Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History & Culture Enduring Connections: Exploring Delmarva's Black History


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Interview with Kermit Cottman, 14 July 2004

Audio Recording

About This Recording

In this interview, Karen Scott and Margaret Dize interview Kermit Cottman about his life as an educator and his role in the Civil Rights movement. Kermit Cottman describes his upbringing on a farm in Quantico, MD, and his education around the Eastern shore in Quantico, Laurel Delaware, and Salisbury High School. He describes the growth he saw on the eastern shore in Delaware and Salisbury and the growth of opportunities for African Americans as well. He also describes his career in education in Frederick Maryland, teaching social studies and science. He also speaks about his involvement in the Civil Right's movement and his experiences with discrimination and segregation at that time.

This interview is part of the Teaching American History Program. For more information, see the Edward H. Nabb Center Finding Aid.


Interviewers: Karen Scott and Margaret Dize
Narrator: Kermit Atlee Cottman

Interviewer (INT): July 14th, 2004, and we're in the Metropolitan Church in Princess Anne and we're interviewing Dr. Kermit Cottman and my name is Karen Scott, and Margaret Dize are doing the interview. So, Mr. Cottman, we're just going to start by asking you to tell us a little bit about yourself.

Kermit Cottman (KC): Well, originally, well no it can't be originally, I was born in Quantico, in Maryland. I was one of eight children in a family. We live not too far from Hebron. Our school was out where the Westside Elementary School is now in Quantico it's way up there. It's a good five and a half miles. However, you could go to school for about a mile and a half, after we'd go through the forest but when the forest got wet and it rained, you couldn't walk through that to save your life. So, we had to walk around. The law was you had had so many days in school before you could be promoted from one grade to another. You had to at least have 120 days. As a little fella, my sisters hit the good time they had gone to school there, still were in school, but I'd lose my overshoes in the mud but it had dirt roads with oyster shells in them, no busses, to walk to get out to South Quantico, and so, at the end of the first year, I was in the 1st grade. End of the second year, I couldn't pass, didn't have enough days, I was in the 2nd grade. Well, when I'm about 8 years old, or 9 I guess, I was still in 2nd grade. In fact, I was 10 years old in the 2nd grade, and my mother and father decided that the farm wasn't, you couldn't make anything on farm. You stayed wet all time with rain. So [they] decided to move to Delaware. She had some relatives up there, and my daddy could give a fourteen acre farm we had. We can go up there and he could work in the factory and we could go to school. One reason we were attracted to school, [Pierre S.] DuPont had just built roads and schools in Delaware, and he'd built a school in Delaware. The first one built was down in Laurel, Delaware. It was named the Paul Laurence Dunbar School. So, we moved just around Thanksgiving time and went in this new, big building; I'd never been in a brick building other than Salisbury Station, where a train would admit(?). I had never seen running water before. It was a marvel, and so after having been there, it's time to go to school. I had a cousin named Lloyd. Never forget it. Lloyd asked me going to school, says, "What grade you?" And I said, "I'm in the 2nd grade," very proud. [He said,] "If you tell anybody you my cousin, you in 2nd grade I'll beat-" and I won't say what part of me. [My cousin said,] "You as tall as I am." I was taller than he was, as tall as I am now, almost. I grew fast and he said, "You're going with me in Mrs. Webster's room, my room, in the fourth grade." So, we went into fourth grade, didn't have any transcript any report card, anything. Went into the fourth grade, and Mrs. Webster welcomed me, I'm a stranger, and she put her hand on my head! She felt me— well, I didn't know, put hands all on. Oh, my. I was scared to death now, to tell you the truth, as a kid. And she said "Did you ever have reading, oral reading?" I don't know why they gave so much emphasis to oral reading, because really, silent reading should, education should precede oral reading. At any rate, she had me read the story we were reading I remember just as well was The Little Hen Who Went to Dover, set right in the state of Delaware and she found a grain of corn, she goes to Delaware. At any rate, long story short, I missed one or two words, but not many. So, it was just before Thanksgiving. She said, "I'm going to let you take this book home with you and you can practice at home and come back after the holiday," and the principal came in, he looked me over and talked with me, Mr. Howard, and I guess he said "He got no better sense to put himself in the fourth grade, let him stay there." So, I went home and carried it and showed it to my mother and to my sisters that I was in the fourth grade instead of Turkey, we had reading for Thanksgiving. I learned everything, that read the book upside down, sideways, backways, every ways. Any way you want to, name it. In fact, we went back and got ready to examine, I was reading the book and looking outside talking, she [said], "Put the book the book up so you can see it!" I didn't have to, I had memorized the whole thing, almost. Now the reason I could read, though, when we did miss days of school back in Quantico, my mother had taught us, had taught me. You carried your book home those days, covered them in oil cloth. You had take good care of book and they're going to be passed to the next person. My mother was to have been a teacher. She had finished Mardela, where she lived, elementary school, went to Salisbury, had a test. She passed the test but they didn't have any openings, they had two openings and I remember Mr. Walter, I knew him very well, became the teacher of a school somewhere in Wicomico County, Salisbury, and didn't have any opening for her. So, in the meantime, mama fell in love with my daddy. She got married, and my oldest sister, Agatha, was born when she was married about four years. About seven years passed and she got this letter to come, they had an opening for her to teach and she went to the place, and she signed her name just under the name Christianna Dashiells Cottman, and whoever’s the examiner looked at her and said, "Your name's Cottman? We don't hire black teachers if they're married." So, she didn't have a job. So, she put all the time on us, you get it? Now, I go back to school this next day back in Laurel now, back to the place. I read these things where I stayed in the class. It was a combination fourth and fifth grade in one room, you know. Ms. Rivers was a tall old lady, always had this big bun sticking the back of her head, a long fob chain hanging down, skirt down to the ground. I see her just like I don't know it right now, and she said to me, "Aren't we going to hear our new scholar read?" That's when I read all this thing upside down, sideways, and every way. So, I said, I'm gonna let you read some in the fourth—in the fifth grade. Reading was the big thing. She let me do some math in the fifth grade, so I was taking fourth and fifth grade simultaneously. At the end of the school year, I was promoted to the seventh grade, I never knew what sixth meant. She was "You old enough to be in seventh grade, right?" and promoted me not just chronologically, because I could do the work. So, I don't know anything about grades four, five six, all I know they're there. I went, sat, filled them and Ms. Rivers pushed me to go be in those. Now, in school, we begin to have different teachers after going to seventh grade, you know, and each one I had was a very excellent, they were good teachers. I can say that now because I have some experience on what's good and what's bad, and if you could do, they'd give you work to do and so forth. So finally, one time and this was in seventh grade, Mrs. Webster came to me and said, I want you to go to town for me after school, to Macy's Drugstore. "What do you want?" "I want you to go down there and get me an orange stick." You know, the thing you clean your fingernails with. I said, "Do I need someone to help me bring it?" I didn't know what an orange stick was. She said "No, you can put it in that little pocket you got right up there." [I said] "I'd have to ask my mother and father." Now here's a good teacher: she said, "You go ask them." So, I went home, asked my mom, "Mom" I said, “Miss Webster wants me to go to town to get her an orange stick," and "would it be alright?" She said, "We agreed upon that a week ago!" You get it? She was working with home and parent. If we had more people who had time to do that nowadays, a lot of the problems we had perhaps would not ensue. So, when we got it, brought it back to her, she gave me a dollar bill. I went and got this thing, mister—the man gave me the orange stick. I take the orange stick just like this, slipped in my pocket and I went to where she boarded, lived and gave her the orange stick and gave her the change. I think she gave me back 72 cents. I don't know why I think it's 72. Anyhow, she gave me back the original change, said "You can have it," it's the biggest tip I ever had in my life! so I'm in junior high school now. Different teachers you go to and so forth and we had some—high schools were just growing, that's what I'm trying to tell you. Like, they had the 7th grade this year and next year they added on the 8th grade because previously to that, there had been no school beyond elementary school for blacks and no high school. Fact is, what is now Delaware State College was once the high school for the state of Delaware. If you wanted to go, Delaware State College, for example, did not get [Clarification: graduate] its first B.S. degree group until 1934, it was a high school or junior college and so forth. Any rate, we went to, to 7th grade, 8th grade, 9th grade and by the time we got to the 11th grade, we had no 12th grade. There was one up at Seaford. No, no, they had 11th grade too. So, in order to finish high school, you would have to go to Howard High School in Wilmington, Delaware or to Delaware State College high school. Now, don't just down the state of Maryland altogether, I mean, the state of Delaware, because in early 1937, 38, the children in Baltimore County, had to come into Baltimore City to go to high school. Did you know that? Huh?

