Title: Interview with Shirley Smith Lowry (March 16, 1973)
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00007043/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with Shirley Smith Lowry (March 16, 1973)
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publication Date: March 16, 1973
Spatial Coverage: Lumbee County (Fla.)
Funding: This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00007043
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location: This interview is part of the 'Lumbee County' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: LUM 53

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Full Text


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Barton interview w/
Shitley Lowry typist: SLW

B: This is Lew Barton, interviewing for the Doris Duke Foundation under the

auspices of the University of Florida's History Department. This is March

16, 1973 e and today we are at the / S Motel here in Pembroke, North

Carolina where we are privileged to be interviewing Mrs. Shirley Smith

Lowry. Mrs. Lowry, we certainly appreciate your willingness to give us an

interview with you. I certainly regard you as one of the leaders of the

community and a person who is always engaged in some civic activity or not.

A very well-known person. And for the sake of our listeners and readers

would you spell your name out for us?

L: I'm Mrs. Shirley Smith Lowry, and I live here at Pembroke, North Carolina,

and I teach school at _Ii O o nior High. I'm a vocational--home

economics teacher at the school.

B: I don't like to ask a lady her age, but may I ask you yours?
A f-le ac.
L: Well approximately 50.

B: And you were, you married Mr. ...?

L: Delton H. Lowry of the '" community.

B: And before your marriage ou were ?

L: I was Shirley Smith, daughter of the late Reverend Mr. Walter Smith and the

present Mrs. J. W. Smith. My mother is still living and residing here in the

saAe town.

B: Uh, huh. Well, your father was well-known in educational circles. He was

an educator himself and a minister, is that correct?

1: That is true.

B: Very great credit to the community, as I recall, and would you tell us some-

thing about your family; your children, their names and their ages perhaps?

L: Well, I might add that I am now a widow and my husband and I are the parents



of four lovely children---three daughters; Frs. Frank F. Warner of West

Chester, Pennsylvania, an elementary teacher; Mrs., MISS Julia Lynette Lowry,

of Greensboro, and June Lowry also of Greensboro who is a student, a senior

now at the University of Greensboro; and one son who is now making' his home

with me--he and his family--here in Pembroke, North Carolina. And he's also

a senior after bein' in the Navy for four years and working' for several years.

He's back now at Pembroke University, completion' his degree in Business


B: Is this Mr. Tryon Lowry, who was interviewed just a moment ago by Mrs. Marilyn


L: That is correct. That was my son that was just previously interviewed also.

B: I know you're proud of him, aren't you?

L: Quite proud. He's my only son and he is a good son.

B: I understand he is a Republican, whereas you haven't become a Republican.

L: Well, that is also correct. Maybe it sounds rather unusual or unique, but it

so happens that Tryon 's father and I were on the Democratic ticket long

before Tryon's existence, and I haven't changed my party affiliation even

though my father and Tryon's father was one of the few Robtson County

Republican Party members years and years ago. So I can't say that my son has

deviated completely in his political party affiliation, but at this moment

let's say, he is a Republican and I 4 am still on the Democratic Party


B: But this is no cause for rivalry, real rivalry, is it?

L: No, I uld say that it's made our political interests even greater. We have

had much fun by being bi-partisan, and I think maybe it has meant much more to

both of us now that we have both sides to withdraw our resources. We feel

that maybe this is better for the total situation--political picture that we

find ourselves a part of, it seems.



B: Do you definitely feel then that Robinson County should huve a two-party

system rather than a one-party ... one party system?

L: Oh, yes, very definitely. I, I think that the two-party system upon which

the United States, our country of America was established, certainly uh, a

great step and a great tool in keeping' democracy alive.

B: I seem to recall your interest in politics over quite a few years. I re-

member your running for the Rob son County Board of Education, and I remember

voting for you too. And your interest in civic affairs down through the

years; uh, wherever I go to a civic meeting usually I find that you're there

and somebody will prevail with you before the meeting is over to say a

few words or say something to the people. Is this a great source of enjoy-

ment to you?

