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Interview with Adolph Dial

Dial, Adolph
Ritter, Barbara
Date of Interview: 
Native Americans; American Indians; Lumbees; Lumbee history; childhood; education
In this short interview, Dr. Adolph Dial discusses his background as a member of the Lumbee tribe and his family's origins and history up to his birth. He then describes his own beginnings, and how he rose to become a prominent academic, educator and writer. Prompted by the interviewer, he describes some of his beliefs about morals - proudly noting his lifelong teetotaller status - and his hopes for the future, which include the still-pending federal recognition of the Lumbee tribe.
1800s to 1990s
Interview Setting: 
Home of Adolph Dial, Pembroke, NC
BR: What is your full name?
AD: Adolph Lorenz Dial. L-o-r-e-n-z.
BR: Were you named after anyone?
AD: Yes, I understand that I was, my uncle told me he was named, and he said I was named after [an] Austrian surgeon.
BR: Who's that?
AD: Adolph Lorenz.
BR: No, I mean who is Austrian Surgeon?
AD: Say who is he? I don't know.
BR: Oh. But you were named after him?
AD: Yea.
BR: Oh.
AD: He was a famous one. He said he -- I'll quote him exactly the way he said it. He said that that Adolph Lorenz discovered bloodless surgery.
BR: Oh.
AD: I was just a kid when he. was telling me this. And I saw his name one time in life and I keep saying I'm going to look it up. I came across it one time and never did see it again. Adolph Lorenz.
BR: That's interesting.
AD: Never did see the name again. But I did read it. And I probably cut it out and saved it, but I have no idea where it is.
BR: Do you go by Mister Dial or Professor Dial?
AD: Well, some people call me, I have two honorary doctorates. Some people call me Doctor Dial, some professor Dial. Most of the people in the community call me Mister Adolph.
BR: Mister Adolph.
AD: Yeah. [chuckles]
BR: OK. What would you like for me to call you?
AD: You can just call me Adolph. It'll be alright.
BR: OK. And you are a Lumbee Indian?
AD: Yes.
BR: Where were you born?
AD: I was born in the Prospect community, and Prospect is the very heart of the Lumbee community.
BR: Is it? Where is Prospect located?
AD: Five miles north of here. Just a few minutes.
BR: How long has your family lived in this area?
AD: Well, forever.
BR: Forever? [both chuckle]
AD: Well, let's see. My grandfather, Marcus Dial, was born in 1838 across the line in South Carolina. Oh, about thirty miles from here probably. And my great grandfather Duncan Dial was born in 1800, a couple of miles from here.
BR: Who are your parents?
AD: My parents were Noah Dial, sometimes known as N.H. Dial. He put an H in the middle of his name. It didn't mean anything, but he had an H in the middle of his name. And my mother was Mary, Mary Ellen Dial. On my grandfather's side, was, let's see, my grandfather was William Luther Moore. W.L. Moore. He was born in Columbus county. He went through here selling books. He came in '76. He married Mary Catherine Oxendine. Mary Catherine Oxendine was from Burn Swamp. She lived in the Burn Swamp community. They married and spent the rest of their lives in the Prospect community, five miles north of here. Prospect really is the heart of the Lumbee community.
BR: How far can you go back in your family tree?
AD: Well, yes, from memory, it was really about 1800 on Marcus Dial's side.
BR: How about on your mother's side of the family? Do you know any of her relatives?
AD: My mother's father was W.L. Moore. My grandmother was Mary Catherine Oxendine. And Mary Catherine Oxendine, her father was, I can't think of it right now.
BR: Who is in the top picture on the wall?
AD: That was Mary Catherine Oxendine's brother. The top one.
BR: Right. OK. Who is in the picture at the bottom?
AD: That's my mother.
BR: Can you remember any of your relatives speaking in a Native American language?
AD: No. I cannot.
BR: The Lumbee tribe does not have federal recognition, right?
AD: Well, they were recognized by Congress in 1953. And by the state, they were designated in 1885 as Croatans. We've had several names. If you read my book, you'll find that we've had several names over the: years.
BR: I know you have written several books. What are their titles? Well the one on press, that's still in print is The Lumbee, It's here at the museum. You can buy it there at the bookstore. It sells for about thirteen dollars and twenty-seven cents.
BR: Great. OK.
AD: No need in me going through those names and all that. You can get it right out of it.
BR: OK. Do you remember any stories that your relatives would tell to you?
AD: Well, yeah. Like what?
BR: Are there any stories about your way of life that you can remember?
AD: Well, my grandfather, by the way, was a minister, my grandfather W.L. Moore. And he was the founder of Pembroke State University. What is Pembroke State University.
BR: Oh really?
AD: If you read the book, you'll find the different names the university had as they changed their name. Understand?
