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Donald Byers

Jackson P. Burley High School
Interviewed on September 28, 2022, by George Gilliam.

Full Transcript

GEORGE GILLIAM: [00:00:00] All right, today, we’re doing the interview of Donald A. Byers, a member of the Burley High School class of 1959.  The interviewers are Phyllis Leffler, George Gillam, and Lorenzo Dickerson who doubles as our videographer.  And today, we’re trying to collect Mr. Byers’s recollections as part of an oral history project for The Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society.  It is September 28, 2022. [Extraneous material redacted.] And the full name of our interviewee is Donald A. Byers.  He has signed a release and consent to the use of his image and his voice in this project.  [00:01:00] Mr. Byers, what is your date of birth?

DONALD A. BYERS: [00:01:05] My date of birth is July 28, 1941.

GEORGE GILLIAM: [00:01:12] July twenty-eighth.  And tell me about your parents.

DAB: [00:01:26] Well, both of my parents are deceased.  My father was Richard Allen Byers, and he was from the North Garden area, and my mother, her name was [Edith Brackett?] Byers, and she also was from the North Garden area.  My father was killed when I was at the age of 13, and my mother passed in the year of 2003.  [00:02:00]

GG: [00:02:03] What was their work; where were they employed?

DAB: [00:02:10] My mother was a domestic worker, and up until the latter -- I would say the last few years that she worked, she worked some as a seamstress for Miller & Rhoads, and she also worked as a seamstress for [Mary Pegg’s?] shop on Market Street.  And my father, which I can-- which I’m trying to remember, worked for -- somewhere in the university.

GG: [00:02:52] And what was their education?  Did they both finish high school? 

DAB: [00:02:57] My mother graduated [00:03:00] from high school, which was in Esmont Virginia at that particular time, that was the high school, Esmont High School.  And my father did not complete high school.

GG: [00:03:23] And do you have siblings?

DAB: [00:03:25] Yes, I have three brothers -- two brothers, I’m sorry.

GG: [00:03:34] And are they both still alive?

DAB: [00:03:36] They both are.

GG: [00:03:38] All right.

PHYLLIS LEFFLER: [00:03:40] [Are they?] the younger?

DAB: [00:03:41] I’m the oldest and so they -- 

GG: [00:03:48] Your roots go deep in North Garden?

DAB: [00:03:53] Very deep.

GG: [00:03:54] Tell us about North Garden and your family’s connections there.

DAB: [00:04:00] Well, my grandfather and grandmother, they both were from North Garden area, and my grandfather built a home there and that -- which it is still standing.  They had two children, my mother and her sister, and they also lived in North Garden.  Me and my siblings were born in North Garden, and all of us have homes in North Garden.  So North Garden is the place for this family.  [00:05:00] And North Garden now anybody -- is known in the southern part of Albemarle County.

PL: [00:05:07] So -- can I interrupt for a moment -- your grandparents built their own home there?

DAB: [00:05:12] That’s right.

PL: [00:05:13] So they owned the land, right?

DAB: [00:05:15] Right.

PL: [00:05:16] And then owned the home?

DAB: [00:05:18] Mm-hmm, that’s right.

PL: [00:05:20] That’s wonderful, and the home, that’s still standing?

DAB: [00:05:22] It’s still standing.

PL: [00:05:24] Has it been changed much over the --?

DAB: [00:05:27] There’s been some changes, yes, to it, yes.  We are in the process may-- of putting it up for sale in the near -- very near future.  It’s working on that now, mm-hmm.

GG: [00:05:49] Were athletics important to you growing up?

DAB: [00:05:52] Very important to me.  Athletics was important to me because I [00:06:00] was into playing baseball; that was my sport.  I wanted to play football when I went to high school, but my mother said no, so we stuck with baseball.

PL: [00:06:18] You know why she said no?

DAB: [00:06:20] Yes, she was afraid we got -- would get hurt.

PL: [00:06:23] Sure.  So that’s a reasonable fear, don’t you think?

DAB: [00:06:26] Yeah, yeah.

GG: [00:06:31] So I’d like you to walk us through the schools that you attended and the years for each.

DAB: [00:06:40] Well, (laughs) I don’t know, that’s a long time ago.  I went to grade school in South Garden.  Grade school was one through -- I think through seventh, [00:07:00] to -- yeah, one through seven.  I went to grade school, I’d walk, I was -- I’d walk to school.  It was a one-room school filled up with a bunch of students. That school eventually burned down, and I went to another grade school, which is in Chestnut Grove, which is on Old Lynchburg Road.  That was a two-room school.

