Maye Upshaw Ham, born on April 23, 1942 in the County Line Community of Douglass, Texas, was the fifth child of Edward Monet and Leota Upshaw. Her father provided for his family through farming and logging while serving as a leader in their small community. Her mother remained active in the church and community while raising Ham and her thirteen other brothers and sisters. Ham attended the local community school through the eighth grade before graduating from C. L. High School in Cushing, Texas. She attended Prairie View A&M University for two years before moving to California and graduating from California State University, Dominguez Hills with a B.A. in English. She also received an M.A. in English. Maye Upshaw Ham married Hadie Ham, Jr. on December 24, 1961. Together they have three birth daughters, Nelrua, Joi, and Teri, one adopted son, Darren, and three grandchildren. Hadie Ham drove a long haul truck for several years before retiring in 1999. Maye Ham taught English for Compton Unified School District and Nacogdoches Independent School District for more than thirty-two years. Now she serves as an adjunct professor at Angelina College in Lufkin, Texas. As an active member of her community, Ham serves as chair of the African American Heritage Project (AAHP). She is also a member of the County Line Baptist Church where she plays the piano. She and her husband remain in the Douglass area in the Pleasant Hill Community.The interview was conducted on June 24, 2010 by Lisa Bentley in the East Texas Research Center, R. W. Steen Library, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas.
BENTLEY: Good afternoon. Today is June 24, 2010. My name is Lisa Bentley and I am interviewing Ms. Maye Ham for the oral history project being conducted for the African American Heritage Project [AAHP] at Stephen F. Austin State University [S.F.A.] in Nacogdoches, Texas. We are in the ETRC [East Texas Research Center]. I'd like you to being by telling me a little bit about yourself.
HAM: Well, as you said, I am Maye Upshaw Ham. I was born very near here out in Douglass in the County Line Community, some people call it the Upshaw Community because there are so many Upshaw's out there. I went to school, grade school, in the community, then to Cushing for high school, and on to Prairie View [Prairie View A&M University; a historically African American University] for college. After that I left East Texas, moved to Southern California and I was there for twenty-two years. But decided after that time that I had had enough of the city, wanted to move back to the country, so we came full circle -my husband and I-right back to the community in which we grew up, and very near the one in which I grew up. And, so here we are, we have been here now for well about twenty-five years. I did work at Nacogdoches High School for several, maybe seventeen years or so, and now I am an adjunct professor at Angelina College teaching some English classes part time. I have three birth children, three daughters, one adopted son, three grandchildren; enjoy being outside, just communing with nature. I found out after living in the city for so long that I really did not like living in the city. I prefer grass and trees and birds and wasps.
BENTLEY: Where in California did you live?
HAM: We lived in . . . we started off, when I was first married and went there in Los Angeles, moved to Compton, California, which is a suburb south of Los Angeles, and that's where we lived for the majority of the time we were in California and that's where I worked at one of the schools there in Compton Centennial High and spent quite some time in central California. I have relatives in Fresco, and that's where we loved to go whenever we'd get a chance. And we know that 'cause it's farming area, you know, agricultural area, and we liked spending time just among the grapevines and peach trees and what have you. So . . .
BENTLEY: What's your husband's name?
HAM: His name is Hadie . . . Hadie Ham Jr. and he was born in the same area and grew up in what is called the Pleasant Hill Community, which is where we live now out near Lake Nacogdoches. He attended E. J. Campbell High School. And, as I said, we left . . . well, he left probably he was seventeen or so and went to California.
BENTLEY: When is his birthday?
HAM: His birthday is in October.
HAM: 1937. So, he's an old dude [laughter]. Yeah, but as I said, he's a truck driver for a lot of years, a long haul driver, you know, so he always . . . we knew that we wanted to come back to East Texas and so finally we did it. We also knew that we were not going to be able to stay in Southern California until we retired, you know. So, we were really blessed and fortunate, you know, to be able to find jobs when we came. I knew I wanted to work at Nacogdoches High School, but it was not written anywhere, you know that I would, but things really worked out for us well you know. So, we packed up lock stock and barrel and moved back and never looked back.
BENTLEY: About what year?
HAM: This was in 1985.
BENTLEY: And you moved from Nacogdoches in?
