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Scholarship students celebrated / St. Paul's will graduate six affected by Massive Resistance
May 6, 2007  -  Jamie C. Ruff  -Richmond Times - Dispatch - Richmond, VA

2008 Brown versus Board of Education Scholarship Recipients are recognized by Dr. Robert L. Satcher, President of Saint Paulís College.

For Henry W. Cabarrus, yesterday's celebration was a long time coming.

Cabarrus was one of the students whose education was disrupted when Prince Edward County closed its schools in 1959 for five years rather then desegregate them. Now he is about to become a college graduate.

Cabarrus and five others are the first to have completed a bachelor's degree program at St. Paul's College through the state's Brown v. Board Scholarship Program.

Their accomplishments were recognized last night during a celebration at the R.R. Moton civil-rights museum in Farmville. Their degrees will be awarded at St. Paul's commencement next Sunday.

For Cabarrus, it was the third attempt to earn a degree.

After all-black R.R. Moton High School was closed in 1959, he worked on his grandfather's farm for a year, then was sent to live with Ohio Quakers. He finished high school and went to college but had his scholarship withdrawn. In 1994, he tried to earn a computer software certificate, but it was a 12-month program and he had funding for only nine months.

His degree from St. Paul's will be the result a $2 million scholarship program for current Virginia residents who were affected by the school closings during the period of Massive Resistance from 1954 to 1964.

"It's [been] a long way down the road to get to the prize," said Cabarrus, who recently retired as a mental retardation training specialist. He hopes to use his degree to become a consultant for small businesses and a motivational speaker.

At first, Farmville funeral home owner Carl Eggleston saw no need to pursue a scholarship.

But he reconsidered at the urging of state Sen. Benjamin Lambert III, D-Richmond and chairman of the Brown v. Board of Education Scholarship Awards Committee.

Now, Eggleston said his business administration degree is about "personal growth and development," and he is dedicating it to his mother, who in the past three years has seen two of her sons die. "She's a struggler," Eggleston said.

The six students are the first to complete four-year degrees through the scholarships, Eggleston and school officials said. Dozens of Virginians are enrolled in a variety of degree and certificate programs with the help of the scholarships.

In addition to the program last night, St. Paul's will recognize the six students during next weekend's commencement.

"The purpose is simply to share the joy of the students with the community," said William Herrington, St. Paul's vice president for institutional advancement.

The Virginia General Assembly established the scholarship program in 2004, the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's historic Brown v. Board of Education decision that struck down the practice of segregated public education.

Several localities across Virginia closed their schools rather than comply with the Brown decision, but none with the zeal of Prince Edward, where schools were closed for five years until another Supreme Court decision forced their reopening.

Some of the victims of the school closings have complained that the scholarship money should have been made available to their children or grandchildren, but the state decided it should go only to those who were direct victims of Massive Resistance.

When Yvonne Evans' parents finally moved her and her seven siblings to New Jersey in 1963, she found herself in the fifth grade at age 15. Evans said she and her siblings worried that their new classmates would laugh at them.

"My mother told us to keep our dignity, and we held our heads high," she recalled yesterday. She was 20 when she graduated from high school.

Now she will be a college graduate.

For 19 years, Evans said, she had "wished and dreamed of this moment." No more.

"It's been a struggle, but we made it," she said.

Contact staff writer Jamie C. Ruff at jruff@timesdispatch.com or (434) 392-6605.

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