Road, ped improvements planned for Hillandale Rd.
American Tobacco tower lighting slideshow at WRAL's site

Monday's City Council: Royal Ice Cream, two-thirds bonds, and the changing of the guard

Monday night's Council meeting marks the end of one tenure on the City Council and the beginning of another, meaning there's some circumstance to accompany the pomp so often associated with events like the evening's installation ceremony for the newly elected and re-elected council members.

Certainly Monday's event isn't the outcome departing councilman Thomas Stith hoped for; defeated in his run for mayor by Bill Bell, the former pre-school owner and Raleigh conservative think-tank pol returns to private life, denied a Merry Stithmas in favor of a Stith-less council. In his place: newcomer Farad Ali joins re-elected councilfolk Diane Catotti and Eugene Brown and returning mayor Bill Bell.

The installation ceremony kicks off with a welcoming reception (open of course to the general public) at 6pm in the lobby of City Hall, followed at 7pm by the oaths of office and regular Council business.

The highlight item on this week's agenda is the so-called two-thirds bond subject, a reference to the state statue allowing local governments to re-issue new bonds without voter approval when retiring old securities, with the caveat that the face value can be no more than two-thirds the level from the old bonds. Ray Gronberg covered the subject well in a story going into the Thanksgiving holiday, noting in particular that there's some debate on how to allocate the funds from these new bonds.

Catotti, Brown and Mike Woodard have advocated earmarking $1.5 million from the bonds to complete the financing on the American Tobacco Trail bridge and Phase E connection to the Chatham County line -- the cartographic feature, not the band. One quibble with the H-S coverage: the roughly $6.4 million cost quoted in the paper covers not just the bridge, but the bridge and Phase E of the trail.

(A random suggestion: given that construction costs are escalating all over the place but that steel is generally a deeper concern, I'm curious whether our City fathers and mothers have considered building the bridge now with available funds to hedge inflationary pressures there, then finishing Phase E of the trail when the missing funds are identified. Worth noting, of course, that paved trails use asphalt, and asphalt requires oil, and we all know what's happening with oil prices, too.)

Anyway, City administrators have suggested instead allocating $1.5 million to a reserve fund for ADA improvements on other city projects. The H-S reports that other funds from the two-thirds bonds are aimed at the postponed Durham Armory projects, among others. (Note: Bill Bussey and Dan Clever from Triangle Rails-to-Trails claim that the article "overstates some perceived competition" between trail and ADA projects; they're calling for folks to turn out Monday night to support both the I-40 and NC-147 pedestrian bridges. More on the latter project on this weekend's BCR.)

Currently, the memo attachments for Monday's meeting are not posted on the online agenda; more to follow when those, which contain the latest from city staff, are posted.

Also of note: according to Eddie Davis, the Durham-based educator, candidate for state schools superintendent, and advocate for the Royal Ice Cream historic marker, the City Council as well as the county commissioners are scheduled on Monday to vote their support for the historic monument in advance of a forthcoming hearing before the state board of appeal. Durham's Inter-Neighborhood Council also voted its support for the marker in its recent meeting.


John Schelp

After the INC vote, individual neighborhood associations indicated they're also going to endorse the resolution and delegates encouraged others to join the effort.

If your neighborhood association/community group votes to support, please email me at We'll include your group's name when we go to Raleigh on Dec 17.

We do feel it's important that the Royal Ice Cream sit-in is recognized by the State of North Carolina with an "official" state marker. Of the 1,513 state markers across North Carolina, only three commemorate the Civil Rights movement. We can do better. This needs to be an official recognition from the state.

The Board of County Commissioners will act around 7PM while the City Council will present the resolution closer to 8PM.

Here's a copy of the resolution...

