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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 Three

Hoyle: Yes, it was a sort of fun place to go off campus. Yes.

Kennelly: Did you ever feel that in Blacksburg any incidence of unpleasantness because of race or anytime you felt prejudice the way a person treated you in the community.

Hoyle: No.

Kennelly: When you were a student, were the school administrators supportive? Did you feel any special efforts were made to make the experience of coming to Virginia Tech a pleasant experience? To help you, considering that you were integrating the school at that point and that there might be difficulties? Were there any special efforts in that way?

Hoyle: No, I don't remember any special efforts, but one thing I do remember is that my first year, I was on the Disciplinary Committee.

Kennelly: I wanted to ask you that.

Hoyle: As I told you before, I'm not sure whether someone just asked me and I agreed or whether I volunteered. But I did become part of that committee. We dealt with women that missed curfew or other similar type of violations of dorm rules. In my second year, I was actually in charge of the committee. They invited me to be in charge of it that second year. It was interesting. I mean, having to deal with the issues that came up was one thing, but we did chat while we were there and that part was all right.

Kennelly: They fact that they would elect you to be chair of that...was that? Sorry?

Hoyle: Yes, they voted me in, and I said, "All right, I'll do it!" [laughter]

Kennelly: Was it hard to be on the Disciplinary Committee? Not because of the racial thing but because there would be punishments for people who came in late.

Hoyle: Yes, there would be punishments. It wasn't really hard to be on the committee, and I don't remember anybody really doing anything to us because of what we did nor to me being in charge of it!

Kennelly: I think there were more restrictions then than now.

Hoyle: Quite a few restrictions! What time you had to be back. You had a late night on the weekends, so you could stay out an extra hour. The men, of course, were off limits. They could come as far as the lobby, and I think that was it.

We had dorm mothers, I believe, and for a while when we got in and they locked the doors. we were locked in. We had some problems when the fire department said they could not lock us into the building--a major fire hazard. When they had to put the crash bars on, we had some problems with women who would crack the doors open. They would prop them open.

Kennelly: So they could get back in?

Hoyle: I guess so. They could get in or let a guy in.

Kennelly: Oh!

Hoyle: So they would prop them open. But there were those restrictions that probably today somebody would probably be amazed! That really happened back then! Yes, it did! I don't know the origin of it but a good guess might be safety, looking out for...maybe protecting the women, safety...or the women needed to be in. I'm not sure. It was a rule in place when I arrived! [laughter]

Kennelly: A different time. Let's see. Did you ever attend any of the forums with Dr. Hahn that dealt with racial issues? Were those going on when you were here?

Hoyle: I don't think so.

Kennelly: Did you go to his house or get to know him?

Hoyle: I didn't really get to know him, but he had a reception for all of us at his home, and we went.

Kennelly: For all of the...?

Hoyle: students.

Kennelly: Black and white?

Hoyle: Yes, everybody.

Kennelly: All the incoming students, wow!

Hoyle: Right. So we went, and we were there with white students.

Kennelly: Did you feel excluded from any experiences of a regular VPI student at that time?

Hoyle: No, none that I chose to participate in. No.

Kennelly: When you think about...were there things that you wished to change or were different, or at the time did you wish things were different?

Hoyle: I think it would have been nice to come over...where equality really did exist. You know where there was equality. Are you asking if I would do something different or were the conditions different?

Kennelly: Yes, what you saw that needed to be changed maybe. Like what you're saying. Could you say a little more about that?

Hoyle: I think an atmosphere in which we weren't--that kept us conscious that we were black students on a white campus. Where it would be the norm and not the novelty environment to be in? I mean there were a lot of very nice students here. I studied with them. We talked. So it wasn't like everybody was against us, no. There were those we got along with, and we did things together, and others went their way. I guess there were just those that left us alone. But then again on a big campus you're going to have people you're close to, and from those that were even around the dorm--you interacted with some, and others you didn't. I can remember a lot of them still being friendly, speaking: How are you doing? and you have conversations. But I think otherwise it's kind of hard to think of what all would be different other than the fact that it would be nice...we would really be talking about full integration having already existed rather than coming over and being the handful and being sort of, for lack of a better word, a novelty.

Kennelly: It would be difficult. By the time your sister, Sherrie--she received her Bachelor's in Computer Science in 1974, I think you told me. Does that seem right?

