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“Mother May” Marshbanks, 1962

A Thousand Words
By Jock Lauterer

When word reached town that May Marshbanks had passed at 95 down in Buies Creek, it set off a flurry of Internet chatter among old Chapel Hill High School grads, who, like me, remember “Mother May” for the strong, yet accessible and caring principal that she was. Classmate Becky Tatum Hilstad (class of ’63) said it best: “I don’t think we appreciated at the time how very unique and special she was. I know I was pretty much terrified that I might ever get called into her office and fortunately managed to avoid that! Now I know that her style was a good thing for us all and have nothing but admiration for this great lady.” Great lady, indeed; she was the state’s first woman principal of a public high school, and her years at the helm, 1955-70, spanned some tumultuous times. Her moniker, “Mother May,” was one born of a healthy mix of fear and respect. These two photographs from my musty, dusty albums capture two sides of “Miz Marshbanks” – grinning with satisfaction as Rusty Edmister receives his diploma at commencement in 1962, and then there’s our principal caught at a candid moment, rake in hand, on the front lawn of CHHS (present-day University Square) during a campus-wide clean-up day. Thank you, Mother May.

Do you have an important old photo that you value? Email your photo to jock@email.unc.edu and include the story behind the picture. Because every picture tells a story. And its worth? A thousand words.
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