BR: Yes.
AD: So it'll be necessary for you to get that book. Not that I'll make a penny on it, I won't. And the book's called /The Lumbee/. Go to Old Main there, you should get it you know. And that will give you a lot of information that I needn't take time to give you. You know?
BR: Yes.
AD: Um. But speaking of the stories, my grandfather believed in totens. My father said he ministered, preached about everyone's funeral who died in the community. He said they'd hear toten the night before. Somebody gonna die or something. Said on one occasion it sounded like a hundred students running up and down the hall. He said they got out of the bed cheering. I remember visiting [someone's] funeral one night and I run around to my granddad's room and I remember he said, "Children don't get excited. It's just a sign I'll preach a funeral tomorrow." And they did. I mean the next morning, I should have said, He came-- someone came there early next morning and said, "Mr, Moore, so and so's dead. I want you to preach his funeral." Right away, sometimes when people died, you know, they bury them right away and have to start on a monument. But it might be a few weeks or sometimes months before they would get around to preaching the funeral. You know? They probably had some of them on Sunday anyway. And I remember a story about one of them who was waiting and waiting, and I guess they do it when it's conven-- or when they could get a preacher to come and do it you know? My grandfather was there in the community and he was occupied about all of the time, preach up in Hamlet and go with his buggy up to Hamlet and might get a couple of dollars you know. Spend the night up there and drive the buggy and horse back the next day. It's about thirty five miles to Hamlet. There's a little Indian community up there he was visiting. Was called Ozbourne. And speaking of preaching funerals, he -- one fellow, his wife died, and he married again before they preached the funeral.
BR: Oh my goodness!
AD: Yeah! [laughs]
BR: Of what religion was your grandfather?
AD: Well, he belonged to the Methodist Episcopal church. And of course, later, you know, it was the United Methodist, you know, He was a wonderful speaker. He was probably the best speaker to deliver the best sermon of anyone we've ever had among our race.
BR: Oh really?
AD: Yeah. I barely remember him. And when I was doing a lot of interviews back before I did /The Only Land I Know: A History of the Lumbee People,/ that was in '75 by the way, when that book was published, and let's see, I've lost my train of thought. But anyway, people would tell me, when I was interviewing that he was the best preacher, the most outstanding preacher that they have ever known in their lifetime. [coughs] Excuse me. Well. What else?
BR: What was your life like when you were growing up?
AD: Oh. Well I grew up on the farm and I can remember when I was two or three years old, The reason I know so, I can remember when a playmate and a cousin of mine died and I remember he was burned to death and I remember they held me up over his coffin to see him, you know. And I remember playing in the garden once with him, being in the potato patch with him. So, I went to school -- in Prospect. Prospect Elementary School and Pembroke High School. I mean Pembroke elementary school and -- I'll get it right, Prospect Elementary School. It was a union school. So I graduated from there. I went through, all the way to eleventh grade and then I came to college here at Pembroke State. But I didn't have caps and gowns when we graduated. We just wore our regular clothes. I believe there was about twelve or thirteen in the graduating class. While I'm dealing with this and I'll go back to the other part of your question, let me say that I finished high school and then I lived at home and went to Pembroke State University and walked sometimes five miles away and sometimes somebody would stop and pick me up and sometime later in years, when we got able, I'd ride a bicycle. Then, later, I rode with a friend for six dollars per month, and I rode in his car.
BR: What kind of farming did your father do?
AD: We grew cotton and corn, some small grain, some oats. But mostly cotton and corn were our livelihood. In the late 30s, we went to tobacco. Of course there was more money in tobacco, you know. My dad operated a little grist mill too. He'd make a little money off of that, you know. And he was a World War II vet. He drew a disability check and that helped out a lot. One time I remember it being something like 28 dollars a month but, it was a lot.
BR: Was your dad wounded in the war?
AD: No. He had bronchitis, like I have bronchitis. He -- they discharged him. He only stayed in ninety days. He -- years after the war he applied for disability. My uncle who was a [indecipherable] and my mother's sister started riding to Washington and so forth and so on and anyway, he wound up with his monthly check and he drew that until he died.
BR: Did you know you were going to go to college?
AD: Well, it was understood I'd go to Pembroke or nowhere, you know. It wasn't easy to go away and in fact, I'd probably been afraid to go away, you know? I had never spent a night away from home in my entire life and -- one night I stayed with a friend. Yeah one night I stayed with a friend and he lived close to Red Springs and we rode the bus. That was the only night I ever spent away from home. People didn't take a vacation or anything. We'd go to the beach sometimes, maybe once a year, during the summer you know.
BR: Did you have a car then?
