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A family’s gratitude

By Johnnie Mae Tracey

Special to the Salisbury Post

Our family is deeply thankful for the story published on Father’s Day concerning the late Edward O’Neil Tracey Sr. and his 14-year-old son, the late Winton O’Neil Tracey. We profoundly acknowledge the outstanding reporting of this article to the citizens of Salisbury and its readers.

Our family is thankful and deeply grateful to the Salisbury Post and the compassionate citizens to revisit a painful, but needed, reflection concerning a past tragedy that shook our family and Salisbury, Rowan County, to its core.

We hope the archives of our city will show the scabs of healing from such a painful time occurring on Friday, Oct. 13, 1967. Our prayer is that the life of our little brother, Winton O’Neil Tracy, who was one of nine black boys selected to attend the new Knox Middle School, will live on in our struggle that has taken his life, as well as others.

It is in the memory of our parents, the late Edward O’Neil Tracey and Elizabeth Cook Tracey, that we are trying to follow our savior’s plan along with many citizens, regardless of race, religion or ideology, in a county rich in culture and tradition. We are blessed.

Flying banners of institutions of higher learning can be found in this county such as: Catawba College, Hood Theological Seminary, Livingston College, Livingston College Culinary School, Pfeiffer University and Rowan–Cabarrus Community College.

After living, working and raising my daughter in Charlotte for over 30 years, I returned to Salisbury last November to help take care of my sister, who is ill. Many people in our community have assisted me and I am very, very, grateful.

When it snowed this past winter, I was on the phone talking to an old childhood friend; who now resides in California, Lottie Ruth Knight. Many of our friends love Salisbury, no matter where we live. As I looked out my father’s window, which is facing Old Concord Road, I had a flashback. We began to talk about the black cemetery facing the street, with the path which leads to the old Lincoln Elementary School, abandoned years ago in our neighborhood.

In school our teachers gave us assignments which required us to look at the tombstones and remember information about our dead soldiers. Across the street, from my left, is the new Freddie Evans Swimming Pool, named after one of our classmates several years ago. I could see the National Cemetery, where our war heroes are buried. As I looked to my right, I could see one of the oldest black churches, First Calvary Missionary Baptist Church.

I can never forget our experience of walking across town to Price High School on West Bank Street. Our teachers were outstanding. Even though our materials were often used and re-used, we always came up No. 1 in any competition we had. We shared fond memories of Mrs. Lancaster, Mrs. Weeks, Mrs. Marioneaux, Mrs. Williams, Mrs. Powers, Mrs. Fannie Kelsey, Mr. S.L. Jones, Mr. Knox, Mr. Joe Anderson, and countless others who were more than teachers and administrators, but also additional parents that helped to rear us. I probably became an educator myself because of their great work. I wish I could name all of them. I then found myself thinking about my classmate, Charles Miller, who in my opinion was the best drum major EVER!!!

As I continued to look around my surrounding area, I could see the railroad tracks that provided for growth throughout the city, state and country. In the mid- to late-1950s there was much construction started for the completion of Interstate 85 in Salisbury. This project brought new growth, new hotels, restaurants, shops, and various companies which were instrumental in the beginning of the great growth of East Innes Street in our city of today.

Salisbury, we love you and we thank you. Let’s love, not hurt; build and not tear down.

On behalf of the children of the late Edward O’Neil Tracey and Elizabeth Cook Tracey:

Lessie Tracey Gaston
Johnnie Mae Tracey
Walter David Tracey
Frankie Lee
The late Edward O’Neil Tracey Jr.
The late Winton O’Neil Tracey

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