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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
B: I am Joel Buchanan doing an interview with Dr. Thomas Winston Cole, Sr. at his
home here in Gainesville. Dr. Cole has been an administrator for more than fifty-five
years. Good morning, Dr. Cole.
C: How are you Mr. Buchanan?
B: Fine, thank you. How are you this morning?
C: Fine, thank you.
B: You can call me Joel, sir.
C: Yes, I am accustomed to that. [Laughter]
B: Please do. Dr. Cole, tell me where and when you were born, and something about
your childhood, sir.
C: I was born in Navasota, Texas. That is a small town about seventy miles north of
Houston. I am the next to last child in my family. My mother always called me the
knee baby because the knee baby is the one who is at the knee when there is a
baby on the lap. There were six of us. I have two sisters, and three brothers. My
father worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad Company.
B: What was his name?
C: His name was Joseph Cole. My mother, whose name is Vada Martha Cole, was a
housewife. I do not know how far you want me to go with the family situation. All of
us went to high school in Navasota, Texas. I graduated in 1930. Of course, I was
the next to the youngest, so you can assume that all of the others except one
graduated before I did. My two oldest brothers went to school for automobile
mechanics in Detroit, Michigan. I told you some time ago that my family believed in
education. It can be noted by the fact that they saw to it that all of their youngsters
had education beyond high school.
B: All of you did?
C: Yes. My two sisters went to Bishop College, which was at that time in Marshall,
Texas. I can explain something about my family that will explain why certain ones
went to certain schools. My father was Baptist, and my mother was Methodist.
Bishop College was a Baptist school. In fact, all the members of my family were
Baptist except me. I joined the Methodist church.
B: Like your mother?
C: Yes. After my two sisters came my third brother. My third brother went away to
automotive school in Dallas, Texas. I went to Wiley College, which is a Methodist
school, also in Marshall, Texas.
B: There is something I want to ask here. When you say you went to the Methodist
school, did your church help provide part of the income for your being there?
C: No, but the school did. I graduated with honors from high school, and I received a
scholarship at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas.
B: Wiley? Was it a Methodist college?
C: Wiley was my choice anyway. It is still in Marshall, Texas.
B: You have talked about your brothers and sisters, but you have not given their
names. Do you mind naming them for me please?
C: My brothers: Robert is the oldest one, then Percy. Then I had a sister, Edna, a
sister, Clara, a brother, Willie, and then I came after Willie. Then there was my
B: What was the motivating factor that [led] all of you [to] education beyond high
C: As I said, I think my parents had decided. At that time, parents decided whether
their youngsters would be educated. My father was able to send us to school. My
mother was interested in higher education. So we just went. We just knew that
when we finished high school we were going to college.
B: No choice?
C: Well, I do not know that anybody wanted a choice other than that. My brother Willie
was not interested particularly in going to college per se. He really wanted to go into
mechanics [like] my two older brothers. I suppose this was a choice. This is what
he wanted to do. I wanted to go to college, and I wanted to go to Wiley College. I
remember specifically that I wanted to go to Wiley College. I remember this
because I did not live very far from the state college, Prairie View A&M College,
which was about forty miles from where I lived. I suppose it would have cost less if I
had chosen to go to Prairie View.
I had represented my high school on several different occasions in oratorical
contests, debates, plays, and so forth. I had been to Prairie View numerous times
because most of the meetings were held there. There were several meetings at that
time that schools conducted on the county and state level. I am sorry they do not do
that to the degree that they did because they helped youngsters decide what to do
in life. One met people from all over the state. One learned a lot about his or her
school as it related to other schools and as to whether or not one could succeed,
and whether or not one could do better than some people in athletics or academics.
B: You said there was an incident or that there was something that made you really
want to go to Wiley. What was that incident or that situation?
C: I belonged to what was called the Older Boys Conference. There was a state
conference called the Older Boys Conference. I was a member. In fact, I was
president of it. It was state conducted. We met in Marshall, Texas. I suppose I was
in the tenth or eleventh grade then. I became very interested in that school. I
already knew about it because in the Methodist church, where I was a member, they
talked about Wiley College. The church helped to support that college. I knew of
the existence, but I had not seen the school. That is when I decided that it was
where I wanted to go to school.
B: Excellent. You mention that this was a Methodist college. Was religion very much a
part of the academic environment there on campus?
C: Yes, but not exclusively. One probably did not think of it as religious. We had
vespers on Sunday.
B: What is that?
C: Vespers is an evening worship service. It really is not necessarily like church. You
may have anything of a spiritual nature. It could be a spiritual play. It could be a
lecture by someone on a topic in a spiritual area. It could be a talk or a lecture by a
minister. There always was a campus minister on campus. It could be music.
Students were required to go to vespers on Sunday afternoon. Generally, we went
to the local Methodist church. We were not required to go on Sunday mornings.
Aside from that, there was nothing else I can think of that was particularly religious
about the school. Wiley did have a college minister. We did have the vespers.
Then we had fraternities, sororities, and other organizations you would find at any
other college or university.
B: Was there a dress code?
C: There was no uniform, if that is what you mean.
C: There was no uniform. We wore whatever we wanted to wear.
B: I heard of day students and students who lived on campus. Did everyone who went
to Wiley live in dormitories on campus?
C: We lived in dormitories on the campus, but there were those, particularly those who
lived in Marshall plus some others who, for reasons of their own, stayed with
someone else out in the city.
B: How large was the campus student body?
C: At the time I was a student, there were about 400.
B: Was there any person on campus, administrators or teachers, who really became a
role model for you?
C: Yes. Most of them.
B: Most of them?
C: Yes. Wiley had an excellent faculty, but then I had had an excellent faculty in high
school. I noticed this because during my freshman year, I found the subjects easy
for me. I say easy for me as compared with some other students.
B: We have not decided whether we are talking about an all-black high school and an
B: Is that correct?
C: Yes, it is correct. It was an all-black college, and it was an all-black high school.
The faculties were black at both the schools.
B: There was no mix at this point.
C: The teachers were excellent. This is a thought of mine, which may not necessarily
be true. I think strongly that it is true. This was before desegregation resulted in
pulling away some of the stronger black faculty. They were able to choose whatever
college or university they wanted. They had a wider choice. Whereas, when I went
to college in 1930, they did not have that choice. We had some of the very best
B: We talked about your brother, sisters, and parents, and your being at Wiley. What
were you pursuing? You were in college to be what?
C: Well, I went to college really to be a student and to study. I did many things at
college. I majored in the natural sciences. At that time, you could have cognate
majors. I majored in mathematics, chemistry, and biology. But I was very active in
debate, basketball, and drama. I participated across the board. My debate coach
was also a professor of English. I became quite interested in English because of
him, yet that was not my major. Because my drama coach was professor of
English, I became very interested in drama, English, plays, and all of these things,
which I would have had as a subject had I been in those areas. I was not in those
areas. I was in the natural science area. I do not know why I went into the natural
science areas. Most of the students in debate and drama, as I was, were in either
the social sciences or in English because drama was more related to those areas.
Usually, the professors noted these students from these particular areas, and
recruited them for their dramas. I was atypical in that case.
B: While a student a Wiley, did you work?
C: Yes. That was necessary. My first job was waiting tables. I waited tables in the
dining hall. I waited on the tables of the teachers. I could have waited the tables of
the students, but I was assigned to the tables of the teachers. This was enough
along with my scholarship to pay my funds.