HAM: We moved from the area in 1962, something like that, '62 . . . yeah, 1962. I did, he was already living there, in California, but that was when we got married, 1961, so . . .
BENTLEY: How would you describe the difference between living in this area and California?
HAM: Well the differences are so marked. There is really no comparison. The contrast is just . . . just remarkable. First of all, it's an urban area, you know, Los Angeles, just fills that whole basin, you know. And it is really spread out you don't have many skyscrapers because of the earthquakes. So, it's really quite spread out and it's the car capital of the nation because everybody has two or three, four or five cars. So you have this huge metropolis, you know, and with suburbs in every direction. A lot of positive things about it because you can go one direction to the mountains, you know, and another direction to the beach, another direction to the desert, so there is something for everybody, you know, but, on the down side, as far as I'm concerned, I did not like the congested feeling, the closed in feeling that, you know, you get in an urban area, in a city. And, as I said, I worked at an inner city school for a number of years. When I first started working there it was really great, it was wonderful, you know, the kids were getting scholarships to all the best colleges, you know, but then the drugs . . . the drugs arrived . . . and right behind them, the gangs and so, it was just a downhill, downward spiral after that. And, so that why we decided we need to move, we need to leave. We thought about going to Central California, to Fresno, or further south into San Bernardino or Riverside or some of the other areas, but we decided, hey, if we are going to move back home let do it now. Let's just make one move. Do it. So, that's what we did. So . . .
BENTLEY: How old were your children?
HAM: My youngest . . . the oldest had just graduated college and as a matter of fact she said she did not want to move to Texas. So we left her because she was out and on her own. My middle daughter was in college. She transferred to S.F.A. and that's where she graduated. The youngest was just going into third grade, I think, you know, and she was delighted to be coming to where she could ride her bike unhampered without anyone yelling, "Okay, you're at the end of the road, block now, come back." Because in the city you don't dare let your kids out of your sight with all of the traffic and all of the other things that could happen. So, she was delighted. My middle daughter, the one that was in college, complained and moaned and groaned because we moved in July and it was hot, bugs were everywhere, you know and she just thought "Ugh" and she complained so much. But once she got enrolled at school here at S.F.A. and met young people she was okay. And then by that time, of course, my oldest daughter had come down. She had decided she didn't want to back there, back in L.A., by herself, so she came. And I really thought that they would go back and stay eventually, but they never did. They went back to visit, and came back after their first visit. "I don't see how we stayed there that long. Why did we stay there that long? After I saw my friends, I was ready to come home. All the traffic . . . this and that and the other." And I was like, "What!" But, they are still here.
BENTLEY: So, what are the positives about the community here in Nacogdoches?
HAM: The positives are the more relaxed lifestyle, you know, the pace is slower. It is a quieter way of life. It's a more . . . I don't know how you would describe it . . . I guess a more . . . people are more involved in their neighbors or with their neighbors, you know. So, you have a more caring atmosphere, if you want to call it that, you know, than you would ever have in the city, you know. You would live on a street for ten years or more and never know the people on the street. I knew who my next door neighbor was of course, but I didn't know all the people down the street, you know. So you have a more, to me, you know, a more acceptable, calming, carefree way of life. Not to say we still don't have to work, and be concerned about getting our kids educated, and all that, but it's different. For the better.
BENTLEY: How would you describe your community?
HAM: The one in which we live?
HAM: Well, a very close knit, more like the one in which I grew up. In fact, very much like the one in which I grew up. It was another community of Black people, there were no other people in the community except for Black people. The community I grew up in the same thing. Of course, that has kinda changed now. The community I live in now, there are more, not next door, but down the road, you know, and closer in to the community you have other White families living there now that weren't there back in the seventies. So, but the community just the community atmosphere and the benevolence that people have for their neighbors. It's not . . . there is no comparison . . . there really isn't, you know. So, that I appreciate more than anything else.
BENTLEY: How did segregation affect you growing up?
