Mike Bunting and Mollie Davenport Oral History Interview


Michael Bunting and Mollie Davenport
Interviewees

Donald Leggett
Interviewer

Recording technology run by Alston Cobourn

East Carolina University
June 26, 2020
Greenville, North Carolina

Interview Start: (04:27)

Donald Leggett:
All right, this is Friday, June 26 2020, oh at approximately 10:10 in the morning. My name is Donald Y Leggett and I'm a 50 year employee of East Carolina University and currently working out of the Chancellor's Division on a part time basis, doing special assignments. I retired in 1997 from full time service as Associate Vice Chancellor for Alumni Relations. Today, I'm here in my home in Greenville, North Carolina conducting an oral history interview with Michael L. Bunting of Julian, North Carolina. Mike is a graduate of East Carolina University and is having a distinguished career as a business owner in the Greenville, Greensboro area. (05:18)

Mike Bunting:
Hey, will you do me a favor?

Donald Leggett:
All right.

Mike Bunting:
Take Greensboro out of it and put in Liberty.

Donald Leggett:
All right. I'll go right back to that right now. correction. Mike is a graduate of East Carolina University and having a distinguished career as a business owner in the Liberty, North Carolina area. Okay. (05:40)

Mike Bunting:
Yeah.

Donald Leggett:
And I might add that he's one of the most loyal Pirates that I've ever known. And I've known a lot of them. We're doing this interview by way of Webex system as a part of a project and title, The Rise of Alpha Dog. Michael, so as to put this all in perspective, why don't we begin this session by asking you just to give us a brief biographical outline of such as where you born and where you've lived and jobs you've held and actually what you're doing now in your retirement and semi-retirement, I suppose. So go ahead and take it away. (06:25)

Mike Bunting:
I guess semi-retired. No, I'm fully retired. I don't get a check anymore. So I'm retired, whether I know it or not. Heidi has retired me. But I was born in [unclear] community, which is right outside the Greensboro city limits in Guilford County.I went to Bessemer High School through fourth grade, then I went to Aycock Junior High School [unclear] sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth and then transferred to Greensboro Senior High School. I graduated in 1950, I think 55 or 56. You know I don't remember. Don I can look it up. (08:00)

Mollie Davenport:
It was 56

Mike Bunting:
Yeah, I graduated 56 that's right. Then I went to Wilmington Junior College. You there Don?

Donald Leggett:
I can hear you fine. Yeah. I hear you, Mike. I don't hear Mollie.

Mollie Davenport:
Well, he was saying that he went to Wilmington college.

Donald Leggett:
Yeah, I heard that.

Mollie Davenport:
Yeah, when it was the one, the one building college in downtown Wilmington. And that's where he actually met Robert Dawson. Do you remember Robert Dawson?

Donald Leggett:
I do, I do, and I remember his passing away back, what was been a number of years ago now?

Mollie Davenport:
Yeah, yeah.

Mike Bunting:
Robert and I are friends going back and he's one of the first people I met at Wilmington College. And the reason I got to be friends with Robert, at the time he was dating his to be wife, Dee. And that was let's see. They got married. Shoot can't remember anything. I got to meet Robert was Dee was going to UNCG or at the time, Woman's College and he'd come. Robert was a veteran and he would come to Greensboro. Every time he could he wasn't working. And I would ride with him up here from Wilmington to Greensboro on a weekend, so we got to be friends over the years. Later on we were roommates at Wilming-, I mean in Greenville. We had on apartment but his he had his sister and she did the cooking. And we did the paying. And that's how it worked out. (10:38)

Donald Leggett:
Michael, I have a feeling that it was through Robert where you first became aware of East Carolina University was he the one who introduced you to East Carolina. Is that how you first heard about it? (10:54)

Mike Bunting:
Yep. In fact, I was going to Appalachian, 'cause uh, and Robert says, "why you going up there for?" I said well cause its a little bit cheaper and it was. And he said, "Well, why don't you come with Greenville? Will get an apartment and Mary Louise can cook for us. And we, if we, we, we pay she cooks. I said that's fine with me. So that's how that worked out for a couple of years. So, unbeknownst to me, I didn't know Robert and Mary Louise was her name. Mary Louise is a couple years older than Robert and I didn't know they didn't like each other. They were always fussing and fighting.I don't think this will make it a whole year and it didn't (12:08)

Donald Leggett:
Well Mike, other then the fussing and fighting you were contending with, what was what was your first impression of East Carolina once you got to see it? What did you think about? (12:22)

Mike Bunting:
You know, well, I was impressed as compared to Wilmington College because Wilmington College at the time.

