MAKING HISTORY: Donell Moore, one of the first African American students to attend what was Chocowinity High School, has never regretted the groundbreaking move.
MAKING HISTORY: Donell Moore, one of the first African American students to attend what was Chocowinity High School, has never regretted the groundbreaking move.

Archived Story

Nearly 50 years later, groundbreaking student has ‘no regrets’

Published 4:29pm Friday, July 4, 2014

 

CHOCOWINITY — In 1965 Donell Moore was among a small group of African American students who made the groundbreaking decision to enroll at the previously all-white Chocowinity High School.

It was a decision he said he never regretted.

“Just before the 1965-1966 school year, the school started what was called ‘freedom of choice’ which meant if you lived in a district with a school you had the opportunity to choose that school,” Moore recalled. “I think there were five of us on campus that year, four in high school and one in middle school.”

Previously, African American children in the community attended what is now Chocowinity Primary School on Gray Road. Once they began ninth grade, however, they were bused to the old P.S. Jones School in Washington. That practice continued until the latter 1960s, according to Moore, unless a student chose otherwise.

The summer before his ninth grade year Moore opted to enroll at CHS, a decision supported by his family.

“I have no earthly idea why I did it … I just chose it,” Moore said with a smile. “It was sort of stressful but it wasn’t that bad. It was different. I probably missed some of the social things by not getting involved, by standing back. But I have no regrets.”

While Moore may not have been as active socially as some of his classmates, he did become somewhat of a leader on campus. He was a school bus driver and he played basketball, football and baseball for the Chocowinity Indians.

And he hit the books hard in order to make good grades, something insisted upon by his mother.

“My father died early … we were sharecroppers so the whole family had to work,” Moore said. “My mother told us that whatever we did, education is something folks can’t take away from us.”

Moore wasn’t the first African American to graduate from Chocowinity High School; he said there was at least one before him. But he was the only black male when he graduated with the class of 1969.

After graduation he served a four-stint in the Navy and later worked at what would become PotashCorp-Aurora as well as K-Mart in Washington and a pharmaceutical company in Greenville. He also heeded the advice of his mother and furthered his education at Beaufort County Technical Institute (now Beaufort County Community College) and East Carolina University.

Armed with a degree in physical education, Moore left the private sector work force and eventually returned to the Chocowinity campus, now a middle school. In 2008 he went to work with the in-school suspension program, and three years later he become a PE teacher and coach.

“It’s like I never left,” Moore said, pausing to look around the gymnasium where he played basketball as a youth. “I enjoy teaching. You don’t always get rewarded in dollars for what you do in life, but this job has so many other rewards. You can make a big difference.”

 

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