HAM: Yeah, I grew up in a segregated community and I went to high school . . . segregated high school, segregated college. And integration, of course, didn't come along-I was gone, you know. I wasn't living here. But, it really didn't affect me all that much, not in a negative way, because we didn't realize, really, you know, that we were being denied anything because we grew up in a community, and we had this, and, that is one thing that I regret the passing of more than anything, and, that's that sense of community that we had. We knew that if we went up the road, you know, to Aunt Velma's house or to anybody else's house that was in the neighborhood and we were hungry, you know; we were going to be feed. We knew that if we misbehaved we were going to be thrashed and then maybe again when we got home. So, we had that sense of community under us, you know, from the teachers, the two teachers, in that two room school house, the minister, the people in church, you know, and all the people in the community. They were all just like a safety net, you know, under us, and so we grew up in I guess what you would class an insulated situation, insulated atmosphere. So we didn't realize we were, you know, deprived or segregated. We didn't know that and it was only after I left, you know, and integration, you know, started happening and I would talk with my relatives back home, you know, and got some of the negative, you know, events or incidents that were happening. And, of course, knowing what was happening to the extreme South of us, they were, extreme. My sisters . . . my younger sisters and brothers, they had no incidents to report, you know, of having any kind of problems when they were, when the schools were integrated, you know. So, in a way, I guess you could say I was not really affected at all, you know. I was not a part of it. When I came back, moved back, of course, all of the schools were integrated and the one thing that struck me, I remember was thinking just before we moved back, I was working in the inner city school, and I was thinking, I will be so glad when I get back home to Texas, you know, because things are going to be so much better there, you know. The parents are going to be so involved in their kids' lives, you know. It's just not going to be like it is here, you know, where you are kinda thrown, especially after the drugs and gangs came in, you were kinda on your own, you know. This is going to be so different when I get back to East Texas. And, I guess that was probably the most traumatic experience I had was the first meeting, parent teacher meeting I had when I started working at Nacogdoches High School and I walked into the auditorium and there were all of these White people, everywhere! And there was just a Black person here and there, not many at all. I thought, "Where are the parents," you know? "Where are the Black parents," because I was looking for them to be there in full force? That's the way I remembered it, you know, when PTA [Parent Teacher Association] night came around everybody was at the meeting. And so I had this picture in my mind that that same kind of attendance was going to occur. And, so that was probably the most traumatic experience that I had when I realized that Black parents are not here, they are not supporting their kids the way we were supported. They don't have that safety net over them and sense of community.
BENTLEY: Why do you think that has changed?
HAM: Well, I think it has to do with the economics, you know. With more mothers having to work to make ends meet and it may have to do with the upward mobility of the natural desires, I guess, of people to want more, you know, and to move up, up. And, so, when they get a chance to do that, of course, they are going to take it. The mothers are going to go to work; the father is going to go to work. The children are kinda left to tend to themselves. And so I would imagine that . . . it . . . is just because the parents are involved with trying to make a living and, so, some things have to take priority and some things have to move to the back burner. So, maybe, supporting the kids' scholastic endeavors, by your presence, at the various meetings and so forth, would have to take a back burner because you're working.
BENTLEY: Do you think that the generations are becoming more involved now today or are we still heading down?
HAM: Well, I found that, well, I have been out of public schools since 2004, not a long time, about six years, but, again, that was probably one of the most distressing situations to me during all the years that I spent in public school. And, my last years or so, I didn't find that much more involvement, you know, from our parents. And, I'd like to think, I mean, you know, I'm an optimist, I like to think that the trend, that the revolution, has reached the bottom and that the trend is starting to change for the better and that parents are going to be more involved with their children, you know. Because, they really need that sense of community, you know. They need to know that someone is there. And that someone is going to be checking and guiding and correcting and doing all the things that need to be done in order to help the child, you know, grow and mature into an adult and not just grow like topsy, you know.
BENTLEY: So, education for yourself, was it difficult to achieve as a woman, as a Black individual?
HAM: Well, from grades one through twelve, no. I had probably two, we, out there in the community, wonderful women who drove out there twenty-one miles, from Nacogdoches, you know, everyday. And of course we didn't have a lot of extracurricular activities to demand our attention, but when it came to the basics, the three R's [Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic], you know, we got the basics. We got the basics. We had to read a lot. We had a little TV, not much bigger than a computer monitor, you know at home but we didn't watch through on school nights. My daddy said we didn't watch it so . . . guess what, we didn't watch it. So, I learned . . . I developed a love of reading and my two teachers really, you know, nourished that and encourage that. So, I got into the habit of reading. And, I still today prefer reading to watching T.V., so from grades one through twelve, yes; it was a settled and known fact that you were going to go to school.
