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Interview with: William Moreland
Archive Number: OH 054
I: 00:05 Interview with Dr. William E. Moreland.
I: I’d like to re-ask the question. Let’s just come out of the blue here and say—stop.
I: Okay, we’re going to go through and let me ask you a question—
WM: Oh yeah, sure. I’d like that.
I: Okay, I’ll tell you what; we can just set this right here and it’ll pick up everything that we say and be more comfortable talking for everyone—everybody concerned.
WM: Can I—can I—can we make it be heard from here?
I: Sure, it will pick up everything.
I: Now I understand that you’re from Central Texas, and we’d like a little background information, possibly about your educational experiences as a youngster—what sort of school that you went to at that time.
WM: Well, I was born in 1895, December 31. Like most Texans at that period, I was a farm boy. My education began in a one-teacher room school at a little place called Ater, Texas. Right now, I almost said something about the teacher; is that being recorded?
I: Yes, it is.
WM: I was fascinated by my first teacher, J. Speed Carroll, whose son, by the way, is Dr. Bailey Carroll of the University of Texas—recently of the University of Texas. We had the usual basic subjects: reading, writing and arithmetic which I felt, at that time, were being well taught. The class was small and the principal had the ability to inspire the young people in the class. I attended that school after it became a two-teacher school, and later a three-teacher school, until through the so-called sixth grade, after which I went to a larger school at the small town called Lavada, and we had some of the high school subjects that, when finished, enabled me to enter the Gatesville High School in the senior year. I graduated Gatesville High School, 1915, and later attended normal school, after which I took the state examination for a second grade certificate and, believe it or not, failed at agriculture. I took a second try at it and received a second grade certificate. Unable to attend college for the longer nine-month period, 1916, I was employed to teach as principal in the three-teacher room school at Pancake, Texas. In 1917, the war came on, and I resigned my job and entered the United States Army, 90th Division, Camp Travis. The training period was for some seven or eight months, after which we shipped overseas, landed in Liverpool, transferred to Bordeaux, France and engaged in artillery firing practice there. Because I had had more math than many of the other privates, I was assigned to reconnaissance detail, directing and computing firing data. That gave me an inspiration, I think, to carry on some form of educational work. After the war ended, November 11, 1918, our division was transferred to the Army of Occupation in Germany. We were stationed for some six months at Traben-Trarbach, Germany, during which time the educational center for American soldiers was set up by the Army. I was recommended by my commanding officer to attend. I took courses in French history, mathematics, science, and French—the French language. I returned to the United States in late 1919. I completed a term—school term teaching at Ireland, Texas, after which I entered summer school, and in the fall of 1920 I was employed as high school principal at Bay City, Texas. I held that job—that assignment for two years and succeeded the superintendent for the next three years there—superintendent, Bay City schools. All the time my subjects—my teaching subjects there—we had teaching principals in those days—were chemistry, physics, and biology, which I have had in various summer school courses. You know, I ought to be talking about something else besides just what I did
I: That was fine.
WM: I ought to be making—yes, but I ought to be making observations on the quality of the work or on the (unintelligible) 08:07.
I: You can go back and cover that. It’s impossible to cover everything.
WM: That’s just kind of a—
I: That’s necessary—what you just did—
I: It’s really necessary because it put you, as a person, in the context of the times. You’re doing fine, Dr. Moreland.
I: What sort of situation did you have in Bay City?
WM: It was just an academic—straight academic program. They had no facilities for vocational courses, commercial courses. It was strictly academic, but they did a good job. I accredited the school’s biology program the two years I was principal there. It was accredited by the state. I added to the curriculum there some 18 in all—18 courses.
I: Well now, when you moved from Bay City to Houston—
WM: I went from—I resigned from Bay City. I planned to do some more college work. I had in the meantime met Dr. Oberholtzer. He had just come to Houston. I met him where I was teaching biology at the college there.
I: At Sam Houston?
WM: I went to school six weeks and I taught there. I didn’t go to school there. I went to Texas for six weeks and then taught college there. I wasn’t a commissioned officer because I hadn’t completed the work. I got back from the Army with very little savings, and my father was farming. The crops were not too good some years, so I had to go on my own. I met Dr. Oberholtzer when he came over to speak to an assembly there. He was interested in my laboratory. I had a laboratory class there in biology. He got interested in it, and we had a little talk, and so I went from there to Peabody College, thinking I was going to finish my work there. About November, they had a vacancy down here for an office assistant. The salary was pretty attractive, and I just couldn’t turn it down. So I took the job and did correspondence work. In the summers I went to University of Colorado first and then later put all my credits together and got into graduate school at Columbia. It was the only school where all of my credits were received.
I: Did they have the teaching college then?
WM: At Columbia?
WM: Oh, yes. So I did the rest of my work there. I stayed one year there. My chief duties were to just take care of miscellaneous callers that would come into the office and see what they wanted and route them to him if I couldn’t take care of their wishes. The secretary had previously done that, and she was so overwhelmed that she couldn’t do a very good job of it. Then I kept minutes. I wrote the minutes for the board of education meetings during that time. I got acquainted with all the board members. I wrote the minutes. I have the copies, believe it or not, for that year. I ran errands out of the office and took messages to board members or to businessmen or whatever. But I had had this experience in Bay City working for young people not only in administration in Bay City, but I taught pupils there, and I liked the work. At the end of that year, that was the time we were building some new junior high schools, and Johnson Junior High School over on Almeda was one of them, Lanier was another. Jackson was another. So I talked to Dr. Oberholtzer, and I said, “Dr. Oberholtzer, as you know, I’m tied up with some work at the college.” This was a 12-month job I had. And I said, “I would like to go to college in the summer and do some more graduate work, and furthermore, I’d like to work with youngsters.” And he said, “Well, how about Johnson Junior High School principalship? $3,300 a year.” And of course, that was more than I ever expected to earn. But I opened Johnson Junior High. At that time, we were just introducing junior high school programs. That is, we had Dr. Bruner down from Columbia.
