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First Black Woman to graduate from Virginia Tech: Linda Adams Hoyle, Class of 1968 Linda Adams Hoyle

Date of interview: November 3, 2000
Location: Sound Booth, Media Building, Virginia Tech
Interviewee: Linda Adams Hoyle
Interviewer: Tamara Kennelly
Transcriber: Susan Fleming Cook
Note: Mrs. Hoyle's sister, Sharon Holloway, was also present at the interview.

Part One

[Tape 1, Side 1]

Kennelly: Would you start just by saying your name and where you're from and tell us something about your family.

Hoyle: I'm Linda Hoyle. I'm from Upper Marlboro Maryland. I'm married. I have three children. My oldest son graduated from Frostburg State University. My daughter is a student at University of Maryland and my youngest one is a seventh grader.

Kennelly: Where did you grow up?

Hoyle: Covington, Virginia.

Kennelly: Covington, Virginia. That's where you were born?

Hoyle: Yes.

Kennelly: What did your parents do?

Hoyle: My father worked at a hospital. He was an orderly. My mother did day work.

Kennelly: How many siblings do you have?

Hoyle: Nine.

Kennelly: Where do you fall in the family?

Hoyle: Number five. The fifth one.

Kennelly: Right in the middle.

Hoyle: Yes and the next ones were a set of twin boys.

Kennelly: Your mother had a job at home too! Was education valued in your family?

Hoyle: Yes, very much so.

Kennelly: Did members of your family older than you go to college?

Hoyle: No, I was the first one to go to college. My oldest sister took some classes but I was the first one.

Kennelly: Why do you think that...?

Hoyle: I think probably it maybe had to do more with finances.

Kennelly: But at that point they were able to help you or you had saved yourself?

Hoyle: Actually I started out at the school in Clifton Forge so the expenses were not that high. When I came here I borrowed money to finance my education.

Kennelly: But your older siblings made other decisions on what they were going to do?

Hoyle: Yes, my brothers went into the service and my other sisters got jobs when they graduated from high school.

Kennelly: Were your parents able to help you finance your education or was it something you did yourself?

Hoyle: I think I pretty much did it for myself. They supplied money when they could.

Kennelly: When you were a young person growing up, did you have a job?

Hoyle: Yes, I did.

Kennelly: What did you do?

Hoyle: For awhile I did day work, housecleaning and then I worked while I was in high school I worked for a man doing typing and putting out publications. It wasn't Xeroxing...mimeographing was the term.

Kennelly: What kind of publication was that?

Hoyle: They were booklets, birth announcements...

Kennelly: Oh, he was a printer?

Hoyle: Yes, it was like printing type, where we did the typing and...

Kennelly: It could be anything? It wasn't like he was putting out a particular...

Hoyle: Oh no, he took orders as they came in...

Kennelly: It was like a job sort of things

Hoyle: People came in and asked if he would reproduce and make copies of publications or announcements, newsletters, reports.

Kennelly: Was he a white person?

Hoyle: No, he was black, a preacher.

Kennelly: How did you happen to start working there.

Hoyle: My oldest sister worked for him and when she left the job I took it over.

Kennelly: Oh, passed down in the family. [Laughter] So when you left did someone else in the family take it over?

Hoyle: I don't remember.

Kennelly: I wondered about the community where you grew up. Was that an integrated community? Was it racially integrated?

Hoyle: Well, yes. It was Covington. It was a small town, so you had black and white people living in the town. I think most of the people when I lived in a particular neighborhood were black. But the town, in general, was integrated. I remember living mainly beside black people.

Kennelly: What was the climate like there? Was there any racial tension while you were growing up?

Hoyle: I think what happened is we stayed to ourselves and they stayed to themselves. From that sense we were segregated. All my associations were with black people except for white people I may have worked for. I think the white people stayed to themselves. I mean the schools were segregated. Pretty much that was the way it was. I don't remember spending time playing with any white children.

Kennelly: What about as far as recreation centers, entertainment...?

Hoyle: No, no.

Kennelly: It was pretty much segregated?

Hoyle: Pretty much segregated.

Kennelly: Was there any demonstrations or anything else to break down the segregation?

Hoyle: I don't think there were any demonstrations. But, of course, we had the 'colored only' the 'white only' signs around. Those were very prevalent. We couldn't sit at the counters in restaurants.

Kennelly: In Covington?

Hoyle: Right in Covington when I was growing up. I clearly remember.

Kennelly: Did that make you angry?

Hoyle: No, I don't think I was angry, but we were separated. I mean when you walk in and see these signs, you knew what they meant. You knew that you were second class citizens, that you were unworthy. When you walk in and someone tells you, you can't sit here. You know it made you feel uncomfortable to know that you couldn't do everything the white children could do.

Kennelly: Were there any sit-ins at the lunch counters that you were aware of?