Mollie Davenport:
Your hand in front of your mouth, Don won't be able to hear you.

Mike Bunting:
Can hear me Don.

Donald Leggett:
Yes, sir.

Mike Bunting:
Anyway, I was, what the heck happened, something happened. But anyway, so we went and got a, we moved in the dorm and Mary Louise kept the apartment and Mary Louise, I think she has passed away. I don't know, I don't have any contacts with her anymore and I know that Mary Louise has to be close to 90. [unclear] My impression of East Carolina, Don to tell you the truth I didn't have one if that makes any sense. I didn't, I really didn't have anything that impressed me like Wilmington College. When I went to Wilmington College it was one building, the Bear Building and right across the street from the Bear Building, a really nice building, well I thought that was Junior College. That was New Hanover High School and of course East Carolina is a lot bigger then all of them. But you know I can't say it really had that much of an impression. (14:31)

Donald Leggett:
Well let me ask you this Mike, what was the thing that you feel like ultimately caused you to choose East Carolina say over of course Wilmington.

Mike Bunting:
Cost, cost!

Donald Leggett:
That's it.

Mike Bunting:
That's because we were staying in the apartment, and the reason I was going to Appalachian was just, you know, just pure cost but it is actually about the same distance to Boone as it was is to Greenville so it wasn't any closer but a lot more people at that time, and I think even more day go to the Appalachian than to East Carolina. (15:19)

Mollie Davenport:
From this area from. Yeah. From this area.

Donald Leggett:
Yeah.

Mollie Davenport:
'Cause that's where I actually started out Don was at Appalachian. And as we found out many years later, John Welburn and I were there at the same time. He was a graduate student and I was a freshman(15:40)

Donald Leggett:
Isn't that amazing that you didn't meet until later after that.

Mollie Davenport:
Yep, and all through East Carolina is how we met.

Donald Leggett:
Well Michael, really the important thing here is that both of you ended up down here at East Carolina, and I think I can answer this for you but I'm allow you to do it. Are you glad you did? Are you glad you chose East Carolina as your institution? (16:08)

Mike Bunting:
Lord no, I wish I had gone to Carolina.

Donald Leggett:
[laughing]. Cut him off Alston.

Mollie Davenport:
Do you all want me to pull the plug, I can plug on the end, literally pull the plug.

Donald Leggett:
Mollie, this is one time we have control over him, we can pull the plug on him can't we.

Mollie Davenport:
Yeah, I can literally pull the plug.

Donald Leggett:
Michael, I'm going to kind of divide this interview into into three parts in that the first part we're sort of bring to a close down the part of about your personal background and how you choose to come here and all of that. And then I'm going to move into some of your thoughts about East Carolina after you got here and move into more the theme of what we are doing, which is the underdog alpha dog aspect of, of what we're doing here. So let me ask you this question, which kinda leads into some of the most of the risks, I suppose. When you were enrolled here at ECU, did you sort of feel like that ECU was looked down upon or that we have a little bit of an inferiority complex or that we were sort of perceived to be an underdog institution, anything of that sort? You get a sense of [unclear] (17:47)

Mike Bunting:
Yes, absolutely. If it was from the schools up there in the triangle area, dastardly and say before this if you had asked me about my jobs, or what I did working, I didn't, I didn't work during school. I came, came to came back home. I was married at the time. And you remember Vicki? (18:32)

Donald Leggett:
Yeah, sure.

Mike Bunting:
When we gave our big our biggest contribution, and it went to modern sports. We, you were alumni director then. Weren't you?

Donald Leggett:
Yeah, I came here in 70 as the alumni director So I was in that office from 70 until 97, 27 years.

Mike Bunting:
We need you back.

Donald Leggett:
Well, it's been a long, long lovely trip and everything has to come to an end at some point but anyway it's been an enjoyable ride. But let me ask you this, where did you feel like that the underdog impression was most obvious? Where did it kind of manifest itself as to how was it recognizable? Where did you see it the most? (19:53)

Mollie Davenport:
The news coverage for one.

