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Interview with Rev. Philip Price

Date of Interview: 1 February 1996; Rev. Price's home, Blacksburg, VA
Interviewer: Tamara Kennelly
Transcriber: Cindy Hurd

{ Tape 1, Side 1 - Tape 1, Side 2 - Tape 2, Side 1 - Tape 2, Side 2 }

Begin Tape 2, Side 1

Kennelly: You were saying about how it helped you to deal with stress and now that you're going back to school, you're in college now, is that right?

Price: No, not now. I'm working on my internship for LDC, professional counselor. I had to take some courses at Tech to get me up to the state requirements here. So that's what I was doing over at Tech. After I lost my sight I went to college, started college after that. Like I was saying about Blacksburg High, how it helped me there, I knew if I'd made it through that, there wasn't too much out there that I couldn't make it through. So it helped me in that aspect.

Kennelly: Getting confidence in your own strength, I suppose?

Price: Yes. To know that I could take the stress no matter how hard it was, I could do it. It's helped me in that respect. And in the respect of my blindness also I think. Just remembering back how I felt at times then and how the challenge of coping with blindness now. So that's helped me, I think, to adapt to this.

Kennelly: As a student back in Blacksburg High School, how did you cope with the stress? What did you do to handle it? Could you say more about that?

Price: I guess it was the working, because I could work my stress out through that.

Kennelly: Through your jobs?

Price: Through my jobs. I deal with stress by staying busy. My wife can tell you that. Sometimes I keep her so busy she doesn't know whether she's coming or going. Doing two or three things at a time. Like trying to pastor and go to school, active in all the church activities and all too. I'm a person that likes to stay busy.

Kennelly: What church are you a pastor in?

Price: Livingway Christian Center here in Blacksburg.

Kennelly: Where is that located?

Price: It's Plaza One off of Country Club Drive.

Kennelly: How long have you been doing that?

Price: Just a little over a year. My wife and I started it. We co-pastor. We started it September of '94.

Kennelly: How did that come about?

Price: Well, I was hoping to give back, to give the opportunity for the young people and all to come in and to be saved. To offer them an alternative to drugs and alcohol and all like that. That's our primary goal, to be a help in the community. To be a resource. That's why I'm in the process of doing my license in professional counseling. To be able to help out in that area more.

Kennelly: Particularly with young people?

Price: Uh huh.

Kennelly: Do you have a very large congregation?

Price: No, it's not too large at all. We're small.

Kennelly: Plus it's a new congregation too.

Price: Yes. We're allowing God to send those in. We figure if it's going to be a slow growth that'll be best that way we'll have a good foundation to work with.

Kennelly: But you have a church building?

Price: No, we're worshipping in a shopping center. It's over by the Y and some more offices and all like that are in it. A music store and all like that.

Kennelly: Where did you say it was again?

Price: Plaza One off of Country Club Drive.

Kennelly: Oh, I haven't even been over there. When did you become a minister? Was it just in '94 then?

Price: No, I became a minister about '80. But I've been active in church...well I was active in church here before I left. I was a Sunday School teacher and all like that too. In the church before I left. I sang in the choir and all. Church has always been a very important part of my life. Except for the, I guess, in the military even. But I guess you have to sow your wild oats and so I did that too. In Germany. Then in 1970 my wife and I went back to Germany. We were saved over there. We became very active in church activities there, singing in a Gospel group and holding Bible studies in the housing area.

Kennelly: On the military base?

Price: Yes.

Kennelly: Was that an integrated church over there that you belonged to?

Price: Yes, it was.

Kennelly: That was a real strong point of your religious life, that experience over there?

Price: Correct. Basically it blessed us, to be where we are today really I think. At the time, like I said, I was a young man into boozing and drinking and just having a good time. He saw fit to save us. Since then I was preaching there in San Antonio. The church there that we ran. Over in Germany it started. I started teaching Bible study and all with a renewed vigor. We got back to the States, and we were down in Texas when we got really involved in church work down there. We moved up to the Air Force Academy. We got involved. Everywhere we've been we've been really involved in church work. Up there in Colorado Springs is where I started preaching. God called me to preach. Then we went back from Colorado Springs back down to San Antonio. That's where I lost my sight.

Kennelly: Was it an accident?