BENTLEY: Was college assumed?
HAM: Well, not so much for all of us. It was for me because I had shown that I had a bit of sense [laughter], a little bit of intelligence, you know. After my first teacher determined that, well, she's not so dumb after all because she tried really hard to make me write with my right hand because, you know, if you were left-handed you were, there was something not quite right about you, you know. You were of the devil [laughter]. So, she tried really hard to make me right with my right hand, so once she determined that, well, I guess she's not dumb . . . she can't right with her right hand, you know. So, she really started teaching me and encouraging me. My grandmother, my aunts, education has always, you know, a priority in our family. So, by the time I got to eleventh, twelfth grade, my folks knew you gonna go to college. So . . . [See image Ham006: Matilda Tinsley Freeman, Maye Ham's grandmother, ca. 1950.]
BENTLEY: Did your other siblings?
HAM: Not. Well, my two older sisters-one of the . . . went to Texas Southern for a couple of years-she got married. One went directly to work after high school. My older brothers went into the military, you know. So, when it came down to me I was the first one they thought, well, she's . . . need to go to college. Didn't want to go anywhere else. Wasn't ready to get married and was fairly intelligent. So, I had a lot of help from my aunts and my folks. I remember fifty-three dollars a month that was how much it cost room and board at Prairie View at the time. And I remember, you know, what a struggle it was you them to scrape up that fifty-three dollars a month, you know, and the books and all of that. So . . .
BENTLEY: How long did it take to graduate?
HAM: It took . . . from college . . . well, I went to Prairie View. I was a junior when I decided to get married, and, so, that when I moved to California. And, that's where I completed my education, you know, California. And, I finished that year at Cal State Dominguez [California State University, Dominquez Hills], then it was a while, I went to work. I went back to school, I didn't get back into school, until about, oh, 1979 . . . maybe . . . or '80-to work on my masters. And, did that for a couple of years, earned my masters degree.
BENTLEY: What was your master?
HAM: In English . . . in English. So, I guess you might . . . it took twenty-five years [laughter] . . . to complete my education and I'm still learning. Still learning.
BENTLEY: Job opportunities . . . did you start teaching right away or . . . what other jobs did you have prior to becoming a teacher?
HAM: Prior to becoming a teacher when I first went to Los Angeles? I worked for a year or so at the huge post office they have . . . a huge post office there . . . so, I worked there for a year or so. Not very long. My next job was with the Compton Unified School District and that's where I stayed for the majority of the time that I was in California.
BENTLEY: And, the family dynamics . . . did they change with segregation? Do you think that desegregation made the family dynamics easier for the community? We have already talked about the community, but do you think it changed that aspect positively?
HAM: In some ways, yes, I know that . . . judging from, you know, my own children and my younger sisters and brothers, you know, their circle of friends is widened and they, as a consequence, they have . . . their exposed to more, I don't know, cultural aspects, you know of or society because, let's face it, growing up poor, we didn't have, we didn't take a lot of trips . . . we didn't have a lot of the extraneous trappings, you know, that money can provide. So, my younger sisters and brothers and my own kids, you know, had access to more because of their friendship and their exposure, you know, to people who . . . to some of the haves, let's face it, you know . . . to the haves because we were, you know, by societies standards we were the have not's. So, it has helped in that respect, you know, and . . . but, in some, not so much. Because I have seen children . . . who want to . . . who wanted to, you know, follow the lead of some of their counter parts, you know. And, it was not always the best thing for them to do. For example, at the high school, you know, the boys, more so boys than girls I guess, but boys who would become friends with some of the boys who may not have been, you know, those who walked the chalk line as far a discipline is concerned. Yeah, they would want to do the same thing those boys would do and the thing is when the White boy matured and decided, like the prodigals' son, okay I've messed up enough . . . I've bummed around enough . . . you know, I'm going to get busy now. I'm going to settle down. I'm going to do what I need to do in order to be a productive member of society and so once he makes that decision, you know, he can put on his suit and go down to his daddy's bank or his aunt's department store or-and go to work. But, you know, our daddies don't own any banks or department stores. So here are . . . the only thing we have developed is a record, a negative record, you know. And, we have nothing to fall back on, so in that respect I kinda call it, I tell some of my students, "You taking on the ways of the heathens' here." So, taking on the ways of the heathens was not always a good thing for some of our kids who didn't realize the consequences of their actions, you know, and that some of these acts would follow them, you know.
