The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

June 25, 2012

Roberson School, a Brief History and Legacy

C. Rudolph Knight

TARBORO — Note: The Edgecombe County School Board, at its April 9, 2012 meeting, approved the closure of the Roberson Center for Educational Achievement. Final approval by the State Board of Education is expected. Future use of the building has not yet been determined.

The first Roberson School, a three-teacher wooden school, was located next to old Mayo Chapel Church, about half a mile northeast of Mayo Crossroads on NC 42. The school, like other African-American schools across the county, served a rural, low-wealth, and agarian population, mostly sharecroppers and small farmers.

The principals who served this first Roberson School included Sam. A. Gilliam (1938-39 to 1940-41), Powell Woodson (1941-42), and Louella W. Dickens (1942-43 to 1947-48).

In the late 1940s, on the recommendation of Superintendent E. D. Johnson, the Edgecombe County Board of Education decided that the smaller elementary schools in the county should be consolidated into more comprehensive elementary schools in order to stay abreast of progressive changes in education. Deterorating buildings, the need for new buildings, overcrowded classrooms, and anticipated cost savings were all factors that helped to persuade the Board to make this decision.

One of the new consolidated schools was the second Roberson Elementary School, a brick building with nine classrooms, an auditorium, a principal’s office, a health room, a storage area, and custodial facilities, was located at 1731 Roberson School Road with GPS coordinates 35.87969°N, and 077.41932°W. The school opened for the second semester of the 1951-52 school year to students in grades one through eight. The initial students came from the old Roberson, Keech, and Coakley Schools and were transferred to this new facility. In 1955, the students from White’s Chapel School were added and, in 1960, the students from Chinquapin School were added. The Mayo School students were transferred to Roberson after 1965.

Frank C. Weaver was the first Principal of the new Roberson Elementary, serving from 1951-52 to 1955-56. He was followed by Neill McLean (1956-57 to 1958-59), a graduate of Hampton University and who had previously worked at the Bricks Public School. The next principal was Richard H. Pitt (1959-60 to 1970-71), studied at Elizabeth City State Teachers College and North Carolina Central University and had previously worked at several Rosenwald Schools as a classroom teacher. James Richard Battle was principal from 1970-71 to 1977-78.

Dr. Frank B. Weaver, born in Tarboro, North Carolina, describes his childhood home as “economically challenged.” His father, William Weaver, a trained barber for a white-only clientele, had a shop located on Main Street. His father also served Weaver Memorial Chapel in Conetoe as a Primitive Baptist elder and minister. Frank’s mother, Annie Daisy Moore Weaver, was a housewife and seamstress. The family resided at 906 E. Wilson in East Tarboro. Both parents were active in community work and, especially, the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) at the Tarboro Colored High School while their children attended the school. Their children were James (born in 1911), Fannie (born in 1913), Martha Vivian (born in 1917), Thelma (born in 1922), Bill (born in 1924), Frank (born in 1927), and Pete (born in 1932). Dr. Weaver attended the public schools in Tarboro, NC, and took his B.S. degree at Fayetteville State University in 1948.

Although Frank was the next to the youngest child in the family, he was an inspiration and trailblazer to his siblings. James, Fannie, and Martha completed high school and went north to work during the Great Depression. James worked in Newport News, Virginia, in the ship yard, Fannie was a domestic in Baltimore, Maryland, and Martha was a cosmetologist in New York. The other children, Thelma and Bill, completed high school, worked a few years, and followed Frank to Fayetteville State University after he had enrolled at the college in September, 1944. The youngest son, Pete, completed high school, Howard University (in Washington, D.C.), and the Howard University Medical School. Both Bill and Thelma completed degrees at Fayetteville State University and became public school teachers, each retiring in the early 1990s.

After graduation from Fayetteville State University, Frank taught two years at John R. Hawkins in Warren County and he was the Assistant Principal for grades one through six. During the 1950/51 school year he was the Principal of the Providence Rosenwald School in Edgecombe County. Then he was asked by E. D. Johnson, Superintendent of Edgecombe County Schools, and W. W. Green, Chairman of the Edgecombe County Board of Education, to organize and be Principal of the newly constructed Roberson Elementary School. There he served from 1951 to 1956, after which he was asked again to organize and serve as Principal of the new Willow Grove School. He was Principal there from 1956 to 1962. He began working in Raleigh in 1962 for the State Superintendent of Elementary Education in the Department of Public Instruction where he served until 1967. During the interim Weaver completed his M.A. degree at Columbia University and his Ed.D. at Pennsylvania State University.

From 1967 to 1970 he served as consultant and Assistant Director in the Division of Continuing Education of the North Carolina Department of Community Colleges. Then he served as Associate Superintendent of Instruction in the Durham City Schools and was Interim Superintendent in 1970. He retired in 1982, having had several titles during his tenure with the Durham City School system. These titles were Assistant Superintendent, Associate Superintendent, Deputy Superintendent, and Acting Superintendent. He returned to the Durham City Schools as Interim Superintendent from 1988 to 1989. During his entire educational career he also was pastor to a total of five churches and pastor of Watson Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Raleigh for 34 years. His other churches were in Edgecombe County.

Several of his articles are published. Vantage Press of New York City published his first book in 1967 – Practical Help for Meeting Needs of Slow Learners. Class Publishing Company of Brentwood, Maryland, published his second book in 1971 – Helping Slow Learners and Undereducated Adults. He developed five adult education resource guides for the Division of Adult Education, Department of Community Colleges. The titles are: (1) Tips for Teaching Adults the Language Arts; (2) Tips for Teaching Adults the Social Studies; (3) Resources for Adult Educators; (4) Techniques for Teaching Adults; and (5) How to Recruit ABE Students.

His educational and religious travels have taken him to Canada, Mexico, Israel, France, Jordan, Greece and Africa. He toured the Holy Land in 1970. In November, 1973, he toured the U.S.S.R. and Finland and observed their educational programs.

Dr. Weaver attributes his success to a close-knit family, parents with educational expectations for their children, his belief in God, and the encouragement and support from the love of his life, his wife, Queen. They are parents of one child, Frank B. Weaver, Jr., and grandparents to Frankie’s two children. The couple is retired and resides in Raleigh, NC.

To honor the legacy and contributions of the Roberson School, the Perry-Weston Institute, together with the Edgecombe County Board of Commissioners, recognized some of the former principals and teachers at a program on May 26, 2012.


C. Rudolph Knight is a Tarboro native, a retired community college educator, and a research historian.