Resolution of Support

for the

December 17, 2007 Appeal

to the

Highway Historic Marker Advisory Committee

at the

Office of Archives and History
NC Department of Cultural Resources

WHEREAS, the Royal Ice Cream Parlor Sit-in occurred in Durham, North Carolina on June 23, 1957 and whereas this direct action protested the institutionalized racial segregation that existed in the Southern Region of the United States of America; and

WHEREAS, the social, legal, and educational implications of the actions of seven Durham citizens foreshadowed the civil rights movement that would unfold in North Carolina during the decade of the 1960s; and

WHEREAS, in retrospection, civil rights veterans, historians, and students increasingly point to the pivotal nature of the Royal Ice Cream Parlor sit-in; and

WHEREAS, in 2003, Durham’s R. Kelly Bryant meticulously researched, prepared, and submitted a formal application for an official state historic marker to be cast and erected near the site of the Royal Ice Cream Parlor; and

WHEREAS, the Highway Historic Marker Advisory Committee of the North Carolina Archives and History Department denied the Bryant request in 2003, citing a lack of historical significance; and

WHEREAS, several recent publications have increased the comprehensive awareness and the significant linkage of the 1957 events in Durham to the broader history of civil rights in North Carolina; and

WHEREAS, the 2006 publication of the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by UNC-CH Professor-Emeritus William S. Powell makes several references to Rev. Douglas Moore and the Royal Sit-in. This reference source also carries a famous photo of the Royal Sit-in participants. This photo is from the collection of Virginia Williams, who was one of those participants. The photo is a permanent part of the Durham Civil Rights Heritage Project, which is associated with the North Carolina Collection at the Durham County Library; and

WHEREAS, the 2002 edition of A History of African-Americans in North Carolina by Jeffrey J. Crow, Paul Escott, and Flora J. Hatley mentions that the 1957 Durham sit-in “presages” the modern civil rights movement in North Carolina. Jeffrey J. Crow currently directs the Office of Archives and History and serves as the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Cultural Resources; and

WHEREAS, the 2005 book Our Separate Ways: Black Women and the Black Freedom Movement in Durham, North Carolina by Christina Greene devotes several pages to the Royal sit-in and its significance to later direct action in other cities in North Carolina and across the South; and

WHEREAS, The Durham Herald-Sun, The Raleigh News and Observer, The Triangle Tribune, The Durham News, The Carolina Times, The Independent Weekly, Bull City Rising, Bull’s Eye, Barry Ragin’s Blog, other blogs, Time-Warner Channel 14, WRAL-TV, WTVD-TV, other television stations, radio, websites, Preservation Durham, The Duke Center for Documentary Studies, The NCCU Office of Archives and Public Life, Durham Technical Community College, The North Carolina Collection at the Durham County Library, and word-of-mouth have helped to raise the collective consciousness of the importance of the Royal Sit-in; and

WHEREAS, the 50th anniversary year is a noteworthy milestone that serves to honor the courage and commitment of the Royal Seven and people of all ethnicities and cultures who have worked to eliminate racial segregation and other human barriers; and

WHEREAS, the 50th anniversary year of the 1957 Royal Sit-in brings special motivation and inspiration for improved interpersonal relations for the younger, middle, and older citizens of Durham and the entire world; and

WHEREAS, the audience members at the recent 50th anniversary commemoration of the Royal Sit-in encouraged R. Kelly Bryant to appeal the earlier denial by the Historic Marker Committee;


That we do hereby support, encourage, and endorse the efforts of R. Kelly Bryant, Virginia Williams, and others in their December 17, 2007 appeal to the Highway Historical Marker Advisory Committee at the Office of Archives and History for a state-sponsored marker that commemorates the 1957 Royal Ice Cream Parlor Sit-in in Durham, North Carolina.


WHEREAS, the Royal Ice Cream parlor was torn down just last year with little protest. Did anyone ever think that preserving the building may have been the best way to honor the significant event that occurred there? What will we get, a marker in the middle of the parking lot?


WHEREAS, the Royal Ice Cream parlor was torn down just last year with little protest. Did anyone ever think that preserving the building may have been the best way to honor the significant event that occurred there? What will we get, a marker in the middle of the parking lot?


WHEREAS the *Greensboro* sit-in is preserved in all its glory in the Smithsonian fer chrissakes, multi-colored counter stools and all...