Mike Bunting:
Oh, well, it's just like the News & Observer now, they don't give us any coverage anymore. Bill keeps me up to date with that. In fact, he quit taking the News and Observer, but they used to cover pretty well. But we got to be, when you start beating them more then they beat you, that's when you get a little of your ego back. (20:39)

Donald Leggett:
I think you just answered one of my questions because and that's good because I was going to ask you a little later on where you felt the tipping point was between being underdog and alpha dog. So you just answered that for me. When you beat them more than they beat you. That's when it happens right? (21:00)

Mike Bunting:
Yeah, we had a rough couple of years and then I remember. What was it God says I will remember it well. We beat State, it was a Saturday night game. Oh, it wasn't either, it got dark at the end of the game in Raleigh and I never will, I had my purple coat on. By the way you can put that as a footnote. I was the one that started the purple coat tradition, did you know that? (21:45)

Donald Leggett:
Well you just mentioned [unclear], we've got that note recorded right now. It's in the books.

Mike Bunting:
I found the material in Kansas University of, I mean Kansas State is the color the purple that we used to make, I made two sport coats one for me and one for Jim Jackson. And I gave my coat, the original purple coat to go into the glass trophy case. (22:38)

Donald Leggett:
Uh huh.

Mike Bunting:
And damn if they didn't lose it.

Donald Leggett:
They did what to it?

Mike Bunting:
They lost my coat

Donald Leggett:
They lost your coat?

Mike Bunting:
Yeah

Donald Leggett:
Okay

Mike Bunting:
Jim still has his, so I got his back.

Donald Leggett:
Is that right?

Mike Bunting:
Cause they were twins.

Donald Leggett:
You know who has one, almost a brand new one is a J.C Thomas up in over Burlington, you know J.C don't ya? He was here in the oh, let's see 50s and 60s, played basketball was an awfully good basketball player here. But he had Conference Men's Wear here in town to custom make him a purple coat. Hadn't been many months ago, was a beautiful coat. There's one more floating around. I can I can ensure you. (23:34)

Mike Bunting:
Well, you know.

Donald Leggett:
Let me ask you Mike.

Mike Bunting:
Excuse me. You remember Scrappy Proctor don't ya?

Donald Leggett:
I do right there on Fifth Street.

Mike Bunting:
Yeah, well. Scrappy's had some medical problems and Scrappy had purple coats made different sizes and had them on the rack there for a while [unclear], but anyway. (24:13)

Donald Leggett:
We'll [unclear] brought the color purple and made it popular in this part of the world because there was a kind of I never saw much, much purple around and then as we got better and bigger seemed like purple got more popular. So maybe, maybe before I did, but I'm glad what whatever caused it to. (24:37)

Mike Bunting:
Well this is what I tell our Athletic Director. No, not athletic director, damn, excuse me, I swear i got to where i can't remember squat. Anyway, we somebody, I am trying to think Don and I'm having a hard time. I used to have a good memory up until about a year ago, now I can't even remember my name. (25:32)

Donald Leggett:
But you take all the time you were not in any hurry to move along. Let me ask you this, while you're mulling that one over. The underdog role that we're talking about or the chip on your shoulder, I attitude or they'll show them kind of approach to things, of course, I think probably is more apparent. Well, I'll ask you this, where do you think is most apparent? But my guess is, you see it more in athletic events and that type thing because it does have more exposure and go we're seeing that more people sitting there watching what's going on. So then let me ask, do you think that's sort of been a positive for the, the athletic teams to, to approach their events with that type of attitude that we are underdogs and we're going to upset them and we're going to show them we're good as they are. That type thing is that a positive do you think? (26:49)

Mike Bunting:
Well, let's say I am on the other team. I think it wouldn't do us any good to broadcast that to our opponents, anything to give them at least one ounce of more energy and I'm against it. As far as the opposition, I think less said better. (27:24)

Donald Leggett:
Do you remember Michael they all the conversation back well, when you were involved in the early years when back in the 70s and 80s back in their now if you are like I am, I can remember back that far, but I can't remember what happened this morning but anyway can remember a lot of conversation back in those days about us being a party school. (28:01)