B: Were you paid or did they simply deduct a part of your fee from that?
C: They deducted part of my fee from that. They did not give me money, except I
always got tips from the faculty. That was mine.
B: You enjoyed that?
B: You graduated in 1934 with a degree in what, sir?
C: I would say in natural sciences because I was in biology, chemistry, and
B: If you had to select one event during your college years, what was the greatest
experience you had there during your four years?
C: Well, I think my greatest experience probably came through the debate team. We
traveled widely, and we debated colleges not only in the United States, but also
abroad. Our coach, Melvin B. Tolson, was quite an outstanding educator not just at
black schools, but in the whole field of education. He later became the poet laureate
of one of the African states.
B: You mention that you debated other colleges and foreign countries. Were these all-
C: No, they were not. I was trying to think of the names of the schools. The University
of Kansas was my first debate. We went there. That, of course, was not a black
school. We debated. The subject of the debate, I can remember, was that
socialism would be preferable to capitalism in the United States. We did quite well.
B: I was going to ask you if you did well.
C: Yes, we did well.
B: You mentioned foreign countries. Did you get a chance to [do] any debating outside
the United States?
C: No, I did not go, but the team went. It was a continuing team. It just happened that
no debates were scheduled outside the United States during the four years I was
there. I debated my freshman year. Normally, in activities of that sort, you really did
not reach the varsity until perhaps your junior year. I did reach the varsity in both
drama and debate in my freshman year.
B: In what drama presentation did you have a key role, sir?
C: The one I remember and liked best was Lady Windermere's Fan [written by Oscar
Wilde, 1892]. It is a British comedy and drama. It was presented on campus.
B: What role did you play?
C: I was Lord Windermere.
B: Were you?
C: I had the lead male role.
B: Was that drama presented to the college campus or did it go to the community as
C: It was open to the community. We had our own facility. It was presented in the
B: Was the campus, the facility, quite an impressive campus at Wiley?
C: Yes, it was quite an impressive campus.
B: You finished in 1934 at Wiley. What was your first job?
C: I became a high school principal. I suppose I should give my president credit for
that because Wiley was contacted for a principal for a school. This was a small
school with about eight or nine teachers, but it went through eleven grades. They
did not have twelve grades then. Schools ended at eleven grades. That was my
first job. The president of Wiley recommended me for the position.
B: He did?
C: Yes. It was in Vernon, Texas.
B: The name of the school?
C: Booker T. Washington.
B: You mention the president. Could you tell me his name please?
C: Yes, Dr. M.W. Dogan. You will find both Mr. Tolson and Dr. Dogan in a written
history about black educators.
B: How many years did you stay at this school, sir?
C: At that school?
B: As principal.
C: I think I stayed approximately ten years.
B: Ten years?
C: Close to that. It could be eight or nine, but it is approximately that. Then I went to
Bryan, Texas, and became principal of Washington Elementary School.
B: And these are all-black schools?
C: Oh, yes.
B: You say "Oh, yes" like I should know that. Is that because of the period?
C: Well, you probably should. You should know that. We are dealing with 1934.
B: Good point.
C: We are now up to 1944.
B: Did you ever think schools would become integrated?
C: It did not occur to me. I did not think about it that way. Let me put it this way
because it is difficult for some people to understand. I think I had a protected
childhood. By that, I mean I had none of the jobs many other youngsters my age
had when they came in contact with whites and were abused by whites. They
tended to have jobs meant only for African-Americans like shining shoes, or
something of that sort. I think this was done purposely. I think my parents did it
purposely. I never really came into contact with white people in a menial capacity.
Any involvement I had with whites was one where my role was equal.
I spoke to you about the Older Boys Conference. That was integrated--all boys a
certain age. There were two presidents, one white, and one black. I was the black
one. It was a case of equality; it was not a case of segregation, nor was it a case of
feeling insecure. So I said that I knew about the races, and I knew it was a
segregated society. I had no thought at that time about why was it not integrated.
That is the point I was trying to make. I think black youngsters secured, forthe most
part, excellent educations.
B: In all-black institutions?
C: In all-black institutions.
B: During the time you were principal, it is said that most schools--blacks in the 1930s
and 1940s--had very little supplies and the supplies were not the very best. Was
that true during your time as principal?
C: Yes, I think that was true. I think that was true as compared with the white schools.
I think it was true, but I think they had excellent teachers. I think this made the
difference. I think white schools had larger buildings, and perhaps better scientific
equipment. Generally when books came to black schools, you could see where the
name of somebody had been written in, [and] you knew that book had been used.
The books were in good condition. The white schools were superior, looking at
them from the outside. I think the black teachers worked harder. I am speaking
from the perspective of both a student and a teacher. It could be that they realized
the deficit, and they worked harder for that reason.
B: I want to digress for one moment. You [said] you had a protected environment
growing up and that you were not exposed to some of the things other black boys
and girls dealt with in the white environment. You said you thought your parents
planned that. What kind of jobs did you have coming up as a student and child? Or
did you have any?
C: I had two jobs. I rode a bicycle and delivered packages for a dry goods store. I had
a job at a bakery where I delivered loaves of bread to other stores downtown. The
bakery was downtown. There were jobs, as you and I both know, that demeaned
people. It made them feel insecure. They saw the difference in races from an
inferior angle. The black person was always inferior. That is what I did not
B: We are now at your second school as principal. Why not list for me the different
professional positions you have had.
C: I was at the second school as principal. The president of Wiley College then asked
me if I would come to Marshall and teach a course in the summer. Of course, being
principal at the school, I was free in the summer because the public schools were
not open in the summers. I taught at Wiley College. While I was there, he invited
me to stay and become the registrar. I was registrar for two years, and then he
asked me if I would become the dean. I became the dean of the college in 1952. In
1958, he retired, and I became the president of the college. In the meantime, I had
gone to the University of Wisconsin in the summers and had gotten my master of
science degree in educational administration.
Now you will note a switch here because I had told you not only did I major in the
sciences, but I was also interested in the sciences and wanted to become a
pharmacist. My first job was as a high school principal. This threw me into the
teaching arena. Since I was a principal, maybe I should say I was cast into the
educational administration arena. That is why I say people become what they are
because of circumstances, not always because that is what they wanted to do. If
anyone had asked me prior to that time if I wanted to be a high school principal, I
imagine I would have said, "What is that?" That is what I became because that was
my first job.
I told you a few minutes ago my college president recommended me for that job--I
did not seek it. He recommended me for it, and the people took his
recommendation. I am saying that now because I want to lead up to why I
continued to be an administrator. I had finished at Wiley, but a bachelor of science
degree was my highest degree. I wanted more than a bachelor of science degree. I
went to the University of Wisconsin. Incidentally, the superintendent that I had at
that time in Bryan, Texas, who was white, of course, secured a scholarship for me to
go to the University of Wisconsin.
I went to the University of Wisconsin three summers, and then I had my master of
science degree in educational administration. When I went to this job at Wiley, I
already had my master of science degree in educational administration. Then I
decided if I was going to be at a college, I needed a doctorate. So I decided to go to
the University of Texas, which was then admitting black students. This was about
1952. Incidentally, one of my roommates in college during the four years I was
there was Herman Sweatt. He opened the University of Texas for African-
Americans with a lawsuit. He was sponsored by the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People, better known as the NAACP.
B: When you say open, what do you mean?