I am all for commemorating the Royal Ice Cream Parlor sit-in, believe me, and a marker is the least they can do -- but this event, like the "Best of Enemies" friendship is in danger of becoming a token cause for white liberals and young blacks who mean well but are inadvertently overlooking an incredibly rich and varied history of the civil rights movement in Durham, involving many events and many, many more people and many nuances beyond these instances. I hope we do the right thing with the Royal Ice Cream Parlor sit-in -- but I also hope it is the START of a broader movement to preserve and pass on Durham's history in this regard, not a cause de jour.

This is meant with no disrespect to you, Mr. Schelp. You're amazing and you have my thanks for what you are doing right now with this resolution.



I am sure by suspcion that, of all people, John was against and was vocal about preserving the original ice cream parlor. I'm sad to hear that it was torn down only recently. Damn! Was anything at least salvaged?

However, I support your sentiments of hope since there is much controversy about Durham's current stance of preserving it. Seems our private sector citizens are the ones who must continue to take the reigns here. Not much hope, it appears, from our government officials. Bless those who take a stand in preserving Durham's memory and using it to make a better future.

I, too, wonder about the marker and how it will be displayed. Even more so, how it will be referenced. And thanks, John, for all your efforts.


...John was against "demolishing" and... I forgot to type demolishing. It's late and it's time for bed.


Wow, the Durham blogosphere gets props in a proposed city ordinance. But Dependable Erection still gets the shaft (so to speak)--"Barry Ragin's blog"? That's almost as bad as blogrolls that call it "Barry Ragin's Dependable Erection"!

John Schelp

The effort to secure State recognition for the Royal Ice Cream sit-in is being led by R. Kelly Bryant.

Mr Bryant is being helped by Eddie Davis (former Hillside teacher & president of the NC Association of Educators), Virginia Williams (one of the Royal 7), Floyd McKissick (State Senator), Andre Vann (NCCU prof), myself and others.

The State committee in Raleigh has twice rejected Mr. Bryant's efforts. In their letters refusing State recognition, the committee said one of the reasons was the lack of newspaper coverage.

This is why the resolution includes language about coverage in local newspapers, blogs, etc.

The committee in Raleigh also gave Mr. Bryant information on how to get a private marker.

This is why we keep saying how important it is that the Royal Ice Cream sit-in gets State recognition (not a private plaque).

We needed to increase the volume. The organizers decided early on to secure support from the BoE, BOCC and City Council. (I offered to help with listservs, attend hearings and work with INC/neighborhoods). Coverage in the Herald-Sun and the News & Observer, and several local blogs, has been supportive and plentiful. (All of it is being shared with Raleigh.)

Our efforts to make a little noise this time are having an impact...

"What I've seen happening in Durham is broader recommendation given to this event."
--Michael Hill, NC Office of Archives & History

Mr Bryant, Ms Williams, Mr Davis and others are working on draft text for the State marker on the side of North Roxboro.

But, this is not a done deal.

The Old Five Points Neighborhood Association and the Partnership Effort for the Advancement of Children's Health/ClearCorps (PEACH/CC) just joined our growing list of groups supporting this effort. If your organization wants to join us, please email me at

Below are three columns and articles with information on why this effort to get State recognition is so important.

have a good day,


Column: On their golden anniversary, remember the 'Royal' seven
By Eddie Davis, Herald-Sun, 22 June 2007

The 1960 sit-in demonstration initiated by four college students at a Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro is appropriately credited with ushering in a massive civil rights movement for open accommodations. There is no doubt in my mind that three years from now, the citizens of Greensboro and the nation will stage a serious commemoration for the 50th anniversary of the spontaneous action taken by those African-Americans who were students at North Carolina A&T State University.

I hope to travel to Greensboro on Feb. 1, 2010 to join in the tributes to those courageous youth who simply wanted to end the racial segregation and the unequal treatment that they faced.

But before that future trip westward, I want to propose that citizens, businesses, newspapers, community organizations and faith groups in Durham come together this summer to mark the 50th anniversary of the June 1957 "sit down" action at a North Roxboro Street eatery called "The Royal Ice Cream Parlor."

