Librarian Larry Hyde helped to introduce local Whites to Black authors, history
BY JAMES HARPER
Imagine a time when there were no books by Black authors in Volusia County’s public school libraries and limited or no information on the contribution of Blacks in any of the references books.
Larry Hyde can remember.
Hyde, 91, who retired from Campbell Middle School in 1993 after 44 years with the school system as a librarian, began her career at South Street Elementary. In 1952, it was one of the schools attended only by Black students before integration.
She had started at South Street part time as a secretary. When she first worked at the school, it did not have a library but only a reading room that had books.
In an interview with the Daytona Times this week, Hyde said that since she only worked at the school part time, she would get off at noon and volunteer in the reading room to set up the library.
From South Street to South Daytona
After two years of volunteering, at the request of the school’s principal at the time – Turie T. Small – the county would promote Hyde from part-time secretary to the school’s first librarian, which meant the school finally had a room classified as a library.
As head librarian, Hyde was responsible for ordering books for the library, which she stocked with information about Blacks and books written by them. The books were purchased from a national catalog with money provided to her from Volusia County Schools.
In 1970, when Volusia County schools integrated, Hyde was transferred to the all-White South Daytona Elementary to assist the school’s White librarian.
She would quickly learn the school’s library had nothing in it about Blacks – which would change after she was allowed to bring books, posters with famous Blacks in them and other material from South Street Elementary. The school is now known as Turie T. Small Elementary.
Interested in Blacks accomplishments
Hyde said she was surprised how interested the White students were in the information she brought to the library about Black authors and their contributions to American History.
”They knew nothing at all about Blacks. I introduced Black history to them. The kids were so interested in seeing and knowing the accomplishments of Blacks. The textbooks didn’t have anything about Blacks’ accomplishments,” Hyde explained.
After a few years at South Daytona Elementary, Hyde transferred to Campbell Jr. High to become that school’s head librarian.
Before integration, Campbell was the all-Black high school located at what is now the John H. Dickerson Center on Campbell Street. The street now is Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
When Hyde arrived at Campbell in the 1970s, it was a seventh and eighth grade center located on Keech Street.
Today Campbell is a middle school that is housed in a new facility after the old structure was demolished. The school remains on Keech Street but has moved further down the thoroughfare to the corner of Keech and South Street.
Other Black librarians
Hyde is one of the few Blacks who have been head librarians at Volusia County public schools. Had it not been for them, many of the schools would not have any information about Blacks or books written by them.
Other Blacks who have made a difference as Volusia County Public School librarians included Carrie Daniels, Emma Burke, Mary Fears, Evangeline Cooper, Loretta Wright and Eartha Watson.
Hyde said when they worked for the system they ordered books that included “Negro history.”
Now that all of them have retired or passed away, Hyde said she is worried that there is not enough Black published material in the current media centers.
Hyde did praise current Black media specialist Debra Bell Woody, who while working at Turie T. Small Elementary School, was named Volusia County Schools’ Teacher of the Year for 2007.
Worked, socialized with Dr. Bethune
Hyde came to Daytona Beach with her husband, Paul, who was business manager for Bethune-Cookman College under founder Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune. He died in 1985.
Her first job before joining the Volusia County School system was as a secretary at Bethune-Cookman College in 1950 when she moved to the area with her husband.
Hyde remembers going to the Bethune home on many occasions for dinner.
“I knew her very well. She (Bethune) is from South Carolina, about 30 miles from my hometown. She always invited employees to her home,” Hyde recalled.
“She (Bethune) was a very personable person, friendly person, had high standards for herself and students,” she continued.
Campus meetings drew many Whites
Hyde said while working at the school she remembers the community meetings Bethune held at White Hall.
“Students had to march in. The public would come. Speakers like Mrs. (Eleanor) Roosevelt would come. It was a service,” Hyde recollected.
Hyde said the community meetings, which started at 3 p.m. every Sunday, would be filled with White people, especially northerners who were down for the winter months who wanted to hear Bethune speak.
“Mrs. Bethune was a national figure. Black people that lived here knew Mrs. Bethune,” said Hyde about why local Blacks didn’t attend the meetings every Sunday.
Earned degree in North Carolina
Hyde majored in social studies and graduated in 1942 from North Carolina College for Negros, which is now known as North Carolina Central University.
“I was the first one in my family to go to college. Parents emphasized the importance of education,” said Hyde, whose three sisters earned Ph.Ds. She also had a brother.
Hyde’s father was a blacksmith with his own business. “It was a horseracing town,” noted Hyde.
Before going to college, Hyde said she attended a private boarding school owned by the Methodist church with Black and White faculty.
“Anybody that could pay the tuition could attend. In my graduation class, there were 15 people,” Hyde continued.
Though the school only had Black students, Hyde said she didn’t feel segregated because the school offered everything.
Registered voters; active in community
As a little girl, Hyde said she was always interested in reading and books. This is one of the reasons she wanted to become a librarian. Another reason was that one of her sisters was a librarian.
Her first job was teaching social studies at Booker T. Washington High School in North Carolina.
Being a social studies major, Hyde said she also knew the importance of voting.
“In order to get my voter registration card, I had to prove I could read a portion of the Constitution,” said Hyde, who was born in 1921 and registered to vote when she was 21.
Since then, Hyde has worked to register people to vote and also volunteered to take people to the polls.
Hyde has been a member of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church for more than 50 years and has served in many key roles.
In addition to being a member of several professional organizations, Hyde has organized Girl Scout Troops and is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. and The Links.
From ‘Little Ruth’ to Mrs. Larry
In an interview with the Times, the retired librarian also cleared up a question inquiring minds want to know: How did she get the name Larry?
“Before I was born my parents wanted a boy and they picked the name Larry and stuck with it. They didn’t have sonograms at the time so they didn’t know what my sex was going to be. Even though I came out a girl, they stuck with the name,” she explained.
Her middle name is Ruth though, her mother’s first name. While growing up, she was called “Little Ruth,’’ No one else on her mother or father’s side has the name Larry, she noted.
“Before I went away to college, my mom was going to change my birth certificate to make Ruth my first name. But by the time I got to college and was established, everybody called me Larry. She never changed my birth certificate. I never questioned it,” said Hyde, who says to this day she still gets mail addressed “Mr. Larry Hyde.’’