How a Raleigh man became an educational trailblazer during school desegregation

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Dr. Dudley Flood isn’t a household name, but a lot of North Carolina households are impacted by his lifelong work. Flood, 90, is an educational pioneer in the state. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, he was tasked with helping school districts across the state integrate.

“I’m most proud of my work with the desegregation of the schools of North Carolina,” he said.

Flood graduated from North Carolina Central University in 1954.

He earned his master’s degree in Education Administration from East Carolina University in 1970 and his Doctorate in Education from Duke University in 1980.

He taught school from 1955 to 1967 and was a principal at a Pitt County school from 1968 through 1970.

He taught math, English, and science.

After teaching, Flood went on to work for the State Department of Public Instruction from 1970 through 1973. That’s when he got what ended up being one of the biggest challenges of his life. He and colleague Gene Causby were tasked with helping desegregate public schools in the state.

“When you reach a point when your vocation and your advocation are the same, it makes life pretty easy for you,” Flood said.

The two crisscrossed the state meeting with elected officials, people in the community, and parents.

“I really believed in what I was doing. I came to the department in 1969 and I met very few people who thought you should desegregate schools. Very few of any race,” Flood said.

He admitted it was a monumental task, but no task was greater than what he faced in Hyde County.

In rural Hyde County, the whites-only Hyde County Board of Education had created a desegregation plan, but leaders didn’t involve anyone in the Black community. That led to boycotts that became known as the Hyde County Movement.

“The interesting thing is, when we got there, a lot of people didn’t know why they were boycotting, but they were doing it very successfully,” Flood said.

Those boycotts lasted for a year.

It was his job, along with his colleague, to quell the conflict and find common ground. And it all started with a town hall meeting.

“There were members of the Klan. There were members of the ‘Rights of White People.’ There members of the Black Panther Party. There was SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference).”

Faced with those challenges, there was still no fear — at least not for himself.

“Yes, I was afraid, but I didn’t have enough sense to be afraid for myself. I was afraid for what they were doing to the others because there had been contention,” Flood said.

That was expected to continue the night of the town hall meeting, which Flood was to facilitate. And it would have been, except for a random stop by the store for a soft drink that changed the course of the meeting.

Inside the store, he said, “I saw this little paddle that had a ball on the end of it and I noticed the ridge around it. One side was green, and one side was red. So, when we opened our meeting, I said before we begin our discussion, ‘Tell me what color this ball is?’ They all said red. I said no, it’s green. They yelled, ‘Red! Red!’ I said before we get too argumentative, I turned it around. They all said, ‘Oh, your side is green.’ I said, ‘Yeah on my side. But, if you come around and see how things look to you from my perspective and I come around and see how it looks to you, we may get a conclusion that’s usable to all of us.'”

That tactic, as simple as it was, worked. In fact, it worked so well, he continued using it for years. He and Causby traveled across North Carolina and the entire country.

Many years later, Flood confounded the Dudley Flood Center for Educational Equity and Opportunity.

According to their website, it “serves as a hub to identify and connect organizations, networks, and leaders to address issues of equity, access, and opportunity in education across North Carolina.”

Flood was married to the late Barbara Thomas Flood for 54 years.

He currently serves on several boards and committees, including the N.C. Minority Cancer Awareness Action Team, Public School Forum of North Carolina Board, Wake Education Partnership Leadership Council, and the UNC Press Advancement Council, along with many others. Additionally, Flood served on the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, as the Executive Director of North Carolina Association of School Administrators in form of Vice Chairman of North Carolina Central University

Many years later, Flood confounded the Flood Center. According to its website, it “serves as a hub to identify and connect organizations, networks, and leaders to address issues of equity, access, and opportunity in education across North Carolina.”

These days, he is a part of several boards and committees including North Carolina.

Retired? Yes. Slowing down? Not at all.

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