Following a church youth event, Rev. Douglas E. Moore, who was the pastor of Asbury Temple United Methodist Church and a group of six students entered the "colored" section, where they would have to stand to order their ice cream. Shortly after entering the establishment, the group proceeded into the "white" section, which had booths.

Not surprisingly, under the laws and traditions that existed in 1957, this bold "Rosa Parks-type" action led to the arrest of the Rev. Moore and the students.

The news of the group's actions was met with the expected contempt by large numbers of white citizens who were acclimated to the privileged portion of the system of segregation. However, the students and Rev. Moore also received a rather cool reception from some members of the established leadership within the black community.

It appears that these students, like the students who would use similar tactics in Greensboro three years later, simply wanted equal treatment for the money that they were spending. But a great deal of the momentum that the Durham students created was lost while the internal hierarchical issues were resolved. Even today, some members of the group are reluctant to talk about the movement because of the problems that they encountered.

Consequently, picket lines and protests did form in support of the students. Court challenges ensued all the way to the North Carolina Supreme Court, but the integration of the Royal Ice Cream Parlor was never achieved before the shop was sold in the early 1960s and before the booths were removed for all customers.

Obviously, the 1960 movement by the college students in Greensboro and other southern cities became the impetus for the social changes and the racial interaction that we share today. But I just keep thinking about the less-than-royal treatment that this group of trend- setters received from multiple segments of the Durham community in 1957.

Therefore, I propose that a community-wide commemoration be held at some appropriate location to honor the quest for freedom that existed in the hearts and souls of those brave individuals 50 years ago. I would urge that this commemoration be led by folks who were living in Durham at the time, but that the planning and the activities be inclusive of the wide variety of freedom-loving people who live here today.

Although many members of the group have moved to other locations, fortunately, most of them are still living. Let's not allow the summer of 2007 to end without the broad Durham community offering honor, dignity, and redemption for the "Royal Seven" and the golden anniversary of the movement that they launched in 1957.

Folks interested in working on this project are invited to contact


Sit-in made civil rights history
The incident at a Durham ice cream parlor was one of the South's first but gets scant attention in accounts of the era
By Jim Wise, News & Observer, 23 June 2007

Fifty years ago this afternoon, seven people waited for service in a Durham ice cream parlor.

Service didn't come. They were black. The room where they sat was for whites only.

What did come was a request to leave, then an awkward standoff with a perplexed waiter, then arrests, trials, convictions for trespassing, appeals as far as the U.S. Supreme Court, and fines of $25 each and costs for committing one of the South's first sit-ins for civil rights.

"I think about it often," said Virginia L. Williams, 70. She was one of the seven, and sometimes she rides by the intersection of Roxboro and Dowd streets, where Royal Ice Cream stood on June 23, 1957.

That was 2 1/2 years before a sit-in at a Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro made national news and inspired a wave of similar actions across the segregated South. Yet, the Durham incident rates passing mention at best in chronicles of the civil rights movement.

Some people think it deserves better.

"It is history," said Charles Stanback, who was 14 at the time. "I'm from Durham. I remember it very well."

Stanback is now project manager for the Bridge to Success project of Union Baptist Church, which stands across Dowd Street from the Royal Ice Cream site. The church bought the site in 2004 and is building a private school there: It had the Royal building razed last October, but Stanback said plans are to commemorate the sit-in there in some way.

Others have tried, without success, to get recognition for what happened at Royal Ice Cream.

"I made several attempts to have a [state] historical marker placed there," said R. Kelly Bryant Jr., retired N.C. Mutual Life Insurance manager and an authority on Durham's black history. "And each time it was turned down because, they claimed, it didn't have enough significance."

A place in history

By 1957, Durham already had a place in civil rights history. In 1932, Thomas Hocutt, a graduate of N.C. College for Negroes (now N.C. Central University), applied to the all-white University of North Carolina dental school in the first legal challenge to segregation in higher education. The "Durham Manifesto," issued after a 1942 conference of black leaders at N.C. College, demanded black voting rights and equal opportunity for education and jobs. In 1953, R.N. Harris became the first black elected to Durham's City Council.

