05/27/05 — H. V. Brown remembered

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H. V. Brown remembered

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 27, 2005 1:45 PM

Willette Starke was a little girl when Hugh Victor Brown came to Goldsboro as an educator in 1923.

She became one of his students and later his secretary until the schools integrated in 1969.

At 93, she is a treasure trove of information, making it only fitting that she was asked to serve on the committee to re-create some of the history of Dillard High School in time for this weekend's 50th anniversary celebration.

Ceremonies were held today to introduce a one-room archives at the Dillard Alumni Center on Poplar Street, named for Brown. It will be open to the public and features items that have been donated or loaned for the occasion.

"I will probably let them display my class picture and my class ring," Mrs. Starke said.

There will also be books published by Brown, an assortment of pictures, yearbooks and cap and gowns of former students.

The Dillard/Goldsboro Alumni and Friends has "grown like green grass," Mrs. Starke said.

"The only thing I can tell you is that the children who went to Dillard High School were proud of their name and that meant a whole lot," she said. "I'd say that there's not another high school alumni in the nation that's any better or any bigger than the Dillard alumni."

It has grown not only in numbers but in chapters, expanding to Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington. This weekend's celebration is dedicated to founder and former principal Brown.

Born in Kentucky, Brown was one of 11 children, Mrs. Starke said. In 1918, he made the rank of second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He first came to North Carolina as a principal and agriculture teacher in Columbus County.

When he came to Goldsboro, he succeeded Rev. Clarence Dillard as chief of the Goldsboro Colored Division of Schools, according to the commemorative yearbook published for the 50th anniversary. He was later able to convince the Board of Education to delete the word "colored," Mrs. Starke said.

"Many adults wanted to name the school The Brown School after him," she recalled. "He did not want to accept anything that was due (Dillard). That's why it came to be named Dillard."

Except for a brief leave of absence from 1931 to 1932, when James Carney became principal of the school, Brown was principal at Dillard until his retirement.

The original school was on West Elm Street and now houses Dillard Academy. The high school moved to Devereaux Street, where Goldsboro Middle School now stands.

Mrs. Starke said Brown was an organizer, forming the Schoolmasters' Club for principals in Wayne County and getting the N.C. Teachers Association up and running.

Dillard High was accredited by the N.C. State Department of Public Instruction in 1926, the yearbook reports, and in 1937 was the first in Wayne County to be accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.

After graduating from the school in 1930, Mrs. Starke worked in the office for a year and was invited to return as Brown's secretary in 1942. She remained there until the school closed in 1969.

In 1954, a small group of graduates elected Ernestine Whitted Wooten as president of the alumni club, according to the anniversary yearbook. The club's main purpose from then until now extends beyond fellowship, Mrs. Starke says.

"Most alumni, when they get together, exchange information about, 'Where are you and what are you doing?'" she said. "They also started working on raising money for scholarships for the oncoming students."

The organization also does community service, offering the alumni building for various events and the site for the WAGES day care program.

In the early days, the black school was everything, Mrs. Starke said, and the name of Dillard School meant something.

"Some students say it was mother, father, sister, brother, doctor, lawyer, preacher, whatever," she said. "Teachers learned a lot under him and from him, which meant that they were able to give to their students."

One of the great things he did, especially for the boys, was to have them marching outside regularly, she said. Calling it "Hugh Victor Brown's Army," she said the training proved beneficial in many ways.

"When World War II came along and those boys were drafted and had to go into the service, they were three or four notches above the inductees because of that military training that they had at Dillard High School," she said. "The military people could not believe that our boys had not been in a military school."

Brown worked hard to instill not only discipline, but a work ethic and a sense of family, Mrs. Starke said.

"We knew that he loved us. We knew that he was trying to make us as good as we could be," she said.

The local high school became highly respected throughout the state, she said.

"Children could graduate from Dillard and walk into college and get a transcript later," she said. "I knew one girl, they did not bother to get her transcript until her senior year because she went to Dillard."

Before he died, Brown became a minister, Mrs. Starke said.

"I have never known anybody that was more of a man, more of an educator, more of a Christian, more of a community leader than Hugh Victor Brown," she said.

"He was a father to the fatherless. He did everything he could for the children. As far as I'm concerned, Mr. Brown was my teacher; he was my principal; he was my boss; he was my neighbor; and he was, the big word, my friend."