Hoyle: No, we didn't have any sit-ins, but there was one incident that I was specifically involved in. This was after they had declared these laws unconstitutional. I went into a white store, set down at the counter, and was asked to get up. At that point I went back to where I worked with the same man, the preacher, and I told him, "They told me I couldn't sit down." He told me, well, you need to write the Justice Department and tell them it is a violation of your civil rights. I did, and he helped me to write the letter to the Justice Department, and they came to investigate that incident. But that occurred after the laws had been passed and segregation was illegal. Prior to that I don't remember any demonstrations. I remember we just went on. We lived our lives.

Kennelly: Were you in high school at that point when you wrote the letter?

Hoyle: Yes, I was in high school.

Kennelly: Did they come and interview you and ask you about it, someone from the Justice Department?

Hoyle: Yes, they did. They came and asked me about the incident. I'm assuming that after they talked to me, they went to the store. I was not present when they did that. They asked me the questions, and I assumed they went to the store.

Kennelly: Did you ever try to go back there and sit down at the counter?

Hoyle: I don't think that I did.

Kennelly: Did anybody else that you knew, like any other people, friends...I guess what I'm asking is did that counter become integrated?

Hoyle: I guess it did, but I don't remember if I ever personally went back or who may have gone back.

Kennelly: It just sort of set things in motion?

Hoyle: Yes, I guess I did from that first incident because they should not have told me at that point--well, they never should have--but they should not have told me that I could not sit down. Because what I was getting, I was going to take out anyway. But I just said, "Well, I was waiting."

Kennelly: Did you ever do anything like that again, like take a stand or write a letter?

Hoyle: Probably not until I came here to Virginia Tech.

Kennelly: Virginia Tech--we'll get to that. I'm just trying to get a background of what it was like. As a child growing up, did you feel hurt by the prejudice and separation that there were things that you were told you couldn't do? Was that painful for you?

Hoyle: No, I don't recall it being painful. In that sense, it was resolved, as that's the way it was. I don't remember feeling any type of pain. You know, sometimes you grow up with things that exist that you know aren't right. But they didn't pain me per se.

Kennelly: Was church important to your family when you were growing up?

Hoyle: Yes, yes.

Kennelly: How did you participate? Did you sing in a choir?

Hoyle: I sang in the choir. I went to Sunday school and participated in activities in the church. Went to the youth meetings at the church. Those that were in Covington, and we went to youth meetings that were in other cities.

Kennelly: So that was an important part of your social life?

Hoyle: Yes, very much so. It was an integral part of my social life.

Kennelly: What church was that?

Hoyle: Gospel Tabernacle Church of God in Christ.

Kennelly: And is that the minister you were working with?

Hoyle: No, the minister I worked for was Pastor of First Baptist Church.

Kennelly: Oh, he would--I guess it didn't matter.

Hoyle: See, I worked for him in a business aspect. But I went to a different church. My faith was in a different church.

Kennelly: Was [church] that important to your whole family? Was your whole family involved?

Hoyle: No. My mother was--my sister, all my sisters. Some of my brothers, I think. I had a couple of brothers who were not as involved as the rest of us were.

Kennelly: Your mother was involved?

Hoyle: Yes, my mother was; my father wasn't. My mother sort of helped all of us.

Kennelly: Did she play an important role in the church? Was she really active, too?

Hoyle: Yes, she was. She was really active.

Kennelly: Like in the choir?

Hoyle: She sang in the choir. She was a missionary in the church and participated in other activities.

Kennelly: What does that mean to be a missionary in the church?

Hoyle: To give messages, to teach the word of God. She did other things, in addition. She helped a lot of people. She did a lot of things. She crocheted. She made things for people. She took afghans to the nursing homes and sort of encouraged people, talked to people who had problems. She would talk to them. Those were things that she did.

Kennelly: But was it in your community that she would do that? It wasn't like she was going out to another community, you know, the missionary aspect. I wonder if that means traveling away from your home?

Hoyle: No, I think she stayed mostly at home.

Kennelly: It was in your local area?

Hoyle: Right. I'm trying to remember, you know.

Kennelly: What did you feel about the education you received? Your high school education? Did you feel it adequately prepared you for college? I think you went to Watson High School.

Hoyle: I think it was a good education. I'm not sure if it fully prepared me for college, but I feel it tried to advance the subjects, like the math and sciences. I think it was a good education. I think for the most part, it did. I don't remember...recalling going to college and thinking I wish I had studied this or learned this--a particular topic. I don't remember doing that.

Kennelly: Was there anyone who was sort of a mentor to you in high school, who kind of pushed you to go on and continue your studies?

Hoyle: My math teacher. When I talked about going to college. I told him I was going to college. I told him what I was going to be. I said I was going to be a secretary. He knew I was good in math, and he said why not a mathematician, and it was probably at that point that I did change my major from being a secretary and decided to major in math.

Kennelly: He made you think a bit broader in what you might do?

Hoyle: Yes, yes he did!

Kennelly: Were your parents at all active politically? Did they ever do any demonstrations?

Hoyle: No.

Kennelly: Belong to the NAACP?

Hoyle: No, they did not.

Kennelly: You had attended--I guess it was new at the time--the Clifton Forge Community College which is now Dabney Lancaster.

Hoyle: Yes that's what it is now. But then it was Virginia Tech. I don't know what the actual formal name was. But it was Virginia Tech when I attended.