Hoyle: Yes, I think that's right.

Kennelly: You graduated in...?

Hoyle: Sixty-eight.

Kennelly: Sixty-eight...so that would be...she would graduate about six years later. You weren't here at the same time at all?

Hoyle: No.

Kennelly: Did you have the sense that things had changed at Virginia Tech by the time she came here?

Hoyle: Not in the sense that it had changed a lot. But I don't think we talked about it. We did talk about some of the students because she told me she saw Linda here. Because I asked her if she saw any of them when she was here. I think Linda may have been doing graduate work here.

Kennelly: Yes, she got a masters degree....Ph.D..... I can't remember which.

Hoyle: Yes, I think she was here, but as far as I know, Sherrie didn't really interact with her while she was here. But I imagine some things had changed, but I don't know specifically what had changed.

Kennelly: Do you feel a connection with Virginia Tech now?

Hoyle: No, not really.

Kennelly: You have two children who are either in college or have...?

Hoyle: Right. Yes.

Kennelly: Was that ever something--well, you should go to Virginia Tech that's where I went...that's my school. Was that ever something you...?

Hoyle: Yes, my son applied here. He was accepted at Virginia Tech, and we talked about going because he said, "Well, Mama, you went and Aunt Sherrie went," and he said, "Well, maybe I should just go." He did apply but then chose another, but we decided he would go to another school. So, yes, we did talk about, and I said, "Well how about applying?" or asked him about applying to Virginia Tech.

Kennelly: This is really the first time since you graduated from Virginia Tech?

Hoyle: Yes it is.

Kennelly: So you haven't come to any alumni events?

Hoyle: I thought occasionally about coming back...but just always...well, maybe someday I'll go back. Then the someday just went on and on until it got to this time frame. But I would think about it...I'd wonder what it's like...maybe I'll go back, you know. That's what I thought...maybe I'd go back one day.

Kennelly: You told me a little about how you got your job and what you did after you graduated.

Hoyle: I work for the Bureau of Census, an agency under the Department of Commerce. I was in one of the buildings, and I looked up on a bulletin board, and I saw a brochure.

Kennelly: At Virginia Tech?

Hoyle: At Virginia Tech. I said, that looks like it might be a nice place to work. I got the information. I contacted them. They sent my out information, and I put it right on my desk in the dorm room, and I let it sit. It sat there because I really didn't want to go to Washington. I wanted to work somewhere else. I just didn't want to go to Washington, D.C.

I applied for other jobs, and eventually things were not coming through for me. I was praying about a job. And then I sent the application in, and then just about that time I did get an offer from a government agency in Baltimore and before I could accept that offer, I got the one from the Census Bureau. So I decided to accept the one from the Census. So that's how I ended up going to Census, but that started here because I really didn't know anything about the Bureau of the Census. But whatever that brochure said caught my attention and interest.

I left here...when I left here in sixty-eight, I already had a job. I went home, spent a couple of months in the summer at home, then I moved to Washington, D.C. to my job.

Kennelly: A big move!

Hoyle: And that's where I've been!

Kennelly: You've been with the Census Bureau ever since?

Hoyle: Yes, the Census.

Kennelly: Wow! Then that was a good choice, I guess.

Hoyle: Yes, I thought so. The location...because it wasn't in the heart of D.C...Actually it's just outside of D.C. located in Maryland. Right next door to where I lived at the time because when I left, I lived with an aunt. Not too far from her house because she was like just on the Washington, D.C. side of the borderline, and Census was maybe a couple miles on the Maryland side of the borderline.

Then when I moved into my first apartment, I was still in that vicinity. So for probably the first six years, I guess it was I was relatively close to work. I didn't have the downtown commute. I liked the work and the job that I was doing.

Kennelly: What do you do now for the Census Bureau?

Hoyle: I am a special assistant to an assistant division chief. My title is Survey Statistician, and I work on special projects for my supervisor.

Kennelly: What kind of projects?

Hoyle: Right now we're working on setting up Internet reporting for some of the surveys, and we have different types of electronic data collection. We have a survey we want to convert from one form of data collection to another. They use field representatives to go out and collect information. They want to use a system where they collect the data over the telephone. So these are the special projects.

I've been in this particular job for two years. Prior to that from 1983 until 1998, I had been a branch chief and in that position you're managing a staff. I was responsible for several surveys, and we worked with collecting information on construction. How many building permits were issued--How many houses were started in a given time period--How many were completed--That was the type of work of a survey statistician.