L: Well, let's say it is an enjoyment. But before we go any further, Mr. Barton,

you have paid myself and other members of my family so many nice compliments

I think I should say, and thank you once more for your vote, for ...

B: You're certainly welcome.

L: ... my political candidacy. I believe I would like for you to restate the

last question now before I attempt to answer that question for you.

B: Well, I wanted ... I was wondering if you cared to comment on anything in

connection wit your political career and your ambition to help children in

schools--I remember your ... your campaign slogan "For every child a

Chance." Your ... you've always been close to the school, have you not?

You're a teacher ...

L: That's correct. I do teach vocational home economics now; however, during

my twelve years of teaching I have taught grades from the fifth grade level

all the way through the twelfth grade, and possibly this audience might be

wondering' about my age and about the number of years of teaching' experience.

But I feel that I have lived a rather unique life in some ways--that maybe



it might sound like I have lived backwards, but really I think that the whole

thing is that coming from a rather educated background, a family who was deeply

concerned and interested in the welfare of their children, I would have to

say that education is at the root of all that I have ever been and all I am,

and all I hope to be. So for this reason I hope that this is the beginning

point that I would like to try to ... to really complete this answer. In this

endeavor to flfill my parents' ambition to have their children formally edu-

cated in order to be productive and find a better way of life, I found that

I couldn't achieve or fulfill this goal even though I thought at one time a

high school education was enough until later on in life after I had met

my wonderful husband and had fallen in love and chose a marriage as my first

ambition as a young adult. I discovered that I could not serve my husband

nor my children nor my parents as fully as I knew they expected me to, or

I wanted to. So at that point when my youngest child, June, was five years

old and just before ready for public schools, in North Carolina, I decided

to ... to return to college and receive my higher education, which accounts for

my graduating rather late in life and having less years of experience, but again

let me say that I think this is one of the things that also has made me

understand my role as a teacher and as an educator for youth in Rob son

County and North Carolina uh, reach a different plateau. I think it has

given me a greater interest in the program of education, and a keener sense

of responsibility as a teacher along with having had a previous background

as parent and mother, which we still like to think of as the backbone of

the United States and of the public school educational program.

BY And you see education then as the salvation of our people in this community?

L: Really, Mr. Barton, I'm glad you directed that question to me because I

would have to say that education and religion I would define as almost the

total cure for anyone's ills or needs or purposes. I ... I find myself


that these two .... these two things are my greatest support for any and all

endeavors that I attempt in life.

B: Well, that's great. I recall your earnest efforts and your hard work and

your very, very organized and methodical work in connection with saving

Old Main when it was threatened with demolition a few years ago. And you

did so much in that effort and I admire you so much for the things that you

did. Uh, now that the building has uh, well, it's been virtually decided

that the building would not be destroyed. What is your ... what are your

feelings on this matter?

L: Well, Mr. Barton, I really think that this is one of the most important recent

issues that I was so closely associated with and after some hesitation en-

tering the campaign to save Old Main and we feel that we have been successful

so far, and I'm hoping that our legislators have the answer for: Where to

from here? I feel that the salvation of some of the culture is really one

of the things that's most needed right now in a change in curriculum of

the education of Indian children. Indian children have very little that

they study in their books in the way of artifacts and Indian heritage and

culture that they have inherited or that has been salvaged and saved for

their study. And this has made it rather hard in my field of work as an

educator in the public school because I think that the Indian children have

had so much less to feel proud of than white or black children in a way.

They have just been in some ways they have been forgotten people of America.

I ... I just hope that I, too, will never have to feel as disappointed and

as let-down as the students that I work with, the Indian students, because

in a way, I really don't feel that I have been left out of things quite as

much as the average person, because my father having been an educator and

a minister and having been an early church leader was associated with really

all types of people, all races and creeds and colors, therefore as his

child I was never deprived of quite the things that some of my own blood-



kin has been deprived of and I really hope that saving Old Main will be the

salvation and a turning point in the type of heritage, Indian heritage and

a cultural study that they can have, and they can really be proud of, and

... and make them in a way, into a new proud race of people, even amidst the

new integrated public school system that we have all come to accept as being

possibly the best system for the present day we're living in.