Price: It was a medication reaction. It was ironic in that I was in the pharmacy field for over 18 years and 2 months when I got sick. I'd given out tons of it over my career of the medication that caused it. And myself-- You're the last one to think that anything like that can happen to you. But they say it happens to one in 50,000. It wasn't suppose to... But they said, "It doesn't happen a lot to blacks at all." It shouldn't have happened to me is what they said, but it did. It changed my whole life a little, but that goes back to learning to deal with stress again. Being blind, it's almost a continuous stress thing too. Your level is constantly up in that you don't know what to expect or constantly trying to figure out what's in front of you, what's going on. You don't have the facial expressions of people to judge how they're receiving you and all like that.

Kennelly: I didn't realize that. Do you have some sight?

Price: I'm total.

Kennelly: I didn't really realize that until now.

Price: They had to remove both my eyes. What happened, the medication burnt me from the inside out. Stephens Johnson Syndrome. I took the medication for only 21 days, but the 21st day I went in to the hospital where I worked, and I went on sick call. They said well you got an earache, and so they gave me some medicine and sent me home. So that night about five my wife came home from work. I told her, I said, "Well, I'm still not feeling good. I think I'm sick." So she took my fever, and it was 105 or something like that. So she took me out to the emergency room, and that's the last thing I remember for about four to six weeks. That night I just broke out from the crown of the head to the soles of my feet in boils and blisters. So I was about like a third degree burn patient. So I was--they said I had to treat me like a burn patient. It destroyed the tear ducts, and my eyelids become like sandpaper. All my mucous membranes were burned up too. Everytime I blinked my eye, it would destroy, scratch the cornea. So they tried three cornea transplants in each eye, none of them took. I had over 30 operations I guess. They put me on hyperboric medicine where you try to force blood vessels across the eyes, across the tissues and all. That's with about 25 times of doing that. Then they had hydraulic fluid or silicon. They had rigged a little bottle that I had to wear so it would drip down into my eye. They stitched it on there, and that didn't work neither. The real good thing about that was when the first day I went into the hospital, and the next morning my wife came in. She said, "God's given me a scripture for you." I said, "Yeah, he gave me one too." It turned out to be the very same scripture. Ever since that day I don't worry about it. I know it's part of God's plan for my life.

Kennelly: Which scripture was it?

Price: Romans 8:28--"All things work together to the good of those who love the Lord and to those that are called according to this purpose." I knew I'd been called, and I knew I loved Him, so from that day on. I'm not going to say there hasn't been times when I say, "Why me Lord?" But ever since then God has seen fit to let me handle, give me the strength to handle most everything. That in itself was a blessing for me to get through college and through seminary. My degree is in Christian Counseling.

Kennelly: Where did you go to seminary?

Price: Denver Seminary. I went to Colorado Christian. I started school there in San Antonio. I can't even think of it now.

Kennelly: Maybe it will come back to you?

Price: Yes, eventually. But then we went up and finished because I wanted to go into counseling, and at the time they were saying that Denver Seminary had the best Christian Counseling program in the nation. So we went up and finished our last year in Colorado Christian and then just went across town to the Denver Seminary. Since I lost my sight, we've been to Denver and to Colorado Springs and then we came home. I lost my second oldest brother, and we came home for his funeral. So that's when I felt the Lord was leading me to come back home. That's basically how we got back here.

Kennelly: When did you come back here then?

Price: In '92. October of '92.

Kennelly: So you have a dog. Is that a seeing eye dog?

Price: Yes it is. It's a leader dog. That's my second one. My first I one I had to put to sleep last January. It's been a year. I'd had him since '91. They treated him over at the Veterinary Center over at Tech.

Kennelly: So then you came back and took courses because with your Ministry counseling just to meet whatever the local requirements are. Is that what you're studying right now?

Price: Yes. To keep current.

Kennelly: And then your planning to work with young people?

Price: Well, I plan to work with people.

Kennelly: People, it doesn't matter what ages?

Price: Yes. Just with people. Right now I'm on the Board of Directors with the free clinic over in Christiansburg. The New River Valley Free Clinic. So hopefully I will be able to start a counseling service up for them this year. You know to use it that way. I just want to be able to help out where I can, wherever I can.

Kennelly: What is your wife's name?

Price: Carrie.

Kennelly: Do you have any children?

Price: We have two. And two grandchildren. She's in Colorado Springs. Both of them, my son and my daughter are in Colorado Springs. We just were there for Christmas. She's a Special Ed teacher there in Colorado Springs. She just finished her Masters and walked right into the job so God blessed her. One of the high schools there.

