Betty Carter joined UNCG in 1974 as the first archivist on the library’s staff. She has been the University Archivist since 1997. When she retires in May, a lot of historical knowledge will go with her. She enjoys walking on campus. “I always go by the Foust Building on Oct. 5,” she says, the date this institution officially opened in 1892. “I figure if Charles McIver’s ghost exists, it will be there on that date!” Many places are special to her, some for their simple beauty, such as the “serene and beautiful” Taylor Garden behind EUC. Herring Garden beside the Music Building is another. “Taylor is nice – but Herring is better,” she adds. And some such as Peabody Park – “home to walking periods, parades, dramas and bachelor’s bench” over its many years, she explains. Walking periods are not part of the curriculum any more, and dramas and parades have not been held at the park for decades. But, the benches and the walking trails sure are inviting. Speaking of bygone days, CW asked her about some of the campus’ historical figures – in particular, those who deserve a little more of the spotlight.
UNCG’s historical figures who warrant more attention
- Lula Martin McIver, the university founder’s wife The power behind the throne … She’d wanted to be a doctor, very smart … He’d travel, she’d be here on campus … They did name a scholarship for her – finally she’s getting some credit.
- Edward Kidder Graham, chancellor 1950-56 A divisive chancellor … He came here after [Chancellor Walter Clinton] Jackson. Jackson was a saint. It’s always bad when you follow a saint. He was trying to drag university into the 20th century and the university did not want it. He was rude, obnoxious, no people skills – divided the campus so much, a young Bill Friday sent a committee over to find out what was happening. He was asked to resign … He eventually married the head of Elliott Hall (now EUC).
- Clara Booth Byrd, Alumnae Association leader from 1922-47 She [practically] built Alumni House. To build Alumni House in the height of the Depression, it took some will and contacts … Her mother had told her she was unattractive [how did that affect her self-image?] … She had strong opinions. She died in the mid-80’s. I regret not recording her [for our oral history archives].
- Warren Manning, landscape architect He worked on this campus. A disciple of Frederick Law Olmsted. We have 20 landscape drawings, from 1902-1920. Some are 4′ x 8′. Some are 1′ x 2′. He prepared where buildings should be, etc. [On some drawings] he put every tree on there. He always thought there should be a train station [where Curry is] leading to a grand promenade [through campus]. Now [with pedestrian promenade down College Avenue] it’s happened.
- Ezekial Robinson, most prominent African-American staff member in institution’s early years He came with McIver from Raleigh. He drove McIver’s buggy. He used to meet the girls at station. I’m not sure he had a title. The girls really respected him … He and Mrs. McIver would plant trees….He stood guard all night long when McIver’s casket was on campus…After he retired, every Founders Day he was always invited back. Founders Day used to be a big day… We have some letters he wrote to McIver.
Carter notes that in addition to Robinson, there were a number of African-American workers on this campus during its first decades of whom relatively little is known. “We have bits and pieces. Maybe the families have photographs?” She notes a number of African-American staff members lived on the west side of campus between Spring Garden and Walker, near Warren Street. Some were cooks, some did laundry, some had other responsibilities. She hopes that the university can somehow, someday capture more of their history. “I would love for that to happen.”