WM: 14:29 And so Dr. Oberholtzer asked me if I’d be willing to carry on an experimental program out at Johnson School and put in the Bruner program there, which called for exploratory courses for junior high and drill courses for those that needed extra drill—more than they could get in class work—and to have an activity program, a scheduled activity program, making it an elective for the schools. They could join a type of club—it might be artwork, it might be the band, it might be a choral group, it might be typing, mechanical drawing, shop work, whatever. And those were elective, and so we carried on that program. At first—well, I don’t need to go into this. I was going to say at first the drills in mathematics and English and the like were given independently of the class work. But in this new program, I pulled them together and made them supportive. Whatever the emphasis was in the courses they were studying, they would have a group of drills for them. And those drills, by the way, were prepared by each of the departments. We had a Smith there at that time, the director of curriculum, who prepared those drills, and we found there that we brought many of the low performing pupils up to the level that they could stay with their classmates. We held that program together, and it was adopted by the superintendent and the junior high school. They all followed the same program. They first had for 45 minutes, and we extended it to 50-minute periods. We had a good junior high school system. Pupils were fired with enthusiasm and the new opportunities and the type of activities. We had teachers who were responsive in their field as well as pupils having an interest in the field that they chose. And it had a tendency to fire those young people with ambition and to love school. It was the center of their lives. I thought it was very promising. We carried that through the 9th grade, and then we had the three grades to be completed in the senior high schools. On the basis of those exploratory courses, these people had a pretty good idea of what their programs should be in the high school, what the emphasis would be, and they moved in to their interest field on the basis of what they found out in this exploratory work.
Going just a little beyond that time, I was later—in 1937 I was called in to the central office to organize a personnel department. The superintendent didn’t replace me as an assistant there. He just had his secretary get some more clerical help, and she handled largely the personnel work, and that drew fire from the board of education, and they ordered the superintendent to get a personnel director. He recommended me, and I came in in ’37 to organize it. By the way, only two or three cities had personnel departments as such at that time—Baltimore and of course New York and Philadelphia. I started from scratch on that.
18:36 But I wanted to go a little further on this thing here. We hit the McCarthy period pretty soon after that, and I’m talking about this junior high school program now. It was going so well when I left. We had fine morale among teachers. I’m not overstressing it. I think they can verify that. We had fine morale among students. Great interest in public schools. We had this deal of control. Now I’m going back on this. I’m getting into the public schools.
I: Let me ask you this: Going back, you—
WM: Well, I can go back that far. I’ll do this: I’ll cut it off in a minute as far as the school is concerned.
I: Possibly what I think maybe— You said you started with the schools right at the beginning of the independent school district system, right? When Houston organized?
WM: Yes, yes. That’s right.
I: Were there any particular problems going from being run by the city to becoming an independent school district? What were the sort of problems?
WM: Well, Dr. Horne was the superintendent that preceded and then Dr. Cousins, RB Cousins and PW Horne were the two superintendents preceding Dr. Oberholtzer and then we had Dr. Sutner(??). You may have read of him at the University of Texas. He was later dean of the Education Department there. He was one of the early superintendents there. They had run that under the city pretty much understaffed. But the city had begun to grow, and there were independent districts springing up everywhere. Schools were separated from city politics. That was the big drive there, to separate it from politics. City Hall responded, “Let’s separate it. Let’s get us an independent board of education. Let’s then appoint the superintendent, and let’s have schools out of politics.” Well, they went to Austin and presented a bill. The bill passed. I’m not going to say the personalities that went up there, but then they provided for the administration to consist of a business manager and a superintendent for the school, both who were directly responsible to the board of education. And there was no interrelationship spelled out there other than the fact that the superintendent would join the business manager in recommending the fiscal budget each year. And the business manager had an independent office and got his own people and his own assistants, worked out his own schemes in financing and whatever—bookkeeping—issued all the checks, paid all the bills, and no relationship over here to the education part of it except he could file requisitions for what he needed. But that would be subject, of course, to approval. Then the superintendent’s office was set up to operate the education program of the schools and to make recommendations to the board of education on curriculum and all functional parts of the administration.
I: 22:22 Was there any particular group or plan that they adopted from somewhere else in the country to have this dual type administration?
WM: I don’t think so. This was somewhat unique because it drew fire. The dual setup drew fire from everywhere outside because they were setting a kind of a precedent, and many of them in political situations were threatened by just that kind of theme to separate the educational administration from business management. I think New York had some kind of setup, Philadelphia probably did, and some of them had a semi-setup. They all have business managers, but the business manager—in most cases that was the pattern then and it became more the pattern later on—would function under the superintendent. He would be an assistant superintendent in charge of business management and so on.
I: But it wasn’t consciously patterned after possibly another example?
WM: No. It was consciously patterned on the basis of political considerations.
I: I understand that the first business manager was Mr. HL Mills?
I: And the superintendent at that time was—
WM: Dr. Oberholtzer. He was brought in here from Tulsa. He spent about a year there finishing the building, finishing the touches on these buildings that were under construction at the time.