INT: No.

KC: Black kids know. It's a long journey. Forgot where I was. Oh, I'll get back in Delaware. So, I went to Delaware State College to go to high school, finish up my 12th grade. The courses I had, they put me in, I was in the chemistry, physics, English and I forget the other one, social studies, something like that but I didn't like the living conditions I had. That one long room with cuts all down it. One wash bowl for everybody at that time. Go clean your teeth, spit in it, and wash yourself all off, then someone takes some (inaudible) when it cleaned up, then you use next time. Not going to stand this washing after everybody like that! Home I brought myself, I didn't tell anybody I was leaving, just got back home and they wanted to know what had happened and I wanted to go to school. They knew I wanted to go to school. So, a teacher lived right across from us, Ms. Cooper’s(?), named Ms. Sterling(?). Howard High School had now opened in Wilmington, you can go there. So, I talked to Ms. Sterling(?) and she got in touch with Mrs—the woman was named Mrs. White, her aunt, and I went to Howard High School and I stayed. I had normal subjects: had French, there was a little girl who just finished Howard University. She thought everybody was a Frenchman. She worried me to death. I remember trying to memorize the book, and I still don't know it. All I remember now is "Remy bon en petite maison(?)" The white house and a little man lived in the house or something like that. She even got some people around me in the community to come tutor me, I just didn't like it too much. But we had a physical examination, you know, physical, for physical education. Never had one before in my life. I went down to the place and the doctor pulled me over to the side and said, "You know, you have a hernia, a rupture and strangulation type. You could die, torn down and twisted, give you gangrene. Poison." We call Mrs. White, where I was boarding and they got me back in, in Laurel and I went, to Salisbury Hospital and had an operation. Okay. Operation's over. No antibiotics and all that stuff, you lay on your back for two weeks to recover, now you go in and come out same day. Dr. E. McFadden Dix(?), a German, did the—he was just over from Germany—he did the surgery. Anyhow, I recuperate, I get better, and I go back home where I was in the middle of the year, the same time my daddy had worked for the Delmarva Packing company, the place they made baskets, you know, bushel baskets, and they made bushel baskets by steaming, by steaming logs, great big logs. So, you get them softened enough to put a cutter to cut and it was a foggy morning, and he stepped over this big thing and stepped in there and he scarred his leg from his foot up to here, one of them. He turned almost white and a local doctor came there and treated and so forth. No workmen compensation, they paid him for that week. So, I become the one to go then to the guy with a family to look after. So, I went to the factory and worked. So that's a year lost there. Now, time to go back to school. Daddy gets up, he goes back to work in a hurry the next year and the state of Maryland, Salisbury, had just built a new school. You heard of Chipman Elementary School? Well there was a Chipman High School [Salisbury Colored High School, where Charles E. Chipman was principal for 46 years] on Lake Street. That building was just going up. It had just completed. So, I decided I would go there, be close to home. I had some relatives there. I went downstate with—can't think of her name—Cornish[?]! Ms. Cornish, and we paid $3 a week for a room board, lodging everything, but the Aunt's desire was to help somebody. She was somebody related to my father, to the people there, and she became ill and had to close the house down. So, I'm without a place to stay, went across to Mr. Walter's. He was teaching in Salisbury School. Mr. Walter was the one who had passed the test, way back during my mother was in elementary school, and I could stay there, but we didn't have any money coming home. So, I decided on another procedure. I would live in Laurel and go to school in Salisbury. How? The man driving the produce truck, Solhearn(?), would come from Laurel with a long green truck to pick our produce down at Salisbury Wharf, because the boats would come in there and bring in things for the stores, and I'd get in there and ride down with him and so one morning was cold as the ____(?). He said, "Kermit, I want to tell you something I hate, I'm sorry to tell you this, but you can't ride in the cab with me any longer. Someone's reported I'm riding passengers and it's against insurance. But if you're a fool enough to get on back and cover up with this great big tarp. I don't know you're on back there and we get in town, to Isabelle street I'll let you get off. I'll stop and let you get off but I don't know you you're on there." Very kind of him, wasn't it? So, I decided to take that trip. Alright. I get on there and go, and just at that time, it must have been the middle of winter. All the air in the world I thought I'd freeze. I get from there and walk on over to Lake Street, you know, down to where the high school, which is now an elementary school and Mr. Simons[?] is there at 7 o'clock in the morning to stoke the furnace. So, he carried me down, put me near the furnace, and when I did finally did wake up, it was 12 o'clock and Mr. [Charles E.] Chipman, you've heard Chipman name, the principal was down there. His wife taught home economics, by the way, and they brought me a big bowl of red soup, and it had white potatoes, I'll never forget, and tomatoes and cabbage. I remember this as well and they said, "You can go home with us, you don't have to come down the road," but me go stay with the principal? Wowowowow, nooo! But I had a way back. I'd get to Laurel, to get, a woman from Delmar had a son. She had this little car. She'd bring him down to go to Salisbury High School. He could not go to Delmar school for high school. She bring him in the morning in the afternoon she had to take him to go back Delmar, but she put me all. You know, and then I'd flag some—you take some books, put your belt off, take your books and lay them in front of people and eventually they see so long they pick you up. It was a man who owned a store in Salisbury and Fredericksburg, little black car, and he eventually did take mercy on me when he'd be going back about 5 o'clock, long time standing there waiting to Laurel, and he said to me, "Damn shame you got to do this. You ought to be able to go right Laurel where you, you know, one day [I'll listen to you?] but you keep it up and one day you'll have your own can you can drive over this same land but it didn't matter to me, I was going to do it anyhow. Well, you miss him occasionally. So, my Cadillac with these two Cadillacs down here, I walked six miles back and forth. I was in love, though. I got home, my friend came by we had some beans and stuff, and my friend came by, he talked very slow and kindly, "You want to go to Concord, Delaware?" See I thought that my girlfriend, my wife, said she didn't want to go. "Yeah I want to go!" So, after all that walking, I get up. So, when I got over there, parents had a hot stove for—so I see, I slept, they had to wake me up when he came back. I was still tired. Now I'm deviating too many details. The year I go—I'm still eventually, eventually I finished Salisbury High School.