Kennelly: Okay, I think it began operations somewhere around September in 1964.

Hoyle: That's correct.

Kennelly: So it was pretty new when you were graduating.

Hoyle: Actually they had built it sometime when I was in high school, in my senior year and had it ready for the first classes that fall.

Kennelly: Were you in the first class?

Hoyle: Yes, I was. I was in the first class.

Kennelly: Were you aware when they were building it that it was someplace close that you knew about? Why did you decide to go there?

Hoyle: Well, yes. They came--a couple of men came to my senior class when I was in high school and asked if they built the school, would we go. I don't remember what I said, or what response they got, but they came and asked us about it before they even started to build. And I think because it was close to home and it was not going to be extremely expensive it was where I went. It was decided that would be good for me. You know the financial issues were a consideration with my going somewhere else. Because the school was there, I went.

Kennelly: Did you apply anywhere else?

Hoyle: No, I did not.

Kennelly: I just wanted to see if you got a scholarship anywhere else?

Hoyle: No.

Kennelly: So, you decided to go there? How did you get over there then?

Hoyle: I rode back and forth with some of the other students, and there was a teacher, a woman who taught at Clifton Forge, and she gave me rides every morning for a long time.

Kennelly: You pretty much commuted there every day for a long time--study and come home?

Hoyle: Correct.

Kennelly: So this was part of Virginia Tech. Did you feel much connection with Virginia Tech for being there?

Hoyle: None.

Kennelly: None?

Hoyle: No, I didn't. It was Virginia Tech, but I didn't even know what was here in Blacksburg or anything. So it was no real association to me when I was there. I knew that I got my grades from Virginia Tech. It said Virginia Tech, but actual association with the school here, it wasn't something I thought about or really pictured.

Kennelly: Even from football or something like that, you wouldn't think, that's my team.

Hoyle: No, I wasn't really a big football fan. No, I guess I didn't think of it that way.

Kennelly: So that was the name but you didn't think sometime you'd want to come down here and see what went on, on the main campus? It was a satellite campus, pretty separate.

Hoyle: Yes, to me it felt really separate. I don't remember talking about coming to Blacksburg and seeing what the campus was like during those first two years.

Kennelly: I'm not sure how big that [Clifton Forge] was there.

Hoyle: It was one building when I went.

Kennelly: One building?

Hoyle: I thing they've added one or two buildings. I'm not sure, but it was one building when I went.

Kennelly: Was that integrated?

Hoyle: Yes.

Kennelly: Pretty well integrated?

Hoyle: No, it was not pretty well integrated. It was just maybe one or two of us there at any given point.

Kennelly: So it was mostly white students?

Hoyle: Yes.

Kennelly: How was that going to school there? Did you feel awkward or uncomfortable?

Hoyle: I think at times I may have felt a little bit awkward. No, I can't recall if I was uncomfortable or not. I'm sure I was conscious of being a minority there because I had come from a segregated, an all black high school. But I met some of the students that were really nice, pleasant. So I think in general I didn't feel overall uncomfortable.

Kennelly: Would you study with the other students or get to know them at all, go to a movie, or anything social?

Hoyle: No, we did not socialize. They were kind; they would give me a ride. Those who went pass where I lived would give me a ride home or pick me up and bring me to school, but we didn't socialize. We'd sit around and talk while we were there. But when school was over, they went home, and I went home.

Kennelly: Yes, I think it is different on a commuter campus. Did you make any friends from that period? People that you might call up on the phone?

Hoyle: No, no I didn't.

Kennelly: Did you work while you were in college as far as having a job while you were there? Did you have a job, or did you continue with the publishing company?

Hoyle: I think I did some. Yes, I think I still worked for the minister, the preacher. I'm trying to remember when I stopped. I think I did some work for him. Yes.

Kennelly: Did you feel that the faculty was supportive there? Was there anyone particularly good or particularly--any kind of discrimination you experienced or anyone helpful either way?

Hoyle: No, I don't remember there being any form of discrimination on the part of the faculty. Nor do I remember them being helpful either. I was just there. No, I don't remember.

Kennelly: Why did you decide to come on to Virginia Tech?

Hoyle: Because I was already a student. I didn't have to reapply because I was already a student, and it just seemed--somehow it seemed natural. My parents and I talked about it and said well you're already a student at Virginia Tech, so you might as well just continue and go on to the main campus. So I came on here to Blacksburg.

Kennelly: Did a lot of the students you were in school with there do that too?

Hoyle: There were some I know because they talked about being roommates. There were some that came over. I don't know how many.

Kennelly: Did you get a Rockefeller Foundation Scholarship to come over?

Hoyle: No, I did not.

Kennelly: Or any kind of financial help?

Hoyle: I had some kind of financial help the second year, but I don't know the source of the help. I really don't. All I remember is someone told me my tuition had been paid!

Kennelly: For the second year?

Hoyle: Yes, I think.

Kennelly: But they didn't tell you who?

Hoyle: No, and I don't have any details!

Kennelly: I guess as long as they're paying it [laughter]

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