I: How did the superintendent and the business manager’s office operate during the ‘20s—during the formative years of this particular dual administration system? What was the relationship between how Dr. Oberholtzer’s office was run and Mr. Mills’?
WM: 24:29 I would say they worked independently. That’s the safest thing to say. (chuckles)
I: You were with the school system during the Depression period.
WM: That goes back to the Johnson School days.
I: Yes, when you were the principal at Johnson.
WM: Yeah, ’28 and ’29. I went out there at $3,200, and I got a, I think, $200 raise each year until about ’30 or about ’31 when the thing fell in. It started in ’29, I believe, but about that time I got about a $400 cut then. We struggled through, but we carried on our program just the same. We had cuts in salary.
I: What sort of problems did you have at the junior high during the Depression years? Anything specifically?
WM: No. I think everyone recognized it for what it was. It was a depression. Everybody had the same problems. We all tightened our belts, we drove our old cars, but we carried on the program. We carried on and without fanfare or dissent.
I: Was there ever a problem with furnishing supplies for the schools or paying teachers’ salaries?
WM: We economized where we could with supplies and the like. There was no fuss about it. Everybody was happy when Roosevelt made some of his night-time talks (laughs) that at least pointed the way to coming out of it.
I: Did the schools in any way in their education program try to elaborate on the Depression as far as the students were concerned?
WM: No. The Depression years— Let’s see now. I don’t think a bond issue failed anywhere along there. I know they voted while I was superintendent some $113 million at different elections and passed every one of them for buildings. One of those issues was about salaries. But we had the people’s support during that period. The Depression, aggravated by this conservative and the liberal view that was characteristic of the McCarthy period, was where the talk started. They were not interested so much in saving money. For example, shortly after I left Johnson School, one of the conservative board members—I don’t recall his name—said that we were wasting money with these exploratory courses when they had not made their minds up what they wanted to do. It gave them basis for making some decisions for themselves as they developed. So he brought up the expense item there of the shops and typewriters and other kinds of things we needed. And on the basis of Americanism and through sound psychology, that would dictate to him that they were not ready to be guided into any particular line of work. That together with the economies that might be affected, he was able to abolish the exploratory courses. But of course the pressure came on him primarily then from the businessmen who were delighted with the vocation type training—the shop work, the mechanical drawing. And due to the pressures there, they moved then to put those things back in the program. So they cut down on the number and the extent of the exploratory programs but put back in these that they were pressured to do by interested businessmen.
I: 29:26 You referred to the conservative-liberal controversy. Not to get into that too much, but I would like to ask you as far as that particular controversy, does that go back on into the ‘20s and the ‘30s?
WM: When was the McCarthy period?
I: The McCarthy period would be nearing the ‘50s. But what I’m asking is—
WM: Yes. Oh, yes.
I: —did it have its roots—
WM: Yes. It had its roots back there. The conservative business side sponsored—that is, they pushed the conservative candidates. And then the superintendent never posed as a liberal and never pushed a particular candidate in the interest of education. They just left that an open thing. A few liberals would come up occasionally, but they were usually in the minority in those early years. It was chiefly a conservative board. And when they got into office and saw the implications of the job, they were not unreasonable at all. They became interested in education, and they were firmly entrenched in the business manager managing that and the superintendent managing that. But they were not extreme at all. I would say that they were good citizens. And they were leading citizens—leading lawyers, leading doctors, and regardless, they did a good job out of just sheer good judgment and common sense.
I: 31:26 Were school board elections hotly contested in the ‘20s and ‘30s?
WM: Not so much. They were not hotly contested. About the only time that one would become hotly contested would be when an extremist would come on on one side or the other. And of course, then sparks would fly there.
I: Did this ever happen in the ‘20s and ‘30s as far as the pre-war period?
WM: Pre-war period. To some extent where one individual had not performed according to the wishes of the majority of the board. And they’d put out a candidate to oppose him, and they’d really go after him. (laughs)
I: Are there any outstanding members that you can think of in that early period?
WM: Oh, yes. I’d hate to name them. I could name a few. There was RH Fonville, a druggist from Northside; WB Bates, a prominent attorney here and later very influential at the University of Houston; Palmer Hutcheson, another outstanding lawyer. I could go on and on. Dr. Ray K Daily came on later. I have a list of all of them, one for every year.
I: Did Dr. Daily come on in ’28?
WM: She served a long time. And then later on we had (inaudible) Tucker(??) 33:09, another prominent attorney.
I: Was Dr. Petersen on the board?
WM: Dr. Henry Petersen came on. Let’s see. He came on in the early ‘30s. He was in when I was called in to organize the personnel department. Dr. Henry Petersen. We had Charlie McPhail, Houston Power & Light.
I: Let me ask you this: During the Depression, did you have any programs of cooperation with some of the so-called alphabet agencies of the New Deal, the WPA or PWA? Did you have any schools built as a result? I know many schools were built in the country as a result of WPA funds or PWA. Did the Houston schools get involved in these New Deal type programs?
WM: At that particular time our board was very leery about taking federal aid. They came out pretty strongly against it. We wouldn’t take lunchroom aid.
I: What were their arguments against it?
WM: 34:25 The argument was that—well, for the lunchroom we’d be training those people on independency from the federal government and that they opposed the larger other grants of that kind, like WPA and the like, as federal control. This was an independent school district and school board, and of course—I don’t want to mention the business manager—that was their idea at that time, and it’s typical of those who were conservative in those periods. They thought there was a real danger in federal aid and federal programs because it might bring federal control.