BENTLEY: So, what where your opportunities as a black male after graduating high school? What was the . . .
HAM: The Black male? Well, they would go into the military. They would, a few of them, I am thinking about my own classmates and my own brothers, I'd say maybe half would go into the military and the other half would leave the area, you know, and go to work someplace else. Most of the people at one time, as you know, I have a lot of brothers and sisters, and at one time there was probably eight of us in Southern California-eight or nine-of us in Southern California. And the reason is that the job opportunities were available there. So, they didn't have too many doors open for them besides the military. One or two-a small percentage of them-may have been allowed to attend college, but the others would go and find a job, go to work.
BENTLEY: Do you think that in Nacogdoches-or in an area like Nacogdoches-the job opportunities were less because they were Black or is it because of education?
HAM: Well, as I said, I left; I never sought a job when I was younger in the area because I wasn't here. And most of my sisters and brothers, in fact, I guess all of them went elsewhere for work. Well, one of my brothers didn't leave the area, but he has his own log truck, you know, he does logging. So, I can't say . . . but of the people I am thinking of, you know, who stayed in the area, they seem to be able to find jobs, NIBCO, and the hospitals, within the school district. So, probably if I were here . . . had been here, I could have found employment.
BENTLEY: Describe the communities we were talking about earlier . . . you have the church community, and the family gatherings.
HAM: Out in the County Line Community? Well, it was an all Black community and the establishing of it and all of that have been well documented. All Black community that was settled by my grandfather and his two brothers. And, it was, we grew up in a fairly insulated setting, out there on the banks of the Angelina River, but I can recall there being huge social events, you know, gatherings at church and gatherings at the school and gatherings at various family member's houses for fish fries and what have you. So, I remember those things about the community, I remember walking to school every day, to that two room school house, you know. And being taught to read, and to write, and to do math, you know. I remember my mother and another lady in the community named Ms. B, who were the cooks at school, you know. And, I remember, eating red beans a lot . . . they cooked beans a lot [laughter], at school, beans and cornbread at school. I remember the little graduation exercises that they would have for us, you know. And, church, a big part of my childhood and still is, I remember having huge singings on Saturday night, you know. And, they would stay there. They would call them all night singings and we would be there, we were kids, but we would be wide-eyed and right there till one or two o'clock in the morning, you know, listening to the quartets, and the choir, and the soloists. We still have that event, but we don't stay there all night anymore.
BENTLEY: Who were the leaders of the community?
HAM: Well, there was my dad and his brothers. My dad's name was Monel Upshaw, my uncle Inny, my cousin Jack Tinsley was another one, Reverend Whitaker-D. E. Whitaker-brother, Cousin Ed Bagley, Fortune Price, B.B. Ross, and Jack Ross before he left and moved to California. So, those are the men that I remember being in the community, you know. [See image Ham016: B. B. Ross Grave Marker in Stonewall Cemetery.]
BENTLEY: What made it unique . . . the most unique aspect of the community?
HAM: Well, the unique aspect of that community and I didn't realize this until later because there were other communities scattered around, but, a unique aspect of that community is and was the fact that these Black men owned, owned so much land there. And, it didn't seem unique to me at the time because everybody was doing the same thing. We were all in the same boat. We didn't know we were poor because everybody was poor, you know. Everybody was planting corn and cotton, you know, and peas and tomatoes and all of those things, and harvesting, you know. Everybody had cows and horses. Jack Tinsley had these beautiful Tennessee Walking horses. Everybody had horses, you know. So, there was nothing unique, I didn't think, about the community until I was older and I realized, well, it's unique in that these Black people who came out of slavery purchased this land, you know, through the . . . by the sweat of their brow, you know, by sweating and working it out, you know. And, that's . . . that's unique. And I don't know that-I mean I know there are others-communities with people in them, who settled the community and bought the land by the sweat of their brow, but it's certainly unique to mine.
BENTLEY: What did your father do?
