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Collection Number: 04300

Collection Title: Thomas Jenkins Pearsall Papers, 1954-1979

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the FAQ section for more information.


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Size 2.5 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 1500 items)
Abstract Thomas J. Pearsall was an attorney of Rocky Mount, N.C., who was the chief author of the 1956 Pearsall Plan for school integration in North Carolina and chairman of the board of the Roanoke Island Historical Association, 1975-1981. Correspondence concerning school integration, higher education (especially the University of North Carolina), and the Roanoke Island Historical Association; committee reports; speeches; clippings; and other items documenting the public career of Thomas Jenkins Pearsall. Correspondence includes letters from North Carolinians reacting to the Supreme Court's 1954 school desegregation decision and letters from Southern governors, state attorneys-general, and others about school desegregation in the 1950s.
Creator Pearsall, Thomas Jenkins, 1903-1981.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the Thomas Jenkins Pearsall papers #4300, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Received from Mack B. Pearsall of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, in March 1982.
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

Thomas Jenkins Pearsall was born on 11 February 1903 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. He married Elizabeth Braswell and lived in Rocky Mount for most of his life. The couple had two sons, Thomas J. Pearsall, Jr., and Mack B. Pearsall.

Thomas Pearsall was a lawyer and businessman, and held farming interests in Nash, Edgecombe, and Halifax counties. During most of his life Pearsall was active in Democratic Party politics. He served in the North Carolina House of Representatives from 1941 to 1947, and was Speaker of the House in 1947.

After leaving the legislature in 1947, Pearsall continued an active public career. In 1954, Governor William B. Umstead appointed him chairman of the Governor's Advisory Committee on Education, whose purpose was to study school desegregation and make recommendations to the governor and the legislature. In 1955, Governor Luther Hodges appointed a similar committee, the North Carolina Advisory Committee on Education, to continue to study desegregation, and Pearsall again served as chairman. Based on the work of these two committees, Pearsall wrote the 1956 school desegregation legislation known as the Pearsall Plan. This plan shifted the responsibility for student assignments, student busing, and the power to close the public schools from the state to local school boards. The North Carolina legislature adopted the plan in 1956.

Pearsall served on three other educational committees in North Carolina: the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of the University of North Carolina; the Governor's Commission on Education Beyond the High School; and the Special Committee of the Board of Trustees of the University of North Carolina. As chairman of the latter committee, Pearsall guided the reorganization of the consolidated UNC system and the expansion of the state's community colleges.

In 1975, Pearsall became chairman of the board of the Roanoke Island Historical Association. He served in that capacity until his death on 5 May 1981.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

The collection consists primarily of files concerning Pearsall's service on various North Carolina educational committees, and his tenure as chairman of the board of the Roanoke Island Historical Association. The majority of the files consist of correspondence and reports. The papers provide no coverage of Pearsall's career in the state legislature, and contain a limited amount of material on the Pearsall Plan. The small size of this collection results at least partly from the fact that many of Pearsall's papers were destroyed in 1979.

This collection contains several noteworthy items. Among them are a 1959 letter to Pearsall from Adlai Stevenson; letters expressing reactions of the people of North Carolina to the Supreme Court's 1954 decision on desegregation; a letter to Pearsall from Thurgood Marshall; letters from southern governors and attorney generals about school desegregation; and letters from North Carolinians expressing their opinions on the reorganization of the University of North Carolina system. Another item of note is a letter from I. Beverly Lake (assistant to the N. C. attorney general in 1954) to Pearsall, criticizing moderate approaches that had been suggested for school desegregation.

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Contents list

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Education Committees, 1954-1963.

About 655 items.

Arrangement: by committee, then alphabetical or chronological.

Chiefly letters to Pearsall from North Carolina citizens and state government leaders expressing opinions relating to the work of education and UNC committees on which Pearsall served. Also included are committee reports, a few of Pearsall's speeches, and newspaper clippings.

Folder 1

Governor's Advisory Committee on Education, 1954 Correspondence A-B #04300, Series: "1. Education Committees, 1954-1963." Folder 1

Folder 2

Governor's Advisory Committee on Education, 1954 Correspondence C-D #04300, Series: "1. Education Committees, 1954-1963." Folder 2

Folder 3

Governor's Advisory Committee on Education, 1954 Correspondence E #04300, Series: "1. Education Committees, 1954-1963." Folder 3

Folder 4

Governor's Advisory Committee on Education, 1954 Correspondence F-G #04300, Series: "1. Education Committees, 1954-1963." Folder 4

Folder 5

Governor's Advisory Committee on Education, 1954 Correspondence H-J #04300, Series: "1. Education Committees, 1954-1963." Folder 5

Folder 6

Governor's Advisory Committee on Education, 1954 Correspondence K-L #04300, Series: "1. Education Committees, 1954-1963." Folder 6

Folder 7

Governor's Advisory Committee on Education, 1954 Correspondence M #04300, Series: "1. Education Committees, 1954-1963." Folder 7

Folder 8

Governor's Advisory Committee on Education, 1954 Correspondence P #04300, Series: "1. Education Committees, 1954-1963." Folder 8

Folder 9

Governor's Advisory Committee on Education, 1954 Correspondence R-S #04300, Series: "1. Education Committees, 1954-1963." Folder 9

Folder 10

Governor's Advisory Committee on Education, 1954 Correspondence T-V #04300, Series: "1. Education Committees, 1954-1963." Folder 10

Folder 11

Governor's Advisory Committee on Education, 1954 Correspondence W #04300, Series: "1. Education Committees, 1954-1963." Folder 11

Folder 12

Governor's Advisory Committee on Education, 1954 Reports #04300, Series: "1. Education Committees, 1954-1963." Folder 12

Folder 13-14

Folder 13

Folder 14

North Carolina Advisory Committee on Education 1956 #04300, Series: "1. Education Committees, 1954-1963." Folder 13-14

Folder 15

North Carolina Advisory Committee on Education 1958 #04300, Series: "1. Education Committees, 1954-1963." Folder 15

Folder 16-17

Folder 16

Folder 17

North Carolina Advisory Committee on Education 1959 #04300, Series: "1. Education Committees, 1954-1963." Folder 16-17

Folder 18

North Carolina Advisory Committee on Education 1960 #04300, Series: "1. Education Committees, 1954-1963." Folder 18

Folder 19

North Carolina Advisory Committee on Education 1960-1961 #04300, Series: "1. Education Committees, 1954-1963." Folder 19

Folder 20

Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of UNC, 1958 #04300, Series: "1. Education Committees, 1954-1963." Folder 20

Folder 21

Governor's Commission on Education Beyond the High 1961-1962 #04300, Series: "1. Education Committees, 1954-1963." Folder 21

Folder 22

Governor's Commission on Education Beyond the High 1963 #04300, Series: "1. Education Committees, 1954-1963." Folder 22

Folder 23-30

Folder 23

Folder 24

Folder 25

Folder 26

Folder 27

Folder 28

Folder 29

Folder 30

Special Committee of the Board of Trustees of UNC June-December 1962 #04300, Series: "1. Education Committees, 1954-1963." Folder 23-30

Folder 31-32

Folder 31

Folder 32

Special Committee of the Board of Trustees of UNC January-February 1963 #04300, Series: "1. Education Committees, 1954-1963." Folder 31-32

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Roanoke Island Historical Association, 1974-1979.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 3. Miscellaneous Papers, 1959-1979.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 4. Pictures.

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Processing Information

Processed by: Connie Cartledge, Rebecca Young, February 1985

Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008

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