C: He was the first black admitted to the University of Texas. He went to court to fight
for admission to the previously all-white school. He was admitted. One of his
lawyers was Thurgood Marshall, by the way [1908-1995, American Supreme Court
justice, first African-American appointed to Supreme Court, 1967]. Although I have
contact with all these people, I am mentioning it as it develops.
B: I appreciate that.
C: I went to the University of Texas shortly after Herman did. I was the first black
person to graduate with a doctorate from the University of Texas. I secured it in
B: The first black to get a doctorate from the University of Texas.
C: Yes, except mine was an education doctorate, a doctor of education because I was
in educational administration. Of course, many of the southern states had not yet
even started admitting blacks to all-white schools.
B: Was the experience a very delightful experience or interesting?
C: Yes. Here again, I suppose I was fortunate because I did not have any demeaning
experiences. I had done--if you pardon my saying so--very well at the University of
Wisconsin. Of course, my scores from the University of Wisconsin went to the
University of Texas. One's test scores always follow one. The first professor I had
at the University of Texas asked me what I planned to do about my doctorate. I told
him that I was going back to the University of Wisconsin, which was my plan. I just
went to Texas because I was in Texas, and I thought I could do some courses and
then go back to Wisconsin. He encouraged me to stay at the University of Texas.
B: Did he?
C: Yes. Incidentally, he is from Arkansas. You put the two together, and you would not
expect him to be interested in my going to the University of Texas. He is one of the
finest persons I have known. In fact, I had him to speak at my inauguration at Wiley
B: Who was this individual?
C: James Reynolds.
B: You became the registrar and the dean. Were you asked by the president who was
there during the time you were a student? Was this the same president of the
C: No. You mean those two times?
C: No. He was not still president.
B: You mention that. His name again is what?
C: Julius Scott.
B: You said he retired in 1958.
C: Yes, and that is when I became president.
B: So you became president, and you were there at that time.
C: I was there. Wiley had a board. You had to be interviewed and accepted by that
board. That is how I became president. I was nominated, and I became president.
B: What do you think you gave the college that was unique during your tenure as
president, whether it was buildings, curriculum, faculty, staff?
C: Well, you named it. I think I did it in all those areas. I think the faculty was definitely
improved when I left over what it was when I became president. I know the campus
was much improved because we had constructed four new buildings; one for the
sciences, one administration building, one academic classroom building, and a
library, which the trustees decided should be named for me.
B: On campus there is the Winston .. ?
C: There is the Thomas Winston Cole, Sr. Library. It is still there.
B: Excellent. Now in building these buildings, was most of the financial support from
the Methodist church?
C: Some of it, but most of it was from the federal government.
B: Explain that to me.
C: Well, there were federal government programs available for colleges that could
maintain programs of such a nature that the federal government would be interested
in improving the campus. I had very good contacts within the federal government.
We were successful in preparing proposals that met their requirements, so we were
able to secure funds from the federal government.
B: In your resume, you mention you were a representative on the Board of Education
for the Methodist church.
B: Now was that for all the Methodist schools?
C: Well, I was a representative on the Board of Education at the Methodist church to go
on the trip abroad that I told you about. I went to Russia, England, France, Italy,
England, and Germany. Actually, we were studying the universities abroad, and
comparing them with the universities of the United States.
B: Was there much difference?
C: Well, you would expect that in a Communist country, which Russia was at that time,
the universities were different. Students were told what they must do. They
selected certain majors. It is really another whole story, Joel. It would take a very
long time to tell you about it. You are probably familiar with schools like Oxford. We
went there, and visited all of its colleges. It is similar in some ways, and different in
some ways. There was not, in a sense, the freedom that we have at our schools.
Yet, at the same time, the degree of the educational program itself was excellent.
When I say there was not the degree of freedom, I suppose I am referring to the fact
that the students were different. They stood up when the professor entered the
room. There were many situations I could tell you about. Languages were treated
differently. I remember visiting a classroom in one of the Russian schools. They
were studying the British isles, and they were using English. I think it was a sixth-
grade classroom. I was talking with the teacher at the end of the class, and she
said, "Well, all of our students speak several languages. They are required to learn
three. We were using English today because we were talking about the British isles.
If we had been talking about something in Germany, we would have used German."
That is unheard of in most American public schools. There are incidents like that
that I can tell you about.
B: From your perspective, where do you think Wiley College stood [compared] to other
C: I think it was one of the best.
B: Campus and academically?
C: Yes, campus and academically. Also because of the achievement of the scholars. I
just returned--I told you when you came in--from Atlanta. The reason I was there
was to serve as master of ceremonies for the chairman of the Department of
Chemistry at Atlanta University, who has his doctorate from the University of
Chicago and who is a Wiley graduate. I could name any number of Wiley graduates
who have extremely high positions as a result of their excellent training as
undergraduates. Education really begins with the undergraduates.
B: Yes, it does. While you were there at Wiley, during the 1960s, when the world was
changed from the black/white to a mixture, did you have any demonstrations on your
C: Yes, we had demonstrations on our campus. Our students were very interested in
going downtown [and] breaking down barriers. [They] were very much a part of that
situation, as I think most schools were at that time. They were very much a part of
the integration. Of course, we did not try to keep them from doing it. I think
integration was what most black people wanted at that time.
B: When did the first white student or administrator come to your campus? Do you
C: I recall it, but it is difficult to say when. It has to be somewhere between 1958 and
C: I think [it was] closer to 1958 than 1971.
B: Was it a pleasant experience?
C: Oh, yes. None of the whites that I added made problems, nor did they become
problems with the largely black student body.
B: When this integration period was taking place in America, did you have many white
students want to come to your campus?
C: Not necessarily because there is a white college in that same town.
B: Oh, is it public or private?
C: It is private, and a Baptist school. There was not a reason. I can think of the whites
who came to my campus. Largely, the whites who came there were in connection
with something else. I remember I had a professor there who taught, and his wife
attended Wiley. [She] was one of our white students. Most of our white students
were there as a result of something else because there were many excellent white
schools, too. When I say Wiley was an excellent college, by no means do I mean
that there were not other excellent schools.
B: Of course.
C: Texas is really noted for its educational system. That is where Rice University is.
Southern Methodist University is in Dallas. The University of Texas itself, my own
alma mater, is great. [It has] 45,000 students. The black schools there are very
good. They have very good black schools in Texas.
B: How did you get from Texas to Florida?
C: Well, I almost could ask myself that question. I received a letter from Academic
Affairs asking whether I would be interested in a position at the University of Florida.
I came for the interview. Honestly, I came for the interview because I was invited. I
had been to Florida before, but never to Gainesville. After coming and meeting the
president, the dean of Academic Affairs, the dean of the College of Education, and
other people they had at the lunches and meetings I attended while I was going
through the interview, I became more and more interested in the school and the
B: Who was the president who invited you here?
C: Well, my letter was from Academic Affairs.
B: Who was that dean?
C: That dean was Dr. Fred Conner.
B: Who was the president of the University at that time?
C: The president of the University was Stephen O'Connell [president, University of
B: Is that the reason you left Texas--to come to Florida?
C: Yes. I saw opportunities. I felt it would be an educative experience for the whites to
know that there are some non-whites who measure up [to them] educationally. I
thought that would be an education, and I thought it would be good for a school that
had largely a white population to know that there existed black educators who were
on the level with many white educators they had seen.
B: At this point, you are saying to me that you just got a letter in the mail inviting you to
come down for an interview and that you came?