But 1957 was the year the budding movement hit Durham full force: The Durham Bulls fielded their first black players, and protesters attempted to integrate Durham Athletic Park seating on opening night. Black schoolteachers attended a summer institute at Duke University. The Durham Ministerial Alliance passed a resolution against racial segregation. The city's tennis courts were integrated. Mayor E.J. "Mutt" Evans created the town's first Committee on Human Relations. And there was Royal Ice Cream.

Virginia Williams was not especially political in the spring of 1957. Graduating from high school in 1955, she moved to Durham from Northampton County, found a food service job at Duke Medical Center and moved into a YWCA on Umstead Street in Hayti. One Sunday afternoon, she was invited into a meeting in the Y's parlor. The group was all young black adults, none students, Williams said. They were led by Douglas E. Moore, a 29-year-old minister at Asbury Methodist Church.

"The conversation in that meeting was basically geared to testing one of the establishments in the city," Williams said. "A number of names were thrown out. The reason we settled on Royal Ice Cream bar was, it was centered in a black community," but black customers had to use a back door and stand up for service.

'I wasn't afraid'

About 6 p.m. on a Sunday, Mary Clyburn, Claud Glenn, Jesse Gray, Vivian Jones, Melvin Willis, Moore and Williams left Asbury church, drove across town and sat down. Williams said she was excited.

"I wasn't afraid. I might not have thought the thing through, but I wasn't afraid."

Later, they said, there was a polite standoff, and the police who came were courteous. Their story was in the morning paper, but Williams said the repercussions she expected at work never happened. Their case, they hoped, would test the segregation law itself, but it remained a matter of simple trespass. Two appeals were unsuccessful, and a third, to the U.S. Supreme Court, was denied.

"It started everybody to thinking what was right and what was wrong in our society," Williams said.

Williams remained active in the movement, joining protests at Durham's segregated Howard Johnson's restaurant that went on for months in 1962 and '63. She's still involved, "to a certain extent," she said, and an active member of St. Joseph's African Methodist Episcopal Church -- currently president of its Satterfield-Davis Auxiliary, a dramatic group. She worked at Duke for about 10 more years after '57, but for the past "40-plus" she has commuted to Chapel Hill, where she works in food service at the Granville Towers student residence.

She still lives in Durham, though: "It's a town I can get my hands on," she said. "I have a lot of friends here."

Most of the others who sat in that day are dead now, she said; Moore moved to Washington, stayed active, and now owns Moore Energy Resources, a fuel brokerage, and collects black American art. He could not be reached for this article.

Royal Ice Cream eventually closed, and Charles Dunham's Food Service took it over. The interior was remodeled past recognition, and now the whole thing is gone, but still not forgotten.

"We're going to get something nice on that corner," Charles Stanback said. "To let folks remember what was there."

Civil rights issues were troubling America's waters in June 1957, but the Royal Ice Cream sit-in and resulting legal case made hardly a ripple where Greensboro, almost three years later, made a splash.

"I think the major reason for the different impact of the two sit-ins has to do with the context of the times, and the local circumstances," said Duke University historian William Chafe, author of "Civilities and Civil Rights: Greensboro, North Carolina and the Black Struggle for Freedom."

Replying to e-mail questions from The News & Observer, Chafe said that in 1957 the Brown v. Board school-desegregation case was just three years old. "Some people still had hopes that the state and federal government might live up to the [U.S. Supreme] Court's ruling." By 1960, it was clear more action would be required.

"Perhaps more important, the Durham black community was divided, with many of the more established leaders not being supportive of the sit-in," Chafe continued. Also in Greensboro, the demonstrators were college students whose support from N.C. A&T, Bennett College and, before long, UNC's Women's College, grew exponentially from one day to the next.

"Finally, this was 1960 and the ground was more ready for this kind of event to trigger a far-reaching movement," he wrote.


Protesters from Royal Ice Cream Parlor share how event shaped Durham
By William West, Herald-Sun, 16 September 2007

The time may have been a half-century ago, but Virginia Williams can speak of sitting in the Royal Ice Cream Parlor like the landmark event was yesterday.