Kennelly: Going back to that time in Blacksburg, do you think the experience of your sister was different from your experience, your sister Anna?

Price: Yeah, I do.

Kennelly: Could you say a little bit about how it was different?

Price: Mine and hers?

Kennelly: Yeah. What hers was like?

Price: OK. From talking to her I think she was probably a little more harassed by the students than I was. In talking to her now. Plus she spent the whole five years there.

Kennelly: Was she in the eighth grade?

Price: She was in the eighth, and I was in the eleventh. After that first year she had other kids to come up that next year.

Kennelly: I was wondering about that, if more kids came up next year.

Price: That helped her out an awful lot to be able to see other faces and to talk to other people. I think that's probably basically the only difference and all. I think she got the benefit of, more so than I did, with the counselors and all like that.

Kennelly: But she felt a bit more harassed too. Is that what you said?

Price: I think from talking with her, I think she felt more harassed yes.

Kennelly: People would say things or that it was more subtle kinds of things?

Price: Both. From talking with her I think it was both.

Kennelly: Going through this experience, did it affect how you raised your own children? I guess you've had a lot of things that you've gone through actually, so it's probably hard to isolate ones that make a difference.

Price: No, I don't think so. I think, well, in treating people as people. Prejudice, I think, hurts the person that's prejudice more than it does anyone else. So we tried to raise them to respect themselves and to accept, respect the other person just as much as they can and to give them a chance. To learn from every experience.

Kennelly: Are you conscious of prejudice in Blacksburg these days? Do you think there is much?

Price: In certain ways, from what I can hear talking with people, it seems to be reverting back to those days. I don't know if it's due to not realizing the achievements that were made and the necessity to continue to go forward instead of looking back. Or still reverting back to those days really. What I'm trying to say is that I don't believe that in a lot of cases that a lot of the opportunities are being taken advantage of. It's worse. The kids are wasting their lives with drugs and alcohol and stuff. I think that's the thing that disgruntles me most about it. I know that it's not in all of them, but it just seems to be a few or some that don't realize the struggle it took to get to this point. They seem to be just handing it over. I don't know if I'm making sense. But to me they just seem to be giving everything that we have accomplished--to give it back. They seem to be just giving it back. Does that make sense?

Kennelly: Well, in the sense, you mean like getting involved with drugs and things?

Price: Right. By not taking full advantage of their opportunities. That worries me most of all.

Kennelly: What about the attitudes of white people?

Price: From what I hear on the news and with talking to some, I think that attitude has reared it's ugly head again--of prejudice. I don't know if it ever left. But it seems to be coming more prevalent today. I think before I guess it was more subtle. But now it seem to be coming more out in the open with the hate groups and all--he skinheads, and the Klan, and ...

Kennelly: Do you feel like in our little community of Blacksburg, Christiansburg, around here, do you find it much in evidence?

Price: Well I live a sheltered life here. I can't speak to that per se. Most of my dealings are with the church community and their leaders. The pastors and all that are in that. It's there from listening to what people in the congregation and all are saying. That's where I get the idea that it's reverting back to the 60's, pre-60's. I think too that everytime we have an economic downtrend that it brings out more so; it becomes more prevalent.

Kennelly: I imagine that makes a lot of sense. Is your congregation now is it mixed?

Price: Yes it is.

Kennelly: Are there people of all ages? Are there more young people in it, as far as age group?

Price: We have about an equal amount now. Maybe a few more youngsters. Hopefully we'll be getting in a bunch of teenagers. We have two that I know that I'll be baptizing this week, Sunday. Possibly three.

Kennelly: That must feel good.

Price: It does.

Kennelly: What your mission is fulfilling.

Price: Well, more so because they're all three of my nieces.

Kennelly: That's very special. You've pretty much answered my questions. Are there other things that you'd like to say, other comments you want to make, or things maybe I didn't think to bring out that you think are important to speak about as far as the whole question of racial climate in Blacksburg now, or what can be done improve it.

Price: I think back there then, I remember that the kids so much didn't have a problem with it. They came and walked us to school and all. I think the main thing that we have to do is learn to take individuals as individuals and accept them for their qualities and their attributes and not for the color of their skin. Encourage every young person and even every old person to reach their maximum potential. Try to contribute something back to the communities they've come out of.

End Tape 2, Side 1

{ Tape 1, Side 1 - Tape 1, Side 2 - Tape 2, Side 1 - Tape 2, Side 2 }

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