GG: [00:07:37] What years would that have been?

DAB: [00:07:39] Oh, God.  So let me see.  I’m 81 years old now, I would’ve started school when I was -- in 19-- probably 1947, so that would’ve been, I guess, ’47 [00:08:00] through probably, what, ’53 or something like that?  Yeah.

GG: [00:08:11] And did you go from seventh --?

DAB: [00:08:13] I went to and then I -- something happened at the school in Chestnut Grove, and I ended up going to school at Albemarle Training School, which was on Old -- I mean Hydraulic Road.  I went there for one year, seventh grade, and when I graduated from there, I went to Burley, started eighth grade at Burley.  At those times up until up Burley opened, the Black students they’re graduating was 11 grades.  We only had 11 grades up until Burley was [00:09:00] built.

GG: [00:09:04] So you had then five years at Burley?

DAB: [00:09:11] I had five years at Burley.

GG: [00:09:14] Ending in 1959?

DAB: [00:09:15] Fifty-nine, that’s right.

PL: [00:09:20] I really would love to hear you describe what those one-room schools were like.  I know that’s not the major focus of our project but we have -- 

DAB: [00:09:29] Well -- 

PL: [00:09:30] -- already talked to many people who -- 

DAB: [00:09:33] -- they were crowded.  And I’m trying to remember because like I said, that’s a long time ago.

PL: [00:09:43] Sure.

DAB: [00:09:43] But we did everything.  We had classes, we had recesses, we had eating periods, and...  [00:10:00] I guess at that particular time, you didn’t realize there was a lot of turmoil because of the size -- of all the kids there, and sometimes you only had one teacher for the whole school or some-- and or sometimes two.  So it was a lot going on, but at that age, it -- we were kids, so it didn’t faze us a bit.  (laughter)

PL: [00:10:39] It was just the way it was, it was -- 

DAB: [00:10:41] That’s just the way it was, that’s right.

PL: [00:10:44] Do you have any knowledge of what caused the school to burn down?

DAB: [00:10:49] No, I don’t.  I think, at that time, they were having -- we had that coal -- the stoves in the school [00:11:00] that you had to put coal there.  That was the heat, coal and they also...  If my memory serves me right, there were times when they -- I don’t know why they did it but they oiled the floors.  They put oil on the floors, and I don’t know what the purpose of it was.  It’s in my mind that somewhere -- that someone had mentioned the fact that with the oil on the floors and the heat from this -- the stove was the cause of the fire, yeah.

GG: [00:11:47] Now usually those floors were oiled to keep the dust out.

DAB: [00:11:51] Right, right, that -- yeah, they -- I know they -- I know -- I vaguely remember them doing that oil in the floors.

GG: [00:11:59] Yeah.  [00:12:00] So all the Black students from both the city and the county were going to Burley at that point?

DAB: [00:12:12] Yes, when I entered in ’55, yes, that’s when I went there, ’55, yes.  Yeah, all the Black kids from the city of Charlottesville, the County of Albemarle, a small portion of Greene, and a little bit of Nelson County depending on where -- what area you lived in.  Because some of those counties were still in -- they were Greene County, but they -- I think it bled over into Albemarle or something.  That was the reason for those kids I guess coming to Burley, but [00:13:00] that’s where all the kids were, we were at Burley.  

GG: [00:13:06] And did you take the school bus?

DAB: [00:13:07] Yes, yes -- 

GG: [00:13:10] Tell us about the ride, how long was that and what went on in the back of the bus?

DAB: [00:13:16] Well, (laughs) I cannot remember all that went on in the back of the bus, but I know the bus drivers that I had, they were -- they weren’t putting up with the foolishness.  I mean you be on that bus and you be quiet, and if anybody was acting up, then the bus will -- he will stop that bus and get that student straight.  And they also if they had any problems with a -- any students on their bus, they reported them to the schools when they got -- when they arrived at the school.  [00:14:00]

GG: [00:14:01] So they were serious?

DAB: [00:14:02] Very serious.

GG: [00:14:06] So Brown v. Board of Education, the decision in 1954, you were still one year -- you had been at -- 

DAB: [00:14:19] Albemarle Training.

