Dr Clifton W. Potter Jr. ~ UL History Professor
Last Sunday I attended a lecture by Ted Delaney, the Director of the Lynchburg Museum System, at the Old City Cemetery on free persons of color in Lynchburg from 1805 until 1865. It was very informative and I learned a great deal that I did not know, but there is still much to discover on this topic. When I returned home I was sorting through the contents of one in my desk, and I found a photograph that brought back a flood of memories. It was a picture of some of the students who were arrested for staging a sit in at the Patterson’s Drug Store lunch counter on December 14, 1960. The central figure in this photo was Jim Hunter,’63. His hands are unconsciously in an attitude of prayer—and that says it all. The night before the sit in—the first one was in Greensboro—the Young Democrats Club had met to choose the two students who would risk arrest and incarceration. Jim and Terrell Brumback volunteered. Along with two students from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College and two from Virginia Seminary and College they were arrested for trespassing and sentenced to spend time in the Lynchburg Jail.
Jim and I shared a class that semester and the professor—who will remain anonymous—forbade us to provide Jim with notes for the classes he would miss. When he returned to campus he had more sets of notes than he needed. Every year a group of students would petition the administration to integrate Lynchburg College, and every year their request was politely rejected. Dr. Wake was fearful of the negative reaction of the community, and especially the local press if such a step were taken. His predecessor, Dr. Riley B. Montgomery had resigned over the furor caused by an integrated church meeting on our campus more than a decade earlier. Dr. Carey Brewer was responsible for ending segregation at Lynchburg College—he simply did it. There was no public outcry, no mass exodus of students and faculty; after all we had been preparing ourselves for that moment since 1903. Some of the early white civil rights leaders in the South like the Rev. Howard A. Kester ‘25, were Lynchburg College graduates.
During my college years those persons who were working for racial equality would gather at the Lodge of the Fisherman on the grounds of the Church of the Covenant. Over coffee and dessert in this integrated restaurant concerned citizens discussed how to peacefully transform the Hill City. Hoping to close this conduit for change, conservative city authorities forbade the staff to charge for the food and beverages they served because they did not have a restaurant license. They could only suggest prices. Many came and refused to pay for their meals; many others—including a number of Lynchburg College students—came and willingly paid twice. The Lodge of the Fisherman is still there. We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.