Mike Bunting:
That's all I heard

Donald Leggett:
All you heard was party school, party school, party school. And just as you say it, I'm glad you made that point because we heard it probably more around here in Greenville than we did anywhere else. And I heard it in my office a whole lot. So I called some of my people in one day and I said, look, with one thing that wanted to know, what can we do about this party school thing? I said, Well, I'll tell you what we can do about it. You can never mention the word again. Don't ever say the word again and eventually it'll go away. Now I don't know that had anything to do with it going away, but it did. And I think just as you said, Do you think it ever wear itself out? Or do we have to do something consciously that kind of promote the and then and which brings me to the next part of my interview is talking about the Alpha Dog image. So do you think that we that we will eventually just accept the Alpha Dog attitude and we'll lose the underdog approach to things just sort of naturally wear itself out? (29:22)

Mike Bunting:
Well, I'll tell you what I believe, the football is where we've bought into capture from the state and we thought we could do it and we can, but I don't think it'll do us any good to say we're there. I look at it this way. Anything to fire up the opposition left to make one more attack or one more run, I'm against doing that. You know, like our, our tackle said he can beat your tackle watching. I feel like stuff like that can do more harm than good. (30:22)

Donald Leggett:
You know, I think there seems to be some reluctance maybe to, to abandon that underdog image. And I liken it to having an old pair of shoes that you know, are worn out, you need to get a new pair, but it's a comfortable you don't to do away with them. I think that's one way we view the underdog thing. It's a it's a comfort zone thing in and it's a good way to motivate and something to get excited about and so I think, and I'll ask you, do you think there's a reluctance to give it up? (31:05)

Mike Bunting:
Um, I'm trying to treat it generally causes a strange place.Honestly, I don't Don. It all depends on the day before the when you enter a locker room, before you go on the field, [unclear], our tackle can beat your tackle. The best picture if you ever want to publish something, publish the picture with our end scored the winning touchdown in the Peach Bowl (32:06)

Mollie Davenport:
Luke Fisher, dragging Sebastian Savage across the goal line in Atlanta.

Donald Leggett:
I said I was freezing to death about the time that that happened.

Mollie Davenport:
I can guarantee two guys that weren't freezing were Michael Bunting and Bill Cane because they had abandoned the seats. They were pacing up and down underneath the stadium and I had to keep running up and down the ramp to tell him what was going on because neither one of them had enough courage to go back sit down in their seats. (32:48)

Donald Leggett:
That's the true power of spirit.

Mollie Davenport:
Isn't that though?

Donald Leggett:
That's the power of pride and the power of spirit in the utmost. Well you know, if I had had a way to get back to the hotel at halftime. I'd never seen that victory [uncear]

Mike Bunting:
Hey, I'll tell you. That was some game. But what one thing about that game was Don, we were on our way back home after the game and you remember how we came back and won and was on the way back home. We stopped at a rest stop. And there was a group of State people there, two carloads full of State fans. They were hooting and hollering, I said what in the world they holler about. So i went over to talk to them. How y'all doing yak yak. They didn't know they had loss. [Unclear] (33:55)

Donald Leggett:
They probably didn't think there was a possibility anywhere along the way.

Mike Bunting:
And our [unclear] who had passed away now, Mr. Coble

Mollie Davenport:
Our Congressman. Who was a State graduate by the way.

Mike Bunting:
Howard Howard was had just gotten in to his room in Washington when he turned on the TV, and we were down a couple a touchdowns and he said, by the time he sat down, we scored and he said well its gonna be pretty good one now and he is best ball game he saw all year. (34:48)

Donald Leggett:
It was about that time that everyone started saying we believe, we believe, we believe, and then it happen.

Mike Bunting:
Yeah that's what we, what a great picture to really kick State off. Yeah, show that picture of Luke dragging that guy across the goal line.

Donald Leggett:
Michael, we've uh--

Mollie Davenport:
Sebastian Savage

Mike Bunting:
Sebastian Savage, Mollie said was the guy's name that he drug across the goal line. He's the one. They said they just beat the heck out of them and that we would be no contest once a they played.

