Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

All Left Town after Year of Tumult, Fame They Make Up a Varied Group: Writer, Banker, Psychologist

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

All Left Town after Year of Tumult, Fame They Make Up a Varied Group: Writer, Banker, Psychologist

Article excerpt

The nine teen-agers who integrated Little Rock's Central High School in 1957 were a varied bunch, and their lives since then have proven it. They've become real estate brokers, writers and bankers and psychologists and teachers.

But one thing they have in common is that sooner or later, they all left the city that had so famously tormented them. Only one, Elizabeth Eckford, returned to live here.

In their stories there is a certain suggestion that leaving was a necessary good. "I left at the insistent urging of then-chief executive Orval Faubus," joked Terrence Roberts. And then there's Thelma Wair. She left Little Rock in 1958 to live in St. Louis with civil rights crusader and attorney Frankie Freeman. "I may be the only one who comes back to Little Rock every chance I get," said Wair, who now lives in Belleville. Despite the harsh memories of 1957, and the segregation in her childhood, Wair remembers Little Rock fondly. "Little Rock is home to me," she said. "My parents are here, my family's he re, and I love it. It was a nice, clean progressive little town." Retired after a long teaching career in the East St. Louis public schools, Wair returned to her hometown this week to help commemorate the desegregation of Central High School, which she attended for one tumultuous year in 1957-58. What she recalls of those years was not as shocking as some of the stories told by her other black classmates. She was not pushed or tripped or banged against the lockers. Known then as Thelma Mothershed, she was small and in frail health, and she thinks the antagonists had been warned to leave her alone. "I was small, and they knew I had a bad heart," she said. While she was not physically abused, Wair said, she suffered deeply as a 15-year-old. "I remember being ignored," she said. "They . …

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