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Correspondence

The Class of '59: Intimations of Mortality and Posterity

Some good folks in my hometown are planning a reunion of my high-school class, which, come June, will have graduated 50 years ago.  It was a class of about 500.  Three hundred are known, of which 53 are already deceased.  (Our average age is 67.)  It is a strange and unsettling experience to contemplate the death of people whom I last saw in the flourish of youth, some of whom I had known since the first grade, and some of whom I thought were great in vitality and would probably outlive me.  About 200 are as yet untracked, and some of those will doubtless be missing also when the roll is called.

It was the last all-white class in my city.  The junior class had already begun token desegregation with one black girl.  Most folks looked on that with distaste or apprehension.  The more enlightened, who had been to Chapel Hill, felt that it was the correct thing, providing justice to the more deserving of a group that had suffered denial of opportunity and serving to make us look good in the opinion of the United Nations, which good opinion, for some reason, we were supposed to covet.  At any rate it was inevitable and, we were assured, would be gradual and limited in scope.

Our class was about 85-percent Carolina Anglo-Celtic (if you count as Anglo-Celtic a number of ancestors who had the good sense to leave Germany in the late 17th and early 18th centuries).  About ten percent were carpetbaggers,...

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