Thomas Walter Gaither oral history interview conducted by Joseph Mosnier in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 2011-09-12.
And so across the, uh, street, I want to say it was Bull Street. I’m not sure that was the name of the street at the time. There was a two-story building. The, uh, second story of the, uh, building was just an open room with some chairs and, uh, this is no exaggeration, the temperature in that room must have been eighty-five or ninety degrees. And that is where we were forced to take the Graduate Record Exam, an exam that determines all of your possibilities for the future and these were the conditions or the circumstances under which we were required to take the exam.
Well, I had told my dad that when I came home, uh, to visit him. I went home to visit him after that, uh, event and he had stored that away in his mind that he would never root for the University of South Carolina, but he would root for Clemson. Now at the time, Clemson was not a university. Clemson started out as an agricultural experiment station. It later became a university, but it was the school in South Carolina that he could identify with because he refused to identify with the University of South Carolina.
JM: Right, yeah. You got drawn, uh, into, into, uh, college leadership roles.
TG: Um, yes. Uh, I was the president [30:00] of the youth chapter of the Claflin College chapter of the NAACP.
JM: Starting what year of college?
TG: Um, let’s see, I know as, as, as a junior.
JM: Okay, yeah.
TG: Uh, and that is how I gravitated into the sit-ins because it was the natural position from which one might assume a role in, in leadership.
JM: Tell me about -
JB: Let’s break -
JM: Okay, yeah.
JB: For a second and then, um, start a new file.
[Recording stops and then resumes]