Al Gray ’71 and Doug Jones ’69 are familiar names in Wofford College’s history. Gray was the college’s first Black student. Jones was the first Black student to graduate from the college while Gray’s studies were interrupted during the Vietnam War.
Both were graduates of Spartanburg’s Carver High School, and they were joined on Wofford’s campus by a few of their Carver schoolmates to help desegregate the college in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Many of those alumni are continuing to make a difference for today’s students and future generations of Terriers.
Six of them have established an endowed scholarship to support Wofford students pursuing internships. They’re continuing a legacy.
“Carver High School and Cumming Street School teachers often came to support us no matter what we were doing,” says Rudy Long ’73, who was one of the first two Black student-athletes on the Wofford football team and a charter member of the college’s chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.
Long, who lives in Columbia, South Carolina, and many of his classmates describe themselves as being part of a pipeline that was intentionally established from Carver High School.
Alumni contributing to the Carver Legacy Scholarship are: James Cheek ’73, Phillip Fant ’74, Gwendolyn Prince-Lawrence ’73, Gray, Jones and Long. Memorial donations were made in honor of William Hunter ’73, Donald Gene Robinson ’73, Jennifer Foster-Dean ’74 and Bobby Leach, a former assistant dean at Wofford and the college’s first Black administrator.
“I was involved in everything at Carver,” says Gray, a Wofford trustee from 1998-2010. “I got here and learned to be very individualistic. Everyone would ask me how I could be so isolated, and I said, ‘You adapt and learn. It’s a defense mechanism.’ That worked well for me, and my focus was on academics.”
The college’s administration recognized the need to recruit more Black students and built a relationship with Carver High School. Earlier this year, Cheek and Fant established scholarships at Wofford, and Cheek reminisced about visiting Wofford’s campus for a recruiting event and having a conversation with a man he thought was a professor. When he returned to Carver that Monday morning, he learned that he was talking to Wofford’s president, Dr. Paul Hardin III, and he was encouraged to compete for a Wofford scholarship, which was awarded to him.
The college’s early Black students made concerted efforts to get involved with campus clubs and organizations to pave the way for others.
“It was a transition for me as well as my professors and fellow classmates coming from a segregated society,” Long says.
Prince-Lawrence, who lives in Statesville, North Carolina, was one of the first women to attend the college. She was a day student before Wofford began admitting women as residential students. She transferred from Stillman College in Alabama and had a young family.
“It never occurred to me that I was breaking a barrier,” says Prince-Lawrence.
Prince-Lawrence, who was the valedictorian of her Carver High School class in 1967, and her family lived on Evins Street while she was a Wofford student. She had a full-time job and family commitments and wasn’t too active on campus.
The Carver Legacy Scholarship will give special priority to descendants of Carver High School alumni and students who attended Carver Middle School (Spartanburg District 7 transitioned Carver to a junior high and middle school after local public schools were desegregated).
Cheek says the scholarship lends credence to a line from the Carver High School alma mater that said, “Your name to us will never die.”