B: That helped make your decision to move to Florida?
C: Well, I was not coming because I wanted to go to Florida. I was coming because I
got the letter. I felt I should follow up on it. Here was another opportunity. I did not
know whether I was going to want it. I did not have to take it. They did not say,
"Come down here, and you are going to be dean."
B: So you liked it?
C: Yes. I came for an interview. I told Dr. Conner to let me think about it. He wrote me
while I was back at Wiley. He was very much interested in having me come. I
talked to my board about it--not the Methodist board, but the Wiley College board.
They thought I should wait because there was not enough time for them to get
another president right away. I decided to write to Dr. Conner and told him that I
could not come right away. I would have to wait [until] the next year. He wrote and
said, "We will hold it open for you." Everything seemed to imply that I should take it.
C: Not many people will tell you they will hold something open for you.
B: That is very true.
C: So all of that said to me that perhaps this was an opportunity I should not let pass.
B: To sit back and think about it, was it a fair choice for you to leave a black college as
a black president to come to the University of Florida, a white school, as a dean?
C: Yes, I think so. You see, as the president of Wiley College, I was doing what the
president, the vice-presidents, and most of the deans were doing at a white school.
It was a much more arduous job than being president at a white school because
there were so many individuals to help. The school was larger but there were so
many individuals who did so many jobs. [There] was no one job. My job at Wiley
College was to do all those things. I just finished telling that as president at Wiley,
my responsibility was to construct buildings, raise funds, and recruit students and
faculty. There is no one person at any major school like the University of Florida
who does all that.
B: I see.
C: It was a promotion in the sense that my salary was higher than it was at Wiley. It
was a promotion in the sense that my retirement and all those other factors were
greater than they would have been at Wiley. I had an opportunity to exist in an
educational situation irrespective of race. In fact, I did not come to the University of
Florida (I made this clear as I talked with Dr. Conner) to be black simply because I
was black. I just wanted to fit into a situation in which I felt I could contribute
something. I became the dean of Academic Affairs and University Ombudsman.
The position did not have anything to do with my race. Nothing I did necessarily had
to do with my race. I think if I had gone to a school where I was being selected
because I was black, and the job that I was accepting was one that was only open to
blacks, I probably would not have been interested.
B: Was it difficult for you and your family to make that choice to move from Texas to
C: Well, we had to think about it and look at all the pros and cons. Interestingly
enough, it was, for the most part, made by my wife and me because my youngsters
had grown up. In fact, all of them were out of college.
B: When you came for the interview here at the University of Florida, were you aware
of the problems they had had with the black/white situation on campus?
C: Yes, they told me about it.
B: They did?
B: Were you one of those persons they were bringing down to appease that situation?
C: I was not aware that I was being brought down to appease that situation. In fact, I
made it very clear that I wanted a position for which any educator would be hired,
not necessarily a black educator. I think you know as well as I do that my position
has never been that of a black administrator.
B: That is right.
C: I think there is nothing particularly wrong with those who want to do that, I just did
not. My position was just a member of the staff at the University of Florida.
B: That was the reason you left Texas and came to Florida.
B: You came in 1971. What month?
B: How long were you here before you found a home?
C: That is another point of this story. People were unusually gracious. When I came
for the interview the first time, they said, "Well, we would like you to come back."
When I say they, I am talking about Academic Affairs, and the office of the
president. You know and I know that everybody was involved. A certain individual
might have been talking to me, but everybody was involved. They said, "Bring Mrs.
Cole, and let her see how she likes the situation here." At both times, they had
receptions. Then they said, "We would be glad to have you look around at homes in
which you might be interested." They made it very easy for me to make a choice.
Also, I was taken to the College of Education because I had said I would not be
interested in the position unless I had a teaching position also. My reason was that,
although many people do not know it, administrators do not have tenure. You can
be fired at any time if you are an administrator. If you are a faculty member, you
have tenure. I wanted to be sure I had tenure. I also came with some years of
tenure from my experience at Wiley, so it was a good situation for me. These
people did not have to do all that much. They did not have to help me find a home.
I had to just correspond with the realtor to get my place all in order while I was
getting ready to come. All that had been decided. I did not have to look fora home
after I got here. I knew where I was coming.
B: Did you?
B: Excellent. When you came down for your interviews with the top administrators at
the University of Florida, did you associate with any of the blacks on campus or in
C: There were very few. I talked with some of the black individuals in the community
just to get some idea about the situation. I talked with some black students. I talked
with some black administrators and faculty members. It might have been largely
faculty members--I do not know if they were administrators. I think they were faculty
B: Do you remember who those were?
C: I talked to Mr. [Ronald C.] Foreman [Jr., associate professor of English, director of
Afro-American Studies Program, appointed 1970]. There is another fellow who was
in [the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences].
B: Is it Carlton [George] Davis [assistant professor, assistant agricultural economist,
C: Yes, I remember those two particularly. There were not many others. I know I
talked with those two. I talked with some students. I remember one young man was
either the president of the student body, or became the president of the student
body soon after I came.
B: Samuel Taylor?
C: Yes, Samuel Taylor. I talked with him. I also talked with Dr. Cullen Bank, a local
B: Were these arranged by the University?
C: Yes. Academic Affairs really arranged some of these interviews.
B: Did they?
B: So they took care of you very well. They made it very pleasant for you.
C: They made it very pleasant.
B: I am going to let this part stop now because we have that change where you came
to the University of Florida. I just want to ask you one question. When you
announced to your faculty and your board at Wiley that you were leaving, I guess
there was a big retirement party for you. Was that a very pleasant, highly organized
C: Not really. I left in June. School was more or less out. In fact, I had told the faculty
and the board that I would leave at the end of the year. It was a gala time.
B: One question--you were the tenth or eleventh president of Wiley?
B: Were you the first former student of Wiley to become president?
C: The only one.
B: The only one?
C: Up till now. I was also the only non-minister. All the presidents had been ministers
B: Oh really?
B: Back when we first started talking, you said that your father was a Baptist and your
mother was a Methodist. So you were very pleased that you went into the faith of
B: Tell me some of the things that took place prior to your leaving [Wiley] and coming
to the University of Florida.
C: At Wiley College, the board, the students, and the faculty had all been very, very
kind to me. About three years prior to my leaving, the board had honored me
because I had been at the university for ten years as president. At that time, they
honored me with a dinner with recognition before the city officials, the students, and
the faculty. I was awarded works of art, various paintings. That ship you see there
is one of them. When I announced I was leaving, the city again honored me with a
breakfast. School was out; this was during the summer. They honored me with a
breakfast, and during this breakfast I received a plaque. My wife received a
beautiful plant in a brass container. I received a set of golf clubs because they said,
"You are going to Florida, so you need golf clubs." We received a television set--a
floor model--and many additional paintings and works of art. The registrar at the
university managed to get the faculty together, and a dinner was given. At that
dinner, we received a silver platter, and individual gifts from members of the faculty
and staff. It was really a wonderful time, and a very sad time in a sense because I
had been there since 1950. I had been there as registrar and dean before I was
president. I really had been there from 1950 to 1971, so that was twenty-one years
at that school as administrator. Prior to that, I had been a student there, beginning
1930-1934. I had been a faculty member during the summers of 1950, 1951, and
1952. I had spent much of my life at Wiley College in various capacities.
B: What was the reaction of the Board of Trustees and/or the faculty when they found
out you were leaving to come to the University of Florida?