B: There seems to be a feeling of inferiority among some, some of our people and

do you think this may be due in part to what you just mentioned a while ago.

We don't have a great body of written material about the past, we don't have

the artifacts that should have been preserved, there're some scattered around;

we haven't taken the interest in our past. Do you think this partly ac-

counts for that?

L: Do you know, Mr. Barton, it's hard to really speak for another person, to

speak their inner thoughts but I do think that you have asked me a question

that I am tempted to say "Yes, to, to answer with a "yes." Because I think

that you can be given an inferiority feeling' and complex if you feel that you're

left out, if you feel that you're not a part of things, if you are made to

feel that you're not as good as other people, it definitely could give even

the strongest of persons possibly some type of inferiority complex. Be-

cause to eel less than other pesple and to feel unwanted and unloved ac-

cordin' to all our educational and psychological material that I studied when

I had my higher training' in school, those are the same facts that lead to

even not only inferiority complexes but lead to crime and criminal, a

criminal way of life, which is really pathetic. And these are the kinds of

things that bother the people of your calibre and mine who had hoped for a

better way of life and who have struggled to surmount all the obstacles that

a. minortiy group of people might have or have had.

B: Well, I'm certainly glad that you agree that the salvation of our heritage



and of building on things that we do have offers possibilities for the fu-

ture, and Old Main is part of that, isn't it?

L: I certainly is. I, I feel that I would like to expound or expand on that just

a bit in sayin' that we have gone the first step of the way in the salvage

of the building but there is much more to be done and accomplished and

I just hope that we can through our legislators, the men that we havy

elected, the people that we hav e chosen and elected in a democratic process,

feel as keen as you and I do about the future of progress of Indian education

to the point that they will want to pass some kind of legislature that

will really make this into one of the finest museums which will house the

richest heritage that any group of people could have in the whole world for

our children, our most prized possessions, our children.

B: Well. I, I noticed recently a few months ago that St. Andrews came out with an

Indian museum and at that Indian museum Dr. .IL1 E. Jones of St. ... of

Pembroke State University was asked to speak, and I was there on the opehin

day, and if they can do it, with ...in the remote position that they've,

to our people and to other Indian groups, it certainly seems that we can be

successful in this endeavor, doesn't it?

L: Yes, I think you're so right. Don't you think that if we can get together

as a group of Lumbee Indians, as a ... as really the ... the forerunners

and the frontier people of North Carolina and the United States that certainly

we hope to find solutions to, to many of our problems, but don't you think

that really a united effort is what it's gonna take in order to ... to ac-

complish this and the fact that we must build more pride. In my opinion

the building' of pride in bein' an Indian and right at this point I would like

to point out that I really don't have any, any feeling that I am less than other

people or that I was born to the wrong tribe. If we could just get together

and accomplish what many of us feel should be accomplished through our



democratic process and through our elected leaders of our county, I think

that then we would have the pride, the kind of pride that need, and that we

would be an asset to not only RobJ son County, but to North Carolina and

to the United States and that we would be exactly what the forefathers of

this country had hoped that one day they would be able to read in history

as what happened to the Croetans, that we were once known as, here in

Robinson County.

B: Right.

L: And that we would in a way we would really conclude and complete that won-

ful story of white Lost Colony, which has always been the mystery and yet

isn't it the real history of Robison County that we have been searching' and seeking'

to find the end of the story for all of these years from the beginning of

our origin.

B: Right. Um, this, this is a unique county and this is a unique story, and

we are a unique people. But do you think this is, is this cause for

pride or is this cause for discouragement? Don't you ... do you think we

should be proud of this?

L: Oh, definitely.

B: Capitalize on it.