INT: And what year was that?

KC: 1931.

INT: 31.

KC: Mm-hmm. The idea was I said, I want, Oh! Back before, we had a guy named Vassil West[?] who spent a night with me in Laurel, and he brought his father's book Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington. We read that book that night all night long by lamplight and we both say we're going to have—and he didn't get to go, some of the things happened in his life—and it gave me a new idea. So, Mr. Chipman, the principal, told me, we were talking, he says, "You want to go to the school so much," he always talked like, very authoritatively. "You're going to Hampton Institute, Virginia. I can get you in down there." Because he was very well known and he sent some students there. "You have to take a work year of five years to do the four years working." Take what was called a work year. So, I sent and got my application, filled it out, put up on it behind the clock. You know, I didn't feel very, so he told me just before going, "I've sent your credentials in to Hampton," and you know, he recommended me before I even sent my other stuff, transcripts, everything down there, so I get a letter from Hampton telling me they had received recommendation from Principal Charles A. Chipman of Salisbury High School. He highly recommended me to come for a work year but didn't have any application. Inadvertently, we may have lost it, or you may have lost it. You lost nothing, I didn't even send it back. So, I filled it out and sent it and in about two or three days, I had my acceptance, so Hampton bound. Well, it cost $3 and a half to ride the train from here to Cape Charles, Virginia to get to Hampton. Stop every little stop, up near Loretta for example, that little place up there, stop, every little stop, all the way down. So, we didn't have any money. So, my mother and father were very good engineers, they determined that this KC: was going to go to school if he wanted to go. So, we came to Salisbury, went to the Household Finance Corporation, went up these long steps, and she told us she wanted to borrow some money. He worked for us, sending this young man to school, "You're sending him to school! There's an awful chance you're taking send a young man like that school." She said "Are you going to let me have the money?" So, he gave her a sheet of paper. She had to list everything she had in the house, I bet she even put down the dust in the house. [Cooker store, well now?], let's put everything down. That was collateral. So, we got $50. Got my ticket, got my clothes, went to Hampton, got into Hampton, and I looked—your guy from Cambridge, George Sinclair, met us, two of us, three of us from Hampton. Three of us from Hampton, from Salisbury went to Hampton, on the same train, all going to take work years. [Elmer A.] Purnell used to be a doctor in Salisbury. Howard Leonard, who's a supervisor for the postal service in New York City now. You know, we get there, go in there to be signed up, you know, payment $35 down. I had to get a laundry bag and some other things and I lost some of this change I had, I didn't know where it was. I couldn't find it. We had to go in to sign up for work. So, I went into the, they had to go into the Dean of Men's or Captain Wilson's office; I got line going to Captain Wilson. So, I'm going to Captain Wilson, he said, "where are you from?" Leaned back, smoking a cigarette [inaudible]. I said, "I'm from state of Delaware." [Captain Wilson responded] "What part?" I said, "Laurel." [Captain Wilson said] "That's right near Salisbury, do you know a Mr. Chipman?" "Yes, I do." Well, he said, "that's right near my home. I'm from Somerset County, Maryland. A little place called Upper Hill, Fairmount." That's where he had originated. He looked at me, "My, you're skinny. You need to get where some food is," and he thought I'd start with that, "I'm going to assign you to the campus cafeteria." I'd never seen so much food in all my life. In the meantime, I wasn't skinny because of a lack of food and stuff. Even though my daddy didn't have any work, he had a job taking care of the mules and so forth or with Delmarva packing, and when they were closed he worked at the boss's house and my mama canned everything she could. We had everything home. Anyway, I'm working in the cafeteria now, and I stayed there and worked and the lady in charge of the cafeteria, Mrs. Randall. For some reason they warned me, I knew she didn't, she liked me but she didn't like me. So, I went back and told Captain Wilson, I said, "I'm not getting along up there right." [He asked,] "Why?" I said, "she paid more attention to the other new people coming in than she does to me," and I can understand why: those people who were working there, Faller and all of them, she had been in school with their parents. So, she's with her friend's friends, right. So, we had enough of this. I'll never forget the story. Well, I'm back. So, he assigned me back there again. The Imitation of Life, a movie was played over at Hampton, and a woman named Mrs. Reasor. Real light-skinned, freckled faced lady with his red bun back right here, was her sister in law. She was in charge of the cafeteria at night from two, you know. So, she said, "Cottman, I"—her husband hadn't been dead long, she had a little boy, Charles. Everybody was going see the Imitation of Life, Louise Beavers was in it. Nobody coming in the cafeteria, this is summertime—"I'm going to leave you some change if anybody comes in. You make a change from this, don’t by the cash register, and I will be back by 9 o'clock, you know, about 10 o'clock." So, I’m working and getting everything straight. Somebody came and got some ice cream. I made a change for him. So forth. Plus, steal some for myself, of course. His fingers and all got on that and the telephone rings. Oh, my goodness. What is this? And the voice came on and I knew the sound of the voice, the time I heard it. It was the president of the college, Dr. [Arthur] Howe, I knew him good. I heard him in chapel and all around all the time, and he said, "I'd like to speak with"— he had a hearing aid, too—"I'd like to speak with Mrs. Randall, or Mrs. Reasor" and I said, "it isn't convenient right now, huh?" Took him very fast. "Lord that woman's gone and she hadn't even told me she was going to leave! So, look I've just come from up North on the boat, and I have some philanthropists with me." Hampton was in trouble, didn't have any money during the Depression years. I think that the DOW was down 18 million, there was no money for a big school like that, "and I brought these people down with me and I want them to have a good meal to eat because my wife's away and my maids away." And he didn't question "You tell them I'll be down for it." He trusted me. I guess I must’ve found as though I could be trustworthy. "I'll be down for dinner" I had never been so frightened in all my life, and this lady going to the movie. Alright, someone came by, called over to the dormitory, I got the cook, Faller, I got to the man who'd make salads. I got Seabrook to set up the tables, and we set up the little dining room. They asked me, "Kermit, do you know what you're doing?" "Yes, I know what I'm doing." I didn't want to do it. Anyhow they did it, and saw how nervous I was. Went up inside the ice box and pull out steaks as wide as I don't know what, ol' Faller didn't beat those things, and just as you got the dining room all set up and everything, they were scared to death, those boys were. "Are you going crazy? Do you know what you're doing?" Yes, I know what I'm doing. The doorbell rings. Mrs. Rose Reasor, coming back to the movie. "Oh, Kermit I thought I could trust you! You boys are having a party. Well, I'm gone, oh my my!" Two minutes after that, the doorbell rings. In walks President Howe with these people. "Mrs. Reasor, I'm sorry to bother you at this time of the night." It was about 10 o'clock by then, you know, "Just our pleasure to serve you!" She really fibbed on them, “It's our pleasure to serve you! Been waiting for you!" You ain't even got in the house, woman! But then, from that time on, I had it made. My wages went from fourteen cents to twenty-one cents an hour. Right, and I was assigned permanent to the night shift, and so I go to work. So, I did five years, I had English and math on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. Well, we had to take an entrance examination. In that big auditorium, taking this entrance examination. Martin Critchlow(?) From Newport News, Virginia, Terry Desamono(?) from somewhere in North Carolina. Kermit Cottman, naming myself now, Howard Leonard, Elmer Purnell, well five of us made the highest scores of anybody on the math, and I mean—and my math was, Richard Chipman(?) had taught me, caught me up on what I didn't know in math on the side in one year's time. He's a powerful teacher. So, we got a job surveying, you know, it’s how the church steeple and all that stuff is back there, and then take your regular classes too, and then I got, I had jobs in the library, later on. I had one in the town called Phoebus. One year, I lived off the campus with one of the professors so it would cut down on my dormitory costs. His wife, bless her heart, Mrs. Keiper(?), all she did all day was sit and look beautiful for him, come home from work. He was an English teacher. I have a hunch now that I look back. He must have married her right out of Dartmouth. He could have been her teacher to tell you the truth because he was older than she was, could've been and they had a kid, two kids, old Tom, and she'd sit in the house all day long, and I'd come home. "Cottman?" "Yes, Mrs. Keiper(?)" "Oh Thomas, let Thomas mess anywhere in the place, and he'd just sat there all day long, waiting for me to come home" This woman is crazy, but I had to do it you know. Well, eventually I was graduated from Hampton June 2nd, 1936, at 10 o'clock in the morning. My wife was graduated June 2nd at 2 o'clock in the afternoon from Delaware State College. On June the 19th, we got married, eloped and got married. Now ask me something else I'm drilling too long on one thing.

