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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 Two

Hoyle: Yes, but I know I did borrow money to fund part of the education because I don't remember applying for any other financial aid other than the loan...

Kennelly: So somebody just decided to give that to you. Did you know anyone here before you came here that was already at Virginia Tech?

Hoyle: No.

Kennelly: No one from your community?

Hoyle: No.

Kennelly: Could you take yourself back to when you first came over here? How did you come over here in the first place? Just physically how did you get over here when you first came to school?

Hoyle: A man and woman that my mother knew brought us over. So we came by car. They drove us over.

Kennelly: When you say us, do you mean you and your mother?

Hoyle: Yes.

Kennelly: So friends of the family brought you over?

Hoyle: Yes, friends of the family.

Kennelly: What were your first impressions when you came here? What was it like?

Hoyle: Well, actually I came over one day during the summer. I don't know if it was some type of orientation. I'm not sure what it was, but I came over, and I remember the campus, and it was during the summer, so I didn't see a lot of people. When we came back for the beginning of the fall semester, I guess probably I was thinking of leaving home for the first time--might have been the things on my mind when we came over and what to expect and orientation and things of this nature. Otherwise I really didn't know what it was like.

Kennelly: What you were getting in to--did you feel that you were coming over as a pioneer in the sense of being one of the very small groups of blacks coming?

Hoyle: No, because I guess I didn't know.

Kennelly: Until you got here?

Hoyle: Until I got here.

Kennelly: What the situation would be?

Hoyle: I mean because we had decided that I should just come over to Virginia Tech. It wasn't like when you are looking for a college you do a lot of research. I just came on. So I didn't really know.

Kennelly: Until you got here?

Hoyle: Until I got here!

Kennelly: I understand you were assigned a room in Eggleston, and then your roommates parents--the person that had been assigned to be your roommate--her parents had their daughter moved.

Hoyle: Yes.

Kennelly: Could you tell what the story was with that? What happened?

Hoyle: I think what happened was when my mother and I were going into the dorm and we were looking at the room, I think she was already in the room, and I'm not sure where her parents were, but when they saw us they decided no, she could not room with me. They did not want her to room with me. And the next thing I remember is the--I guess she was the resident. I don't know what they called them--managers--I can't remember the terminology, but anyway a woman came in, and she explained to us what had happened. And told me they would probably bring me a roommate from another dorm. But she just explained that they didn't want her to room with me.

Kennelly: How did that make you feel? Were you and your mother upset?

Hoyle: No, I think we took it and went on. That was it. It was the very first day. We just said, "Well, okay!"

Kennelly: It must have been kind of disappointing to have that happen.

Hoyle: I just guess I just took it...

Kennelly: Took it in stride?

Hoyle: And went on. I think it was all--everything was happening--it was the first day there along with things that were happening, you know, just getting over--coming to college. So when it happened, it happened, and she went on, and I went on, and I think it must have been that very same day they may have moved Chiquita Hudson from her dorm.

Kennelly: Chiquita Hudson had a terminal illness?

Hoyle: Yes, she did.

Kennelly: I think she had requested a single room because of her illness.

Hoyle: That's what I heard. I don't remember her telling me that specifically, but I heard that she had requested that single room because of her illness, and you know she didn't want to disturb her roommate.

Kennelly: Right, so how did that work out then? You rooming with someone who was very ill?

Hoyle: Fine because most of the time she did not appear--she wasn't a sickly person in the sense that she was always sick or sitting around like she couldn't function. It wasn't that type. When she did get sick, she did go to the hospital, but on a day-to-day basis for the most part she functioned very well and went about her classes. But when the illness did become a problem, she spent time in the hospital. But it never appeared to be a problem for us or affecting me in any manner.

Kennelly: I think she had lupus?

Hoyle: Yes, she did.

Kennelly: She died that summer after the first year.

Hoyle: Right.

Kennelly: She must have been really seriously ill. I mean it's a serious disease, I know.

Hoyle: Yes, she told me she had had it since she was 13 or 14 years old. She said that no one would really tell her much about it, so she started to research. She was aware at the time that young people with lupus did not really live too much beyond their teen years. She knew that, but she didn't walk around sad or miserable--I don't remember her walking around depressed about it.

Kennelly: Right. I guess I wondered about that if she was thinking that I'm going to die soon, it's going to happen, or if she was trying to make the most of her life.

Hoyle: I think she was trying to make the most of her life. I really do not recall her sitting around looking glum or feeling depressed. Or even in the hospitals, when she was there, she would still smile.

Kennelly: You would go visit her in the hospital?

Hoyle: Yes. She was on campus. So she was here in the infirmary on campus. So yes, we would go and visit her.