Kennelly: Did you pretty consistently all this time have a full time career and then raise your children at the same time?

Hoyle: Yes.

Kennelly: You didn't take time out to be home with your children?

Hoyle: No.

Kennelly: You just kept working and raising your children?

Hoyle: Yes, I did.

Kennelly: Was that difficult to do that?

Hoyle: Yes. It's difficult because when you have small children and you're trying to work, they need attention. They need a certain amount of your time. So when you have this full time career--my job at that time was extremely demanding. It was difficult because I had to attend to my children as well as do the job.

My husband, the way he worked, it was difficult. He could not just stop in the middle of a job say to pick up a sick child. His work did not permit him that flexibility. Those were things I had to do. It was really...managing the two can be kind of difficult. [laughter]

Kennelly: Are there things I haven't asked you that you'd like to bring up?

Hoyle: No, I don't think so.

Kennelly: Anything that comes to mind about your experience? Do you think because I'm a white interviewer that changes the interview? That you might have been more comfortable saying things if I had been a black interviewer?

Hoyle: No, I don't think so that I would have said anything different. But I guess if you were black...I can't say if it would be different...if I would have answered the questions any differently...given honest answers about how I felt. I don't think the fact that you are white says that I would have said anything differently.

Kennelly: So now you've got one son who's at Frostburg State?

Hoyle: He graduated.

Kennelly: And a daughter who is at University of Maryland, College Park?

Hoyle: Yes.

Kennelly: And where you live, is that...then you have a son in middle school?

Hoyle: Yes.

Kennelly: Where you live, is that an integrated community? Where you're living now?

Hoyle: Yes, it is. But the section I live in is predominantly black.

Kennelly: In the schools your children went to - high school, middle school, and elementary - were those schools integrated?

Hoyle: My oldest, who went through private school, those schools were integrated. Then the high school was integrated. My youngest one for the past five or six years has been in an all black school. It probably has admitted it's first white this year. It had been an all black school.

Kennelly: What's your feeling about that - the fact that your child is in an all black school? Are you for or against it?

Hoyle: I think he needs to be, at some point, in a mixed school. I think he needs to be. I did not pick the school because it was all black. I picked it for different reasons. It just happened to have been an all black school.

I had to move him. They had made some changes at the school he was attending. I was not going to be able to...I didn't have an after care for him at the school. So I had to relocate him. So I picked another school. But I do--when I get ready to relocate him again...to move him again...I mean I do think about the schools and the racial makeup and what those schools are like in terms of the teachers and if the schools are predominantly white. I think about how those teachers are going to interact with my child. I give that consideration. If I feel that it is not going to be a good interaction, I'm not going to put my child in the school.

Kennelly: Does he have any white friends?

Hoyle: No.

Kennelly: It's not like the kids next...or say the kids would naturally go out to play football or something...

Hoyle: Well, because he goes with me in the morning and comes back, he doesn't interact with the neighbors...the neighborhood.

Kennelly: Oh, I see. He's at an age where he's got to...

Hoyle: I think too what happened is a lot of the children who grew up in the neighborhood...most of them are grown now. A lot of them are the ages of my oldest two. There are not a large number his age in the neighborhood. But even if there were, there were not any white children around. Not generally, where he would be playing if he was outside.

Kennelly: So, it's just how it happens.

Hoyle: Yes.

Kennelly: What is your husband's profession?

Hoyle: Well, my husband is retired now. He was a teacher. He taught air-conditioning and heating classes. He was also a technician. He did repair work, air conditioners and heating systems.

Kennelly: I think I got my questions. Give me one more minute to check over here. [laughter]

Hoyle: While you're thinking, I'm thinking too!

Kennelly: Yes! Anything else you would like to mention? I think I've got most of my questions. Thank you for talking. I really appreciate it.

Hoyle: Thank you for asking.

Kennelly: As far as the forms, you'd like to wait, and I'll send you the forms?

Hoyle: Yes.

Sharon Holloway: Was it more threatening to be a black person on campus or a woman on campus with all the men that were here?

Hoyle: I remember they cautioned us a lot about where we went and going by ourselves. They cautioned us about going on campus. I distinctly remember they said, "Stay out of the stacks in the library." That may have been the upper floor because of the safety.

