NPS African American Oral History Project: Mrs. Josetta Walker



I spent twenty-eight years in Marietta city schools. My last 28 years. And I taught, um, special education, and I was um, department chair of special education at Marietta High School (1) and left there and became assistant principal at Marietta High School and then I left there, and established and was principal of our first alternative school for five years and then my last two years I spent at central office as a director. But the majority of my time was spent in the classroom. A little bit more than that, I would say.

Did you have to um, when it comes things like integration (2), did you have to deal with any of um, I mean I know integration happened more in the 60s, but was Marietta earlier or later to integrate when it comes to..

Marietta was on the cusp of being early, um, Marietta High School was integrated by two students – two female students – in 1964, and in 1966, my husband became the first black male teacher at Marietta High School, and um an English teacher who was a female and he was assigned to Marietta High School that year, fall of 66. But when we looked around us, and we saw the hardships that people had in desegregating schools, it was, Marietta did not experience that.(3) And actually, we have always given the credit to the school superintendent at the time, who by the way just died last week, and we had the funeral Saturday. He was 97 years old and his name was Lloyd Cox. He was very very intent on making sure things went smoothly. Now that was after everything became public. I did a paper for a class when I was working on one of my graduate degrees, and it was called “The Desegregation of Marietta City Schools.” I interviewed a lot of people I went to the Board of Education and went through, actually went through board minutes after the 1954 Brown vs Board of Education (4) decision to see, you know, when they started talking about it.

And I didn’t see anything in there probably until 1964, about the desegregation of the schools. and I talked to a former Marietta High School principal and Marietta City Schools assistant superintendent who himself had been born and raised in Marietta and had gone through the school system and asked him: “I didn’t see anything in all those years in the board minutes. Why?” And he said, “I’m gonna tell you something Josetta. They talked about it, they just didn’t write it down.”

That’s what he said. They just didn’t write it down. He said they used to have some, shall I say, spirited, (laughing) conversations about that, but um when they made the move to desegregate Marietta High School and um went forth with it, there were no problems. There really were no problems. And my husband, and I remember that these two teachers who were sent there, were handpicked. My husband and Miss Dial were handpicked. Um, she was an English teacher and she was a very very (illegible) woman. (Laughing) You remember Dorothy Dial, really one of the brightest people I’ve ever seen, best English teacher. And my husband was in the vocational area. But he had the personality to get along with people. He did. And right now, we meet people in the community who he taught in 9th grade, they look as old as he does, “Mr. Walker, do you remember me?” it was um interesting, we were very young, we were in our early 20s, our early to mid-20s. That could have been a reasons he was chosen because he was so young.

Um, and you know, older people are more set in their ways, ask me, I know (laughing) but yeah they are more set in their ways but he was, you know he would whatever extra thing people were doing, he would jump in and do it, and he gained a lot of peoples trust by doing that, so, all in all, and he would tell you this, for us as a family, and for him as an individual, all and all, it was a pleasant experience, it really was. He would do things like, he’s told me many times, and told our daughter many times, about, there was this one lady on the staff who would not speak to him. And he said every time he would see her (laughs) see her in the hall or anything, ‘Good morning, how are you?’ He said finally she started speaking. (Laughing) But see after he did it the first time, and I know him, and she didn’t respond, oh he was going to do it.

But anyway, and it was, and the whole transition process went smoothly in Marietta city. It really did. It really did.


And that’s definitely good to hear because you do get to a point where you know you hear both sides. You know you have where things are almost like a powder keg, and they just explode. And then you’ve got the, you know the way it really should have been.

But that depends on the leadership. See that depends on the leadership. And not only of course the superintendent, who is the executive, but the board. And the Board of Education was desegregated by Mr. Woods in about the late 60s or very early 70s and ever since then, there has been at least one African American member on the Marietta Board of Education. And they were appointed back in those days, they were not elected.

As the 60s unfolded, how did you guys react to the news of you know like MLK and different things that were happening outside of Marietta, what were your reactions to different things like the March on Washington, the sit ins, at different counters and stuff like that?

I heard Mrs. Clara, when the Dunaway drug store was integrated, I say desegregated rather than integrated, was desegregated, that went without any problems because Dunaway himself said we’re that gonna serve people.

And something else too about Marietta back in those days, Marietta and Cobb County were over 90 percent Caucasian. That’s sort of like it was where I’m from in Northwood? Alabama. I don’t remember, like when people had to struggle to be able to vote. I don’t remember that. I remember my daddy, getting up and putting on his white shirt and hat on his head, looking in the mirror. I asked: “daddy where you going?” “I got to pay my poll tax.” (5)So he would be eligible to vote, and you had to own property (laughs) to vote. That’s where the poll tax came in. so but I don’t remember my daddy not voting, it was that long ago, yeah, and then where I got to Tuskegee (6), it was predominately African American in that section of Alabama and people were, all the, you know, all the stuff that you saw on TV and everything on the news about people dying and all that kind of stuff, being denied voting rights because even professors at Tuskegee, when I was there, from ‘62 to ‘66, were denied the right to vote.

They would go down to register and some little person who might have had a sixth grade education would be sitting behind a desk. Read this, or whatever, and tell them they flunked the test, which is why they were denied the right to vote. And these were PhD’s and so forth, and that’s the way it was then, but up home, since we were such a minority I guess, they said they can’t make a difference anyway, so just let them vote. But we were voting.

Well see I don’t remember anything like that, in my home, you know, where, where I grew up. And maybe one reason was that one of the most powerful families in the community were distant cousins of us.

Yeah, they were. And um, and maybe that was something, I don’t know, but yeah they were big huge landowners and everything and Chicken Owen? was about seven feet tall. Big old guy, big old guy. He would say the same blood run in my veins runs in yours.

I remember because, I was in college from ‘62 to ‘66 and I remember going home on the Greyhound back and forth to you didn’t go home all the time, I went home at Christmas and that was it. I didn’t go Thanksgiving and Easter, I stayed on campus. Anyway, I remember that kids would be coming from different points and converging on the Montgomery bus station, coming back from vacations, and of course at the beginning of that period we were supposed to be in this little waiting room with the you know, college kids and we were everywhere. We were just everywhere. And these people would get special busses, to get us out of there, (laughing) and get us to Tuskegee. I guess they thought it was too many of them here, I don’t know, buy anyway, that was always interesting, to me.


Last updated: May 26, 2021

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