In the fall of 1965, when I entered UNC as a freshman, I was a Goldwater conservative. I basically accepted and spouted the politics of my small-town upbringing. I joined the Young Republican Club and the Air Force ROTC at Carolina. But the anti-war spirit at Carolina and other campuses, and the reality of what war does to the nations involved, made me reflect critically on my beliefs.
By the spring of 1967 my grades were low enough to threaten my ongoing college deferment, and I went into a funk wondering what I would do if drafted. I had to take an AFROTC qualifying test around that time and I was so upset that I just quit in the middle of the test and put my head down on the desk. I was feeling pretty low at the time and almost lost interest in staying in college at all.
I met a wonderful woman in January 1967 and married in August 1968. We lived on West Cameron Avenue my senior year, 1968 to 1969. I had a strong Quaker background and I decided to seek counseling on becoming a conscientious objector, from folks at the local Quaker meeting in Chapel Hill. As a result of my developing belief that war should not be the first instrument of America’s foreign policy, I became a card-carrying member of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker group dedicated to the peaceful resolution of conflict.
In the spring of 1969, I graduated with an A.B. in political science, but I chose to teach in the public schools rather than go to Vietnam as a combat soldier. I enrolled in summer school in 1969, and by the time of the lottery drawing n December 1969, I was teaching seventh grade at Williston Junior High School in Wilmington, which allowed me to continue my draft deferment. I remained in the profession for the next 34 years.