I: And you’re even referring now to the Depression period.
WM: Yes, all the way through. I was just trying to recall. We did take some WPA projects. I believe there was one that had to do with training commercial people. They furnished us typewriters and adding machines. It was a WPA project. It was kind of an adult thing.
I: That’s very interesting. So you do recall the school district did take WPA money as far as—
WM: Yes, we had some federal programs there. I headed up the rationing program. We delivered all the rationing stamps. I also handled the bonds. What did they call that bond the students would buy through the schools? War bonds?
I: Oh, during the war period.
WM: Yeah. So we participated in federal programs of that kind.
I: But it was probably not—what?—until the war that things—
WM: We began to sit down into different sides and opinions on this.
I: So during the war, the school district did participate in federal programs?
WM: Oh, yes. We did. We issued all the rationing stamps and got into the bond program.
I: Did the school district and the curriculum department in any way try to incorporate in your curriculum things for the war effort, like civics—let’s say putting in materials in the civics courses or something as far as explaining the war.
WM: 37:41 I’m sure that that was embodied. We had textbooks in those days, but our curriculum department really prepared a lot of manuscripts of different kinds pertinent to current affairs, and I’m sure Ms. Castle and Dr. Frazier were involved. I believe that was after the war period, however. But we did. We participated in that, and we had several citations from the federal government for our efforts during that period.
I: What about Dr. Oberholtzer now? How long was he superintendent?
WM: Let’s see. He came in in ’24. I don’t know whether he served all year. I think it was within the year of ’24. I had a transition letter that I sent to his staff at that time. It was in ’43 or ’44, he had been— That’s another big chapter in this whole story here is the development of first the junior college at San Jacinto High School. It started as a junior college against everyone’s opinion that it couldn’t work. He never gave up the idea for one moment. He pushed that thing through, and we had a lot of people go in the school system that had not completed their college training, so he pushed them and made a 4-year program of it where these people could go ahead and finish their degrees. And I tell you, he spread these master’s degrees all over the school system (laughs) as well as bachelor’s degrees. But who could blame him? He set up a program there, they got accreditation on it, and then because of the success of that college— And all that time, by the way, I was back there handling most of the tears in the public schools. It was fortunate for me because I got a taste of nearly everything in the superintendent’s job while I was running personnel and they were working at this college. He was having to spend a lot of time with that university. He interested Mr. Cullen and other prominent citizens and got that grant there or appropriation or gift from Mr. Cullen to start that school out there. They put a lot of temporary buildings out there and appointed a dean to run it, and then I believe Dr. Kemmerer was the first dean there. Dr. Kemmerer came to us as a research man. He went to Columbia, and then he was later transferred out there as dean. So the university started that way. And then in 1943 or ’44, Dr. Oberholtzer was giving so much time to it that the board felt and he himself felt that it was too much to expect him to be active in the public schools and also carry on all that’s involved with building a university and I believe it was without tax money at that time except the people per capita portion that the state would allow. And so he resigned, and I had been meeting with the board six or seven years from ’37 up to ’43 or ’44 representing personnel. I was pretty well acquainted with them, so they wanted me as acting superintendent. I didn’t apply for the job, and they took about three months to canvass the field and had many applicants. And for some reason, they decided to name me superintendent. That’s when I took over in ’44. That’s another chapter.
I: Right. This University of Houston thing, who would you say was the driving force, the creative force, in that?
WM: 43:07 No doubt in the world Dr. EE Oberholtzer was the driving force in that whole thing. He had his criticisms and he had his setbacks, but he stayed in there and never gave up for one moment. I thought the program was spread too thinly for awhile. He wanted to offer everything for everybody and make it attractive to numbers of students. But despite all of that, it became an institution. It was during this period too while I was in personnel and in my early years as superintendent that we began this television station. We applied to the communication division for it and made trips to Washington and invited them down here and gave them some cocktails (laughs), Kemmerer leading the way on that. (laughs) We met up in the Petroleum Club and, by the way, we got it.
I: Who conceived of the educational television type approach?
WM: I’d say that Oberholtzer and Kemmerer both were instrumental in initiating that. Kemmerer—do you know Kemmerer?
I: I know of him. I don’t know him personally.
WM: He was a driving force. You couldn’t always agree with him. He was later on the board of education when I was superintendent. He was a driving force, and he had the nerve to just dive in and see what would come out.
I: Wasn’t that one of the first educational television—
WM: First educational television. I know we had a woman on that commission at that time, and she came down one time. We were at the Petroleum Club. And in making her speech, she just reached out and pulled off her shoes. You can cut that. She just pulled off her shoes during the speech. I don’t know why. (laughs) I guess she could’ve said, “My feet are killing me.” Anyway, we got through that. Well, it wasn’t long after that then the program started. We had a manager out there, and it was a joint thing between the university and the public schools. We at the public schools didn’t do it all. We were adjoined with the University of Houston. Kemmerer spearheaded the university’s end of the business, and I was pushing it for the public schools, and Dr. Oberholtzer was in the middle. But it wasn’t long until the board of education felt that the public ought to be better informed on what the schools were doing and what the board of education was doing. We were coming on to the McCarthy period, so we felt, “We’ve got to be better understood. We don’t get the very best coverage from the press. We want people to see for themselves just how good we are.” (laughs) And so we went into that. We had televised meetings for about seven years in there. I think that’s enough said on that. (laughs) When the people saw, they straightened out a few things.