Donald Leggett:
It was a great football game and it was surely a milestone in our program and that is something that will go down in infamy. Michael, let's talk now a little about after we've, of course, that we've gone through the the basic part and we've talked about the the underdog perception. And now let's move into the third part as I'm sort of divided my notes here, which is the alpha dog part, the, the being a dominant institution and this type thing rather than an underdog. So let's let's focus on that for a little bit. And, Mike, leading into that, I think that as we go through all of this, and go back to Dr. Wright 1907 when the university was founded, and from that day until today, the three that i see that runs through all of it, that's sort of the glue that brings us all together and keeps us together is the idea of service. The motto of course, which is to serve. And so every where I turn and anybody I talked to ultimately we come back to service. And so as a alpha dog university, I think that service begins to come out more and more as as we get into it. But then the question becomes, can we serve our region as most people I think expect us to, and and is there a conflict between ECU's role in terms of its economic development of the region, and then striving for the highest academic tier, in in the country. Can we do both and do them equally as well to serve our region at the same time rise to the top tier academically? (38:02)

Mike Bunting:
Well, that's gonna be tough but I'll tell you why. It's not because it's that much difference in my opinion its like our doctors are good as anything Duke's got this could be hard to convince people of because they got a damn near 100 year head start. It's just like the rest of our our school, by the way, I read something that you wrote about, whats that jackasses professor's name that went to Duke? (38:56)

Donald Leggett:
I think that's a loaded question. I'm not going to touch that one Michael. No way I can win by answering that question that's for sure. The jackass that did what?

Mike Bunting:
It's the one that, Oh, he says, reason. I was on a, we were on a search committee or God knows what I was doing. But he was he's in he went to Duke and he ticked me off so bad. He looked down, he looked down his nose at going to our football game that he wanted me to know that he went tried to go to every home game at Duke, no what he said, "I buy season tickets," and I'm thinking "well good for you." You know, it just, I said "do you ever go to East Carolina games"? Oh, no, I go to Duke. [unclear] damn did they pay you? (40:24)

Mollie Davenport:
His salary was coming from East Carolina.

Mike Bunting:
Yeah, Yeah. I'll tell you something about him. Oh hell what's his name. His names on one of those things that Don sent.

Mollie Davenport:
Are you talking about [name redacted]?

Mike Bunting:
Oh what a jackass. You can put that in that quote from me, not you Don.

Mollie Davenport
He don't care, do you dear?

Mike Bunting:
No, I'm about dead anyway.

Donald Leggett:
Well, Alston puts all this together so I'll let her decide where that lands. But anyway it's good to hear you.

Mike Bunting:
He's not a jackass, he's a horse's ass, see horses are bigger

Donald Leggett:
Do you want me to go back make that correction in the notes?

Mike Bunting:
Yeah, I've got a set up here yesterday afternoon thinking all the comments, all the comments. You wanted to hear some good stories. A favorite story all of all my football days. You remember Dr. [unclear] (41:54)

Donald Leggett:
Yes. And I know

Mike Bunting:
[unclear] brother.

Donald Leggett:
I know both of them well.

Mike Bunting:
Yeah. Well, I know both of them. And let me tell you, the Dr. [unclear], this is a classic. It was our first day. I forgot what year it was. But we were playing Toledo and we played Toledo three times, East Carolina always had a knack for picking the wrong team at the wrong time, the place to play at the wrong place. And we schedule Toledo three games in a row, I think one at home and two up at their place. and they had a quarterback, I remember had never lost a football game in junior high, high school, or college. And he had the longest winning streak in college, junior college, whatever. And he was good if he had been a bigger school, not bigger, better, no more propaganda. He should have been an All American first team, he is the best or the best I ever saw so naturally he's not gonna get it if he's from one of the lesser known schools, but Toledo and we always had a knack of hitting them at the peak of course I guess that they wanted to schedule us and it's something else what we had to go through, we have to play everybody at their place. And that's it made you you know, you knew you were an underdog and that's why they were playing you I remember Don one time. What was the the military team that used to play some of the colleges in North Carolina? Do you remember? (44:36)

Donald Leggett:
I remember the [unclear] shortly after World War 2 that they all had teams and the colleges played a lot of those teams like Camp Lejeune and some of those.

Mike Bunting:
Well, Mollie just hollered at me.

Mollie Davenport:
I don't holler at you, I just remind you that you've wandered off track.

Mike Bunting:
Oh, sorry.