AD: Yeah. we had a car then. Yea, we had a car in the 20s, in the late 20s. My dad bought a 1929 Chevrolet and by the time we had a drivers' licenses, I had a car, and my dad had a car. When we had our first car, there was only about three or four cars in the entire community. My dad would have to carry a lot of people to the doctor and so forth you know.
BR: Were there doctors in. Prospect or did you have travel to another town?
AD: No. The nearest doctor we had, well, we had a doctor in Pembroke and Red Springs, and a couple of doctors in Maxton. It would be one of those three places. The first Indian doctor, Doctor [muffled] Locklear. He was -- a doctor in the early 20s. He didn't live too long. And he moved away too. He married a white as I recall and moved to Georgia. There was a law prohibiting Indians from marrying whites. That law was not repealed until the 60s. So many of them went away after the war, that is World War II. They began to marry whites left and right and about a hundred to several thousand married white. My daughter married white and I married white the second time. My first wife died of Alzheimer's in 1988. But getting back to that school business, I went to Pembroke State and I graduated and I was called to the war, April 23rd, I believe that was the month in 1943, 51 years ago. It's hard for me to think about how old I am. [laughs] I'll be 72 this coming December 12th. So I went into service. I tried to get a leave to come home to my graduation but they wouldn't. They were tight on that stuff during the war, you know. So I told my mother to go to my graduation and I wrote Dr. Wiler, the president of Pembroke State College, as it was called and to..for him to award my diploma to my mother. So that they did and she wrote and told me that they congratulated her for having a son in the service. [laughs] Well after the war, I farmed a year. My dad gave me an acre of tobacco, and he said, "if you'll stay and farm with me, I'll give you an acre of tobacco all at once." By the way, I'm working on an autobiography now.
BR: Are you?
AD: Yeah. [pause] So I did and I went out to Detroit. Lived there awhile. In 19-- I went up three or four different times, you know, during the summers mostly when I started teaching. My first job teaching was in 1947, February.
BR: Oh really? Were you teaching college?
AD: No. I wasn't in college then. I joined Pembroke State University in 1958 and retired in '88. And I retired with 44 years, counting my army time which I got credit for. My last teaching was at Chapel Hill. I taught a course there in American Indian studies. By the way I was denied admission to Chapel Hill because I was Indian, after the war. So, my nephew who was in Chapel Hill in '88, maybe it was '89, but anyway, he said, "I said to one of the professors in the department, 'Why don't you have a course in American Indian studies? Native American studies?'" He said, "Well, we don't have anyone to teach it." He was telling me that. I said go back and tell him I'll teach it. So, he did. And I taught one course there. I was doing -- I was returning good for evil. I was denied admission as I told you. So, when I was denied admission to Chapel Hill, I went to Colorado State in 1950, the summer of 1950, and in '51, I transferred to Boston University. I never did lay out a year to study. I would always do my work in summer school. And so, 1950 I was at Colorado State in Greeley And '51 -- two, three, four, five, six at Boston University. I was teaching back here you see. I joined the faculty in '58 at Pembroke where my grandfather was the first principal, the first head, we'll say. We'll use the word head. He began with sixteen students. And he was also on the board of trustees by the way. And in '57, I went overseas with Boston University and studied a week or two at Cambridge, and then we toured the continent. That was an eight week deal. I received six credits for it, In '59, that was '57, in '58 I did a seminar in Washington D.C. where I studied government.
BR: Were you studying history?
AD: Well the seminar was called, I was principal you see at this time, the seminar was called principal's conference and credit was given by Boston University. But the university, Boston University, professor came to Washington and that's where we did our thing, you know. We studied with the department heads and government you know. Well you know about what that would be like. That ended my formal training for credit. I believe I mentioned honorary doctorates, I received one from Greensboro in '80, I think it was '84 and an honorary doctorate from Pembroke State in '88. I never did earn a doctorate. I never did try. I earned a -- I never did pursue a doctoral study. Of course I had my bachelor's and a master's and what Boston University called a CAGS. That's thirty hours beyond a masters, a certificate of advanced graduate studies. Now coming back where were we a while ago?
BR: Did you always know you wanted to teach?
AD: Didn't have a choice of anything else, much, or didn't think so. It was either teach or preach, or go away and work. So, I went up to Detroit and worked in the automotive industry. I told you I did that three or four times there and of course I [pause] was in love, I guess you'd say, before I went and before I, well before I went to Detroit and had this choice to return in February of 1947. This lady was pregnant and I finished out the year for her. But I taught up until then through '88 the rest of my life so to speak. And all my summer, all my graduate work was in summer school.
BR: What led you to write a hook on the Lumbees?
AD: Well, I was always an ambitious fellow, and I one day was just thinking about it while I was teaching at Pembroke State. I started to write a book. That book was "The Only Land I Know" and I asked David Eliades who was teaching and still is teaching at Pembroke and said, "Do you want to join me in doing the history of the Lumbee?" He said "Yeah." And of course the Lumbee book, Chaucer Press asked that I write that. I don't even know the publication of my own book. [laughs] The date, copyright date, I guess is 1993.