I: 47:05 Did you have any particular problems in the community as far as getting an educational television station as far as in Houston? Were there any problems?
WM: No. The question of money came up with respect to how much it would cost the public schools.
I: How was it financed?
WM: It was financed out of our budget as far as the schools were concerned. I don’t think we had any way of raising money otherwise. But we did it because we thought it was educational, and went at it for the schools. We at the schools provided the television sets for special programs that might be related to their work. We helped finance that, and then we encouraged Parent-Teacher Associations to contribute television sets where they could. And with it all, it was a bang-up good success.
I: What sort of thing did you stress and try to begin with with your educational television network as far as your curriculum and using it from an educational standpoint?
WM: It was chiefly in demonstration lessons on special subjects. We would have discussion groups here to discuss the school curriculum.
I: Did the college operate courses over the years?
WM: Yes. At times they did. The college had its turn, and of course, in our campaigns for bond elections and all, I think the television helped a lot in passing. I tell you, we didn’t have trouble. We passed the bond issues. They had these big schools like Johnson, Lanier, and Jackson. But we passed one bond issue for 7½ and one for 39 and another for 15. And that enabled us to carry on an extensive building program beginning in 1944 when I got in there. We were just getting the money together to start the program. We built 113 schools and renovated 100 more with that bond money by the time I left.
I: That raises another question about the years just after World War II when the problem was the returning vet and all this sort of thing. Is there anything you’d like to say about it? Were there any problems involved with teachers?
WM: 50:06 Yes. We had all kinds of problems—not at first—in the attitudes. It was just determination to do the best we could. We had to go on double sessions in some of the schools. It was a hard decision to make, but we had double sessions in San Jacinto, Reagan, and Northside and at Lamar.
WM: Double sessions? We couldn’t build. There was a material shortage, labor shortage before. Even if we had the money, we couldn’t spend it for building because we couldn’t get the materials.
I: Did you have a teacher shortage too?
WM: Yes, we did. We had a shortage of men because they were the people that were most in demand at that time in the shop and practical arts courses. One advantage during that period of the shortage of materials was the fact that the building programs everywhere closed down and there were so many engineers. They could teach science, and they could teach math. And if we hadn’t had those engineers, maybe we’d have been in trouble.
I: On this post-war thing, was there a problem with salaries at that time?
WM: Oh, yes. We had problems with salaries. Let’s see now. Before the war, in that period I organized the personnel office up to the time I became superintendent. We were hiring teachers at that time at $125 a month. We went on a single set schedule after that. Formerly, we’d pay $100 to elementary, $110 for junior, then $125 for senior high school. We went on the same schedule. That satisfied a lot of them, but we raised all of them to the same. So we won a little favor and a little support there.
I: What was the reasoning for that difference in pay?
WM: I don’t know. It was just an idea that senior high schools were the most important in the city and required maybe better teachers. I don’t know.
I: Where did you get most of your teachers? Were they local products?
WM: 53:58 Yes. Well, I would say from the university. We must have gotten 25% or 30% of our teachers out of the University of Houston. They came out with their degrees and they were immediately available, so we got them. And we got a good number from Rice Institute, though their education department wasn’t so well— Then Sam Houston State College would be next on this. Texas University would be next. But it was during that period from ’37 to ’40 that there was an excess of teachers at that particular time. The shortage came after the war period. We lost a lot of teachers to military service. We gave them military leaves so they could come back to their original job.
I: Did you have trouble filling their vacancies?
WM: No, because we had an excess of women teachers. Our actual turnover in those years was about 75 teachers a year. That many resigned or would leave or retire for one reason or another. I’d have 2,000 applications on file.
I: This was the late ‘30s, the pre-war period?
I: Why do you think that condition was that way? Why were there more teachers?
WM: I think they were oversold with teachers colleges and the like. Of course, that was about all a woman could go into for a college degree. I’m not plugging the woman’s movement at all, but they either had to be secretaries or teach. The development of these teachers colleges—now, we have about seven or eight teachers colleges over the state, all of them turning out graduates for teaching, most of them for the elementary schools. As I said a while ago, we couldn’t build school buildings there for lack of materials. The whole lack of building material drove that and paralyzed it. Businesses were not growing and developing. They were just static. It was during that period that I brought in some of the strongest teachers that we had in the system. A lot of men came in and had good records. You could be very selective. That’s what I’m trying to say. It wasn’t what I did. You could be more selective because you had 2,000 applications for 75 teachers.
I: Did you have any kind of recruitment program? Of course, if you had an excess you didn’t. But after the war—
WM: We did in the shortage period. In the shortage period we had to recruit.
I: What type of program?
WM: 58:00 I was superintendent during that period. We sent our personnel director to the colleges to interview students about teaching in Houston. We had all these teachers colleges, and we trained a lot of teachers through the practice teacher program for Rice and University of Houston, and then they would practice teaching in our schools and were oriented to our schools. So that was a pretty good source there.
I: When did that system begin? Did that begin before the independent school district was set up or after?
WM: That was after. That practice teaching?
I: Yes, practice teaching.
WM: I don’t know whether it was during Dr. Oberholtzer’s administration. I don’t believe it was. I believe they had the interview program but they didn’t have practice teaching. I may be wrong on that. I’d have to think about that a little bit. It maybe started earlier. But that was a good program, and it gave us contacts for some very bright young people. And then the interview program in other schools netted us some. But other districts were after them too.
I: Did the Houston Independent School District in those years that you were a principal and when you were working with Oberholtzer—did they operate under any type of educational philosophy at all?
