Dad went to jail, but son stayed in school

“Even in maturity, long-legged (6 ft. 6 in.) Clarence E. McVey, 49, a carpenter of Graham, N.C. (pop. 5,000) could not forget the misery of his schooldays. He had grown so fast that he towered above all his classmates, was so gangling and awkward that he became the butt of their jokes. He swore that his five-year-old son David, already over four feet tall, would never have to suffer from the family curse of being ‘too big for his age.’

“He decided last fall to start David in school a year early, even though North Carolina law forbids pupils to enter before they are six. At first, no one was the wiser, and David became one of the best pupils in the first grade. Then one day someone told David’s dreadful secret.

“The teacher asked Clarence McVey to take David out of school. McVey flatly refused. A few weeks later, the county school board made the same request, but McVey still refused. Last week, when he ignored a formal order from North Carolina’s Tenth District Superior Court to keep David at home, he was hauled off to jail. Said McVey: ‘I’ll stay here and rot before I take little David out of school.’ This week, there he stayed — and David stayed in school.”

— From Time magazine, April 9, 1951

Two weeks later Time reported Judge Leo Carr’s decision: Since David had nearly finished the school year, he could stay on and be promoted with his class. But father McVey would have to pay a $150 fine or [serve] another 20 days in jail for contempt of court.

Time dropped the story at that point, but the Burlington Times News reported (hat tip to Lisa Kobrin at May Memorial Library) that McVey chose the 20 days.