GG: [00:14:20] At Albemarle Training?

DAB: [00:14:22] Mm-hmm.

GG: [00:14:23] How did you react to that decision, was it -- ?

DAB: [00:14:26] I really can’t remember how I reacted to it.  I don’t remember how I reacted to it.  The only thing I remember was that I knew that I would be going to this new school, Burley.  And up until then, I -- if I’m -- I’m trying to think, but I believe, I believe Albemarle Training School up until that point was going through the 11th [00:15:00] grade, I believe.  If my memory is correct, they were -- had up until the 11th grade until Burley was built.

GG: [00:15:16] So how long was that bus ride?

DAB: [00:15:23] That bus ride was probably about -- I guess it was 45 minutes to -- about 45 minutes or so, to an hour.

GG: [00:15:34] Each way?

DAB: [00:15:35] Each way.  If you participated in an activity at Burley, then you have to catch your home-- ride home in there because there was no bus to take you home, so you were responsible [00:16:00] for getting home.  After your practices, football, baseball, or basketball practices, and so forth, you were responsible for getting home.

GG: [00:16:11] So how did you get home?

DAB: [00:16:12] We caught rides with different people who worked in Charlottesville and lived in that area.

PL: [00:16:27] Would they have been the parents of other students or just people that -- ?

DAB: [00:16:31] No -- 

PL: [00:16:31] -- you knew?

DAB: [00:16:31] -- they’re just people that we know that lived in the community and was going -- would be going that way not necessarily that particular time.  So if they weren’t ready to go at that particular time, you -- then you would have to wait for them.

PL: [00:16:49] What that suggests to me is that you had a pretty -- you had a sense of community in North Garden, and you knew [00:17:00] who those people were who were working in town --

DAB: [00:17:03] Yes.

PL: [00:17:03] -- and the families could contact them and things like that?

DAB: [00:17:08] Yes, that’s correct.  And also in North Garden, we -- it was -- a lot of people were kin in that -- up in that area, a lot of people were kin.  So it was actually a lot of your kinfolk that you were depending on and so forth.

GG: [00:17:34] So how did the county schools differ from Burley?  How did Lane or Albemarle differ from Burley?

DAB: [00:17:46] That I won’t be able to tell you because I only had connections with Burley, and I graduated in ’59.  [00:18:00] The only thing I know was that at that particular time, all the Black students were going to Burley, all the white students were going to Lane and Albemarle.  That was the difference that I knew.  I don’t know what was going on there.

GG: [00:18:25] Did you interact at all with students from either Albemarle or Charlottesville?

DAB: [00:18:33] From Albemarle High? 

GG: [00:18:36] Yeah.

DAB: [00:18:38] No, no, no, I didn’t have very much interaction with those students at all.

GG: [00:18:44] No activity, no hostile activity back and forth?

DAB: [00:18:50] No.

GG: [00:18:51] Just a different world?

DAB: [00:18:52] Just a different world, my world and their world.

GG: [00:18:55] Yeah.  [00:19:00] You were quoted as saying that you owe your successes in life to Burley and that you would always carry that.

DAB: [00:19:12] That’s correct.

GG: [00:19:15] I’d like to talk about or have you talk about your successes in life.  You’ve started right out of high school in a job that led you to be a path breaker.

DAB: [00:19:29] Yes.  I didn’t attend college because when I got out of -- like I said, my father was -- had -- was deceased so that left my mother to raise three boys and she would like (inaudible) was doing domestic work.  So if I had wanted to go to college, I probably -- I wouldn’t because I wanted to be able to [00:20:00] help her -- being that I was oldest child, help her with the family.  So that’s what I did.  When I got -- graduated from Burley, I went to work for A&P Tea Company.  It was a giant -- one of the big -- biggest food chains in America at that particular time, and I went to work as a stock clerk, and I worked in the frozen food.  After getting there, I decided that I did not want to be a stock clerk, so I looked for other opportunities, and they had a -- what they call a manager’s program, and I [00:21:00] wanted to get into that program.  They was reluctant to let me in that program, but I continued to insist and pursue it, so finally I entered that program.  And that consisted of getting the experience in all the different departments in the store.

GG: [00:21:31] Now so we were talking about your starting at an entry-level position --

DAB: [00:21:37] We did.