I remember the raids when the men stormed the dorms. They didn't actually get in but they came down. You looked out over the drill field, men everywhere! I don't know what triggered it. I don't know what brought it about. Of course, we were in the dorm, and they told us turn out the lights. Just simply turn out the lights. So we'd be in the dark, and the men were out on the drill fields.

Kennelly: Were they yelling?

Hoyle: Yes.

Hoyle: We were in Eggleston on that side, and they were in what they called Upper Quad...a lot of the men were. They would come down to us. Yes, they did caution us about safety. That was an issue. I don't remember hearing about people being raped. But they wanted us to take care about where we went and when we went because of the number of men.

Kennelly: Did you feel nervous because of that?

Hoyle: No.

Kennelly: No.

Hoyle: That was the usual precautions, but not nervous. We didn't know what was going to happen because of the raids. I guess the officials did whatever what they had to do to bring it to a halt. I don't know if the men really would have done us any harm or if it was something they just did or if they really had intended if they had gotten into the dorm to have done harm. I don't know.

Kennelly: Did you feel nervous? Did you go in the library stacks? You wouldn't go up in the stacks? That's interesting!

Hoyle: No, I think I may have been up there. But I don't think I spent too much time up in the stacks because the way it was structured anything could happen. You were really isolated if you went up there by yourself. If was something you did think about. Not really living in fear but just a precautionary measure. I think some of the precautions may not have come only from the women on campus, some of the men...I remember among the guys some talk about safety. That was something to find so few women in that huge population.

Kennelly: I should say that the question was asked by Sharon Holloway.

Holloway: Yes.

Kennelly: And you're Linda's sister?

Hoyle: Yes.

Kennelly: The other thing I wanted to ask. Had your family been in Covington for awhile? Is that where your family is from?

Hoyle: Yes, in that vicinity. They lived there all their lives.

Kennelly: What's your mother's maiden name?

Hoyle: Carter.

Kennelly: Could you tell your parent's name?

Hoyle: Oh, my father was James Arthur Adams, Sr. My mother was Vernon Carter Adams.

Kennelly: Were your grandparents around there too?

Hoyle: My father's parents died when he was young, and my mother's parents were there. We visited them frequently.

Kennelly: So was the extended family important? Did you see them a lot?

Hoyle: Yes, we enjoyed going over. We would go and talk to my grandfather. He always had a garden, and we would always ask him for his green tomatoes because we'd bring them back to fry them. He'd always grumble and complain why do you all want tomatoes before they're ripe on the vine. They're green! But he gave them to us anyway. But he'd kind of grumble, and so that was fun. It was good-humored grumbling because he couldn't understand why we wanted them green. So we visited them a lot.

Kennelly: Were there other uncles or aunts in that area living nearby?

Hoyle: Yes, my mother had a couple of sisters. Her brother all lived within a reasonable distance. My father's brother...yes, he was there for awhile because the families would get together and have picnics and cookouts. We would go to my father's brother, his house before he moved away. And then his aunt and uncle would be in the vicinity and they had land...I'm not sure how far away and we'd all go up and visit them

Kennelly: Like a farm?

Hoyle: But, yes, we had extended family, and we would get together and do things as a family.

Kennelly: I forgot to ask you before. Was that a secure environment; did you feel safe growing up?

Hoyle: Yes, very safe.

Kennelly: You didn't have to worry about gangs or people bothering you?

Hoyle: No, every now and then you might...I think I had a couple of experiences when walking home from school when I was really young...there might be some white guys in a car hollering at me. Otherwise I felt safe. I did not feel threatened whether we were walking home from church, at night or the daytime.

Kennelly: Was it a community--did other people look out for other people's kids?

Hoyle: Yes, we grew up with the other mothers in the neighborhood, yes. They looked out for the other children. 'Course if you were somewhere you shouldn't be or doing something you shouldn't be, you're mother was going to know about it.

Kennelly: It was kind of a network?

Hoyle: Right. So they did look out for each other's children, so it was kind of a closeness. When we lived in a particular house, the women who lived on the block and my mother...they would be close. They would look out for each other. They would talk. They would be friends where we lived so it was something built up in the small neighborhoods. So I always felt safe.

Kennelly: The kids knew there were always people watching out for them. So, any other questions before we end?

Hoyle: No.

[end of interview]



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