From the StoryCorps Archives: The Final Commencement, Williston High, 1968

Jul 5, 2013

Just over two years ago, the StoryCorps mobile soundbooth came to Wilmington and recorded rich stories of family, heritage, and personal struggle. WHQR News is thrilled to bring this wonderful catalog of Wilmington back for a second look.

Bertha and Rita Todd recall graduation season in the Spring of 1968 at Wilmington’s Williston High School. It was to be the final commencement. Williston’s student body was to be integrated into other area schools, and would cease to exist as a secondary institution.

This is 1968: Dr Martin Luther King has just been assassinated, Wilmington schools are in the process of integration, and student demonstrations are erupting around the globe. New Hannover High School has not lowered the flag in the wake of Dr. King’s death. Williston students, in their grief, are on the brink of marching to NHHS to demand the flag be lowered. Fearing violence, Todd tells the story of how one young teacher –inspired by King’s legacy –delicately avoids the possibility of a riot:

“Do you think Dr Martin Luther King Would be pleased with you if you're going to riot? I want you to try to imagine Dr King living today. Try to imagine the words he’d spoken many times….”   

(April 8, 2011)