GG: [00:21:37] -- and you insisted that you wanted -- 

DAB: [00:21:39] I wanted -- 

GG: [00:21:40] -- more opportunity.

DAB: [00:21:40] Right.  And eventually, I -- they gave me -- I was promoted to assistant manager, and they sent me to the store.  [00:22:00] At that time, they had two A&Ps in Charlottesville, one in Barracks Road -- that was the one that I was working at, that I went to work in the very beginning -- and they have one on Market Street.  Well, they sent me as assistant manager to the Market Street store, and that was a store that they had plans to close because they had not shown a profit there, I was told, in six years.  So they were going to close that store and build another A&P out on 29 North across from Fashion Square Mall, in that mall.  So they sent me down -- like I say, down to the Market Street store, and they had a manager at that time, so I was there for about [00:23:00] a year, and they sent him to another store down in Chase City I believe it was, and they promoted me to store manager and -- 

GG: [00:23:16] And -- 

DAB: [00:23:16] -- the -- okay.

GG: [00:23:17] How old were you at that point?

DAB: [00:23:20] I went to work for -- I think it was 1970 when they promoted me to store manager, yeah, it was 1970.  So I would’ve been, oh --

GG: [00:23:43] So you had been there 10 years?

DAB: [00:23:46] What’s that?

GG: [00:23:46] You had been there 10 years?

DAB: [00:23:48] Yeah, I was close, close to 10 years, right, yeah.

GG: [00:23:56] And then they pulled the trick.

DAB: [00:24:00] What’s that?

GG: [00:24:00] Then they pulled a trick.

DAB: [00:24:02] They pulled a trick.  But first of all when I went there, like I told you, the store had not had a profit in six years.  My very first year that I was there, they showed a profit, and so, and they showed a profit all the time that I was there.  They told me that they were going to promote me to the store on 29 North; they were going to send me to that store when it was open.  There was another guy that worked there as an assistant manager at the Barracks Road store.  They were also building a store -- a new store in Louisa, and they told him that he was going to Louisa, which he agreed to.  Well, when the two stores ended up being opening at the same time, [00:25:00] they told me that the other manager, who was a white guy, that he didn’t want to go to Louisa, and they were going to send -- they were going to put him in Charlottesville, and they were going to send me to Louisa.  Well, at that -- 

GG: [00:25:18] He was white?

DAB: [00:25:19] He was white.  So my children at that time -- I think we had three, maybe four children -- they were in Albemarle County schools.  I did not want to take them out of Albemarle County schools and put them in Louisa schools.  I told them that I would do something -- I would -- I’ll try to drive back and forth, but they did not want that, they wanted me to move.  And at that time, I just -- I had just built a home in Albemarle County, and I did [00:26:00] -- and I refused to move.  So I took it up with headquarters, and they in turn said, “No, if that’s what they want you to do, then that’s what you have to do.” So that’s when we departed.

PL: [00:26:18] Can I ask -- go back and ask a question?

DAB: [00:26:20] Yeah.

PL: [00:26:20] In this training program that you talked about, that you were able to get in, how many African Americans would have been in that training program?

DAB: [00:26:31] I was the only one.

PL: [00:26:32] You were the only one.

DAB: [00:26:33] I was the only one, yes.

PL: [00:26:37] So they were not --? 

DAB: [00:26:39] And I was the only one in the -- and that, to be honest with you, the time that I was in that training program, I didn’t even see any other managers, White or Black, in that training program.  But that’s what I was told that I had to -- that they had this training program, and that’s [00:27:00] what I would have to complete, so that’s what I did.

PL: [00:27:04] You did.

DAB: [00:27:04] And I did.

GG: [00:27:06] So now you don’t have a job --

DAB: [00:27:08] I don’t have a job.

GG: [00:27:10] -- you have three or four children in school.

DAB: [00:27:12] Right.

GG: [00:27:16] What did you do?

DAB: [00:27:16] For about a month, almost a month, I didn’t do anything at that particular time.  I had a friend who was a white guy that worked for Albemarle County Sheriff’s Department, and he was from North Garden too.  He came to me, and he said, “Donald, why don’t you come and work for the sheriff’s department?” and I said, “Look, you have to carry a gun, and I never even shot a gun, I don’t know anything.”  He said, [00:28:00] “We can train you.”  So he talked me into going down and talking to George Bailey, who was the sheriff, into applying for a job, and George Bailey gave me a job as -- and this was in 1975.  He gave me a job.