Kennelly: It would be somewhat distressing to have your roommate so ill. Were you conscious at that time that she was so ill?

Hoyle: Really...I only knew what she said about lupus. I knew that she was seriously ill. But I guess because she wasn't always depressed. It kind of helped a lot. But we thought about her a lot. You know, we thought about her.

Kennelly: Do you have any other memories of her or any stories about her? Anything that would let people know--we don't really know much about her really? Anything that stands out if you think back what she was like, just to give us a sense what kind of person she was?

Hoyle: She smiled a lot. She was friendly, easy to get along with as a roommate. I thought we got along just fine. That was it. The group of us that were there would go to breakfast or to lunch and dinner together. She still seemed--she could smile and a lot of times be happy.

Kennelly: So you had a room together, and then were there two other students that were--was Marguerite Harper? I think two other girls were in Hillcrest, I believe. I think Linda.

Hoyle: Linda Edmonds and Freddie were in Hillcrest and Jackie and Marguerite were in Eggleston.

Kennelly: Okay, so mostly the four of you or all six of you would eat together in the cafeteria since you were in different dorms.

Hoyle: I think it was probably the four of us. I think it was later on that Linda and I became friends and did more association. But I think initially it was the four of us. For a while I didn't really know her. I think they moved out of Hillcrest and may have moved into Eggleston the second year. Then, I know, Linda, Freddie, and I--we did a lot of things together, and of course there was still Jackie and Marguerite that second year. So we hung around each other a lot.

Kennelly: What was it like in the cafeteria? Did you just sit with black students, or were there any incidents in the cafeteria here as far as eating together, feeling comfortable or feeling isolated?

Hoyle: I think we stayed together as best as I can remember. For the most part, we were there together. I don't think I sat too much with the white students. We were there together, the group of us. No, as I can recall most of the time, the black students were there together.

Kennelly: How did you find living in the dorm the first year? Did you feel welcome like you could participate in anything you wanted to or invited to whatever they had--little parties in the dorm, whatever?

Hoyle: Yes, I think I was comfortable because we did visit rooms. We did talk to each other. I know we went to a birthday party someone had. One of the women in the other room, her grandmother or mother would make peanut butter candy she would share with us. So we would sit around and talk. So I think from there I was comfortable. And I guess those that didn't want to be bothered, they went their way, and we were with those that we were comfortable with.

Kennelly: Were there any negative incidents that happened--any incidents of discrimination that happened?

Hoyle: In the dorm?

Kennelly: Yes.

Hoyle: None that I can recall.

Kennelly: The Dean of Women, I think, had this memory of people putting signs, "white" and "colored" in the water fountain at one point or "white" and "black." Is that anything that you remember?

Hoyle: No, I don't.

Kennelly: Kind of as a joke. She remembers it as a joke. I think that she thinks that the black students had done that.

Hoyle: No.

Kennelly: Nothing that you would have done for a joke?

Hoyle: No, I don't recall doing that. No. In fact, I don't remember it.

Kennelly: Did it make a difference that you were a junior and the other students were freshmen? As far as you felt older and you'd done more?

Hoyle: No. I think we all sort of felt like we were in the same boat, so to speak. We were all there on that campus. We had all come at the same time, so we pretty much felt we were together. I don't think the difference that I was two years ahead...I don't think that mattered at all.

Kennelly: Were you in the math department then or in statistics as a separate...?

Hoyle: I think, probably shortly after I got there, I changed to statistics. I may have started out in math but then changed to statistics.

Kennelly: Were there mostly men in your classes?

Hoyle: Yes.

Kennelly: Were there any other women besides you?

Hoyle: No.

Kennelly: Were there any other black students in your classes?

Hoyle: In one of my classes, there was another black student, I recall. I think it was one of my calculus classes I had.

Kennelly: So how did you find the classes?

Hoyle: Well being the only one there in the class, I think at times I didn't think about it until one of my professors insisted on calling me Mister.

Kennelly: Mister?

Hoyle: Yes, he was of Asian descent. I was the only woman in the class, and he insisted on calling me Mister.

Kennelly: That's really strange! Do you remember who that was?

Hoyle: No, I don't. He had apparently had in all of his classes, men.

Kennelly: So he resented having a woman in his class.

Hoyle: He must have. He said Mister and your last name, and when he called me Mister and I corrected him, and he wanted to continue calling me Mister.

Kennelly: So that must have made you angry.

Hoyle: I didn't like it. But sometimes you don't always know what to do about situations. I had no interaction with him as a professor of a class.

Kennelly: Just something to get through?

Hoyle: I don't ever remember talking to him or having any type of interaction with him.