WM: You mean the teachers?
I: Yes. Was there any attempt to operate under any particular philosophy or teaching or methods or anything like that?
WM: Oh, yes. We had consultants in from the University of Texas, Columbia. I don’t think we had any from California—I don’t recall. We had a few superintendents like Alexander Stoddard, superintendent in Los Angeles, who came in as a consultant. We had such consultants as Briggs, and I think Kilpatrick came in one time. And Strayer and Englehart, of course, primarily was buildings. I’m trying to think of some other.
I: Is there any way a general statement you could make that would sort of capsule what type of philosophy it was or what it stressed in a general statement? You know, like a three R program or something like that.
WM: 1:00:45 I don’t know that I could state the philosophy. We certainly stressed that we are a program that was not neglected whatsoever. If you get into philosophy, I get back to Kilpatrick because I had him and I believe in his philosophy. And the Kilpatrick philosophy of learning I’ve always felt was sound and needed more recognition and it never received it.
I: What did that deal with, the Kilpatrick?
WM: That’s what we’re doing now—my reacting to you. You find ways to react on the basis of things as they actually exist. And teaching involves that. It’s the essence of learning. That’s the kind of philosophy that I kind of espouse, though I didn’t do it in a radical sense or big sense because Kilpatrick had his detractors, as you know.
I: What was the shift in the curriculum in schools in the early period, say to the time you became superintendent? Did you note a shift or major changes in subject matter or the approach?
WM: I’m going to have to point out some strong points on these old-timers that have better textbooks. We had scholars writing textbooks at that time. If you ever read some of the old texts that we had then and that I happened to study on history, literature, they were very scholarly. They were not anthologies, they were not just commentaries; they were just well written and well edited. I’m thinking of Myers Ancient History, Myers Modern History, Myers General History. You take a youngster that gets his first view of history in this country and the world, as far as that is concerned, and it’s well put with the essential issues and everything fully explained and inspire them, you’ve done something for that person. Our big problem in the later years was to get really good, well-prepared textbooks. I think that was one of our problems that we had that did not exist so much when we had the better textbooks. Then we had these teachers whose training and experience in some way instilled an ideal in them to make good citizens and do effective work. Low salaries and all didn’t deter them at all or any thought of striking or any thought of administrating in any way but to do a good job with the young people. And they shared their interests. Children are born more or less with a basic sense of right. That just comes out all along in these adolescents and young people. They want to be worthy. They want to be useful. And they look to the higher things and begin to ask about God somewhere along the line. To me, that’s just part of education and development and growth. It was wholesome in those days. I don’t know. I’m not going to criticize what’s taking place now. I think young people now are being diverted by just the sheer complexity of the situations they face today. They’re distracted by some of the things that are happening today. I think education can make a greater contribution to the development of the whole child. And that’s another part of the philosophy that we believed in those days and tried to do something about was developing the whole child physically, mentally, morally, spiritually, as far as we could do it. I think children responded to those objectives and do respond. So I think there was great strength in the early schools and in the fact that we have progressed now in a short space of less than 200 years into one of the most powerful countries in the world technologically if not aesthetically (chuckles). Technologically we have developed. We have become powerful. We have become a great people in the eyes of the world. And education must have had a part somewhere along the line.
I: 1:06:54 You’ve mentioned your past experiences in education and the philosophy of the early period. When you became superintendent, what objectives did you have? What did you hope to accomplish when you became superintendent? From your past experiences, what did you bring with you?
WM: I have a statement that was written up in the Chamber of Commerce setting up the immediate objective. Would you mind if I just get that?
I: Sure. Go right ahead.
WM: It’s written up here. It says Houston Public Schools in War and in Peace to Come. That was written here. Do you want me to just give specifically the things, or do you want me to give a little background on this?
I: I think you could summarize it. I wouldn’t want you to have to read all that. It’s quite a deal.
WM: I’ll stay in line with the above then. “Following are a few of the items which will receive consideration in postwar planning for education in Houston.” By the way, these did form the basis of what we tried to do during that transition period. “An extension of the principle of equality of opportunity to better guidance, better elementary and secondary educational programs for all children—all children. A higher quality of education at all levels as determined by just appraisal of present methods and materials.” We’re not going to forget what we’ve accomplished in the way of method and materials. We’re going to use that and augment it where we can. “A gradual extension of education downward to include all children, kindergarten age. We didn’t have kindergartens at that time. A gradual extension of education upward, providing educational opportunities for post high school youth when the need for such a program is definitely established. This might include certain types of vocational training and academic courses now offered in the evening schools. Five, extension of adult education opportunities as needs justify and as means may be made available. Six, provision for part-time work opportunity for secondary school youth in line with their vocational interests and abilities. Seven, removal of grade or course sequence restrictions which tend to hamper rather than help in declining of an educational program based on needs and interests of high school pupils. Eight, increased attention to the training of youth for governmental services. Nine, a well-coordinated visiting teacher program”—that’s something else I had mentioned—“helping a greater number of youth to remove barriers which may be hampering their progress in the educational program of the schools.” Now, at that time we didn’t have a visiting teacher program. “Ten, more attention to the problem of teacher training and selection. This will involve the organization of an inservice teacher training program providing adequately for professional improvements and growth in service. Eleven, providing the school environment and school-related activities from kindergarten through the high school that will tend to establish habits of good citizenship. Twelve, providing opportunity for vocational training in all secondary schools on an area basis, the program to bear in in different areas as needed by the individual business and industry.” Such a plan was recently approved by the board of education. “Thirteen, development of educational facilities and programs for the education of returning soldiers,” and the board had already approved that program. “Program for the rehabilitation of present school buildings”—now, this has to do with that whole building program—“and the construction of new units where needed.” Remember, we hadn’t built one at that time. The citizens of Houston have recently provided to approval sale of bonds some $7,500,000 for this purpose. A preliminary survey of building needs for the schools has been completed. “Provision for wider use of school buildings for community betterment. And sixteen, continuation of a sound financial policy which would enable the schools to function as efficiently as possible within the income provided by the state and local community.” Now, those are the things that I drew up about this objective. We established kindergartens, carried on the building program.
