50 Years of Pirate Pride & History: Hubert Walters ’65

HubertsWaltersOne of East Carolina’s first African-American male graduates is returning to campus this spring to celebrate 50 years of Pirate pride – and history.

Hubert Walters ’65, a retired professor of black music who has taught at Harvard University and Boston College, is one of several alumni planning to attend the Golden Alumni Reunion for the class of 1965, hosted by the East Carolina Alumni Association.

After earning a bachelor’s degree from North Carolina Central University in 1955, Walters taught high school and served in the military before coming to East Carolina College for his master’s degree in music once integration began.

“ECU opened their doors to black students,” Walters recalled. “I was amazed and encouraged that East Carolina had done what many others had not.”

Though he could not attend at first, the East Carolina campus was familiar territory for Walters, who is originally from Greenville. His mother and some other family members worked at ECU, and his music teacher had brought his class for a visit. The first black students were allowed to enroll in 1962, and Walters started in the summer of 1963.

“I was anxious to get going,” Walters said. “I had the desire and the will to succeed. I felt I could complete the work. I knew I could afford it, and Greenville was my home.”

Being one of the first African-American students was “quite an experience,” he said. “I had no problems. I didn’t feel isolated or lonely at all. I became very close with one music professor, Tom Miller; he was very positive. I had no difficulty with any of my professors, but he really stands out.”

Miller, a graduate of Boston College, provided contacts and helped Walters get established in Boston. Walters was a charter member of the Afro-American Studies Department at Harvard University, and he taught at Boston College for more than 20 years. He also served as director of the Boston College Voices of Imani gospel choir, which performed at ECU in the early 2000s.

Though he has been back to campus before, the ’65 reunion will be a special opportunity for Walters to reflect on both the past and the future.

“It’s an honor to be part of a historic movement that opened doors for all members of mankind. Times have changed, but we must continue to move forward,” he said. “I had a good experience at East Carolina. It’s great to be a Pirate. I certainly am very excited to attend the Golden Alumni Reunion. I would encourage other ’65 graduates to attend.”

The Golden Alumni Reunion will be held May 7-8, 2015.

By Jackie Drake