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Mark de Castrique posted an event

Malaprop's Bookstore at Malaprop's

November 9, 2015 from 7pm to 8pm
Presenting new Sam Blackman mystery A SPECTER OF JUSTICESee More
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

A Chronology of Asheville and WNC Events in History

                                   IMPORTANT DATES IN ASHEVILLE HISTORY                                                                 by Rob Neufeld 1000: The Cherokee, who’d introduced maize agriculture to the region, began cultivating beans. 1540: Hernando De Soto led troops to East Tennessee through either the Hickory Nut or Swannanoa Gap, finding gold and copper and inspiring a succession of Spanish miners. 1663: Charles II bestows territory between the 31st and 36th parallels in America…See More
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Root-diggers of Appalachia

People in the Lost Provinces were herb-gatherersby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: Three herbal products offered by S.B. Penick’s, once the world’s largest herb distributor, its largest warehouse located in Asheville.             “Last week, during a research trip to the ‘Lost Provinces,’” Luke Manget said about the landscape…See More
Mark de Castrique posted a video

A Specter of Justice Preview

A Preview of the new Sam Blackman mystery to be released November 3, 2015
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

"Us versus Them" does not help fight against racism; worsens sectionalism

“Us versus them” is not good historyby Rob Neufeld             Writing about history and the complex lives that play out within it does not sell as well as team spirit, especially in this age of clicks and likes.            I recently confronted this truth when I wrote my article last week about the minds of our leaders in 1851. The word “slavery” was added to the headline to alert people to its relevance.  Seeing that term connected people to a cause they felt strongly about, particularly in…See More
Sep 27
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Player of Games and the Millennial Mind

Player of Games reveals today’s game-changing mentalityby Rob Neufeld             There is something big happening in Millennial Generation literature, and I thought I’d try to get a handle on it.            To give an idea of one aspect of current thinking: I was at a gathering recently, plenty of youngsters, and I…See More
Sep 27
Julia Nunnally Duncan posted an event

Julia Nunnally Duncan Book Signing at MACA Building

October 10, 2015 from 9am to 1pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will sign her books at the McDowell Arts Council Association (MACA) Booth at the annual Mountain Glory Festival on Saturday, October 10 from 9-1.See More
Sep 22
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Sep 22
Ann Miller Woodford shared their photo on Facebook
Sep 21
Ann Miller Woodford posted a photo

Deacon Chrisenberry -Berry- Howell (1855-1938) on horseback. From the collection of Purel Miller (2)

My maternal great grandfather, Chrisenberry Howell, who was called "Berry" Howell in Swain County. From the Purel Miller collection. Submitted by Ann Miller Woodford
Sep 21
James D. Loy posted a blog post

The skull merchant, the dead ape, and the narcoleptic mortician

Hello "The Read on WNC" readers:     I'm posting this note to announce the publication of vol. 3 in my "Loy's Loonies" series.  This one is called The Mortician's Road Trip and it's a bit more of a mystery than my earlier books. Here's a teaser for the story.     Upstate New Yorker Baz Rathbone makes ends meet by selling human skulls. By contract, he should cremate them, but he doesn’t. His little business comes to the attention of the FBI when a woman spots her late husband’s skull being used…See More
Sep 20
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Sep 19
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Sep 19
Ann Miller Woodford replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Terra Incognita: An Annotated Bibliography of the Great Smoky Mountains
"That East Tennessee Christian Association of Friends comment, especially bothered me, but it clarifies the view some folks from outside the region have about us even to this day.   … average intelligence...below that of colored…"
Sep 8
Ann Miller Woodford updated their profile
Sep 8
Carol Anders posted an event

FREUD'S LAST SESSION by Mark St. Germain at All Souls Cathedral Parrish Hall / Biltmore Village

October 4, 2015 from 7pm to 9pm
It is a "sharp, lively discourse, and audience members searching for engaging debate will be pleased, St. Germain's script is astute, and the humor is plentiful."-NY Times. Sigmund Freud invites C. S. Lewis to his home in London  ...they clash about sex, love, the existence of God and the meaning of life - just weeks before Freud took his own life. This play reveals the minds, hearts and souls of two brilliant men.  Afterwards a time to "talk back" with The Very Rev. Todd Donatelli and Dr. Mary…See More
Sep 8

Unsung hero emerges in story of McDowell County integration

by Rob Neufeld


            When five  Old Fort black children—Richard and Norma Greenlee; Thomas Lowder; Audrey Logan; and Teresa Murphy—went to integrate Old Fort Elementary School, August 24, 1955, they stood alone.   Their three adult escorts had backed out, apparently, but Albert Joyner was watching from his window.