INT: That's okay! So when, at what point did you come back to Somerset County and start your career, family?

KC: Okay. The story of Somerset County is a long story. When I had finished Hampton, I had been recommended to go to Athens, Georgia. Didn't have go for an interview, Hampton said they want somebody, they want somebody and they were not going to open till October. So, I went on back to Ocean City and worked in a hotel that summer. I worked at a hotel the whole time. Incident, I had two teachers from Salisbury State who used to come to Ocean City. I went there and worked in the summer. They were the best. They were from Salisbury, what do you call it, Salisbury Normal, I guess they called it. They were a very kind two women, I'm telling you. And if I got so busy and couldn't wait on them, "that's all right, go ahead. We'll wait!" They just sit there and talk. They were really good people and they never did tip you. The first year, it was "take your time," and when they got ready to go, they came to me, they said, "Wait, they wouldn't let me leave the money on the table." Now, this is 1931 I'm talking through now. No, 19? Thereabouts, somewhere back there. They gave me $15 a piece! I don't know if they were what they called a mega nut, I don't know, one of them, I don't know. But at any rate, those were two good women! They didn't have to give me that money, and they were kind. Now, the lady for whom I worked, though, "Cottman when are you going down to Georgia, you know better than to go way down there." So, I wrote them a letter. See, I hadn't even been for an interview. They're going to take me on, basically, is what the school said. The letter was perfectly done because my wife is an English major, I knew she knew how to do it. The girl working through the office did the typing. Had enough. My wife worked in another hotel. They read that letter. It was perfect. There wasn't anything wrong with the letter and this man wrote me back on the back of my letter, and I'm sorry I didn't keep it. "The position for which you applied has been filled" on the back of my letter. So, I asked Mrs. London(?), the owner of the hotel, if I could call the Hamptons, she let me call Hamptons. "Forget it." That's what they said. You just forget it, nothing to do about it. We'll find you something somewhere. "Have you applied anywhere, I should say, in the state of Maryland for a position?" Oh, yes, I had been offered Centreville, had a contract for that and sent it back and I had an offer in, you know, Centreville, and I got a letter from Frederick. I didn't even answer the one from Frederick. I didn't, because you know, and my dear wife had given up her job in Marshallton, Delaware, Louis and Wilmington. She had three, but she was going to go with me. She got all dignified where she'd go [in a posh accent] "Oh, we're going to live in Athens," she'd have a thing. We had to go back to her mom and papa's out in the country and they were very kind. They didn't get mad. Her father said "Well! Things don't always happen the way you want them to happen. You can go to work with me tomorrow." Well, we'd been working on the roads, making those roads DuPont's putting down out here, no, I'm good though. At any rate Mrs. London(?), this woman in this hotel, I'm telling you I worked at. She got on her phone and she called Frederick County. She wanted to speak to the superintendent of schools, Mr. Eugene Pruitt. "Listen, you tell her I said this is Mary London speaking and I want to talk with him now. I know he got that phone," and they would talk about old days when he was once a teacher, she was a teacher. So funny, she said to him, "Eugene," I said, "Oh, my dear. She must know the guy." "Eugene, I've got a boy," Always boys or sons. We are one of her sons, white, black, everybody was her son, you wouldn't [several inaudible words] or daughter, if you're a woman running around. "...And I want him to have a job." And she talked and talked and she said, "Son. They say the position been filled. They don't have anything up there." So, school was going on in Frederick. I don't know what to do. In the meantime, I don't know what you call this. In the meantime, I was serving dinner at 6 o'clock and my daddy came from Laurel, Delaware and he got my friend. I had a friend named Bill Dickerson. I suspect he couldn't even write his name, but we were always friends. He washed cars. He had such confidence where he washed cars that he could get a car anytime he wanted, put tags on it. He borrowed this car from Purnell's garage in Laurel, got my daddy and daddy came with a yellow piece of paper, just like this. It was a telegram from Baltimore State Department of Education, J. Walthousen(?), state supervisors of schools and he said on that the [telegram], "Report to Frederick County at once. Your position is assured. Contact Howard D. Pindell, the principal. Tell him what time you will arrive. Your position is assured, report at once." So, my wife then, we got her, came down on the bus to Salisbury, went to Goodman's Store down on Main Street, Salisbury, got me teacher-looking clothes, oh she made me sharp! I looked good to him too, my father, and my brother had a suit. I borrowed his suit and his clothes, we were the same size and I caught the train in Seaford and went to Wilmington and then from Wilmington to Baltimore and then you catch a Greyhound bus line and go up to Frederick. See, didn't have no direct route across the Bay Bridge and all that stuff. Didn't have no Bay Bridge to tell you the truth. So, I got to the train in Baltimore. Every time I go by there, about one o'clock in the morning, taxies going by, picking up other people. Nobody picked me up! And I stayed there so long the police riding by stopped car and came over and said, "Are you still—" He said, "Where you do you want to go?" I said, "I wanted to catch the bus line to the Greyhound bus line but nobody didn't pick up black people at time of night, you know what I mean?" And he stopped his cab and I got in there. Being young and crazy, I guess, I asked the man, "How far was it from the bus terminal? From the train station to the bus terminal?" He said, "You ever been here before?" I said "How far is it?" Any time you paid $3 and a half riding in Baltimore in 1936, you're doing a lot of riding. Do you know how far the place was? About walking from here [Metropolitan United Methodist Church] to the college [University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, about 500 feet]. I could have walked it but I didn't know! He charged me-well we all aboard a bus, all aboard, right, right, right, right, right. So, when I get up there, Frederick, here this man comes, Pindell, comes down in his shirt sleeves, and those glasses on, I'll never forget it and said, "Is this Coach Cottman?" Coach Cottman, this man must be, I can't be a..."I have a very odd combination." I said, "I teach science and I teach history." What? "Well you're the coach, also." I said, "I'd never done—" "Well act like you're a coach." So, he carried me into the auditorium next morning, a special assembly, we have an assembly, and we introduce Coach Cottman. Jump over some time, I had to coach girls and boys, 7 o'clock to 9 o'clock in the basement of Asbury Church. The first game I played, we played Storer College up to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and our school beat the college, a small place. We went to Cumberland, Maryland. We lost up there. The next game we played, we came back to Hagerstown and went into a tie. I didn't know what to do in overtime, overhead going over time, and didn't have anybody to help me nobody to tell me "Oh, I think we're in overtime" but anyhow, we got through it. In 1937, we had state championship teams in the state of Maryland, isn't that something? The man who had been there was a good coach. Get it.

