students. And I felt really good in a sense that while my role was that as a student activities person and programmer, I was the first - if not one of the first - professional blacks hired on the campus. And so while I have job description to detailed my role in some ways, I kind of felt like I was an ombudsman, because if there were minority issues, oftentimes they found their way to my office, which I didn't mind because I think subsequently, they did prepare me for what I have spent most of my life doing now, which is ministry. But that was, you know, that was good. And those were some things that I can kind of reflect on. (47:54)

PC: The same question is before during your time as a student, do you remember any of them on campus or again in Greenville that felt specifically significant to you during your time as a staff member at East Carolina? Again, either for good or negative reasons.

KH: Yeah. Something that I think made a positive influence on me as a student and then subsequently, in my early years on staff was seeing students becoming empowered because they saw - I remember for example, a march one night that took place down to the Chancellor's house - residence - and it was kind of interesting, my daughter taught in the History Department until last year at ECU and during Black History couple years ago, she did an interview with the local TV station did an interview with the two of us and you know, going back down remembering how students stood steadfast in that. I think the whole piece with the Bob Thornin situation was a sort of a seminal piece that took place. And then I reflect upon, you know, that happened. I think there were some times when things could have become very volatile, I think. In a lot of ways, not only was Leo Jenkins a dynamic president - Chancellor - but he was a consummate politician and he knew what strings to pull and, and I think as a result of the relationship that he had with people like Andrew Best, a lot of things got done. Quelch potential situations that could have become explosive and his willingness to engage students - I remember, and this was before I became the senior class president, but I think maybe in my sophomore year meeting Dr. Jenkins on campus one day and he said my office is always open to you. And I took him up on that and there were times when he would call me and just say you know, what was happening? How are you feeling? What do we need to do on this? And I thought that was significant. (50:30)

PC: And just wrapping up the final couple questions here. Do you have any memories of your time at East Carolina either as a student or a staff member, your times in Mendenhall, your times in Wright, any stories that we haven't touched on or that we haven't brought up that you would just like to share or add to the interview and to your history from your time at ECU?

KH: I am obviously. Being chosen as a distinguished alum a few years back was an honor that I never dreamed about. But I do look back over the totality of my experiences as a student, as a staffer, and as an alum and I'm able, as I look in the rearview mirror of - to see just how much the university and experiences that it afforded me, was able to impact and shape my life. And I cannot emphasize enough the impact that Albert Connelly had on my life. I just, sometimes I just get teary when I think about you know, you would not think and Dr. Connelly was probably in his 50s, late 50s, maybe early 60s at this time, that white, relatively conservative from Oklahoma would just take the kind of care and concern that he had for me, and not only for me, but he took the time to get to know my family. You know, so that was significant. And I think it really spoke to the kind of environment that East Carolina afforded its students, if students were willing to engage the environment. (52:28)

PC: And just to wrap up, when did you leave your position at East Carolina? And how long have you. Well were you there total student and as a staff member?

KH: So, my first involvement was, obviously in 1969. And then I joined the staff in '73. And I left in December of 91. So about 17 and a half years of actual work on the campus.

PC: All right. (53:00)

Kenneth Hammond Oral History, September 11, 2009.
In this oral history interview Kenneth Hammond speaks about his time at East Carolina University as a student and an employee from 1969 to 1991. He discusses his motivations for attending ECU, the founding of and his participation in the school's first African American Greek organization, Alpha Phi Alpha, and his role as a student Attorney General in the campus judicial system. He identifies Dr. Albert Connelly of the ECU School of Business as a mentor, describes the support he received from Dr. Connelly, and speaks about his participation in the North Carolina Fellows Program and Student Government. Beginning as a student and continuing after graduation, Hammond was employed at increasing levels of responsibility for managing student programs, first in Wright Building and then Mendenhall Student Center upon its opening. He describes his reactions to the opening of Mendenhall Student Center, the facilities and activities in Mendenhall, and makes comparisons to the old Wright Student Center. Hammond also describes debate over renovations to Mendenhall in the early 1980's, various campus entertainments and events, the involvement of Dr. Andrew Best and others in ongoing civil rights efforts in Greenville and ECU, and how he used his position to advocate for minority student organizations. Interviewer: Patrick Cash.
September 11, 2019
Original Format
oral histories
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Location of Original
University Archives
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