HAM: My father was . . . he was a farmer and in later years, after most of . . . and he was a bus driver. He drove the bus from our community to Cushing when we left the community school . . . community school there we were bused to Cushing. Well, he was the bus drive, so we got on the bus first which was great in the winter because we got to sit up by the heater [laughter]. And, he was a farmer, you know, he farmed and had cows. And, in later years, after most of the kids were at least old enough to be in high school and what have you, he worked here at S.F.A., he and my uncle, one of his brothers use to drive into S.F.A. and work on the grounds, you know, like a grounds keeper I guess you'd call it. So, he did that and he hauled logs. [See image Ham017: Edward Monel and Leota Grave Marker in Stonewall Cemetery.]
Why did he need to bus to Cushing? Why were you bused to Cushing?
HAM: Because that was the closest high school, you know, our little two room school went through the eighth grade. At one time, I understand, some of my older cousins and older sisters and brothers were going to school it went to the twelfth grade. By the time I came along though, the community, you know, the population had started to kinda decrease and it only went through the eighth grade and after that we were bused to Cushing and that was the closest. . .
BENTLEY: Was Cushing a large school?
HAM: We thought it was [laughter]. We thought it was coming from our little two room school-- we didn't know-to Cushing. We had kindergarten through twelfth and pulled in students from, you know, various other communities around so we thought it was just grand. There were probably-maybe a hundred and ten kids together-give or take a few.
BENTLEY: In high school?
HAM: Well, in the entire school. We had, I was looking at some pictures the other day, and maybe a dozen teachers for . . . from kindergarten through twelfth, maybe a few more in the high school area, but not many, not many. My graduation class was like fifteen, you know, fifteen students in our graduating class and we had a C. L. Simon Reunion last Saturday night and some of the former students were saying that their class was the largest one and there were like twenty-two in think in that class. So, not a big school at all . . . not big at all . . . but it seemed really grand to us.
BENTLEY: And it was segregated?
HAM: Yes. I think that it was intergraded about 1965 or '66, somewhere along in there, it was intergraded. What was our complete school from K through twelve is now an elementary school. But, I think it is being torn down now because they are building a new one out there in Cushing.
BENTLEY: Did your school students in or did you take students from your school to move to other when they began segregating . . . I mean desegregating?
HAM: I don't know because I wasn't here, but my younger . . . what happen was that the old C. L. Simon School became Cushing Elementary School and, so, my sisters and brothers, whatever grades they were in, you know, would have gone to that grade, you know. And, everything was . . . when all the students were intergraded, once they made the old school the elementary school, you know, that when . . . where my sisters and brothers went. And, the ones that were in high school, of course, started going to Cushing High School, you know. They just integrated them into the grades in Cushing.
BENTLEY: What did your mom do when you were a student?
HAM: Most of the time, when I was growing up, momma was home, you know. She was a home and I think about that often. It was later that she started doing day work-started doing domestic work-you know, outside of the home. And, but my older sister says that she remembers her doing work when they were smaller. But, when I was in school she was at home and that, you know, I think about that safety net, you know, that we had under us because we knew that when we got off that bus, you know, there was going to be something on the stove to eat. Momma was going to be at home, there would be a pot of beans, you know, or some collards or some turnips or something, you know. And, so that stability, you know, that constant presence is what so many kids just don't have and that just can't be good . . . it just can't be a good thing. So, we talk often, my sisters and brothers, the older we get the more we appreciate those kinds of intangibles that we had, that money can't buy because we are extremely close, my sisters and brothers and I, we have the best time when we get together. And it's all because, you know, what they instilled in us that is priceless. It really is. [See image Ham004: Edward Monel and Leota Upshaw, Maye Upshaw's parents, 1985.]
BENTLEY: The family community has changed so much; do you think the church community has changed?
HAM: Well, it is changed because the, I don't know, it just makes . . . me get . . . when I think about my family. But, the church community has not changed a lot but it does, we do . . . fellowship . . . our range of . . . the range of churches we fellowship has enlarged, increased because of more transportation, you know. So, we fellowship with churches in Tyler, Jacksonville, of course, here in Nacogdoches, all the various little churches out in the country, of course. But, it has changed only in that it has enlarged, you know, it has enlarged. And we still, you know, we don't have very many members out there. But we have a few annual days that are; we have a large number of people who come into the community, to fellowship with us on those annual days. So, and that has been a constant. I can remember, you know, growing up and we would have those that all night singin' on a Saturday night, you know. The church outside, just no place to park, still that way, you know. And when we have our annual days a lot of people come into our community, you know, and fellowship with us. Of course, we go, you know, we go a lot to fellowship with our neighbors too. So, it's . . . there are some constants about the community and the church is one of them.