The issue was her skin color: black.

Williams and a group of fellow protesters, in an attempt to break Bull City segregation, seated themselves in the parlor's whites-only section on June 23, 1957.

In Durham, the ice cream parlor was targeted by a group, led by the Rev. Douglas Moore and including Williams, because of the location at Roxboro and Dowd streets in the heart of what was then the "colored community."

Williams gave a moment-by-moment recollection Saturday at a panel discussion at the Durham County Library auditorium.

The protestors -- knowing they wouldn't be able to get in through the front -- planned to enter via the back.

"We knew the setup," Williams said.

Once inside, Williams said, there was a partition and a swinging door that a waiter or a waitress went through to serve white customers.

The protestors went that course and seated themselves in booths in the whites-only section.

Williams recalled being excited "because we would have made history either way. If [the parlor waiter] had served us, we still would have made history.

"But, he decided not to serve us and got caught up in the middle of history anyhow," she said.

Williams said she wanted ice cream, yet was told to leave.

"And I ordered more ice cream," she said, to laughter in the audience. "Finally, they decided to call the police."

One of the protestors departed, she said.

"That left seven of us. So the police officers came and they worked the booths. And one said to me, 'If you leave now, there will be no charges. The manager won't press charges. There won't be anything. You can just go home.' But, we wanted ice cream," she said.

The police, after realizing they were getting nowhere, made the arrests, she said.

Williams said her and her fellow protestors' attorney, William Marsh Jr., defended them before a packed courthouse.

"And in front of us was the whole line of white police officers, no seats for us," she said.

Re-creating the scene in Marsh's deep tone of voice, she said he openly stated, " 'I was hoping that some of our courteous officers would at least give my clients a seat.' "

"Man, you're talking about an attitude," she said. "They got up with an attitude and they just filed out and we sat there."

Marsh pleaded his clients not guilty, but the judge ruled otherwise. Efforts to get the state's highest courts to overturn failed.

"And as I recall, they sent it to the U.S. Supreme Court and they refused to hear the case because our rights had not been violated," she said.

Moore, who also participated in Saturday's talk, was asked afterward about whether he and his fellow protestors were pioneers.

"I think we were what I would like to call a source of light," he said.

But, there was an implicit turnabout with Saturday's event.

City Councilman Howard Clement presented a municipal resolution commending the protest, with the city's current chief executive, Bill Bell, sitting in the audience.

Both are black.

In attendance was Bell's mayoral election opponent, Councilman Thomas Stith.

He, too, is black.

"Certainly a lot has changed," Stith said afterward.

"I think that's the strength of Durham, though, that our community is a diverse community and a community that has excelled and allowed people from all walks of life to participate," he said.

Marsh's son, William Marsh III, a District Court judge, also was in attendance, along with teenager William Marsh IV.

"Of course when I was a child," Judge Marsh said, "the schools were just beginning to integrate here in Durham. And so I was aware of the changes to come and I just always assumed that things would be made right."

At the same time, the judge said Williams' story is inspirational.

"A lot of young people today really take a lot of things for granted and don't realize the struggles that were taking place," he said.

"And I think that if we could get more of them to realize how real it is, bring it home to them, that that would inspire us to do bigger and better things, not only in our community, but worldwide for other oppressed people," he said.


hovercraft - my hero.

visitor - yes. i have salvaged several dozen bricks from the rubble of the Royal Ice Cream parlor.

chaz - symbols matter.

everyone - if you dig deeply enough in the archives of the City Council minutes, you will find, from February 2007, i believe, a resolution from Thomas Stith commending the efforts of the (i think it's called the) Unity Baptist Church, in building their new early childhood education center.

The Royal was demolished to make way for the center. I was at the council meeting to voice my support for the Colonial Village Neighborhood Association in a zoning case that involved some illegal regrading in the Ellerbe Creek watershed. The resolution was introduced as i recall in the beginning, ceremonial portion of the council meeting.


That's the *Union* Baptist Church, if you're keeping score.

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