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Dayhoff: 60 years ago Western Maryland College and the Baltimore Colts were agents of change in Carroll County

On Jan. 15, 1929, one of the world’s best-known advocates of non-violent social change strategies, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was born in Atlanta.

King first burst on the national leadership scene on Dec. 5, 1955, five days after Montgomery civil rights activist Rosa Parks refused to obey the city’s rules mandating segregation on buses.

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King’s renown grew as he became Time magazine’s Man of the Year on Jan. 3, 1964, and, in December 1964, the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Despite fame and accolades, King faced many challenges to his leadership. His assassination on April 4, 1968, in Memphis shocked the nation.

On Jan. 15, 1929, one of the world’s best-known advocates of nonviolent social change strategies, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was born in Atlanta. In this picture, a 1964 attempt to integrate a motel restaurant in St. Augustine, Florida, lands King in the county jail. King's renown grew as he became Time magazine's Man of the Year on Jan. 3, 1964, and, in December 1964, the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Despite fame and accolades, however, King faced many challenges to his leadership. His assassination on April 4, 1968, in Memphis shocked the nation. (Bettmann/Getty)
On Jan. 15, 1929, one of the world’s best-known advocates of nonviolent social change strategies, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was born in Atlanta. In this picture, a 1964 attempt to integrate a motel restaurant in St. Augustine, Florida, lands King in the county jail. King's renown grew as he became Time magazine's Man of the Year on Jan. 3, 1964, and, in December 1964, the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Despite fame and accolades, however, King faced many challenges to his leadership. His assassination on April 4, 1968, in Memphis shocked the nation. (Bettmann/Getty) (Bettmann/Getty)

King had a great impact upon our nation and the world but it didn’t come easily. King encountered strong criticism from more militant leaders such as Stokely Carmichael and Malcolm X. Despite these leadership conflicts, King remained committed to the use of non-violent techniques.

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Closer to home in Carroll County we have our own community leaders who have gone before us. Folks who brought about positive change in our community and have provided us with a foundation with which we have built our quality of life.

Folks such as Ira Zepp, Del Palmer, Charles Crain, William “Bill” David, Sam Case, and Wray Mowbray, to name a few. All were key and critical players who advocated for social justice and change at McDaniel College, then known as Western Maryland College, and Carroll County. We owe these folks a deep debt of gratitude for working hard in the face of enormous obstacles to do the right thing and fight human injustice.

Professor William David was known to have been rather assertive with then-Western Maryland College President Dr. Ensor about the issue of racial diversity at Western Maryland College in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Zepp was also known as a positive voice with respect to the pursuit of social justice at Western Maryland College. Zepp came to campus in 1963. At that time there was a growing feeling at the college that it would be important that African Americans be a part of campus life.

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The Rev. Dr. Ira Zepp Jr., professor emeritus of the religious studies department at McDaniel College, died at his home on Aug. 1, 2009. Zepp was a pastor, professor, and community leader who worked tirelessly in the cause of social justice. He was in the forefront of desegregating local businesses and schools, in Westminster and Carroll County. (Submitted photo)
The Rev. Dr. Ira Zepp Jr., professor emeritus of the religious studies department at McDaniel College, died at his home on Aug. 1, 2009. Zepp was a pastor, professor, and community leader who worked tirelessly in the cause of social justice. He was in the forefront of desegregating local businesses and schools, in Westminster and Carroll County. (Submitted photo) (Submitted Photo)

According to a series of interviews with Zepp for an article on social justice I wrote 20 ago in February 2001, the first black student, Burton Mack, was admitted to Western Maryland College in 1961, however after being admitted, he chose not to attend.

In an article by David, “When the Wall Cracked,” published in the college news magazine, “The Hill,” in February 1990, he wrote: “The first and most courageous act leading to the integration of WMC was a statement by Dr. Charles Crain, professor of religion, in a faculty meeting in 1955. He said that he felt that the college should have minority students, that he had communicated his concern to the administration, and that, having heard no answer, wanted it known that he considered it his Christian duty to do what he could to bring about the admission to the college of black students.”

Meanwhile, the Baltimore Colts began their summer practice at Western Maryland College in the late 1950s. It is widely accepted that the dynamic of having African American athletes on the Baltimore Colts was a major impetus in the desegregation of Westminster. Almost all the restaurants in the Westminster of my childhood were segregated until the middle 1960s.

In David’s 1990 article he mentions that a student by the name of Raphael Mayamona was Western Maryland College’s first black graduate. Mr. Mayamona was from the Congo and had been attending high school in Massachusetts. Dr. David writes, “He applied and was accepted and entered in the fall of 1963.

It is further enlightening to understand within the context of this time period that another student, Charles Seabron, was accepted and began studies at Western Maryland College in September of 1963. David writes that “In September 1963 … we had two black undergraduate students on the campus. Charles Seabron was well received by most students and was soon elected president of the freshman class. However, he was not comfortable with us and dropped out at the end of his one year.” Zepp reported that Seabron transferred to Morgan.

According to a correspondence from Zepp on Feb. 3, 2001: “The first African-Americans to graduate were Charles Victor McTeer … and Charles Smothers. They graduated in 1969. These were the first American black students to receive Bachelor of Arts degrees from Western Maryland College. In the process they, like Raphael Mayamona, did much for us, for which we owe them gratitude.”

From the days in the late ’60s, McTeer and Smothers, and McDaniel faculty and students have continued to build the numbers of trailblazers in the pursuit of an ethnic and racially diverse campus and have continued to be leaders in the community.

In full disclosure, I served in the civil rights movement in the South in the early 1970s. I attended one of the first desegregated summer camps at Western Maryland in the 1960s. I currently serve as the correspondence secretary for the Carroll County NAACP. I have written numerous articles on the desegregation of Carroll County. Portions of this discussion have been published before — and deserve to be repeated.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. His Time Flies column appears every Sunday. Email him at kevindayhoff@gmail.com.

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