I: Did any of those points create any conflict with any other members?
WM: 1:12:52 No, sir. We had full support of the community and business-wise. Our reluctance to accept Smith-Hughes funds was broken down. You see, Smith-Hughes was a federal grant as far as vocational type education, and the board at one time decided that was too much federal control involved in the business program.
I: Were there any particular business leaders that were helpful in working with the schools?
WM: Oh, yes. Jimmy Delmar was one that helped us in many ways. He was interested primarily in the development of the athletic programs and sports and things like that. Being in one of the major industries here, the Hughes Tool Company, he had a big interest in that. So I would say Jimmy was a great help. That was before he became a member of the board of education. And then we had Charlie Hall. And then we had men from the Houston Electric Company—I can’t recall their names.
I: What about Mr. Parish?
WM: Parish, yes.
I: Did he work with the schools?
WM: He had his men in different areas.
I: How did they help? In what way?
WM: By just simply lending their support. If we had meetings, they would speak in favor of the thing and give us encouragement and offer to help any way they could. They’d share some of their workers to go out and talk to the students. We had the Business Education Days. They were very active in those. We’d have a citywide Business Education Day when business leaders would go out into the schools and address assemblies or groups that were interested in a particular field. They would go into a classroom with them. That was a citywide thing, and it was a big thing.
I: It’s interesting. You mentioned their cooperation in that regard. Did you receive their cooperation in your attempt to secure federal funds?
WM: Yes, for specific types of training, yes. They were all for this vocational type of training and training in the business industry. Yes. We had their full cooperation in that.
I: And it strengthened the businesses.
WM: 1:15:55 We had some reservations in the board on many occasions to accepting federal funds but because the business community was interested, they came through all right.
I: Did people like Hugh Roy Cullen or Jesse Jones or anyone take interest in the schools when you were superintendent?
WM: Yes. Not personally. Their men, their leaders, would participate. Of course, Mr. Cullen was concentrating on the University of Houston, and he was pushing that and giving his money too, and that was a big contribution. Everybody was grateful he could spend his money that way. We let him have his politics. (laughs)
I: What about the Houston Lighting & Power Company? Do you know what Mr. Parish’s position was with that company?
WM: I believe he was the head.
I: Did he also have a law firm too?
WM: Yes. Yes, he did. He was a lawyer. Yes. He did have a law firm. But I think he held a— No, he wasn’t the head of the light company. I’m thinking of another Parrish. No. This man that you’re talking about was a very conservative man.
I: Did he have a close relationship with the school board?
WM: Yes. I believe— Is this thing on?
I: Yes, it is.
WM: I’d rather not comment on that.
I: Okay, fine. Sure.
WM: Any other references, if I have a chance to check that out, I’ll check it out.
I: You will. You’ll receive a transcript.
WM: I don’t want to say anything that would be derogatory or leave the wrong impression.
I: We’re trying to—
WM: Yeah, I see what you’re doing. That’s the way I want to—
I: 1:18:13 We’re just trying to see what relationships existed. We’re not passing judgment on anybody. It’s not the purpose of the program.
WM: I like the freedom of laughing if I want to. (laughs)
I: Exactly. That’s what we’re—
WM: That’s what I was looking for.
I: Great. As I mentioned before the tape started, we wanted it to be a free conversation.
WM: Oh, yes. I appreciate that. But I didn’t know how to get it done. (laughs)
I: I think we’re doing it. I wanted to see what sort of business relationship—if the business community took part in the schools.
WM: That’s good, and that’s worth something.
I: What about the UN controversy? You took a position on that that aroused—
WM: Beg your pardon?
I: The UN controversy. The United Nations controversy when you were superintendent.
WM: Oh, yes.
I: Is that one of the areas that you would like to wait until we—
WM: Yes, I think so, because that would get into the textbook civics book and things like that, where recognition is given to the UN and world government and all that kind of thing.
I: Sure. We can come back to that later. We’ll just get into that whole area later on. What else do you think we should talk about as far as the schools before you became superintendent?
WM: 1:19:52 I’ve kind of angled out. The things I’ve said I’m perfectly willing to— That is, the topics were all right. There are some remarks maybe I—
I: It’s very pertinent to what we want. Later on we would like to carry it further on.
WM: I intend to cooperate on this.
I: We’ll make it as complete a record as you want it to be.
WM: There might be some remarks that might be misunderstood.
I: We would like to feel free later on, after you’ve had time to reflect on it, to ask you questions about the UN controversy because this is part of the record, and these are things that people are going to need to know about later on.
WM: If I’m free just to express myself or not—thinking about that tape.
I: Do you have any other points that you wish to make on this early period that you think would be important in understanding the development of the school system?
WM: I’ll tell you a significant thing. It was a simple life we were living then. It seemed like things worked out more smoothly despite certain reservations, certain controversies. We had no trouble getting outstanding people to come down here and spend a week with us and sit around and confer with us about schools. It seemed like the business community would come in and become a part of us a little bit.