GG: [00:28:29] And what did you do; what was the -- what was your assignment?

DAB: [00:28:36] Well, at the -- when I went to work -- well my assignment was we did patrol, we did traffic, we did serve civil warrants.  The sheriff’s department at that particular time did everything, they worked the courts and everything.  They did everything because there was no police department at that particular [00:29:00] time, it was just a sheriff’s department, and they did everything dealing with law enforcement.  So that was what I did.  I never did have to come in and work the courts, but I had to serve civil warrants, I’d worked traffic, and criminal.  Mm-hmm.

GG: [00:29:24] So during that time when you were a young law enforcement officer, what was the racial mix of the sheriff’s department?

DAB: [00:29:40] When I went to work for the sheriff’s department, they had one other Black deputy when I went to work for them -- 

GG: [00:29:53] And how many -- 

DAB: [00:29:54] -- (overlapping dialogue; inaudible) only two.  Oh, I don’t know, they probably had about -- at that particular time, they probably had [00:30:00] 12, 13, or 14, or something like, mm-hmm.

GG: [00:30:07] Did you suffer any...?

DAB: [00:30:16] Go ahead and finish your question --

GG: [00:30:19] What -- 

DAB: [00:30:18] -- but I think I know where you’re going with that.

GG: [00:30:22] Did you suffer at all because of being Black?

DAB: [00:30:27] Not suffer, I got along real good with the officers that worked.  In my life, I’ve always been, what I call, a people’s person.  I’ve always been able to get along with people regardless because it was, I guess you know, that that’s just the way my personality was.  I wasn’t a [00:31:00] a softy, but I was just a people’s person and which -- and so I didn’t have a problem with -- I had some problems with some of the people that I ran across in the Albemarle County, some people that I had to arrest or serve papers on.

GG: [00:31:23] They didn’t greet you with loving arms?

DAB: [00:31:26] Oh no, no, not...  I had one, a person I had under arrest once, had him in the magistrate’s office, and he spit in my face.  I had another one that I was -- arrested, and he call me the n-word, so I had some run-in.  But I also, I can say it -- not a whole lot, but I did experience [00:32:00] some of that, right.

GG: [00:32:07] I want to look at what the reaction was in North Garden in your world.  What was the response to the desegregation efforts that started in the late ’50s?

DAB: [00:32:28] You know I think about that and I really...  After getting out of high school, graduating from high school, in the North Garden area, we didn’t have a lot of racial bias or conflict.  We all realized that Blacks were [00:33:00] -- we were expected to do this and Whites were expected to do that, and I guess we pretty much respected that aspect of it, but we never had any discord or anything, animosity.  And we all got along up there as a community, mm-hmm.  We had grocery stores up there that we all shopped at.  Actually at North Garden, you had about three grocery stores in -- up in that area at that particular time, we had a post office, we had all of that type of stuff in the community, and we... 

PL: [00:33:47] And there weren’t expectations that Blacks shopped in one store and Whites in a different one?

DAB: [00:33:53] No, no, we all shopped at the same store.

PL: [00:33:56] That’s great.

DAB: [00:33:56] We all shopped in the same store.  [00:34:00] 

GG: [00:34:04] You were one of the movers and shakers, one of the founders I think of the Burley Varsity Club.

DAB: [00:34:11] Yes.

GG: [00:34:12] And that was formed in?

DAB: [00:34:16] Oh, I can’t remember exactly.

GG: [00:34:18] I think 2007.

DAB: [00:34:20] That sound about right.

GG: [00:34:21] Right?

DAB: [00:34:22] Mm-hmm.

GG: [00:34:23] What was the varsity club intended to do?

DAB: [00:34:28] Well, we decided that to us, Burley, Jackson P. Burley, our alma mater, was something special to us as a Black student.  At that particular time, they had made Burley a middle school, but we had decided [00:35:00] that we were going to do something that everybody would always remember Burley, Jackson P. Burley High School.  We were going to keep that legacy alive, and we tried to figure out ways that we could do that.  So we formed -- it started out with I think four of us, and we started out with the Burley Varsity Club, and we have been working diligently ever since.

GG: [00:35:38] What are some of the things you-all had done?