Donald Leggett:
Well, maybe not so far of track Mollie because I am going to ask him pertinent question near to all of that. What role, knowing Mike I think I can answer this for him, but I want to throw it out to him anyway that what role does athletics play in determining how we are perceived as a as a university and really how we perceive ourselves? (45:33)

Mike Bunting:
We are perceived as good baseball team and at one time football. Football's probably at its lowest level right now. It started going down hill. We cannot learn from our mistakes. Don't ever hire a damn Duke graduate as a football coach. We've had two and I think they've won two games. (46:09)

Mollie Davenport:
Between the two of them they have won about six games, right? Something like that?

Mike Bunting:
I don't know but that's terrible, that's absolutely terrible. Well, our perception now is probably as its lowest level. Interest and when you put two losers together, big time losers that's what's going to happen, three losing seasons in a row. (46:49)

Donald Leggett:
Well Mike you have been one of the most loyal athletic supporters through the years but on the other hand too you've also been a an avid supporter of academics through all this time and-

Mike Bunting:
More so academics than football.

Donald Leggett:
-and you hear people say of course that athletics is the front porch of your university and this type thing and I recommend something to that but it paves the way then to get inside and see what's going on and let me catch this phone that started off. Okay, I got it. But I guess it paved the way to get inside the university and see all the good things going on other than athletics, so both of them have an important role to play. (48:00)

Mike Bunting:
My dad had a high opinion of East Carolina because of the music and the music department and concerts and so forth. That's where his real interests were. And my mother's interest was in the nursing and she was going to be a nurse till they had her do her first cadaver that what's it called?(48:33)

Mollie Davenport:
No its a cadaver

Mike Bunting:
Cadaver Cadaver

Mollie Davenport:
And then she didn't like it, she didn't want to do it anymore after that

Mike Bunting:
Right, so she retired from nursing.

Donald Leggett:
Yeah, I can understand that.

Mollie Davenport:
But yeah, Don over the years, Michael has given more in of course, as you know, in academic scholarships than athletics. Athletics part of it is how he suckered me in. When we first started dating, one of the first things he invited me to was he asked me if I'm wanting to go to East Carolina for a football game. He told somebody he was he was trying me out to see if I could make the traveling team. He still hasn't told me If i made the traveling team or not. (49:26)

Donald Leggett:
Yeah, what what's the other team stays at home, the scout team as opposed to the traveling team. Well, you made it looks like looks like you made the traveling team.

Mike Bunting:
Don

Donald Leggett:
Sir

Mike Bunting:
Mollie, tell him about our trip to the beach. I said is it time to go home.

Mollie Davenport:
It is a miracle that he and I have lasted for 30 years. For more reasons than one, but when Hurricane Hugo came through this one got a bright idea he wanted to go to Myrtle Beach to see the damage? So we did and we've been down there for a couple of days found a place to stay and, and we were getting ready to leave to go home and walked out on the parking deck and being the suave and sophisticated human being that you know him to be. (50:27)

Donald Leggett:
Oh, sure, absolutely.

Mollie Davenport:
He looked at me and he said, sing something for me. And I said, Michael, I don't sing we all know that. I mean, you know, I can barely tune a radio. And he said no, sing something for me. And I said, Oh, say can you see He said, well we can go home now, the fat lady sang. (50:51)

Donald Leggett:
Oh, yeah, it's a miracle that you have lasted this long

Mollie Davenport:
It's okay, I have him in a position of vulnerability now.

Don Leggett:
I think you're, I think you're awfully good for each other. And I'm just glad it's that way.

Mollie Davenport:
I will tell you just this from my personal experience, I have attended multiple state supported universities in my better than 25 year college career. Between all of them between Appalachian UNC Charlotte UNCG and East Carolina, I can honestly say that my experience as a graduate student at East Carolina with both the academics and the athletics probably did more to form my opinion of what can be done and of service than anything else and I have gotten to work with a lot of physicians over the years who attended East Carolina and they are some of the most caring and qualified family physicians, internists, surgeons, cardiologists that I came in that I came in contact with, through the medical society, we they are, they are some of the best that that you will find. And I think that that is something the institution can be the Alpha Dog of because of the kind of training that they get. (52:43)

Donald Leggett:
Yeah I was going to say Mollie i think that's all part of the Alpha Dog image that we're talking about, and I know a lot of those same physicians that that you're alluding to.