C: They said, "You cannot leave rapidly because we will need to find somebody to fill
this position." The board asked me whether I would consent to wait a year before
going to the University of Florida. I agreed to that, but after I had contacted Dr. Fred
Conner, who was then the vice-president for academic affairs, he said, "Yes, that is
all right. We can wait a year for you." So this added some emphasis to my decision
to come because I felt that if the University was willing to wait a year for me to come,
they must have been interested. I already had been here for the interviews. So I
told the board I would wait another year, and I stayed at Wiley for that year. I came
in 1971. I was supposed to have come in 1970.
B: In 1970?
B: How did Mrs. Cole, the first lady of Wiley, feel about leaving there to come with you?
Of course, she was going to come with her husband.
C: Yes, but you always have a lingering feeling about where you have been. We had
been at Wiley for a long time. She had gotten her degree there. She went to Prairie
View first. After we were married, she completed her degree at Wiley. All four of
our youngsters had gotten their degrees there. I had gotten my degree there. Wiley
was a very warm spot. We felt that coming to the University of Florida meant
something different than remaining at Wiley and that perhaps it was time to change
emphasis in my educational career. She had been here forthe interview. President
O'Connell and Vice-President Fred Conner insisted that I bring her for the second
interview. I came alone for the first interview. When I came back, she came with
me. She had seen the University prior to our coming. She was pleased.
B: Excellent. To go from the president at Wiley College to the University of Florida as a
dean, there was a different perspective. Was that like you were stepping down or
deserting the black halls to come here? What was the motivation for Winston Cole
to make that change in his life at that point?
C: Actually, I felt I could give more. I then felt I was making an educational contribution
to the total United States population rather than just to the Afro-American area,
although making that contribution to the African-American area is very important. I
also felt that perhaps there was a need for the majority of the population in our
nation to know that there were talents and abilities in the minority section. The best
way to do that was to be in an area where you can be seen and can contribute as
well as your peers who already might be in a situation of that sort. It was not a
situation of stepping down. In fact, I left an institution of about 750 students as its
president to come to an institution of about 35,000 students as a dean of Academic
Affairs and University Ombudsman. That position gave me an opportunity to
contribute much not only to Afro-American students, but also on an international
level. As you know, at the University of Florida we have students of every
nationality. I felt that I could make a great contribution. I also felt it would be
important for the University at large to understand that Afro-Americans could
participate in any situation. It requires that same kind of leadership in a black or
B: [Did] administrators work with you to find you a residence closer to the University?
How was that handled?
C: I think this was handled largely by Robert [Armistead] Bryan [interim president,
University of Florida, 1989-1990] because he was also in the office of Vice-President
Conner. He handled most of my interviews and the various social activities I
attended while I was here. He was instrumental in talking with the College of
Education about the position on that staff. He was the person who escorted me
around campus. He really was in a sense my host. Although I am sure that
President O'Connell and Vice-President Conner knew what was [happening], my
contact was Bob Bryan. Harold [Palmer] Hanson [executive vice-president,
appointed 1974] was promoted to vice-president of Academic Affairs shortly after I
came. He began to participate in my activities. Initially, it was Fred Conner, the
vice-president of Academic Affairs. My position initially was under Fred Conner,
technically. Of course, you know I was also under President O'Connell because he
was the president of the University.
B: Did you have any problems finding a place to live?
C: No. The office of Fred Conner secured an individual to talk to me about places to
stay. I was shown several homes in Gainesville. This place was just one of them.
There must have been at least ten. We chose this one because we liked it. We
liked the nearness to the University. We liked the home itself. We liked the fact that
if I wanted, I could walk to the University. It was near all activities. In fact, it was
right in the midst of what I was here to do, so it was much better than many of the
homes we looked at in the northwest section. I think all the homes were in the
B: Did you have any problems with the race when you moved into this area?
C: No, not at all. There was no problem when we moved here. We were accepted
extremely well in this community [and] in fact, the total community of Gainesville.
B: The University of Florida in 1971 just had gone through the black/white walkout--the
black student walkout. [There] was turmoil on campus. There were problems with
the current president, Stephen C. O'Connell. Did you come here to work with that
situation or be a part of the new direction for the University of Florida? Were you
aware of that situation?
C: I was told about that situation before I came, so I was aware of it. I think that
perhaps my invitation to come was because the University of Florida wanted to take
a new direction. I have emphasized from the beginning that I was in contact with all
students and faculty. It was not a position in which they were attempting to find
someone to work with Afro-American students. My position was simply another
dean in the Office of the Vice-President for Academic Affairs. I worked with all
students, any student could come to me. As the University Ombudsman, I listened
to their problems. Interestingly enough, I really had more white students than black
students. I think that is to be expected because there were so many more white
students at the University. However, many of the Afro-American students were glad
I was here. Very few students cared about going to Tigert Hall anyway, but once
they found out I was there, there was no hesitation on their part [to come to see me].
B: I assume the administration accepted you very well.
C: Yes. It could be that because I was the first Afro-American at that level, a special
effort was made. I really cannot say that because I do not know what had been
done prior to this. I really had no problems.
B: [Being] an ombudsman entails what, sir? You were the academic dean and
C: An ombudsman is a troubleshooter. He listens to the problems of individuals. I also
listened to faculty problems. He then acts as a representative of that person to seek
a solution to that problem. I think that is probably put in its simplest form. If a
student was having problems with his professor, or problems of some other sort at
the University, he could come to see me. These did not have to be academic
problems. If somebody stole a bicycle or something of that sort, he could not come
see me. If he thought his grade was not fair, or that the professor was late too often
coming to class, he could come to see me. It was my responsibility to seek a
solution to that problem. If a professor felt he was not being considered fairly for
tenure, or if he felt he was not being paid fairly as far as other members of his
particular area were concerned, he could come to see me. I solved problems for
many faculty members.
B: The University of Florida was in the process of increasing its Afro-American student
[population]. Were you very much involved in that planning for the University?
C: Not really. There was another individual who worked directly with Afro-American
students and faculty. It was the responsibility of that individual to seek increases in
black faculty and students in the various areas.
B: Who was that person?
C: Jacquelyn [D.] Hart [assistant vice-president for minority affairs, appointed 1988]. I
did keep a file on black faculty in my office of people who could be available or
considered for employment. In fact, I had quite a huge file on that. These
individuals and these resumes were made available to various colleges at the
University, at least to the Afro-American faculty.
B: How many years were you at the University of Florida?
C: From 1971 to 1989. Actually, it was September 1989.
B: What were the major changes at the University of Florida relating to Afro-
C: Well, I saw an increase in faculty. I saw programs initiated because of the added
number of Afro-American students. I saw more involvement of faculty in the total
program at the University. This is not to say that everything was perfect. I certainly
am enumerating some of the additions of programs. I saw more emphasis placed
on the black cultural center. It enhanced the program and enlarged it. I saw
organizations of which Afro-American students had not been a part, except Afro-
Americans. In fact, during my first year here, the president of the student body was
an African American.
B: So you actually saw the influx of the black students, faculty, and staff here? Was
there ever another dean brought in [who played] a major role while you were at the
University of Florida?
C: Another African-American dean?
C: I think not. I am trying to remember, but I really think not. There were additional
faculty members and students, but there was nobody who was at the administrative
level that I was. Although, Dr. Hart did have an office in Tigert.
B: You were in Tigert. On what floor were you located?
B: Second floor. And were you part of the cabinet of the president?
