- Goldmine: Root
- Oral History Collections
- Interviews with Loy H. Witherspoon
- Loy H. Witherspoon oral history interview 3, 1993 February 19
Loy H. Witherspoon oral history interview 3, 1993 February 19
In this 1993 interview, student Mitch Miles interviewed Dr. Loy Witherspoon, founding chair of Religious Studies at UNC Charlotte, who relates his life story and reflects on changes that he witnessed in the American South between the 1930s and the 1990s. Dr. Witherspoon describes his childhood growing up in Catawba, North Carolina, his closely knit family, and his early school and religious experiences. He attributes his interest in the classics to his grade school teachers who read classical literature to the students after recess, and notes that there was little religious diversity in the community beyond the Methodist, Baptist, and Lutheran churches. Dr. Witherspoon reflects on the more cosmopolitan atmosphere of wartime Winston-Salem, where he moved to live in The Children's Home, a Methodist orphanage, after the death of both his parents. He describes his high school years at R.J. Reynolds High School and the significant influence of his Latin teacher, who took a keen interest in his education. After a brief description of his education at Duke University, Dr. Witherspoon describes his experiences at Boston University, where he pursued his PhD. He notes the life-changing influence of living in a larger, more diverse, and culturally rich city. In stark contrast to these more cosmopolitan locales, Dr. Witherspoon details his first experience as a professor teaching at Dakota Wesleyan University in South Dakota, noting that social conditions in the surrounding area reminded him of his childhood in rural North Carolina. He also remarks on the paradox of the local concern expressed for Southern blacks in a community where Native Americans were poorly treated. Dr. Witherspoon continues with a description of his move back to North Carolina at the behest of Bonnie Cone, founder and president of Charlotte College. He describes early conditions of the college, his role in establishing an ecumenical ministry to students in addition to his professorial duties teaching philosophy and religious studies, and the changes he saw in Southern culture, which he attributes largely to the influx of people from other parts of the United States and the world.