Mollie Davenport:
Right they they really They really are. But on the other hand, we also have a very personal athletic connection through Aaron, and through your career at East Carolina. Michael truly I think for these 57 years 50 some years has had a foot in both camps. And he's recognized that there is that the university gains from all of it from and, and from the athletic part of it, but also from the academic and the service part. And that's always been, I think, what he's tried to pass along to other people, people like me, who, you know, it wasn't my first institution, but ended up being our family institution and that we have are third generation graduating from there. And that includes my son and daughter-in-law. So he's done. People like him I think did a lot to spread not only the athletic part of the university, but also what you could achieve in your own personal life by giving back to the university and through his through what he gave to help other people like the Henley boy when he needed clothes to go to a an interview for Mike Henley [unclear]. So that's the part of the university the service part is that I see him people like Walter Williams and other people like that, who over the years gave, that maybe did things that a lot of people didn't know about. (54:58)

Donald Leggett:
Very well said Mollie and I surely have observed much of what you were saying. And, and I certainly would have to agree with all that that, you know, my personal experience with Mike is that he supports any part of the University where he feels like there's a need for it. And I have surely appreciated that and enjoyed working with him and doing that. (55:28)

Mollie Davenport:
Where you have, where you have an institution who creates those kinds of people that live and work within their communities. And then yes, you do become you may not be recognized as the Alpha Dog all the time but you are and that's my that's my that's my two cents worth. (55:51)

Donald Leggett:
Well, it's, like I said, it's well said. Thanks. Thank you for adding that, Mollie. I appreciate that. Um, well, I'm Well wind this down, Michael 'cause I know we've been at it now about an hour and we'll give you a little rest here in a little bit. But do you think Mike that like I said this underdog thing will sort of disappear. Do you think that's anything that should be done to promote the Alpha Dog image or will it naturally expose? (56:32)

Mike Bunting:
Well let me tell you one thing. I had no idea, you know the universities, Chapel Hill, East Carolina, Appalachian, Woman's College, State they all get grants you know, extra grants to recruits students, what do you call Don?

Donald Leggett:
I'm not sure I know what your referring to.

Mike Bunting:
Well, the state, the high education body gives each school X room for X number. I think it's called special scholarships. Hmm that's something that will trick, trip your trigger if you can find that number how many dollars or spots that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill get and they got X number of students. A we got X number of students and how many grants we get. If there ever was I could find such a god awful disadvantage. I would Id bring it up. (58:10)

Donald Leggett:
You know Mike, as long as you and I have been around and of course when I came back to the campus to work in 1970. And that period of time we seem to have been trying to to attain a certain level and to when, how do you think we will never know when we will lack of a better term have arrived? Now, I've been waiting for us to feel like that we have really arrived but I'm not sure that's a good thing to have happen. When you feel like you have arrived then maybe you can become complacent. So do you do you feel like they'll ever be a time when we feel like that? Well we have arrived now. (59:06)

Mike Bunting:
Yeah and that's when an ECU doctor, medical doctor student graduated from our college or university when he has to revive a State, I mean or a Carolina, Carolina official from shock [unclear] got your butt beat football. That's when we arrived. When our doctor medical doctor saves Carolina football players butt or a State butt a we can brag about it. We fixed it. That ain't gonna happen but I like to think about it. Anyway you wanted to, you had asked me one time I made a couple notes. You want to know about my background as far as what I've done? Well, so far I've stayed out of jail. That's that's an accomplishment. Because my great uncle had to go to jail every Saturday morning. He had to go to jail. Uncle Sherman was my grandmother's brother. My dad's uncle. Anyway, Uncle Sherman was the last real, what do you call it. I swear hold on Don. When you went to the stable to have your horses, hooves put on yeah. And also, he was one of the last living old time guys, what do you call them. (1:01:24)

[unclear]