C: I was a part of the board. I was not a part of the cabinet of the president. That
position would have gone to Vice-President Conner because he was vice-president
of Academic Affairs. I was a part of the board of Vice-President Conner in
B: I know this is a very selfish question to ask such a global individual, but what was
one of the major contributions you feel you [made] as the first [Afro-American] dean
here at the University of Florida, [having] been through a very significant period in
the history of the University?
C: I think I was able to counsel and help people understand the role of the African-
American, not only at the University of Florida, but also in our nation. That was
probably the number one contribution. [Second], I think my role as University
Ombudsman brought me into contact with the totality of the University--the students
and the faculty. I had many additional roles as a result of that. I handled the
Teacher of the Year program. I handled the National Merit Scholars program. I
participated in many ways that the University, as well as others whom I knew at the
University, could see an Afro-American in a prominent role, and I was coordinator of
all commencement programs.
B: Excellent. I think in reading some history of the University of Florida that the
National Merit Scholar program grew tremendously under you. Did you start that
when you were here?
C: Yes. I initiated it. I requested permission to initiate that program from Vice-
President Harold Hanson, who was then vice-president. That was my second year
at the University. Dr. Hanson was vice-president. He gave me permission to do
that. I suppose I could say I inaugurated the program. With the University of
Florida, I was its first director, and remained its director while I was there. In fact,
people still write to me as a result of having worked with me when they were
B: How did the African-American community accept you in Gainesville?
C: Very well. Very well, I think. Perhaps the fact that my residence was not in the
midst of residences of the majority of African-Americans may have placed me at
some distance from the African-American community. As far as acceptance--
invitations to speak and invitations to attend social functions--I was very much a part
of the community.
B: Sitting here in your office, I am awed by all the awards on your wall. I am quite sure
there are many more. Let us talk about some of those things that we have not
discussed. We know your title. I see here that you have two or three awards from
the President of the United States. I assume you were a part of some Greek
society. Tell me about some of those other things that made Winston Cole a
C: Well, I would like to simply give you a "Thank you," but since you are visiting, I will
talk about it, and give you a resume.
B: I will take the resume, but I would like to hear you share some things about yourself,
C: Let me begin by saying that I was invited by the President of the United States to
serve on an advisory committee for Equality of Educational Opportunities in the
B: Which president are we talking about?
C: President Nixon.
B: You have one from President Richard Nixon as a member of the Commission on
C: This one is also from Richard Nixon, and it was a continuation on the Council for
Equality and Educational Opportunity, because I previously had been appointed to
this one by President Johnson. This one is the Wisdom Award of Honor, which
came from the Wisdom Society of the United States. This one is the faculty award
from Wiley College for distinguished services to the college and as joint president of
Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. That was the year I was elected national president of
Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
B: Did you hold any office?
C: I was its general or national president from 1962 to 1964. Prior to that, I had been
president of my chapter at Wiley College when I was a student. I had been
president of my graduate chapter for fifteen years after graduating from Wiley
College. I was vice-president of the southwest area for three years. Then I was
president-elect for two years.
B: Did you participate in hazing?
C: Yes, the intake process was different from what it is now. We could paddle lightly.
Now our fraternity has discontinued all forms of hazing, verbal and physical.
B: There is a major suit right now against one major fraternity. A young man was
killed. If they went to court, it actually could devastate this organization because of
C: There is more than one. As past president of Alpha Phi Alpha, I am still a member
of its Board. In fact, I just came back from the eighty-eighth convention of Alpha Phi
Alpha in Chicago. There are several organizations that have had this problem.
Some students really do not want to accept the fact that they should not participate
B: The liability is phenomenal.
C: They will probably lose these cases in court because hazing is out. That is why I
said we could no longer do that.
B: What other organizations were you a part of that you can think about now?
C: Let me just look at this sheet. I think it is simpler. Who's Who in America, Who's
Who in the South and Southwest, Who's Who in American Education, Distinguished
Americans, International Biographies, Personalities of the South, Who's Who in
B: In reading history about leadership of the negro in the past, it is amazing how many
men who were key leaders were also ministers. Will Winston Cole ever be ordained
as a minister?
C: No. I was the first president of Wiley College who was not a minister. Prior to my
presidency, all presidents had been ministers. It was a practice to select ministers
as college presidents in church-related colleges. I was the first layman, and also I
was the first graduate of Wiley College to be its president.
B: Do you think that you were at a disadvantage because you were not an elder or a
C: No, I was not at a disadvantage because I had been very close to the church from
my childhood really, but especially after I became dean at Wiley College. When I
was dean, I was quite often a representative of the college at various church
meetings. So I had been very active in the United Methodist church and also as a
representative of Wiley College at these various meetings. In fact, I have attended
several world conferences abroad in Oslo [and] London. I was no stranger to them.
They all knew about my background in the Methodist church. Perhaps that was
one reason why they decided, [though] I was not a minister, that I could be
B: I see. What are some other things you did that you find very enhancing? When you
say you were a member of the delegation to these world conferences, was it for the
edification of the church? Was the education component very significant in the
C: Representation was needed by various persons from various areas. Quite often, I
found myself being selected to represent the educational area in these various
affected parts. Let me just tell you what some of those are.
B: All right.
C: This sheet, which I have for you, lists some of my background in various areas.
There are federal appointments, and you will see the type of problems we were
attempting to correct. Then there were academic appointments, and you will see
those. Finally, there were Methodist Church appointments. I was a delegate to the
general conference. The General Conference in the Methodist Church met in
various areas. Those various areas are always General Conferences. I went to one
in Dallas, Texas in 1968, and Denver in 1964. I was delegate to the South Central
Jurisdiction Conference in Dallas in 1968, and delegate to the annual conference in
Houston in 1968. I was United States representative at the world conference of the
Methodist church in 1961.
B: When you talk about the Methodist church, you are talking about the Methodist
church [including] Afro-American and white Americans?
B: The total church?
C: Yes. When I say United Methodist Church, it is better to say that I am not talking
about the African-American Church, or the AME or the CME. The United Methodist
Church is the Methodist church which includes black and white. The others have
black members only.
B: CME and AME. What does that mean?
C: That has been changed. At one time, it meant Colored Methodist and African
Methodist. I think AME has been changed to mean American Methodist. I think
CME means Christian Methodist.
B: I will check that out.
C: I was also a representative for the United States at the world conference in London
in 1966. You see these were prior to coming to the University of Florida.
B: I noticed that. Did [working] here at the University of Florida limit your environment
in the Methodist church?
C: No. The first year I was here I was elected to go to the annual conference. You
see, you are elected to these positions. I was elected to be a delegate at the Florida
conference. That was my first year in Florida. At that conference, I was elected to
the General Conference--the whole United States after I came to Florida.
B: You retired in 1989. Are you still involved in these activities with the church?
C: Yes, I am still in activities with the church. In fact, now I am a trustee on the trustee
board. I have had many, many offices in the church, but currently I am a member of
the trustee board. I am also, I think I told you this, a member of the Board of
Directors of Alpha Phi Alpha. I am a member of the Board of Directors of the
Faculty Tuition Exchange program, which I directed when I was at the University of
Florida. The University of Florida is a member of the Faculty Exchange program.
C: Yes. They gave me all kinds of things to do when I was at the University of Florida.
B: I bet you enjoyed that. [Laughter]
B: Were you ever involved in a global way with the National Negro College Fund?