INT: Mm-hm.

KC: I give him praise for it. Plus, I didn't have sense enough to keep their spirits up, you understand, and I said to him, I said to the boys, when we were in overtime, I said, "What are we going to do? We're in overtime." He said, "We're going to make a foul, and the boy is going to jump on my back, and I'm going to freeze the ball." "Freeze the ball? This is awful. How is he going to freeze the ball?" Nevertheless, he did just what he said, and we won. I was up there, their children won a championship, oh, years ago. I went back as their banquet speaker and happened to Mr. Mears(?), who had been their previous coach. Mears had been promoted to a principalship, and I got a chance to tell him what he'd done for that team because it wasn't my doing. All right. How did I get here?

INT: Yes. How did you get to Somerset?

KC: I'm coming to Somerset now. This man in Baltimore, J. Walter Huffington, who was a state supervisor of colored schools came up to Frederick to see me teach. Now, he was state supervisor of colored schools and he was the boss. He ran schools in Maryland for blacks. He knew something, he was a smart man. Good man. So, coming down the hallway, to get to my room, the door was open and he saw this other new teacher in there he thought was Ms. Clark(?), well Ms. Clark had gone back to Ohio to settle an estate, both her parents had died and she had a month’s leave of absence. My wife had nothing to do, so she was called in substitute and she could teach anything she wanted. So she had a poem for Robert Frost, The Death of the Hard Man, and she'd made it into a drama and he went in there and guidance was just coming into schools and he saw her teach them, and in the back of my room and we'd both be talking, he's a little short guy, John, he kept telling, "Eugene talked to me, that girl is too good to just be a substitute and she ought to have a job, she needs a job!" "Well okay,", I thought myself, "this is something." So, he said "Sometime when you're going through on your way, going back to Delaware. Stop by my office," and that was it. So, on our way coming back. We stopped by the office and he said "Mrs. Cottman I want to tell you I enjoyed that lesson you taught from Robert Frost. Great, great lesson." Guidance that we really need to teach our lesson so it has some value to it. "Well, next year come back to me again." So, I thought, well this is something. So, the next year I came back. We said, we'll stop in in and out. So, we didn't sit down, and when he walked in the door he said, "Now Mrs. Cottman, you have a major infringement, you need some history. You'll have to go to Virginia Union, Richmond, Virginia. I called down there already and they'll take you. They're going to be two days late," but I still didn't know what was going on. He hadn't told me a thing. [He continued,] "And Mr. Cottman, we'll be waiting for you. You're the principal of the school down there to Princess Anne." It was just that simple, and so I came down, and it was an old beat up, dilapidated, messed-up building. The year before, they had changed the principal of the school. Discipline at the school had been terrible. I have never found it a disciplinary problem. I've found good people. I've found loving people and if I got this place straightened out now, I was to go to Baltimore County for a new school they were building for blacks up there because they were just growing high schools. Even went up in the summer and look at the school and they were going to hire me. The thing I liked best in anything I can remember from that school, I'll never forget it, was my office that had an inner office and then, you know, a waiting office and the principal in the back, three rooms get to him, and then they had a kitchen or steel kitchen for a cafeteria. We didn't even have cafeteria here. It was just everything that anybody could want in the world. Jumped in my car coming back, and my wife had been teaching about 40 miles from another school across, she couldn't drive a lick. Coming out from Towson, 5 o'clock traffic, my car cut off right by there about a month ago, my car cut off in front of a firehose and the minute the fire station had to come push me out of the way of traffic. So, when we got back home, she said, "I don't want to go back up there. I don't want to go back up there, mister, I don't want to go". So, there's my boss, right here Mr. Clinton Carman, my friend "Can you help me find a principal or a good man?" He said "They're going to take you up to Baltimore, I'm sorry to leave you" So, Ms. Ethel [my wife] said, "Mr. Carman, we don't want to go we want to stay here." That was it. Another time, some years pass, this is just prior to integration and desegregation, whatever you call it. I had a call from, a telegram from Ira Claire or Era Claire [Eau Claire], Wisconsin. I had met a man who was a youngster in 1938 at Columbia University. He went on to become a superintendent of schools out there, and he told me, although we don't have any segregation, there is a black school in a predominately black district, an elementary and high school. It pays twice what you're making down there where you are. Come on out, and that was too far out for her. She was happy and I want to keep my wife happy. I love her. And I turned him down, we corresponded for years after that, and the last offer I had was going to Richmond, Virginia. I met a man at University of Pennsylvania. He wanted me to come down there. He didn't pay any more we were paid here. At any rate, I stay on to here, this becomes the—this is the place and that's why—how I got here. Well I, two or three times, could have left and if I had to do the whole thing over again, I'd still be here. Now that's a long story.

INT: Yes. So, you started in Somerset in what year?

KC: I came here in 1938—39.

INT: Okay.

