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Nicholas Longworth Dillard (1906-1969)

Nicholas Longworth Dillard
  • Born 1906 Leaksville (now Eden), North Carolina
  • Graduated Shaw University 1928
  • Master's Degree University of Michigan 1942
  • Principal Caswell County Training School/High School (1932-1969)
  • Board of Trustees Winston-Salem Teachers College 1957-1969
  • Caswell County Schools Named in His Honor
  • Died 1969

Biographical Sketch

Nicholas Longworth Dillard was born 7 March 1906 in what is now Eden, North Carolina. He graduated from Washington High School in Reidsville attended Bennett College in Greensboro for two years, and transferred to Baptist-sponsored Shaw University in Raleigh where he obtained his undergraduate degree in 1928. While at Shaw University, Dillard was a leading member of the Tau Sigma Roh debating society and a member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity.

For a brief period after college, Dillard sold insurance in Fayetteville. He then returned to his parents' home in Greensboro and was employed "pressing pants." After his mother carefully explained to him that she and her husband did not scrimp to put him through college so that he could "press pants", Dillard made the career move that would prove pivotal for the Caswell County African American community. In 1930, at the age of 24, Dillard accepted a teaching position at the Yanceyville School, a Rosenwald School for African American children that had been built in 1925. This new four-room building replaced the old and inadequate nearby school for black children in the former home of Senator John W. Stephens, which had been used since 1907. In 1932, Dillard became the school's principal. Whether young Dillard realized the struggles ahead is unknown, but he remained principal for thirty-seven years and is considered the most important figure in the development of educational opportunities for the Caswell County African American community.

In 1930, the Yanceyville School covered grades one through seven, employed four teachers (including Dillard), and enrolled eighty pupils. No high school for black students was available in Caswell County. The County School Board denied Dillard's request to establish a high school for black children. Undaunted, he did an end run around the School Board by adding school years to the curriculum. By 1933, the Yanceyville School had pupils ready to enter their final year, or twelfth grade. With support from associates at the State Department of Education in Raleigh, Dillard was now prepared to present to the Caswell County School Board Superintendant an accomplished fact, which he did. Thus, in 1933 the Board officially recognized the first high school for black students in the county and authorized hiring of the necessary teachers. In 1935 the school was deemed a fully accredited high school and the name was changed to Caswell County Training School (CCTS).

From 1937 until finally realizing the goal in 1951, Dillard fought for a proper building to house the CCTS. While additional rooms had been added to the old 1925 Rosenwald building, the facility was not adequate in 1937, but continued to be used for another 14 years. Classes began in the new building on March 2, 1951. At the time, the school was the largest building in Caswell County. Enrollment was 913 students, with a teaching staff of 26. In 1942, during this long struggle, Dillard managed to obtain a Master's Degree from the University of Michigan School of Education. In 1954, Dillard supervised preparations for an accreditation visit by the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges. Those preparations proved successful, and the CCTS became fully accredited, while the county high schools attended by white students were not.

The 1960's brought change. The CCTS was renamed Caswell County High School and the county schools were integrated. Dillard helped with the planning in 1968 and 1969 that led to complete integration of the county's public schools.

Dillard was always known as a great listener, a superior speaker, a professional educator, and a friend to all. He knew every student by name and recognized them long after graduation. His students loved and respected him. For many, he was the most important person in their educational experience. He believed that education was a privilege, and could be stern with a student who was wasting his ability.

Nicholas Longworth Dillard married Gladys Motley, also a teacher at CCTS, and they had two children (twins Annette and Anthony, born in 1936). He died in February 1969, leaving these words to the class that graduated four months after his death:

Someone has said that there is nothing permanent in the world but change. For instance, just a few years ago there was no high school for Negroes in Caswell County, not to mention such things as buses or an ideal classroom. Nevertheless time has a way of changing things, so in May of 1934 C.C.H.S. had its first graduating class of seven. Since that time classes have grown larger and larger. Now I am put in the sad position of not only saying farewell to the class of 1969 but to C.C.H.S.

As your principal, it is my sincere hope that you will always remember that old C.C.H.S. may not ever graduate another Senior Class but it will live on. The 35 classes, including yours, which have graduated from C.C.H.S. will never allow this to happen. For in years to come they and you will be making their contributions to this country, state and nation. Brick, mortar, even steel decay, but the spirit of good character, honesty, love, faith has a staying power that outlives steel and stone. So face life with courage and a determination to succeed. Write your names on the pages of time. It really doesn't matter from whence you came, but it matters where you are going. Old C.C.H.S. has just really started to live and make its contribution to history.

School integration and consolidation did put an end to the Caswell County High School. The educational use of the old high school building was reconfigured, and the new facility was named the N. L. Dillard Junior High School. Continuing the tradition, the county's new middle school was named the N. L. Dillard Middle School.

The following was written around 1985 by Anthony Longworth Dillard, the only son of Nicholas Longworth Dillard:

Nicholas Longworth Dillard was born March 7, 1906 in Leaksville, now Eden, N.C. He was one of the eight children born to James Willia and Katie Carson Dilliard. His father was the son of a former slave who was transported from Maryland to North Carolina and served as errand boy to his mistress, who taught him to read and write.

When N. L. Dillard was 13, the family moved to Reidsville, N.C. where his father continued the barbering trade. Five years later the family moved to Greensboro, N.C. where his father's twin brother operated a barbershop.

After graduation from high school, he matriculated for two years at Bennett College in Greensboro prior to it becoming an all woman's college. He graduated from Shaw University in 1928 with a B.A. in Science and in 1942 received a Master's Degree from the University of Michigan. One of his great teachers at Shaw University was the late Dr. Benjamin Brawley.

Prior to entering the teaching profession, he sold insurance. In 1930, he took a teaching position in Yanceyville and in 1932 was named principal of Caswell County Training School. He married the former Gladys Motley of Danville, Va., an elementary school teacher. Born to this marriage were twins, Annette and Anthony in 1936.

Longworth, as he was called by his family, loved all of his relatives and made sure that his children got to know them. He delighted in piling his family in his 1941 Chevrolet and taking off on a Sunday afternoon after church to visit his parents or other relatives and friends in Eden, Oxford, Reidsville and Greensboro.

He had a fervent belief in God and while retaining his membership in the St. Matthews United Methodist Church in Greensboro, he was active in the Pearson Chapel AME Church and the Allen Masonic Lodge. He was one of the founders of the local credit union and was active in several community organizations.

His total commitment was to the advancement of his school. He loved children and people in general. He was blessed with foresight and one of his achievements in which he took pride was the erection and completion in 1951 of the new black elementary and high school in Caswell County. He requested as part of this strategy that they build the auditorium first as he knew that a gymnasium could be added later.

Despite the shortcomings of his students, he encouraged them to excel. He often told them that it is not the log cabin you came from but where you are going that counts. Convinced that it takes generations to build culture, it was in the Friday school assemblies where his true personality blossomed. He sought to counsel and motivate his students to prepare themselves for the kind of world they would face when they graduated. He challenged them to use their farming background with its virtues of hard work to better themselves and their community. One of his favorite quotations was by George Washington -- "Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the just can repair, the events are in the hands of God."

Source: The Heritage of Caswell County, North Carolina, Jeannine D. Whitlow, Editor (1985) at 179 (Article #170, "Nicholas Longworth Dillard" by Anthony L. Dillard).



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