C: Yes, when I was president of Wiley College. Wiley College is a member of the fund.
When I was president of Wiley College I was a member. All the presidents of
colleges have been members. The United Negro College Fund started off with
thirty-three colleges. It changed as more Afro-American colleges received
accreditation. Now there are about 45 colleges in the organization. As the president
of Wiley College, I was a member of that. I worked for a very long number of years
with the United Negro College Fund programs. That is why I so enjoyed working
with the organizations you and I work with here in town.
B: Yes. Unfortunately, they moved the regional office to Atlanta. Hopefully, we will get
one back in this area.
C: I thought they had moved it to Jacksonville.
B: Maybe that is where it is.
C: Yes, they moved it from Orlando to Jacksonville.
B: It could be that is where it is.
C: Anyway, you and I both will probably be hearing something about it.
B: I hope so. Since you retired, what are you doing to keep busy or what are you trying
to do to be not busy?
C: I think I mentioned all these boards. I actually do quite a few lectures. I do
consulting. So I stay relatively busy.
B: I noticed that Thomas Winston Cole, Jr. is currently president of a college. What
college is that?
C: Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia.
B: Are you ever there? Are you one of the consultants? Or does he just do this by
C: He does it himself. I am not a consultant to him formally. I suppose he knows he
could just call and say, "What would you do in this case?" I am not a formal
B: Are you there very frequently at his college?
C: Yes. We are there quite often. I guess that is parenting. We were there when his
son graduated from Clark Atlanta. Incidentally, he is Thomas Winston II. There are
three of us with the same name. I was there fairly recently for a friend of mine; in
fact, he was my roommate and was recognized for certain contributions in
chemistry. We have been there to attend the inauguration of our son and to see
various programs. I was also there for a program given for Herman Sweatt.
B: What do you feel contributed to the success of Winston Cole? Where was the seed
C: I think one is a product of all these experiences. I think my family. Perhaps I first
should say God, then my family, parents, wife and children, and my interaction with
individuals around me at Wiley College and the University. All of these things
contributed. I do not think anyone does too much alone. I think there are always
other factors that make one a success. When an individual thinks, "Well, I did it," he
is really in error. I think all these situations impinge on him. What his family does to
shape him, when he is an adult, what his wife and his children do as members of his
household, what the community does to maintain his growth, and what organizations
do to continue his growth are all very important in his progress and in what he
contributes to the community.
B: Do you feel like your leadership is the reason your son is where he is today? He
followed in the footsteps of his father.
C: I like to hope that; but it is actually his own accomplishment.
B: How many other children are in the academic field?
C: Our oldest child is a daughter. She teaches English and Spanish in California at a
high school in Moreno Valley. She recently was ordained as an Episcopal priest.
C: Yes. You know our third child teaches biology over at P.K. Yonge.
C: Yes. Our youngest child teaches English in public school in Atlanta.
B: They all went into academics.
C: They are all individuals.
B: If you had to [make] a statement to young people about taking the road to success
and life, what would that statement be?
C: I think I would say to them that you have to have a dream. You have to see in your
mind something that you really want to accomplish. You have to work with other
people. You have to be concerned about those [around] you. You have to lend a
hand where you can. You have to do the right thing in spite of the forces around
you. I think you have to realize, as I do, that there is a power greater than any of us.
You can call it what you may. I choose to call it God. You have to be true to that
inner being that directs your efforts and your energies. That is much to say to a
young person. I would have to talk with him or her because I would have to explain
what I meant by each of these lectures and dissertations.
B: Did you have any contact with many of these persons whom we read about now
who were prominent [such as] Thurgood Marshall [and] Mary McLeod Bethune?
You heard about Mrs. Roosevelt being very involved with her school. Did persons of
that caliber ever cross the path of T. Winston Cole?
C: I think Thurgood Marshall would have been the one with whom I most crossed
paths. The others predated me a little. There are many others. Fred Patterson,
who was for years director of United Negro College Fund, was an outstanding
individual. Rufus Clement, who was president of Atlanta University, was an
outstanding individual. Benjamin Mayes, who is the president of Morehouse
College, was an outstanding individual. I could name many, many people who are
outstanding as I think of them. Although I have read extensively about Mary
McLeod Bethune [1875-1955], Booker T. Washington [1856-1915], George
Washington Carver [1864-1943], and although I quote statements from them in
speeches I have made, I had no real contact with them because they were prior to
B: What is one of your favorite quotations?
C: Well, I like to say that George Washington Carver learned about education from
experimentation. Mary McLeod Bethune had such an insight that with fifty cents and
a few children, she established an institution. It has become an icon really for
African-Americans as well as one for Americans and our nation. Her advice was
sought by President Roosevelt on many occasions. I guess if I was going to cite a
quotation I would use one from Omar Khayyam [1050-1123, Persian poet,
astronomer] because I think it is true when he says, "The moving finger writes, and
having writ moves on." Omar Khayyam is trying to tell one that what one does stays
with him or her. It becomes a part of the individual. There is nothing you can do
about change. It reminds you to do the right thing in the beginning, because it is
very difficult, if not impossible, to go back and erase it later.
B: That is a very true statement. Where did you learn that? Was that something you
learned in college or has it become a part of you over the years?
C: Well, it is from my reading, and as you can see, my library is extensive. There are
titles from great authors.
B: What do you enjoy doing? Are you a golfer or a fisherman?
C: Well, I am beginning to not do as many of them as I did. I mentioned the golf clubs.
I played tennis when I was younger. Now for leisure we go to the fitness center
three days a week. I like bridge. My wife and I play bridge all the time. I like social
life. I like people particularly in my own area with whom I can discuss things. It is
stimulating. I like reading. We have special literary versions.
B: Do you frequent many of the activities on campus at the University of Florida now
since you have retired?
C: No, I [do] not. I have been back to the University twice since I retired. I was there
when they had Tony Brown. The director of the Faculty Exchange Program was in
town, and I went over to serve as his host at the University.
B: There is constant discussion about dissolving the typical black institution at the
college level because with the affirmative action law the accessibility of white
students into the institutions are not as great as blacks into white institutions. Do
you think you will see some of the closing of traditional black institutions?
C: I doubt that because there is a closeness in the African-American college which is
necessary to nurture many African-American students who need advice. There is
emphasis on remedial programs, which one does not find in the major university.
This is necessary because so many African-American students leave high school ill
prepared for work in major universities. If these same students elect to do their
undergraduate work at an African-American college, these remedial programs
strengthen [them]. I worked as a member of the Council on Equal Educational
Opportunity for several years at the national level. We visited many schools.
Although you and I know that we are integrated, we also know that many African-
American students do not get the same teaching some other students get. For that
reason, they leave high schools not as well prepared as they should. This is not true
for all of them. Many, many are able to take advantage of opportunities. I thinkwe
still need to maintain historical African-American colleges.
B: They are saying now that two things are causing the problem. One is that they
cannot get the funding [because] alumni do not give back to the institutions like they
should. Secondly, many buildings are in disarray. There was a recent report that
many of them have a deficit in their budget. How do you think we are going to
rectify that problem? Do you think they should receive federal dollars state
C: Well, they receive federal monies now, depending on the institution. I know that
when I was at Wiley College--this was before 1971--we built more buildings. I
secured money through the federal government. The federal government has been
a part. I was at a private college, not a public college. Wiley College was a private
United Methodist college. Much depends on the administrator at the school. I do
not see the elimination of African-American colleges. In fact, the enrollment at black
schools has risen.