            “I wasn’t involved,” Joyner said.  “I came here from the eastern part of the state.  And if you weren’t born here, you were an outsider."   He had come in 1952 to work at the Oteen VA Hospital.                  

            But he says, “The Lord took my hand” that morning.  Joyner looked out his window and saw that the black adults who were supposed to escort the children weren’t there with them.  Joyner put on his best suit and went out to lead the children to the schoolhouse doors.

            “There wasn’t nothing but white,” Joyner recalled in an August 2009 interview with Kim Clark of the McDowell County Oral History Project.  Hundreds of white police officers and citizens thronged the approach.  The county school superintendent, Melvin Taylor, met Joyner on the steps.

            “Integration would not be begun this year,” Taylor said.  Yes, the Supreme Court had ruled that schools must be integrated “with all deliberate speed,” but the state legislature had directed schools to stay racially separate until issues could be worked out in court.

            In the meantime, young black children, whose school had been controversially demolished in 1950, were being transported to Marion.

            Black people had great reason to live in fear of white people, Joyner elaborated.  Two men who had intended to escort the children, but didn’t, were fired from their factory jobs.   Black men who, in the past, had bought new cars, had been fired for what was considered a transgression.. 

            “You get what they have,” Joyner said, referring to white folks, your employers told you, “‘We don’t need you.’”

            “You had to be under them,” Joyner added.  “Yeah, that’s how it was,” he said in a refrain.

            Whereas Joyner had a bank account in Pendleton, he couldn’t get one in McDowell County.  Black folks used the post office for banking, Joyner said.

            If a black person stepped out of line, Joyner related, “they’d have shot you in the foot, or something.  Nobody would have said anything, and if they had, they wouldn’t have gotten anywhere.”

            Joyner learned from a man whose grass he cut that some black folks had offered to take care of Joyner for being a trouble-maker at the school.  “No, no need of doing that,” an official had responded.

            “That’s the way it was then,” Joyner intoned.

            When the black students’ case went to court, Joyner was the one who represented them, standing with their lawyer appeal after appeal.  It would take several years for McDowell County schools to be fully integrated.

            Not long after his initial stand, Joyner was taking his sister to the bus stop in Old Fort when, the oral history project reports,  a “white railroad worker, W.W. Arney, said some harsh words to Mr. Joyner and knocked him into the fountain.”

            “I got beat up bad,” Joyner said.  “The police came out there and asked, what did I try to start…I called the sheriff, and he said he’d be up there in the morning.  I said I might not need him then.  I might be dead…That’s what that place was.  They (African Americans) were scared.”

            The coda to this story inspired people at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast last month, when Buncombe County Commission Chair David Gantt related what he’d learned from his assistant, Ellen Pfirrmann, Oral History Project partner of Kim Clark.

            “In a touching postscript, years later,” Gantt said, “Mr. Arney was a patient at the VA Hospital.  And…his nurse was Albert Joyner. 

            “I didn’t get mad at nobody,” Joyner recalled. 

            Arney had lost his leg in a car accident, and “I treated him nice,” Joyner said.  One time, he asked Arney who it was who had tried to take those kids into the school—for Arney didn’t recognize him—and Arney said, “It’s nothing really important now.”

            The policeman who had been at the scene of the assault on Joyner also became a patient at the hospital.  Joyner took care of him on a number of occasions, often involving the messiest jobs. 

            Dying, the policeman wanted to give Joyner money, but Joyner declined.  “I want you to have it,” the sick man insisted.  “And I took it,” Joyner confessed.  “I didn’t know what he was thinking.”

            After the policeman’s death, Joyner went into a filling station, where he discovered that the policeman’s wife wanted to give him free gas.

            “His wife came out and said, ‘We’ll take no money from him,’” Joyner related.  “So I wouldn’t go there anymore.  It (the offering)  wasn’t obligated  to me.  The Lord took him,” meaning it was all in His hands.



To learn more about The McDowell County History Project go to  The project is looking to use the Joyner material to create an exhibit and archive that could be housed in the International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensboro.  David Gantt will be make a presentation about Albert Joyner at Hill St. Baptist Church, Asheville, 10 a.m., Feb. 13, 2011.



“Look” magazine published the documentary photo (above) of Joyner with Richard Greenlee and Thomas Lowder, two of the five African American children trying to enter Old Fort Elementary School, Aug. 24, 1955.  The man with the cane is Col. Daniel Adams, a local inventor who supported the black community and sought redress for the destruction of its school.

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