Kennelly: Were there any professors that were helpful or acted as a mentor or put themselves out to help you?

Hoyle: No, not that I recall. I think, it was Dr.--Dr. Harshbarger. I'm not sure about his name but he was head of the statistics department.

Kennelly: Harshbarger, maybe?

Hoyle: Harshbarger. Sure. Something like that

Kennelly: I'm not sure, but he wrote that letter.

Hoyle: I didn't find this out until years later until I was working--about a letter of recommendation he had written for me...for someone had required it for my job and had asked him about me. I never knew about it, until one day I went to look in my personnel folder. I did find a letter of recommendation he had written, and he was head of the statistics department.

Kennelly: Was that the letter that you sent or was it something a little more than that?

Hoyle: No, it was another letter that he had written directly to the people that had written an inquiry for my job.

Kennelly: Did he write a good recommendation?

Hoyle: Yes.

Kennelly: But he never said a word to you to say "good job" to let you know you were doing well?

Hoyle: I guess I had occasion to talk to him about classes as an advisor, but otherwise I don't remember any in depth conversations. I have to admit a lot of things. trying to go back...having to remember a lot of specifics.

Kennelly: It's hard to remember a lot! What was your social life like when you were at Virginia Tech?

Hoyle: I was probably a relatively quiet person. I don't think I was...I don't know how to describe it. I was with the other black students, and we did things together. There was a woman who worked on campus, and we would go and visit her. I attended church while I was here.

Kennelly: What church did you attend?

Hoyle: It was the Church of God of Prophesy. I remember it being a good little walk from campus because we would walk to the church on Sunday. I think, otherwise socially, I was kind of quiet.

Kennelly: You said you got to know the one lady in town...that you went to her house? Do you remember her name?

Hoyle: Jackson was her last name.

Kennelly: How did you get to know her?

Hoyle: She worked in the dorm. We met her in the dorm.

Kennelly: What did she do in the dorm?

Hoyle: She did housekeeping.

Kennelly: She invited you all to come over?

Hoyle: Yes, we'd go and spend time with her. We met her daughters. She became an extended family. Perhaps, a mother figure. She had daughters around about our age, maybe a little bit younger. So we'd go and talk to her, and she'd talk to us. We'd have dinner at her house.

Kennelly: Did you get to know any people in your church as far as local people in the community?

Hoyle: I knew the people that went to the church, but we really didn't have any interaction otherwise.

Kennelly: Did they have a choir that you sang in or anything like that?

Hoyle: Oh, no. I didn't participate in any of the activities. I would just go to be part of the service. But they were extremely nice when I left. They gave me a going away party, you might say.

Kennelly: Oh that was nice!

Hoyle: They gave me gifts when I was leaving.

Kennelly: So it meant something to them that you were...

Hoyle: Yes, I think so. Occasionally, some of the other students...Linda went with me...Bill Anderson went with me to church.

Kennelly: Was that an all black church?

Hoyle: No, it was all white.

Kennelly: Interesting! That's neat. Were the people working in the cafeteria in Eggleston especially friendly to you? Were there black workers in the cafeteria? I know that Freddie and Linda said over in Hillcrest they got to be...not socially going out with them but just friends with the people who worked in the cafeteria. They'd always make sure they had a good dessert or whatever.

Hoyle: Well, I was at a different

Kennelly: Nothing?

Hoyle: No, we were part of the regular campus student body and went to that cafeteria. So nothing that I can recall.

Kennelly: Nothing that stands out?

Hoyle: No.

Kennelly: Did you go to school dances while you were here?

Hoyle: No, I did not.

Kennelly: Did you date other students while you were here?

Hoyle: No, I did not date.

Kennelly: One of the students mentioned that the white students had received a letter telling them that if they wanted to date interracially, they would have to have a letter of permission from their parents. Were you aware of that? Had you heard anything about that?

Hoyle: No, I don't recall a letter.

Kennelly: Well she said she didn't receive a letter herself but that the black students were not given such a letter, but the white students did receive such a letter, and it sort of came out inadvertently from one of the white students. Is that anything you recall?

Hoyle: No.

Kennelly: Because I think she was more testing interracial dating and stuff when she was here.

Hoyle: Well, I know one of the black women did date a white man, one of the white students while she was here.

Kennelly: Freddie married...

Hoyle: Yes, it was Freddie. I know she did, and she eventually married him.

Kennelly: But Marguerite sort of went on these test dates. It wasn't really a person she was involved with, but just as a test for the Human Relations Council, just to see the reactions in the dorms. Were you involved in that or the Human Relations Council?

Hoyle: No, I was not.

Kennelly: Did you go to football games while you were here?