BENTLEY: Teaching at Angelina, you have seen the generations; do you think that the generation today is much different, as far as the kind of young men and women who are coming, because of the church and the community changing?
HAM: Well, I like to think that the next generation and the one after that are going to be as interested, and as committed to maintaining that center, that hub in the community as we are. I like to think that. And talking with many of my students, you know, they are involved, you know, they are involved in church. And while they may . . . it may not be as constant in their lives or they might not be as dedicated now. I like to think that as they get older they will realize the importance, you know, of this . . . this fellowship and keeping this constant element, you know, alive. I like to think that they're going to realize that it is something they need to do and become more committed to it. And, talking with young people you do find a lot, it's encouraging . . . it's very encouraging. And when you go take your kids or your grand kids, in my case, to other churches, you know, and you see the young people there, you think this is very encouraging . . . very encouraging. So, I like to think that when I'm old, not when I'm gray, but when I'm old [laughter] that my kids and grand kids will continue to . . . to, you know, gather and fellowship, you know, be thankful because we . . . have such a magnificent heritage, you know. So, I hope that they appreciate it enough to maintain it, you know, after momma is gone, you know.
BENTLEY: Do you think our Nacogdoches community has merged into a group that combines just everybody and everything? Or is it separated still?
HAM: I think it's separated still to a really large extent separated too, you know. Martin Luther King said that Sunday morning, you know, is the most . . . Sunday morning is the most segregated day of the week and I think that is still the case. And it is not always because opportunities are not there for us to mingle and mix and integrate. It may take a few more of us older people who are kinda set in their ways to get out of the way, you know. And I would be the first one to tell you I still have misgivings when I walk into a room and I don't see very many of us. My sisters laugh at me, my younger ones, you know, because I would go to school at Cushing with them, you know, and I'm sitting this auditorium that use to be nothing but Black people in there, you know, when I was going to school there and I walk in and I sit down with them, you know, and they are all mixing and meeting their classmates. They're all like, "hey . . . how ya doin'? Hello." And I'm like, "hum" [shrug away]. So, they laugh at me all the time, you know, because I've been less . . . I was less exposed to it, you know. I wasn't exposed to it at all, you know, I missed all of that. And, so, I still remember the way it was, you know, even though my experiences growing up were not negative at all, you know, just an incident here and there, but not enough to, but, you know, I'm just of that generation, you know. So, it will take a few more of us need to move on out of the way, and I think that there will be more converging and more, you know, socializing and mixing and what have you on a social basis, you know.
BENTLEY: Do you think Nacogdoches is unique in that or is it a community across the nation?
HAM: Well, I think it does seem to be . . . it is unique in that there was not a lot of hoopla in the first place, you know, about integration, and that was unique when you compare it to some of the other areas of the country, you know. That was unique, I mean, that was just a wonderful thing. Since I've been working with the AAHP I had a chance to meet some of the first graduates of S.F.A., you know, who talked about their experiences, you know, on integration. And there is . . . when you compare it to what was going on in some other parts of the country . . . this was just smooth, you know. It wasn't, you know, they didn't have to call out the National Guard and the police and all of that to any great extent. So, that's unique in itself, so that tells you that, you know, there is opportunity here, you know, for understanding and for tolerance and for all the things that, you know, our faith dictates and, as I said, it will probably take the moving of a few of us older people who are set in our ways for this all to come about, but it's happening, you know, it's happening. And, that's what happens as generations develop and emerge and move on out of the way and the next one comes along, you know, there is more more tolerance, more benevolence, more understanding, you know. And, I must say that at Nacogdoches High School I met some wonderful friends, you know, I had some wonderful coworkers there, you know. So, it's . . . it's as the kids say . . . it's all good [laughter]. It's all good.
BENTLEY: Do you have anything you want to add to the closing of this interview?
HAM: Oh gee, I think I've talked enough no doubt [laughter]. No, I just appreciate the opportunity to talk about my life, as I said I didn't think it was all that interesting and certainly didn't think it was unique, my experiences, until I was older, you know. But I'm finding out it's . . . it's . . . it's remarkable.
BENTLEY:It is and I'm so glad you came here to share.