Well he was a true blacksmith and he did a lot of work for the guys that worked on the railroads. There are tools, you know, there's pry bars and all that stuff. And he's last living one that did that kind of work up this way. And he had to go drive over some place on the other side of Winston. To get the right kind of coal is only one kind he used it got hot or did something but anyway he he opened up a like a quick market thing, like Walter's place where they just sell gas and make a little you know crackers and stuff like that. Well a guy that moved in right down the street from him selling the same thing except he ordered his gas. and put it a penny a gallon cheaper. And every time he did it of course Sherman would do it. Finally Uncle Sherman went to see him and said this is crazy. We're cutting each other's throats don't make that much anyway. Now don't do this damn he had no more got back to his place he said a damn if he didn't lower it again. He said I'm gonna tell you one more time, don't do it again. Within a week he did it again. Well, something happened one night. That the place burned down, well we all knew who it was, it was Uncle Sherman. (1:03:49)

Donald Leggett:
You reckon we ought to stop the recording now Mike. Is this good place to stop it?

Mike Bunting:
Uncle Sherman's passed away, anyway he torched the thing and he told him he was going to. Uncle Sherman was a respected [unclear], respected guy in in the area and bless his heart. He got sentenced had some kind of monetary fine, huh. And then he had to go to prison every Sunday afternoon and they let him out to go to church. Oh God, but he did he told guy he was gonna burn it down, damn if he didn't. Grandmother used to say Sherman was a younger brother. At the time grandmother was about, oh God, she was in her mid 80s. Every Sunday after church, here comes Uncle Sherman in his buggy and his horse took down to the county farm and he stayed there to the following Sunday, they let him out to go to church. (1:05:19)

Donald Leggett:
Oh, well. A lot of these stories Michael. I'm going to close this out now because like I said, we've been at it a while and give you some chance to to get some rest. And is there anything Mike now that we haven't covered that you wanted to talk about or to add to what we've done? I'd hate to close it out. (1:05:50)

Mike Bunting:
You said you wanted to know something about my background and jobs I've had. Well I've had some unusual ones. My first job, I think I was 10, first cash paying job. I was shoeshine. I was a shine guy and I worked for a black barber. I was a white guy in the black barbershop and all but no but a lot of my friends said I ought to go on what's my line back then. You remember that show? on TV? (1:06:44)

Donald Leggett:
I'm not sure [unclear]

Mike Bunting:
It was like somebody had it there were four or five people on this panel and this person would go up and they give a couple of hints, clues I guess. What's My Line? They won they won a few dollars that type thing and everybody tried to get me just ask them can you go on there. I said hey, I wasn't 10 or 11 years old and they would have probably never guess [unclear] the deep South. I guess it's considered the deep South. And I never did it I wish I had now. Because that's a real switch a white boy working at a black barber shop, shining shoes and a guy again later on. My barber died and I went to change barbers and tell him about my story and his shoeshine boy was Willy. And I got no Willy I just he just amazed me how he could shine shoes so much better then I could, there was no comparison. And I don't care how hard I tried. And I and I could not pop that there Gummer rag, you know the shine rag, but I couldn't save myself. So one day, I got a haircut. I told Homer the barber I said, I'll talk to Willy and we'll get him to teach me how to pop that rag today. So I went back got in the shine box, I couldn't pop that damn thing. I tried and I tried, I never could pop it. And Willy really said Oh, me, Oh me, you white boys. Y'all ain't got no rhythm. I said Willy, you're absolutely right. (1:09:23)

Donald Leggett:
Well, Mike, you've had a lot of interesting experiences to say the least. And we just, I said you've had a lot of interesting experiences and I'm just glad that we had opportunity today to get together and talk about our dear old university which is dear to all of our hearts and, and thank you for all that you've done for it to make it what it is and it's going to even get better as time goes along and the groundwork that's been laid so far by people like you help make that difference and and God is just stay in touch with us and we'll do the same and I know it wasn't easy to do this today to take this time to help us with this project but we just really appreciate you doing it. (1:10:17)

Mike Bunting:
Yeah. I enjoyed doing it. Anytime I get opportunity to tell a bunch of lies I'll take it.


Title
Mike Bunting and Mollie Davenport Oral History Interview
Description
Sound recording of Mike Bunting and Mollie Davenport's interview for the "The Rise of Alpha Dog" oral history project conducted by Don Leggett. The project explores perceptions of East Carolina as an "underdog" or "alpha dog".
Date
June 26, 2020
Extent
Local Identifier
UA95.18.08
Location of Original
University Archives

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