L: Definitely, I think we should be proud and we should capitalize, but along

with pride and capitalization used in this manner, I think there is a word

that we need to insert in our thinking' and that would be "Caution." The word

of caution. And I don't mean caution with fear of what we're endavorin' to do

but the way and the manner in which we hope t reach our goals and certainly

in the current times we're livin' in, with all the upheaval of all the problems

that have arisen out of many of the laws that have affected racial status

and different cultureda think that as an intelligent educated group of people

there may be a note of caution that needs to be kept at the forefront in


our every act, our every idee, and all of our thinking. in all of our

actions. We must tread cautiously in order that we not lose our dignity

or hope to tarnish this wonderful sense of pride that we are trying to

build up in our children right today even.

B: Well, do you think there may some resentment in other ethnic groups that

we do have this pride, or that we are seeking to generate this pride in

our young people, in our past; and some of 'em said, are saying, 0h, just

forget the Indian stuff. Integration is here. But does this mean that we

can't retain our identity that we don't have a right to be ourselves or

to take pride in ourselves as a group as well as individuals?

L: No, I don't, Mr. Barton, I dCn't think that other ethnic groups resent the

fact that we would like to be proud of our heritage or that we would want

to escape or camouflage our identity. I have many friends in all three

RobOson County ethnic groups--I have friends in our neighboring county-seat

town, I have friends right here in my own home town, wonderful white

friends that I feel are sincere and true and just as devoted and dedicated

tore as a fellow human individual as I do right among my own Lumbee group. I

hve he same kind of friends among the black race. That are just wonderful and

dedicated to really the same causes, same ideals and goals, a better way of
life for all Robtsonians. I really think that this is a great mistake, and

I think it is like making' a mountain out of a molehill, and I wish it could

be played down rather than blown up because I think these are the kind of

things that I am ... have just been referring to--that we need a note of

caution in going about accomplishing this goal of striving to build greater

pride, and specially greater pride in our ethnic origin as well as our

heritage in ... in all aspects. And I think that it's not fair, it isn't

fair to other ethnic groups for us to ... to let one side maybe outrule
or outweigh the other--there's two sides to the Robson County ethnic
or outweigh the other--there's two sides to the Robfson County ethnic



orig--origin, well, there's really three. But there's two sides in prin-

ciple. And, and I think this is what you had reference to and what I'm

trying to say is that some people would distort the real facts and truth of

the situation in Robtson County. And yet you know and I know that some of

us have worked hand in hand almost since the beginning of our origin to

make a better way of life and we've been friends all down through the ages

and I think it's just misunderstanding, really when you get to the bottom

of it there's as much just plain misunderstanding as there is anything such

as ruthlessness or crimology or intolerance or prejediced or any of the words

that we would describe fitting to a situation such as ... Such as we are

referring to today.

B: Well, this ... this matter of promoting human understanding is ... is a subject

that ... which as you know has always been close to my heart and yours too

I'm sure. Which brings me to another question I want to ask you and don't

comment if you don't want to but you know we all have common goals, certain

goals among the Indian groups. Yet our methods of achieving those goals

are not always the same. Sometimes one group is more militant than another

and they go to the extent of ... you know almost rioting and destruction

of property, sometimes violent, do you think we all agree in principle that

we need to advance and that our disagreement rather hinges along those lines

of ways and means of advancement, things like this?

L: Well, I'm sure that there are reasons for differnece of oponion and at this

point I'll have to go back. I will comment on this because I think I ...

we wouldn't want to close an interview without getting back and citing the

real, the real issues that we are facing today and have faced all down through

the ages. And I think that education again is a real difference i solving our

problems. I think the difference in education has colored the thinking

to a degree because if you're not fully educated, you certainly think



differently and you act differently and here I'm talking' about formal education

which helps us to better interpret the meaning that has actually in my

opinion made America great. It has been mainly the great ideas and ideals

of men just like you and we would like to think all of us, that has made

the nation great and it's only those same principles and ideals that will

set any group of people free of any country free or raise their standard of

living or help them accomplish their goals and realize their dreams come

true. So I think that really the ... the main issue at stake in this county

and in{ this state is actually the need for more and better formal schooling

and I hope that anyone who ever should hear this interview or read it in the

printed page I hope they will understand the difference between bein'