Another thing would be the education program that we didn’t cover, its good qualities, shortcomings, and there were some very strong, good qualities the system of education had.
I: That was going to be— First of all, I think what would be helpful to the— What sort of system was set up before the Brown v. Board of Education as far as the two separate districts? Could you elaborate on that? What kind of system—
WM: Oh, you mean initially when the school system—
I: Yes, in the ’20s.
WM: 1:23:12 We had not only separate schools, but there were separate salary schedules. And not officially, but there were separate standards for accommodations—buildings. That existed here as it did everywhere. It’s not unique to Houston. The thing that stands out was the quality of the men and women teaching and the influence they had on their youth.
I: In the black schools?
WM: Yes, that’s right.
I: Was this a mirror type situation? Were the black schools set up— As far as administrative structure, did they just have a totally separate superintendent?
I: How was it set up?
WM: The superintendent of the school system was superintendent of the colored schools. What do you say now? Schools for the blacks?
WM: But they had separate principals of their own and supervisors and the teachers. But the strong points that you have to recognize and you do recognize if you’ve had experience with them is the fine job that those people did as professionals and the respect they had from the youngsters. They didn’t have the vandalism, the break-ins, the antagonisms that we notice now in some of the schools. The principal was key, and the youngsters knew it and respected him and even loved him.
I: Do you remember any particular problems that the black schools had as far as discipline or anything like this? Any particular problems? What about—
WM: They had the best disciplined schools in the city.
I: What about facilities? How did they match up with white schools?
WM: 1:25:31 They were inferior in many respects. Now, in the new construction in all of the buildings we did after the war, we used the same quality construction, the same facilities in kind for both blacks and whites.
I: What was the difference in building construction materials before the war?
WM: Well, in many instances, some of the buildings had formerly been built in the early days when whites inhabited an area. The blacks would move in, and they would occupy that building, and it would suffer, not from the difference in quality of building for blacks, but because of age and maintenance. So that was one of the things. And frequently, we underbuilt for them. They had to crowd in. The quality of construction, though, after the war held up very well. With the age of the old buildings, they were allowed to deteriorate quite a bit.
I: Did the black school system have its own budget, or did it have a portion of the total budget?
WM: No. It was all in one budget. But in the reelection list, we would list the teachers separately on a separate list. And for a short time, I believe we had a single salary schedule. It must have been adopted after I became personnel director. It was a single salary for all teachers. It included black and white men and women and junior, elementary, and senior. We had that differentiated all the way through before.
I: Approximately what year was that?
WM: I went in there in 1937. I know that was one of the first things I had to struggle with.
I: What was the degree of discrepancy between the white and black salaries? Do you recall approximately?
WM: Approximately $100 a year maybe.
I: Oh, a year.
WM: Yes, something like that. It might be, say, a $1,200 white teacher, and a comparable colored teacher would be $1,100.
I: Where did you get your black teachers?
WM: 1:28:12 From Prairie View and the college up at Austin. Predominantly from Prairie View and then later from the Negro schools here. See, along with the junior college for whites we developed a junior college for coloreds.
I: Texas Southern.
WM: Yes. It met out here at Yates High School. And when we had a 4-year college, we had a 4-year college for Negroes.
I: Now that you raised that point—
WM: And that later became the Southern University, I believe.
I: That’s what I was going to ask. Did Texas Southern have the same type of roots as the U of H?
WM: It did.
I: Did the school system set it up?
WM: That’s right. They set it up, parallel, and that’s the thing that ought to be remembered and it isn’t. It isn’t remembered.
I: What justification was given for the difference in salary scales by the administrators before you took over?
WM: No explanation was ever voiced that I knew of. One of the first things I did was try to plant the idea of equalized salaries. I made the big plea that it would be accepted by the administration. You have to make some good, practical reason.
I: Was there much opposition to your move?
WM: As long as we could find the money— (recorder malfunction) 1:29:40 to 1:29:53
I: But you never had any—
WM: It was a school— Didn’t have what?
I: 1:29:57 I was just going to ask, you never had any problem, any of the board members or anyone in the schools suggesting that you had some sort of a—
I: Yes. Was there ever a move to include them in the black system?
WM: No. We had mixtures of both. That is, they were regarded as whites—the Mexican Americans—and they were scattered throughout the district in small numbers. But some of the concentrated areas were almost predominantly Latin American.
I: In that early period, was there ever an attempt to meet their language needs at all?
WM: Yes. We were encouraged to employ people that were bilingual, people to speak their language.
I: This was at about what period of time?
WM: I don’t know. Before I went into personnel, I don’t know much about the personnel because I was out at Johnson School most of the time. But at the time I was in there, we would employ these Mexican teachers wherever we could.
I: Was there a general idea to keep Mexican teachers in Mexican schools and this sort of thing?
WM: No. We had a few Latins in some of the predominantly white schools. Many of them that we employed wanted to go out and be helpful to these communities. Some of them came from the communities. But there was no idea of segregating.
I: On behalf of the Houston Metropolitan Archives, we want to thank you, Dr. Moreland, for your cooperation and consenting to an interview today. We hope that we can continue our interview when you have collected some of your papers and reflected more. We’ll be very happy to continue our discussion. We certainly hope to hear from you again.
WM: I’m hopeful that I can be helpful in preserving some sort of a record of the schools for the period that you asked for.
I: Thank you very much.
[end of 054_01] 1:32:50