KC: At that time, salaries were different. Incidentally, I started off in Frederick County and my salary was $80 a month. I take out $3.88 each month and I had $76.12 to spend, remember it very well. The black teachers around here, were getting 60 to 65 dollars a month on the Eastern Shore. We met in Baltimore on, if you don't know name of the street, my principal Howard D. Pindell and I still hear from him. He is 98 years old, lives in Philadelphia, high rise apartment. He's been on faculty at Temple and two or three other schools around there. He had a triple bypass, when he woke up, they asked him "What is the first thing you want?" He said he wanted to go to Paris and his daughter carried him to Paris and we still talk on phone occasionally. It's interesting and here's a friend who's lasted all these years. But Pindell worked in Anne Arundel County and he was going to be a plaintiff for equalization of salaries. We met a woman named Enolia McMillan. Enolia was president of the Colored State Teachers' Association [Maryland State Colored Teachers' Association]. She was doing research work up at Columbia University, and she was stunned by the difference in the curricula in all schools and a woman by the name of Mabel Foyen(?)—very fine professor, I got to meet her one time—asked her why didn't she go into the salary situation and when she got, she really got started on that. So, she looked into the salary situation and she found that we weren't getting anything, but we had the same requirements to be a teacher. Bowie, or the Normal School for blacks, they the same, you know, same curriculum, course by course, that you had at Salisbury or Towson or Frostburg. Same requirements, same everything, certified by the same state. So, it got interesting suing, so what they did: Pindell who, at that time, was teacher of science and had been I mean, in Bayside School in Annapolis was to be the plaintiff. So, to silence his mouth they made him principal of the school where I went. Get him off tenure. A guy named Mills became the plaintiff, principal of elementary school, guy could get along with anybody. He's just a good man, that's all he is, a good guy. So, he gave the test and this meeting at Ms. McMillan's house was the head of the law school from Howard University, Dr. [Charles Hamilton] Houston, and Thurgood Marshall. I got to meet Thurgood Marshall. In fact, I sat right beside him, you know, but I wasn't a part of anything. These other people run the show, I went along as a young guy and went along with my principal, see what I mean? So, I don't want to think I had anything to do with running it, one way or the other. But I got to see the whole history unfold and he was so busy suing the state of Baltimore County so that the kids up there wouldn't have to come to town to go to school. He didn't have time to bother the salary thing. So, I forget the other lawyer, Pindell wrote a letter to him and he assigned Houston and somebody else to the case. He was the backup man. Now, Houston had been his teacher, so he went before a man by the name of Judge [W. Calvin] Chestnutt, and Judge Chestnut issued a statement saying there's no need going further into court. It is undeniably discrimination. It's is a violation of the 14th Amendment. They are entitled to equalization of salaries and we sued through that, so we didn't have go any further in the suit. In 1939, salaries were equalized. You knew it, did you?

INT: No.

KC: You know you learned some history, lady.

INT: Yes, sir.

KC: And this is living history, I went through it. I saw it, I saw the whole thing. What else?

INT: Well, let's talk about the desegregation of schools in Somerset county.

KC: Alright, when time got better for desegregation of schools, a leader of the county into my office, handed me a little piece of paper about the size of that. He had a chart I'll never forget. He said, "If you put a civilized person and a non-civilized person together, who will benefit: the civilized or the non-civilized?" Every time he answered himself: "The non-civilized," implying that blacks were not completely civilized. Then I talked with the superintendent one time, individual conference, and he was a good man, c. Allen Carlson was a good man. This is just before he retired, and we were talking and he said to me he did everything big enough to do. In fact, when my kids were literally on Decorative(?) Avenue, they were playing out in the street one day. He wasn't old enough to go to school. He told me, go home and curse the girl out who had him, that he had no business out there playing. He's a good guy, he's buying Christmas presents and all that stuff. Well, in the process of talking, he told me, he said, "People are different," said, "I'm better than you, I'm from Sweden," and he turned as red as a beet because that was not his character saying a thing like that. We were down to his house, Upper Hill [, Maryland]. He raised a garden, had butter beans. He cooked these butter beans, cooked them in plain water, salt and pepper. No, no, no, nothing in them. The hardest beans, I used to hate [them], though I didn't want to show the man I couldn't eat them, I'd say to him, "I'm sorry," and we'd talk. Now, so they had individual conferences. The next superintendent coming in, now deceased, by the way, had an individual conference and he said, with each supervisor "What do you think we should do?" So, I offered a plan: I said, "Well, what we should do, let's take the supervisors and they visit with me to my schools and I visit with them to theirs. People will get accustomed to seeing different people, you know?" and yeah, somebody else. "Then what schools? If we finally break up, what schools would you take? Well, how will we do it?" Right. Well you have to have someone who knows history and someone who knows high school work, and someone who knows elementary work and it so happens I was the only one in the office who was trained in both elementary and high school work. You know, qualified to be a principal or a teacher in high school or elementary. The only school we had in the county that was like that was Deal Island, they had a high and elementary school all together. So, I was the chief supervisor down there at Deal Island and then, and then the next we broke up, made principals, vice principals. We got, what's his name, Lester Pollitt, now deceased, became vice principal of Washington High School. Guy in math went to Crisfield to teach math. A guy named Junior, I forget his name, became vice principal of Crisfield High School and we did, well you know, change white and black. Conal Turner, you know Conal Turner? He still around here. Conal Turner became a vice principal of a Somerset School. So, the day of reckoning comes when we—Oh, there was opposition, don't misunderstand me. Around Washington high school flagpole, I'd be riding, coming to town and there'd be a group of boys out there with the shirts off, hanging down, walking round the flagpole, keeping a little room, that was an intimidation for people going by. I guess the principal didn't see them, I don't know. Well, you had to break up the busses, put the busses on the, you know, so many whites on this so many blacks on this, and the kids from Deal Island high school had come up here to go here [Princess Anne] and the kids in Deal Island, there's people down there all been associating, having a good time together all their lives, it didn't make a difference to them. You know what I mean? and the fact is they used to look at the work that our kids had from the Somerset high school, so forth. My wife went over here and the math teacher went over there and some of the teachers came over here. We all mixed up. Still, you have this little 400 years of tension coming through. Eventually, they said I'm going to school. See, our county does not have racial patterns or whites living on one side and colored [on the other], they all mixed up and mixed around. So, we went ahead. Then, there were some white parents [that] did not want black teachers to teach their kids. You know the Kipps down here? Kipp's Nursery? They have a daughter named Karen and I taught her there sometime. I pitied Karen, when my wife died she came and she cried, oh, I don't want to get thinking about that, though.

INT: We're going to stop...

KC: Karen went to a- [Audio and footage cuts].