formally schooled and unformally educated and I hope there will be no mis-

understanding at htis point in any repercussion or results of this interview

that anyone would get the wrong impression. I feel there are many, many

highly intelligent people who never probably went to anymore than third or

fourth grade. They can make a rich contribution based on'ommon mother wit,

or common sense. But how much more effective couls they have been had they

had a formal education? And been able to better communicate and better

interpret and better relate their findings to each other. This to me is pro-

bably the greatest problem and the greatest need still in Robeson Cdunty

and in North Carolina. I'd like to comment just a step further on this and

cite the fact that we're aware of our poverty=stricken county and our very,

very low educational level statewide. We rank way down at the bottom most

at the very bottom in this level and we many of us feel that have gone through

the formal schools that this really helps to just add to the complexities

of our ... our many economical problems. And we hope certainly that in the

future that our legislators are gonna place special emphasis on any and all

legislative measures that will upgrade of opportunity for our people here



Robeson and North Carolina to better themselves educationally speaking.

B: Right. Uh, in our system as you know we've had a sort of autonomy until

integration. And integration perhaps wasn't as complete as some would

have liked, and some would have liked less, so we can't say very much about

that. But it ... do you see a gap between the school system, say the Robison

County School system and the college level and do you see a pattern there

as has been charged by some of trying to keep the Robjson County System poor

or poorer than other school districts in the county in order that Indians

might not advance as fast or as well, you know, you hear all kinds of charges.

I'm just wondering if you have any thoughts along this line?

L: Mr. Barton, are you refferrin' by any chance to the double voting system that

is now at it's peak in discussion and debate of **.. ?

B: Well, that's certainly involved in it. I mean that fits into the pattern

somewhere it seems to me.

L: Well, if youwuld like for me to comment briefly on that. I would first like

to say that this double voting issue or question has two sides to it in our

county as well as any other county that it might happen. I really feel that

we're all making too big a: issue out of it; that we are really accomplishin'

very, very little in this way that we are attempting' to solve the educational

problem, because I feel that it could have been handled so very differently.

And I realize that maybe I am different at many times from many people, but

I feel that even just what I heard today that we have had an addition two

board members. We have enlarged the Robison County Board of Education;

that this is not the cure at all. I think that we're gonna find that addin'

to the number and making' the Board larger is only another way of endinO

up with the same results, because if these p people take a vote and if we have

added on an equal number of the three thnic groups here in Robison County

mathematically we're gonna come up with approximately the same kind of voting,



yes and no. So therefore this compromise in my opinion has absolutely

done no more than quietin'the situation hopefully temporarily. I'm afraid
the people that represented us in this move have compromised on very poor

compromise. I think the end results could be no better : if any; it

could even result in a worse situation rather than-a better. I'd like to

add to this that it seems to me that there are times when leaders, leaders

such as you aid I and leaders that we hope our elected officials are, that

you can't afford to let the whole population decide an issue; that if you

have the powers endowed to you that hopefully you would take this oppor-

tunity to really go down in history as one who dared to be counted,

and one who dared to serve the people as you very best could. And this res-

pect had I been a legislator, a representative of my Rob#don County I

this is one time when if there's such a thing as calling the shots in political

history and rights and responsibilities, that I would have feJllr=J my

own dictation, rather than just takin' a samplin' of a few of the people

of the county and I would have come up with a one-county-wide school system.

Most all of our higher economic-socio communities have long done away

with county and city school systems. They have merged becae merging

they felt that they saved money and they provided this equal opportunity

that we're all hollerin' so loud about. fLet me say this as a teacher in the

public schools, from experience, you can't have every child come out of

school with an equal education notdue to your teaching, but due to the

child's ability, different ability levels. So therefore we're talking'

about two different things: when we're talking' about quality education, equal

opportunities for all children, and I just I just hope that one day the

solution will be to merge county and city system rather than worry about a

double voting system. To me that would have been the better solution between

the two: double voting or a referendum to get a bill passed to offer a



referendum in Rob son County on double voting or school merger. My pre-

ference would have been school merger and top school officials like your

county superintendent and his assistants in the field of education.

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