Former students of the segregated Chapel Hill High and Lincoln High schools created an organization to get to know one another better and also benefit the community
By Hannah Lee | Photography courtesy of Jock Lauterer
Dr. John Allcott and Jock Lauterer, Chapel Hill High School (CHHS) graduates of 1963, wonder what it would have been like to know the kids down the street at Lincoln High School (LHS), the all-black high school. They wonder what it would have been like to be in the same classroom, reading the same books, taking the same bus or just playing football as one team.
“They were the Mighty Tigers, and we were the Wildcats – we were both the cats,” Jock recalls. “We didn’t see each other; we didn’t know each other. I grew up on Pritchard Avenue. That’s 25 yards away from the historically black community, so kids who grew up on the west side of Church Street were all black. And the kids who grew up on the east side of Church Street … we might as well have had a wall right down the middle of the road.”
One day last summer, Jock got a phone call from John. He had been looking up former classmates at CHHS, once housed in a building on West Franklin Street, and peers who went to LHS, now the Lincoln Center, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools’ administrative center. John realized he and his CHHS friends hadn’t made an effort to get to know the Lincoln kids when they were growing up. The two schools didn’t integrate until 1966, a few years after Jock and John had graduated, when a new Chapel Hill High School opened at its current location on High School Road.
To make up for lost time, John founded the LHS-CHHS Joint Alumni Association, currently composed of five former students – John, Jock, Carolyn Daniels, Richard Ellington and Dave Mason.
“When [John] called me with this crazy idea, my first response was, ‘Not unless the kids at Lincoln want to do this,’” Jock says. “I say ‘kids’ – we’re all in our 70s now. ‘If they want to do it, then I’m in.’ So it wasn’t until I met Dave, that I was all in.”
Initially, the group didn’t talk about forming an organization, says Dave, a LHS graduate of 1961. They just wanted to meet one another. But after they did, they wanted to do it more often. The next thing they knew, they formed this partnership.
“When we started meeting and getting together as a group, we realized that the two high schools weren’t segregated a mile apart; we were culturally on other sides of the continent,” Jock says. “We might’ve been on the other sides of the planet. We both played football on the same football field on different nights.”
With $3,000 in seed money from John, the group created two scholarships for current high school students helping to improve local race relations.
The idea of awarding two scholarships quickly became three when the group realized it couldn’t narrow down the contenders. Corrina Johnson, Matthew Atisa and Nicole Bell – recent CHHS and East Chapel Hill High School graduates – each received $1,000 in August for their contributions to their schools and communities.
“I’m hoping other people in the community will be inspired by the actions that Dr. John has taken and the actions that we have taken jointly to try and improve the relationships in Chapel Hill,” Dave says. “It’s all about inspiration for me. I participated in the very first sit-in movement in Chapel Hill, and the reason I did that was because I was inspired by the sit-in movement in Greensboro. And the students in Greensboro were inspired by Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. And MLK was inspired by Ghandi.
“So for me, the association is all about inspiration – inspiring people to try to see what it is that they can do to make the world a little bit better.”
All LHS and CHHS alumni are welcome to join the association. For more information, email Dave (LHS class of ’61) at email@example.com or Richard (CHHS class of ’63) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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