KC: [Footage and audio resumes] A Metropolitan Church. Stems from my maternal grandfather, William Dashiells. Incidentally, the family will be getting together the last day of this month for our second big reunion. Last year we had about ninety, this year we expect a couple of hundred. William Dashiells was born in Mardela Springs, Maryland, Broad Creek Hundred, if you know the area back down there. He lived in an old plantation house. Honestly, the rooms in that house, the downstairs rooms were really a bit taller than this [Gestures to ceiling of Church]. Why they built the houses, I don't know, like that. At any rate, he lived in this house with his—I went, that's where I met him—But they had in barns and stuff and shacks and his father. His mother had died. His father [when William] was eight or nine years of age who was my grandfather, my mother's father and one day he said his master, that's what he called him, master, got him, he said, in a horse [and derby?], which means a team, and they drove the old back, a toll road, from Mardela around and came on up and really be around the way. The old road come through Allen all the other way. They came here to Princess Anne, to a slave auction. Now about this time, now, I learned this from him, it's because I stayed close to him so I could learn and he was a smart guy. But he remembered what the people were talking about around him. Slaves were being sold for two reasons: one, people would sell them to make some money if the farm was not doing well and two, there were people who wanted slaves with certain characteristics. It was a means of making money, and so he was brought here to Princess Anne. Where this edifice is now is where the old jail house used to be and that choir loft, according to having talked with people who lived here was built on later. But where the choir loft now is, where the people sing back up in there, that was an auction block. So, I'm assuming that spot from which my great-grandfather was told that "how much can I get for him?" and so on, and somebody from the state of Georgia bought him. My grandpa was—I call him grandpa, grandpa William we called him always. As I got older, he let me in on some of the secret of why they may have wanted him, his grandfather. He was skinny. Never got sick. His offsprings were hard workers, they're skinny, they never got sick. They wanted him for reproductive purposes, to write a long story short. He was a stud. That's probably what it amounts to, I'm sure from the way Grandpa told me and he'd be very cer—he'd be very dignified in telling you but I knew what he was driving at, I wasn't that dumb [Laughs]. I can catch on, and as I got older, he let a little more of it out but that's why they wanted him, and they sold him down into Georgia. And he said as he was getting ready to go, he waved his hand to him like this [waves right hand] and he waved to him and turned around and looked, and he never saw him anymore. So, they carried him back over home to this old plantation house. Now, even as a kid, ten or twelve years of age, I wasn't better. I was in high school in Laurel at the time, or elementary school, I guess. I would always come down in the summertime to be with grandpa because he grew watermelon and I like your watermelons and you get to hear him talk, and he, if you wanted to know how he looked, he had generally the same look that I look. His hairline is the same as mine so there must be some resemblance, we gel just like that. He was telling me as we would talk there, about what he had to do on the farm. He said one of the things he had to do was to put the cows out in the morning, you know. Another thing, they taught him how to wrap cigars, you know, take tobacco, the master grew cigars, and he had some molasses or sorghum they had, and he'd wrap and make his cigar for him, and if he want a drink of water, go get the water for him, he was just a handy, little handy boy. In fact, they almost, he never had any adverse feeling toward them from what I can understand, you understand? They accepted him. This is just prior to the Civil War, because he said one day when he had some rabbit boxes to catch rabbits in. He went out to get to his rabbit boxes one day and there were two soldiers walking across the field and just to have some fun, they shot in the air, not at him, to see what he'd do. He lost his rabbit box, rabbits, and everything else. Said he flew right through there, flying, to get on home and they told there wasn't any fighting in Mardela going on, they were some people going to join the army. He stayed on that farm and worked and worked and worked, and there's boxcars, you know, they had an automobile, you know, train for the straw in the boxcars, you know, ship watermelons and cantaloupe, and they shipped watermelon and cantaloupe and then the generation changed. They sent them to Philadelphia and New York and a younger generation came by, so this woman Miss—I won't call her name because I mean, I'd get it wrong—she came down and told him, said "Uncle Bill," she called him uncle bill, "You've been saving the money, it's in the bank of [Mardela]. We have $800 in the Bank of Mardela, that's a lot of money. You can draw it yourself, but as you get ready to build a house, we are closing the plantation down. You get a piece of land in front and he with his children, the house. Now, I think that's enough on him because I want to get back to the founding of this place right here. Now, how did this place... we haven't gone to how this building...? Okay, let's go back to that, I'm jumping from that now to this. Around 1800, thereabouts, 1800 and there on, black people worship in this St. Andrew's Episcopal Church around here in the balcony and they worship there for a number of years, and what, we didn't go to the Methodist church. To start off, we went there. But there came through Methodism was pretty strong at the time, who had a—the Presbyterians and the other denominations talked against the wrongs of how to treat your fellow man. But when the Methodists came through, they were just a little more vocal, and among the vocalists that they talked about, they hinted, not only hinted, they talked about slavery as wrong and so these people who worship around there separated themselves from St. Andrew's Church and formed a little church among themselves. I've been trying to find a written talk with people who are older, who is older I am now, who would had oral history passed down to them. There was no fuss. There was no push out. There was just an acceptance, these people wanted to go, so they formed a little church among themselves. That church got too small, so they purchased, in around the 1800s another piece of land and farm, and found a church west of Princess Anne, that's on the Deal Island road, where the cemetery is now and they named John Wesley, of course, in the previous room. They worship there for a long period of time, and then it became too small for what they want to do. They realize that slavery is going to be over and they are going to have the first black education in Somerset County. Keep in mind, did you know this? That there were colored churches in Marion and so forth before this was? But they organized the church over there and one thing they want, they want to teach people to read and to write. They realized that education was the way up. But what's interesting that they had that foresight to do it. They move, eventually they bought this tract of land here. This is where the old courthouse was and the old slave auction block, and they erected this particular building. I've been wondering what were some of the factors, though, that caused them to separate and there's a book that was put out by the Delaware conference in 1965 that showed some light on it, but not completely. You had some preachers, black preachers, who were licensed to preach in the Methodist church, that is before the other denomination would take you on. Among those people licensed to preach, oh, there was a man. There was a man licensed to preach to the Indians. He left and went to Ohio, to the Wyandot Indians and that was the beginning of, in the Methodist Church, of missionary work outside of the conference. He was a black guy. He'd come around and converted those people and they became very, very, loyal to him. Also, we may look here, see that those doors fold there? That is known as the Akron plan. Did you know that? I didn't know it until I just finished reading a book. He didn't have anything to do with this but the people who went West believe that a sanctuary should be just for worship but they wanted a place for the meetings, and the political meetings and so forth. So, they put up, they could use for an overflow body and that is known as the Akron plan but an interesting book you might want to read called The Churches of Somerset County, you've seen it?

INT: Mm-Hmm. I haven't read it, but I ran across it yesterday in the library.

KC: All right, all right. Yeah. I want to get back to this. Oh, I was on that book, cut that off now. [Footage cuts and restarts] [The Methodist congregation] didn't have much money, but their minutes show, if you read those, they said this quarter, we had raised around $700 and we'll be able to begin. So, in 1888, the cornerstone was put out here and no sooner had they got this done, they realized they didn't have any people trained enough to run churches. So, they got the preacher here at the church at that time made petition with a man who founded Goucher College and they got talking, and they borrowed some money from the conference to get started. But they had to pay it back, of course. But this church then founded the college, what I'm trying to talk about, and the aim of founding that college was so they could train more preachers to go on to Morgan College in Baltimore. But this was a branch of Morgan College at that time called the Centenary Biblical Institute in Baltimore. They had to train these people, they started off with 13 or 14 people. Well, among them were some people I knew who used to be in this church. That's about all the history is, a lot more, it just didn't come to me now.

INT: That's all right.

KC: Yeah, yeah, you ask me some questions, question me.

INT: Okay. So, one of the significant things I read about this church is that in the sixties, when some of the students from the college were protesting, they kind of use this as a meeting area.