DAB: [00:35:42] Well, first thing we did was we’ve noticed that there was no -- of all the trophies and things that Burley had, there was none in school, they were not in the schools.  So our first project was to put [00:36:00] trophy cases in Burley, find our trophies, and what we couldn’t find, we had to have them remade, and put that -- the trophy case in the schools, get those trophies back in there.  And we also have some other things that students donated like sweaters and stuff like that, we put all of that -- got all of that.  That was our first thing.  And then I think the next thing, we started naming hallways after some of our teachers, then we started naming the fields after -- and the gymnasiums after our teachers.  I guess our biggest project, at that particular time, was we decided that we were going to do a memorial, [00:37:00] a wall monument, which we will give every student who went to Burley an opportunity to put their name, have their name inscribed on that monument wall.  And then the Burley Varsity Club, we said not only were we going to have the -- memorialize the student, but we were going to make sure that every administrator that was in that school and went on down to the cafeteria workers, the janitor.  The club itself made sure that their names were put in there.  The students had the obligation of getting -- of paying for their names to be on that wall.  But the Burley Varsity Club [00:38:00] made sure if an administrator wasn’t living or they didn’t have -- or a family member didn’t put their name in, that we were going to make sure that their names were in.  That project cost us 90 -- about $90,000, but we got it done.

GG: [00:38:20] Where did the money come from?

DAB: [00:38:22] The came from, like I said, these students that people that wanted their name, they had to pay a fee to have their name put on the wall.  And then we had people that gave donations.  We had some really nice donations from several people, gave us donations and helped out with that because we advertised what we were doing.  We advertised it, and we had a lot of people that stepped forward and helped us with that.  [00:39:00]

GG: [00:39:01] You were quoted at some places as saying Jackson P. Burley will always be something that I cherish and something I’ll always be fighting for.

DAB: [00:39:13] That’s right.  Burley, a lot of times when people talk about Burley, the first thing they talk about is they talk about the sports.  They talk about the football program, which that -- and they were -- they -- I mean they held a record in 1956 of nobody even scoring on them.  That’s a (inaudible) right there.  A lot of people know Burley by that name, but to me, Burley was more than just a [00:40:00] sport -- sports school.  We had great, great teachers.  I’m so proud, so proud of our teachers, administrators because they were people that cared about you, they showed it, they let you know.  And if you were there to get an education, then they were going to see to it that you got what you needed.  They not only would work with you during their hours, but they invited you to -- if you could to -- they would stay with you after hours and help you.  I’ve even had two teachers were -- that we come by their home and work with them to get what I [00:41:00] needed to get done.  So I have a lot of respect for those teachers, and that’s one of the things that I really think that made Burley great because Burley put out some good people.  They had people who went to Burley who ended up being lawyers, doctors, and a lot of professional-type people, and so...  And they can attribute that to the education that they got from Burley.  Even though they went to college, but they wouldn’t have made it in college if they hadn’t got that education from Jackson P. Burley.

GG: [00:41:55] You said you were able to receive enough to be [00:42:00] -- enough compensation to be healthy, to make a decent living, and be a decent person, and do some things in life.

DAB: [00:42:08] Right.

GG: [00:42:09] Do you feel like you met -- that’s the challenge that you met?

DAB: [00:42:13] I feel that I have.  I’m very proud of the fact that even though I didn’t go to college, that I was able to break a barrier in Albemarle, Charlottesville area as being the first Black manager, store manager of a major retail store in Charlottesville and Albemarle.  Also, I feel very comfortable that I was also the first Black investigator with the Albemarle County Police -- Sheriff’s Department and Police Department.  So those are two big accomplishments that I feel [00:43:00] were important to me.  I got to do a little traveling, vacations, and stuff.  I feel like I’ve had a blessed life and -- yeah, and I attributed that to my education at Burley.  And I guess I could say in the grade schools too because I’ve always been a pretty decent student and so in order for me to be a decent student, I had to have some pretty good teachers, so I attributed that to them.

GG: [00:43:49] Oh, you’re singing to the choir here.  (laughter) And, Phyllis?

PL: [00:43:54] Do you remember the names of any of those teachers?

DAB: [00:43:56] Yes, I do.

PL: [00:43:57] We should put that on the record I think.

DAB: [00:44:00] All right.  I remember Ms. Snowden, I remember Ms. McCoy, I remember Lorraine Williams, Teresa Walker, Lillie Mae Brown, Harold Green, Coach Bob Smith, Coach Greene.  The other Green that I named, he was a biology teacher there, so...  I remember those teachers.