B: For some reason, students who have been a part of the integrated school from
grades one through twelve are going to black schools for identity and
wholesomeness because they have been isolated so long in high school. So you
see that happening. In doing some research about black administrators during the
period that you were one, speak about the well-dressed president who was well-
groomed. Was Winston T. Cole one of those persons who was very conscious of
his appearance and well dressed?
C: Yes, I was very conscious about appearance. I still am.
B: Oh, I am sure you are. I read that dressing was very much a part of the attire for the
faculty and administrators in your black schools.
C: This would have been long before my time, but I think that the Afro-American was
always seen as slovenly, unkempt, and untidy. Perhaps there was a special stress
and an attempt to appear well-groomed at one time, and it just became a part of
those who, as African-Americans, became able to do it. It became a part of their
culture. It is difficult to say, but it seems to me that there is less emphasis on
appearance now. People go just very, very casual. That is all right. I mean, that is
B: That is it, very much so.
C: People are extremely casual, [but] one time they were not. I am speaking of casual
as the types of things they wear. I am not speaking of casual in any other manner.
B: I understand.
C: They just go casual. This is true for most people.
B: When you were entertaining as president at the mansion of the president, was your
entertaining very formal?
C: Yes. It was very formal. We entertained every class every year. My wife was
hostess for the whole school and was responsible for entertaining trustees when
they came to board meetings. We entertained every speaker who came to campus.
B: Was the mansion of the president on campus?
B: Was that very typical of your private black colleges?
C: I think that was typical until I left.
B: The reason I ask that is if you look at the history here in Florida, the University of
Florida and Florida State both had mansions for [their] presidents many, many years
before Florida A&M had one. I know those were just state institutions, but it was not
the same time frame.
C: No, because the state institution in Texas, Prairie View College, has a home for the
president and it is on campus.
B: It is?
C: Yes. I guess I have to speak for Texas on that. I think it was fairly general because
Hampton Institute had one, and Tuskegee [Institute] had one also. I also think the
black schools were more like FSU and the University of Florida.
B: Did you become involved in an active way in the civil rights movement?
C: Well, in many instances what we had to do was to march in certain ways. I
remember, as college president and as president of Alpha Phi Alpha, I was in the
first March on Washington.
B: Were you?
C: Yes. We had just left the Boston convention. I was then president. I heard the "I
Have a Dream" speech of Martin Luther King in person.
B: That is excellent. That really was a major event.
C: Yes, it was. One seldom talks about these things. Let me change that. I seldom
talk about these things because it sounds as if you are truly old. I was definitely a
part of that, both with the fraternity and as president of the college.
B: That was a major day that day.
C: That was a major day.
B: And event also.
C: Yes, that was a major day. I have pictures.
C: I am sure you are aware of Crispus Attucks, who was the first black who fought in
the Revolutionary War in Boston [1723-1770, first colonist killed at Boston
Massacre, March 5, 1770]. I laid a wreath in Boston when I was there, when our
convention was there. So I have done things quietly. There is a plaque behind you.
B: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
C: Look at the year and you can see how long I have been a member.
C: Right, so that is thirty-one years. All of this I have done, but not on my own.
B: Is it okay at some point to toot your horn?
C: Well, I will give you this. This toots my horn.
C: I think when a person talks about what he has done, he is not doing it for the right
B: Have you authored any books or articles in your years?
C: Well, I have written Equality of Educational Opportunities, a book, and many
speeches and pamphlets.
B: Excellent. There are so many programs that we have now that deal with the
behavior and abilities of African-American students to make them marketable and
able to compete. Have you seen a decline in the academic ability of minority
students? If you have, what do you think brought about that decline?
C: Well, I think that is a very difficult question to answer. I can think of many instances
where African-American students currently hold very high positions, in politics and
government, education, and law. On the other hand, I can think of so many African-
American students, young people, I should say, who commit crime and are in prison.
I think that would be true even when we talk about many other races.
B: Let me put it this way. I just recently read an article in Ebony magazine that said,
"Percentage-wise there are less black students getting a formal four-year degree
today than they did twenty years ago."
C: I think that is true. I think one of the reasons for that is that African-Americans can
only go into a few fields. Even in my time in college, they could be doctors or
professors. They could go into education, medicine, religion, but areas like
journalism just simply did not exist for African-Americans.
B: Like the banking profession and communications. We just were not there.
C: Right. There were just so many areas. Secondly, I want to say that a formal four-
year education plus additional training is always necessary of positions in medicine
and teaching. You have quite a few who do not go four years. They might find that
in three years, if they have made the right contacts, they can be placed into
positions. It seems to me that we do not now have the tendency to be concerned
about education or educational matters that we had then. It seems to me that
schools in general are more concerned with the less important than the more
important. Football--I enjoy it, but people just use all their energies to get into
football, whereas there are many, many outstanding students in schools who get
little attention because they are not in these high-profile areas. I guess I really
should say the athletic program. There was not that much emphasis on sports then.
There was more emphasis on academics then.
B: Is there one statement you [would like] to share with me that you have not?
C: Well, I suppose not. I would like to say that I think in order to continue as a major
university in the nation, the University of Florida must maintain its interests in the
African-American student and the contributions in the past as well as the present
and the future of African-Americans. I think the African-American should be
recognized as a student, an individual, as someone who is seeking to improve
himself, [thereby] improving our nation. Here is a place where it can make its
B: You came during the tenure of Stephen C. O'Connell. There are many articles
where Stephen C. O'Connell [stated] his opinion about black/whites not studying.
He was the administrator there when those students were arrested. You were the
first person he brought here. What was your relationship like with him?
C: My relationship with Stephen C. O'Connell was very good; in fact, perhaps he had
changed by the time I came here.
C: I do not know. I did not see any of those negative sides. I knew about them from
people who had been here before me. Incidentally, you will realize also that Stephen
C. O'Connell left relatively soon after I came. While I was here, I was involved in
activities with him, and I never saw any of these negative qualities. It is possible
that either he had changed or he reserved them for some others.
B: Or that he did not show them as changed.
B: For the record, the home of Dr. Cole is directly behind the home of the president of
the University of Florida, and across south from the track. Beard Track and Field is
diagonal from where we see here at his home. I want to thank you for allowing me
to be in your home, and doing this interview. It is going to be a significant part of
explaining how the University made that transition from an all-white institution to an
integrated institution. I want to thank you for allowing me to be here today.
C: Thank you for coming. I am glad I was able to contribute. Perhaps some of the
white Americans, white University faculty can say what they think about the
achievements and failures of T. Winston Cole, Sr.
B: I have talked to one or two, and they have shared that with me. At some point, I will
get the perspective of the first lady, Mrs. Cole, and her role here in Gainesville.
C: Thank you. As president of Wiley College, I had a few gifted African students. This
was, of course, somewhere between 1958 and 1971 before it was popular to do
that. We had several African students on our campus; they were all on scholarship.
Since I have been in Florida, one of the students who is a barrister, a lawyer, now in
Nigeria, invited me to come over at his expense to visit his home country, Africa,
because I was responsible for his education. In fact, he included my wife [in the trip]
to Africa. We went at his expense. We brought back several things from Africa.
That is what made me think about it.
B: What year did you go there, sir?
C: That I have to check. It was 1979. When I retired from the University I was given a
plaque, the seal of the University and the title Dean of Academic Affairs and
University Ombudsman Emeritus.