Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Influential People: Teachers

BOND: Now, when you look back to these high school years and even earlier, who are the people who had an effect on you? I know you came you said from a family of educators, and I’m assuming that they helped instill in you this desire to achieve and excel. What other people had an impact on you?

PINN: I think back to my early years and the teachers that I had, and there were many teachers who were very influential, the ones who demanded of me that I was never good enough — and I don’t mean that in a negative way, but that I could do better. I think of Maggie Harris who was an excellent teacher who taught me in high school and who really put demands on me and I can still remember her although that was over fifty years ago.

For directions to go forward, Dr. Paulie — Pauline [Fletcher] Weeden Maloney — learning — whom actually everybody called Paulie Weeden — was our guidance counselor who had lots of national contacts and who was the one who led me to determine or to think about what colleges I would go to. I didn’t know about Wellesley. I didn’t know Wellesley existed, and it was Paulie Weeden who said you should look at these schools, you should apply to these schools, introduced me to people who could help me learn and broaden my horizons. She introduced me to Anna Julian and Dr. Percy Julian so I went to Greencastle to visit DePauw, his alma mater, and I remember getting there and seeing as soon as people found out I knew Dr. Percy Julian the doors just opened. And so it was through Paulie Weeden that I had these contacts and she’s the one who suggested, I think, about Wellesley and so I looked into what Wellesley was and that’s where I ended up going.

There were other teachers. I talk about chemistry, but we may not have had the great facilities but in terms of going into science I think my high school chemistry teacher, Dr. W. E. Clark who is still alive and very active in Lynchburg and very much of a community activist there today. We may not have had the lab facilities but he taught me the discipline that I needed to succeed in science. So there were many people. I look back at many teachers that I was very fond of who really had an impact on me.

One other person was Ms. Jordan who not only taught superb English classes but also oversaw the Drama Club. And people often ask me today, \"Where did you get your start in public speaking?\" Because I have to do a lot of public speaking, and I say, \"I think back to my high school Drama Club and Ms. Jordan who taught us how to get on the stage and to speak and project your voice\" — because we didn’t have microphones back then, and I often say that I think it was Peggy Jordan who really set me up to do most of my public speaking and really contributed a lot to my being able to get on stage. Of course, I still get nervous sometimes but when you’ve been under Peggy Jordan in the ’50s and you’re on a high school stage, you learn how you have to speak up and speak out. So, I think there were a variety of people outside of my family.

My family was more supportive in terms of what I wanted to do and I guess when I think back, I say I’m very fortunate because they never told me I couldn’t do anything I wanted to do. They always just said, \"If you want to do that, if you want to be a doctor, you’ve got to study,\" and supported me in what I wanted to do even though we were of modest means. But there were many others in my community that really supported me.