David Schenck papers, 1953-1964.

Creator: Schenck, David, 1927-1970.
Collection number: 5288
View finding aid.

Abstract: Greensboro Mayor David Schenck was born 7 January 1927 in Greensboro, N.C., and was the great-grandson of Judge David Schenck, a prominent 19th century lawyer and politician in Greensboro. Schenck received a bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering from Duke University in 1947 and attended the business school at the University of North Carolina in 1948. In 1959, Schenck was elected to the Greensboro City Council where he served as chair of the Transportation Committee and later on the Mayor’s Special Committee on Human Relations and Race Relations in 1960. On 8 May 1961, Schenck was elected mayor of Greensboro. He was reelected in 1963 and served until 1965. During his tenure as mayor, Schenck witnessed mass civil rights demonstrations by African-American students and others in Greensboro, culminating in his June 1963 decision to urge Greensboro businesses to voluntarily integrate their facilities. Schenck died in 1970 at age 43 of a cerebral hemorrhage. Materials include Schenck’s correspondence, texts of statements given to the press, appointment books, memos, notes, clippings, and other items mostly related to his handling of the 1963 civil rights demonstrations in Greensboro that led to integration of the city’s public accommodations. Correspondents include members of activist organizations such as the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Greensboro A&T Alumni Association; Greensboro businessmen; and a number of concerned citizens. Many letters and telegrams are specifically in response to Schenck’s 7 June 1963 pro-integration statement that “selection of customers purely by race is outdated, morally unjust, and not in keeping with either democratic or Christian philosophy.” Other items include reports, resolutions, meeting agendas and other material of the Greensboro City Council and the Commission on Human Relations; annotated lists of Greensboro businesses noting whether or not they agreed to integrate their facilities; and a recorded telephone conversation between Schenck and North Carolina Governor Terry Sanford dated 24 May 1963.

Repository: Southern Historical Collection

Collection Highlights: There is numerous documentation dealing with segregation and  the Civil Rights demonstrations in Greensboro when Schenck was mayor. The correspondence in Series 1 is particularly rich in understanding how African American and white citizens in Greensboro perceived desegregation and the Civil Rights protests going on in the city at that time.

Folder 1 contains numerous letters from individuals and businesses either in support or again integration of restaurants and other public facilities in Greensboro. Some letters, such as one written by Eugene Hood on 11 April 1963, decry hypocrisy of the Mayor’s Integration Committee by forcing restaurant owners to integrate their facilities but maintaining segregation in social clubs and other areas within the city and government.

There are also copies of resolutions and statements from groups like the Coordinating Council of Pro-Integration Groups and the Gate City Chapter of the N.C. A & T College Alumni Association, stating their support for the civil rights demonstrators and an end to discriminatory practices in a number of institutions. There are also copies of statements such as the letter issued by W.H.  Long Marketing Company, calling for businesses to reject “forced” integration by the state government.

Folder 10 contains correspondence and documentation from the Greensboro Commission on Human Relations, established in May 1963. There is also a 23 May 1963 letter from attorney J. Kenneth Lee, who was one of the first African American students to desegregation the law school at UNC Chapel Hill. Click here to access the online finding aid for the J. Kenneth Lee Collection in the Southern Historical Collection

Folder 11 contains a 19 page booklet from an initial report by The Durham Interim Committee, established on 22 May 1963 to address civil rights demonstrations in Durham, North Carolina.

There is also an audio clip of a phone conversation between Mayor Schenck and Governor Terry Sanford about the civil rights demonstrations going on in Greensboro at the time. Click here to link to the finding aid and access the digitized material.