BR: What values should we be teaching our children today?
AD: Well, I'm a man of high morals. At least try to be. I never consumed a gallon of beer, wine, whiskey, champagne, home brew, you name it in my entire life. Teetotaler. Um. I think it was bad to take prayer out of the schools, the chapel out of the schools like we used to have. I think you know a lot of that has led to, I know it wouldn't do away with crime, but you know what the situation is today. And I hate that that happened. I don't think it was the right move. Just this morning, my wife read to me, at breakfast she reads the paper. She said well here's where a thirteen year old killed a fourteen year old or vice versa. So, I am a pessimist as far as what I see, morally speaking, of the country in years to come. The world as a matter of fact, I see moral decay all over the world, and I don't see things getting better, you know. Whether North Korea or some other place, I see the situation growing much worse. And I think it's bad that people have failed to keep their children in church. I was taught to go to church. I slept on that bench when I was a baby, you know, right next to my mother, while the preacher would yell, "Whoopee! Got my master." And sometimes I'd almost jump off that bench. [laughs] That's the main thing, I guess, is the values, you know. Of course education is good and they should try to stay in school and get an education. They should travel. I've done quite a bit of traveling for a country fellow who never spent a night away from home.
BR: I'm curious to know why you wanted to go up north in the first place?
AD: Well, actually, the people who came, who returned, from several people in Detroit, now today there's two or three thousand, they talked about the money they were making and I decided I could get some, you know. [laughs] So that's what I did. I know a lot of funny stories about what happened up there. I remember I went up one summer with another teacher and he drove his car and I went with Mm. By the way, I never did own a car until I bought a home. It wasn't much of a home. It was right in the heart of Pembroke. I bought it for three thousand dollars in 1949, I guess and I had to put a new roof on it and, let's see, a new roof and I had the water work. I had to put water and a bathroom and all in. And I grew up, we never did have running water until I returned from the army. And I had sent home a -- something like thirteen hundred dollars and when I arrived, my dad, when I returned from Europe, my dad said, "Son, I had to spend some of your money, five hundred dollars for a kidney stone operation in Fayetteville." He said, "I'll pay you back." I think he had a little savings of his own, but he decided to spend mine, which was alright. And I said. "Well, you don't have to pay me, dad. Let's put water works in the house. And with what you owe me." So we did that and I'm glad we did that. Yea, we were using an outside toilet, when I returned from Europe in '45, November, 1945.
BR: What do you wish for the Lumbee Indians?
AD: Well, you know, I've done quite a bit of work on Lumbee recognition. We were recognized by the state in '53. Well, you know, it's so misleading. When you read that book you'll get that straightened out because we're recognized also in '88 by the state and then by the federal government. And we went through these several name changes in this state. In '53, we were recognized as Lumbees and '58 by the Congress of the United States. And now we're working on our Lumbee bill. You know about that? That's what I was doing on the phone when you came. So, we're hoping Senator Faircloth will support our bill. It has gone through the house, now it has to go through the senate and we hope it will get through. The politics, you know.
BR: How long do you think it will take?
AD: Well, I think it, we either get it through in the next few months or never or yeah.
BR: Is there anything else you would like to accomplish in the future?
AD: That's the main thing I'd like to see. Business-wise, I do have approximately five hundred acres of land and I own the two shopping centers that are in Pembroke, the one where Piggly Wiggly is, the Lumbee bank and Jones' store. Piggly Wiggly. Then in a plaza I own, there's a little shopping place, a Rite Aid and a Family Dollar and a Post office. That's pretty good considering I never had more than eight dollars in my entire life. Even when I had almost graduated, did graduate you know, and when I went into the service, that's what I had. And I never had any more than that at any one time. Though when I was 18, my dad gave me tobacco and I went out in the field and cropped it and carried it to a friend's house. Didn't have enough you know to cure it, just by myself. Handed it to a friend in a tobacco barn and I sold it for eighteen dollars. When I went to court, when I was old enough, my dad would give me two dollars. I would buy a couple of drinks and a couple of sandwiches for me and my girlfriend. Yeah. Yeah I've been, I guess I've been a progressive fellow. And the older you get, you realize you know, you're going to be like Nixon going right now, you're going to come to the end and you think a lot about your -- and I've always been a realist but I'll be 72 in December. There's not a whole lot of time left and whatever you've got to do, you better get on with it you know. I'm not interested in acquiring a whole lot of property anymore. I have one child, Mary Norris. She's married and her husband's -- they live in Fayetteville and he's a commercial loan officer in the Southern National Bank.