Hoyle: No, I didn't go to the football games.

Kennelly: There was this whole issue of how they would run out with a Confederate flag and played "Dixie," and it was something that was very upsetting...

Hoyle: I think the Confederate flag seemed to be everywhere anyway, and "Dixie" seemed to be everywhere. It was just part of just what Virginia Tech was--to have that Confederate flag and play "Dixie."

Kennelly: You mean you would just see it all around in the dorms?

Hoyle: It seemed like it was everywhere, even if it wasn't physically everywhere. I guess because if you saw one or two--it just stood out because it wasn't like an isolated student may have had a Confederate flag. It was something that was part of the culture of Virginia Tech. The Confederate flag was part of the culture and "Dixie"...I would say the same. We'd hear the songs and just sit there. And those things bothered us. A lot of it had to do...we knew where the Confederate flag originated. We knew what "Dixie" meant, and whenever they are displayed where there are Black people, someone is trying to give a message that relates back to slavery, discrimination, and so to hear the song and to see the flag was uncomfortable. We did not like it.

Kennelly: Did you ever do anything about it?

Hoyle: Not about the flag, but we did have a couple of protests.

Kennelly: Like what? What happened?

Hoyle: Governor George Wallace...I think he came to campus to give a speech. He was running for president I think at that point. He had a motto that said Stand Up For America. There was a group of us, and there were some white students in the group, and we decided to protest. We changed the motto to read Stand Up For All America. So that was the protest.

Kennelly: You mean you made a sign?

Hoyle: Yes, we made a sign.

Kennelly: You stood up with your sign?

Hoyle: I don't know if we stood up...we had the sign...I guess, in the Coliseum or wherever he was speaking, we did have the sign.

Kennelly: What happened when you did that?

Hoyle: Hum...

Kennelly: No response from the other students?

Hoyle: No, I don't remember, but I vaguely remember somebody saying we may have been on television. It was peaceful. I mean we did not create a disturbance or anything. We just sat there. We were not unruly. We just sat there with the sign to make a statement that something was missing out of his motto and because of what he stood for...segregation and all the things he represented and the past. That was a protest we did.

Kennelly: Were there any other kinds of protest when you were a student here?

Hoyle: When Martin Luther King was assassinated, I think we wanted the school to honor him by lowering the flag, and I think we protested that it was not lowered for him.

Kennelly: Did you go out there with the students? I read about that in the local student paper.

Hoyle: Yes. I was there.

Kennelly: How were the other students on campus responding to that?

Hoyle: I think the cadets whose assignment it was to raise that flag...unless someone told them they could lower it, they had to raise it all the way up. So I think at that time we were there trying to get them to and they didn't because no one had told them to...

Kennelly: So was it a kind of confrontation or stand off?

Hoyle: I guess a little bit of a confrontation, but it wasn't major confrontation. I think we were there to ask them to lower the flag. It wasn't, shall I say, an ugly confrontation. We just asked them to lower the flag in honor of Martin Luther King.

Kennelly: So when they wouldn't do it then did you just stay there?

Hoyle: I think we left.

Kennelly: Did they lower the flag?

Hoyle: No, I don't think so.

Kennelly: Were these things done sort of informally or were you meeting with a group that was considering what were going on.

Hoyle: It was an informal group of students, black and white...a few white students who were protesting things that were happening on know...segregation. So, it was an informal gathering of students.

Kennelly: So would you meet once in a while to discuss what was going on?

Hoyle: We met periodically to talk about things. I think we met to talk about how we were going to handle it when Governor Wallace came or the flag.

Kennelly: Right.

Hoyle: I think maybe some of us--we were together--sort of hung around together. We would talk about different things.

Kennelly: Where would you meet?

Hoyle: Probably in the student center, cafeteria...I think was probably where we'd meet. But if anyone walked in, it was just a group of students talking.

Kennelly: Students sitting at a table talking?

Hoyle: Right, it wasn't anything formal.

Kennelly: Freddie mentioned going where the Lyric Theatre is...that she was involved with a group that used to meet above the Lyric Theatre. Did you ever go to any of those meetings? It was pretty activist group, not necessarily a black group, but a politically active group.

Hoyle: I probably did because I'd be there with Freddie and other white students. I don't remember any formal name.

Kennelly: Do you remember going there? I think they had potlucks there. Did you ever go to movies at the Lyric?

Hoyle: No, I didn't go to movies.

Kennelly: Did you ever go anywhere downtown to have a cup of coffee or eat anything like that?

Hoyle: Yes, we went to a place called Book, Strings and Things. It was like a coffee shop. We would sit down and have a cup of tea or coffee.

Kennelly: So that would be a little social gathering place.

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