Speaker recalls trials, triumphs at Carroll Co. segregated school

Grad shares memories at annual King breakfast

January 13, 2002|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

For the 15th annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast held yesterday in Westminster, The Former Students and Friends of Robert Moton School Inc. gave the task of guest speaker to one of their own.

The Rev. Burton L. Mack, alumnus of what was until 1964 the county's only high school attended by African-Americans, praised his teachers and all the parents who encouraged children to overcome the deprivations of segregation and get an education.

The school in Westminster was understaffed, crowded and poorly equipped - Mack studied biology without ever seeing a microscope or test tube. Still, he said, "It was my grounding. It was a life-giving affirmation.

"We had a small group of dedicated educators who put their own meager checks together to buy us a bus," said Mack, 59, pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church in Frederick. "They battled against inadequate facilities and an uncaring county school board."

The breakfast, begun as a tribute to the fallen civil rights leader, raises money for the organization's scholarship fund. The fund has awarded $65,000 to college-bound black students in Carroll.

The audience of nearly 300 at Martin's Westminster applauded as Mack listed the names of memorable teachers and distinguished graduates, including Maryland Treasurer Richard N. Dixon, president of the alumni group.

"Thomas Dixon was the projectionist at a segregated movie theater, where blacks had to sit in the balcony, and now a building in this county bears his son's name," said Mack in a reference to the Dixon building at Carroll County General Hospital.

Mack paid tribute to his mother and other students' parents, who he said knew the value of a college degree for their children.

"Many of us had undereducated parents who would not compromise in their aspirations for us," Mack said. "They dreamed that life in Carroll County would not play the same tricks on their children as it did to them."

Minorities make up less than 5 percent of Carroll's population. Mack challenged the audience to "make some noise in this burg" and continue the spirit of the school today by working for greater equality in housing, employment and minority businesses.

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