PL: [00:44:43] That’s fabulous, that’s really fabulous.  (laughter) Not many of us can say we remember the names of our high school teachers, not a lot of us.

DAB: [00:44:51] Yeah.

PL: [00:44:52] Could you talk just a little bit about playing baseball?  We didn’t really get into that, playing baseball -- 

DAB: [00:44:58] Well, baseball -- 

PL: [00:44:58] -- really and also [00:45:00] just put it, so I don’t forget.  Based on where you lived, maybe not, were you able to go to some of those football games that you talked about?

DAB: [00:45:13] Sure.

PL: [00:45:13] Just the environment around sports as you know.

DAB: [00:45:17] Okay, now, even though I wasn’t able -- my mother wouldn’t let us play football, we did attend because, like I say, I’m sports -- I’m sports oriented, anyway, and I played baseball for Burley.  We had a decent team.  We didn’t win any state championships, but we had -- we were very, very competitive.  I played under Coach Bob Smith who was also the football coach, who also was the athletic director.  And so I attended all the home [00:46:00] football games, I attended all of those games, so I -- even though I didn’t play, I was a big cheerleader.  And I played baseball, and they say I was a decent -- pretty decent baseball player.  I played some sandlot ball in the community for our team up in South Garden.  We had a Negro league or Black Negro league, and I played for them for several years, and we played everywhere.  We played in Culpeper, Wilmington down in Fluvanna County, we played in Sperryville, we played in Madison, Luray, Waynesboro.

PL: [00:46:49] This was as a high school student?

DAB: [00:46:51] What’s that?

PL: [00:46:52] That was part of the high school team you traveled (overlapping dialogue; inaudible)? 

DAB: [00:46:54] No, that was part of the team that I played baseball with after I got out of high [00:47:00] school.

PL: [00:47:02] Okay, so at Burley, what teams did you play in baseball?

DAB: [00:47:14] What -- 

PL: [00:47:14] Other Black high schools -- 

DAB: [00:47:16] Yeah, no, no -- 

PL: [00:47:16] -- in the area -- 

DAB: [00:47:17] -- no, the Blacks -- Black schools, they were all Black schools.  I can’t remember all of them, but I do remember St. Emma.

PL: [00:47:29] I mean how far would you travel for games?

DAB: [00:47:32] We probably traveled -- I don’t know.  Most of the time I traveled it wasn’t over an hour so, an hour one way, mm-hmm.  We traveled in vehicles, we didn’t travel in bus, we traveled in -- most of the time in vehicle.

PL: [00:47:53] So private cars just --? 

DAB: [00:47:56] Well, yeah, I guess they were that.  They probably were the coaches’ cars probably.  [00:48:00] Mm-hmm.  

PL: [00:48:03] Yeah.

GG: [00:48:04] Lorenzo, do you have questions?

LORENZO DICKERSON: [00:48:08] I don’t think so, I think you covered everything, yeah.  I don’t think I have.

GG: [00:48:13] I was showing Phyllis the -- 

DAB: [00:48:14] Okay.

GG: [00:48:15] -- credits you were given in this book.

PL: [00:48:17] In this nice book, yeah, thanks.  If we have a few more minutes -- we have a few more minutes?

GG: [00:48:25] Yeah.

PL: [00:48:25] I’d like to just go back because you and your kinfolk and extended family came from the North Gardens -- 

DAB: [00:48:40] That’s right, right.

PL: [00:48:42] A lot of the people we’ve spoken to came from the city of Charlottesville.

DAB: [00:48:48] Right, mm-hmm.

PL: [00:48:49] You had a different life experience because you lived in a more rural area.  We haven’t talked at all about [00:49:00] what that community was really like.  You said it was a close community, you talked about Black-White relationships in terms of using the same stores, but was there a church that you-all attended?

DAB: [00:49:19] Oh yes.

PL: [00:49:19] When you developed this love of baseball, were you playing baseball?  You must have been out in North Garden, and so did people just do like pickup games, was there a league?  Did you play with all the Black kids, were there White kids that did this?  Just if you could talk a little bit more about the -- 

DAB: [00:49:42] I can.

PL: [00:49:42] -- North Garden and what that was like growing up.

