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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.|
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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.Back to Top
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.Back to Top
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.
Correspondence, memoranda, reports, promotional documents, and other material relating to the management of the Roanoke Island Historical Association.
Processed by: Connie Cartledge, Rebecca Young, February 1985
Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008Back to Top