KC: Alright, let me tell you that. In the sixties now and moving on up, the kids over at the college wanted to—the civil rights movement was going on all over the country—they wanted to go in some restaurants up here and go uptown. So, I was in Boone, North Carolina, sort of coming to, on my way, going to my daughter's graduation at Fisk University and we got lost that night in the mountains in the fall. Again, we stayed in a home up in the mountains and the Indian Black man cross. Fact is, we stopped at a little old selling station, wanting to know where we could find a motel and the music was going on over the side and on the side of this they had KKK playing up there. And we turned, they played it real loud and then radio came and said "Last night, the Ku Klux Klan marched here." So, we start at this little service station and there's this little raw-boned Indian man, a black white guy. "Where could we find a place to stay?" and he said, "You call me Preacher. I don't know if the times are going crazy around here," he said, "But what you do, you get behind the first truck that comes, because it's foggy, and follow them until you get in town and then there'll be a Ford Place on the side and go up the hill and there'll be a light, I'll call up there and"—he preaches at our church, I didn't know, I didn't know this great big Indian, old hairy guy, and we did just like he say. We followed the thing, we got up there. Anyhow we went in the room, and his wife was over there shelling some, doing some strawberries and we look at the television and I look at it and saw Metropolitan Church, and there was Dick Gregory walking around and up here. I said, "That's my—" he said, "It's been on four or five times tonight." The kids in the college had left the college, well the doors were locked here but they broke the doors down or pushed the door down and came in and Dick Gregory's here up in the pulpit and I saw him when I was in Boone, North Carolina. I'll never forget that. At the same time, I had been to Crisfield, when we had gotten back, to Woodson School; I was supervisor down there. I was coming down the street down here. When I got here on this hill, the fire department was right here on this hill, to getting their hoses out and the kids were coming up full-breast. They didn't care for water, nothing else and they came to me, they saw I wanted to make a turn to go over that way and the kids begging me to go on and the man who was holding the [hose], they hadn't turned water on. He's dead now, bless his heart. Looked up, and he saw who I was. He dropped it. They didn't put any water on them. We worked together in the same office. I don't usually talk about that because we were friends. In other words, they did not throw any water on them coming up that hill and it happened just by coincidence. I stopped on that corner and the had those, getting that hose, all that stuff ready and when he looked up, and looked, when saw me in my car and dropped it, and the kids marched on up town and he around on the street, and he went inside the place. That's briefly what happened. So, from that time on— oh, another thing, interesting thing happened at that same time during the march, you know. You had, we locked the church because, and we part a guard down inside, some men downstairs here too because they may burn it down. You didn't know if it was going to happen, but nothing ever happened. Anything else? I guess I've asked you everything.

So after the students protested, I guess it was within days then that they were able to have service up at the restaurants in town.

KC: Well, this one goes to prove that you can go get a ____(inaudible) for somebody. They didn't necessarily want sandwiches and stuff like that, they wanted to prove they had a right to go where they please, you know?

INT: Right.

KC: And I never saw anything. When I was riding in, I didn't see anything unusual happening from that time on. They didn't have over at the college, their protests meeting over there, because they want to bring it near town. But I did remember seeing in this church, right back in that pew(?), Dick Gregory, just up prancing up inside there, now why the devil did he get inside there?

INT: So, they forcefully came into the building. They weren't really given permission-

KC: No.

INT: -to use this as a meeting area.

KC: Well, you could you could force a door, you know.

INT: Right.

[01:20:53] KC: They didn't tear anything up.

[01:20:54] INT: But no one was here from the church and said, "Come use this space!"

[01:20:57] KC: No, no, no. They came into through a door. Now we look back, it was just another incident, you know?

[01:21:03] INT: Right.

[01:21:05] KC: Okay. That's all.

[01:21:07] INT: Is there anything else you'd like to share with us that you think is particularly interesting or significant? I'm sure you have lots of...

KC: Yeah. I'm interested in telling you something about the schools we had before desegregation, and I'm not bragging on myself, I don't want to do that. But my superintendents and Board of Education entrusted me, bless their hearts, to do whatever I want to do, anything I wanted to do I could do. I did my own hiring, my own firing, my own supervision, had grades from one to twelve. I got some of the top-notch people from all over the place. One of the teachers I had, by the way, she was from down in—I spoke at her funeral not long ago. I tell you, Robert James(?) and Daniel DeLong(?), she became the supervisor of personnel in Philadelphia schools. She taught right over here in Somerset High School. Marcus Foster(?), from Cheney(?), became superintendent of schools in Oakland, California. He's one of my teachers. The present president of Morgan State University, Dr. Earl [S.] Richardson, is a graduate over here from Somerset School here. He had inspiring teachers. I hired a teacher with the idea—I must talk about my son too, my son, Kirkwood Cottman works for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. He's a research chemist. He has 35 patents, and of all they have, they had at the annual meeting in Luxembourg, from Luxembourg, over in Europe, and all round from 14 different major places of Goodyear. Not that he's my son, but it is my son too. He was honored as the Chemist of the Year. He invented a method of making, another method of making rubber to go into your pantyhose, into your, or adhesive to go on the back to the envelopes and stuff and they don't announce it but you can make it cheaper than we had been making it, so they, you don't announce that because other companies will want to come down. They only make around $3 million a year off of that. Kirkwood Cottman and it was in the paper not too long ago, my son, he [inaudible as INT: coughs] I can name you umpteen numbers of people. Now, how I got my teachers, they kind of let me have the county car, and I'd go to different schools and, you know for grad, you know, and pick out people. I'd go to Hampton University, Hampton, Virginia. I'd go Virginia Union University, going to Pittsburgh and to North Carolina, all around Chaney [University], Morgan [University]. I went everywhere. I'd tell you I want you to be a teacher, but I want you also to be a leader, or guide. The difference between being a teacher and a guide: a teacher is the leader of the classroom, isn't it? Right, but you can do that also when you're sort of a guide, the child never feels they're being dominated. I built my school, my work around especially the school year over here, around the idea of adolescent psychology. They don't want you to tell them anything, do they? You know how you were as a teenager, you're a teenager yourself, now. [Laughs] They don't want to be told anything. You know the way around that you learn in life. You learn what it's all about. But someone could say, what about something that you think through a little bit? You're still going to do whatever you want to do. So, we developed so you could get leadership, fellowship and it wouldn't be just smart people and slow people. We'd been in clubs. Clubs in the school. Once every week, we had a rotating [schedule], cut a period out and have a club. I learned that from a book at Temple University. Temple [University] at that time, was in progressive educations, they had a lot of ideas and you'd have people who became the leaders of a club. Boy here may be taking chemistry, but he may be also be in the course. You could be in different things, you know what I mean? And they learn how to have their own, develop their own leadership and so forth and I think it paid off, it did turn out pretty well. My daughter, she's not doing too poorly, and their children's children. Let's cut this off, I want to tell you this.
[Audio and footage end]

Related Records

County Wicomico County
School Name Salisbury High School
Location Lake street, location of Charles H. Chipman Elementary School, Salisbury
Date Opened
Current Status No longer standing, however, one of the original doorways is preserved on the grounds of Charles …
State Maryland
All Fields in This Record
State Maryland
County Wicomico County
School Name Salisbury High School
Location Lake street, location of Charles H. Chipman Elementary School, Salisbury
Date Opened
Current Status No longer standing, however, one of the original doorways is preserved on the grounds of Charles H. Chipman Elementary
Additional Information
State Maryland