DAB: [00:49:45] In North Garden, we all -- the Blacks had that -- the churches that they attended, the whites had churches they attended, and they were all in it -- and they still -- like they still are today as far as churches [00:50:00] in the communities that you live.  Every community just about has a church in it.  And some of them had more than -- and I know right now that in North Garden, in South Garden -- North Garden, South Garden area, we have one, two, three right there.  We got three, three Black -- three -- what I call churches that mostly Black -- all Blacks attend, and you got about four or five -- four that whites attend.  You didn’t have as many churches back when I was coming up, but you had churches for each race.  As far as the sports is concerned, we had -- we formed a -- we had a -- probably formed league, a baseball league, a sandlot baseball league, which we had teams from different areas.  [00:51:00] And sometimes, we had to travel, sometimes a couple hour almost -- well, an hour and a half to get to some of these places.  But we had a league that you played in, and it was a Black -- it was all Black up until I think in the late ’70s.  In the late ’70s, I think we -- South Garden had -- we had a couple of white guys that played ball with us on our team.  At the same time that we had the Black -- all-Black league, Charlottesville had a White league team over here, [00:52:00] and they asked me to play ball with them also and so I was playing in two teams.  I was playing with my team, and I was playing with them also here in Charlottesville.

PL: [00:52:14] But that would’ve been after high school.

DAB: After high school, that would have been after high school, yes.  Now I’m trying to think of anything else that I missed that you...

PL: [00:52:26] Well, I have a more general question -- 

DAB: [00:52:29] All right.

PL: [00:52:29] -- I would just like to ask you.  You’ve described growing up clearly in a racially separate community, which clearly were very rich communities and gave you a lot because that’s what you’ve told us.  I’m wondering how you feel about the transformation [00:53:00] to more integrated communities and actually how you think we’re doing as a society today -- 

DAB: [00:53:11] Well -- 

PL: [00:53:11] --on those issues?

DAB: [00:53:14] -- we make -- it’s just progress has been made, but there’s still more to be done.  Well, I can see great difference from the time that I was in -- going to high school and now, I can see the difference, I mean a big difference.  But right now, right now as we speak, I feel like we are regressing, regressing right now, and that’s bad because we -- we’ve made quite a few steps forward.  And now, it seems like we’re going right back to -- into some of the things that we [00:54:00] just get -- that we got out of, and that that’s not good.  I belong to a group we call One Heart, and it’s made up of six people, three from my church, three, and three from a white church right up the road from us.  I go to Covesville Baptist Church, First Baptist Cove-- I go to that church, and there’s a white church right up the road from us.  We formed a group called One Heart, and we meet -- try to meet at least once a month, so...  And we talk about everything, all, racial, what’s going on in the world, racially like.  We read -- do a lot of reading on stuff like slavery, we read about reparations, we discuss all of this stuff [00:55:00] at meetings.  It’s just very, very interesting, and we learn a lot about each other.  We have become very, very close, and we encourage other people in the -- both churches to start getting groups together like that because you learn, you learn a lot.  And people don’t know, but it can make a lot of difference.  We even write letters to our congressmen concerning issues that we want done, so...  I’m very excited about that also.

PL: [00:55:56] That’s the way change happens.

DAB: [00:55:59] That’s the way -- 

PL: [00:55:59] (overlapping dialogue; inaudible) [00:56:00]

DAB: [00:56:01] -- that’s the only way, that’s the only way.  In our group, we got people from different ages.  One girl is -- I think she’s in her fifties -- no, maybe in her late fifties to early.  We got one lady in there that’s 93 years old, and she’s as sharp as a tack, I mean she is -- she’s really.  She’s a former schoolteacher, but she’s not from here, but she lives here now.  It’s just interesting to talk to her.  Matter of fact, we got a meeting scheduled for Saturday, this coming Saturday.  Yeah.

PL: [00:56:45] Thank you so much.

GG: [00:56:46] Yeah --

PL: [00:56:46] -- for sharing your story-- 

GG: [00:56:47] -- thank you, Don.

DAB: [00:56:48] You’re quite -- 

PL: [00:56:49] -- and for your honesty.  

DAB: [00:56:49] -- welcome.  Thank you for having me.  

LD: [00:56:51] Thank you, Mr. Byers.

DAB: [00:56:52] You’re welcome.

PL: [00:56:57] Any final things you want to say [00:57:00] that we haven’t covered?

DAB: [00:57:02] No, not that I know of.

PL: [00:57:06] Great, thank you.