Remembering Adolph Dial: A man for all seasons

Record Number: 
OXEN011
Citation: 

Oxendine, Linda. "Remembering Adolph Dial: A man for all seasons." Robesonian (Lumberton, NC) September 2, 2013.

Annotation: 

Linda Oxendine, professor emeritus and former chairperson of UNC-Pembroke's American Indian Studies program, reflects on the commitments and contributions of Adolph L. Dial, her maternal uncle. She begins this essay by noting that in 1991, when Dial was sworn in to the North Carolina House of Representatives, Judge Dexter Brooks called him "a man for all seasons."

Oxendine's essay captures both the range of Dial's contributions and accomplishments, and his outgoing interpersonal style, with his fondness for storytelling.

Adolph Dial was born in 1922 on a farm in the Prospect community in rural Robeson County. After earning a bachelor’s degree in social studies from Pembroke State College for Indians (now the University of North Carolina at Pembroke), he joined the army at age 21. During World War II, he participated in the invasion of Europe and the liberation of a Nazi concentration camp; he earned six battle stars.

After he returned to the states, he applied to graduate school at the University of North Carolina but was denied because he was a non-white. He was accepted to Boston University and earned a masters of education in social studies in 1953. Dial later received advanced certification in 1958. He had a long career as a faculty member in the History Department at Pembroke State College, starting in 1958.

The essay also touches on Dial's contributions in the following areas:

  • To the field of American Indian Studies, at the regional leval (by establishing the American Indian Studies Department at Pembroke State College in 1972); at the national level (through his service on the American Indian Policy Review Commission); and through his scholarship on the Lumbee Tribe (as author of The Only Land I Know: A History of the Lumbee Indians, with Dr. David Eliades, published in 1975, and as author of The Lumbee, published in 1993).
  • As a businessman and financial supporter (by purchasing land and establishing two shopping centers in downtown Pembroke; helping start Lumbee Bank; and donating funds to UNC-Pembroke to create the Adolph L. Dial Faculty Award and to support students majoring in American Indian Studies).
  • Through political service, which included attending the Democratic National Convention in 1972 as the first American Indian delegate to a national political convention, and serving in the North Carolina House of Representatives in 1991.
  • Through community service, as a founder of the Robeson County Church and Community Center, and as board chairman from 1976-1987 of the Robeson County Historical Drama Association (which supported the outdoor drama Strike at the Wind! ).
  • Through support of his church, Prospect United Methodist Church, where he served on the administrative board and on many other committees.

Dial's contributions have been recognized by his receiving honorary doctorates from Greensboro College in 1985 and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNC-P) in 1988; the North Carolina Folk Life Award; the Jefferson Award; Tar Heel of the Week; and, in 1976, the Henry Berry Lowry Award. Dial passed away on December 24, 1995. In 1997, UNC-P dedicated the Dial Humanities Building in his honor.

Oxendine concludes: "[Adolph L. Dial] has been called a teacher, historian, businessman, politician, farmer, church leader and, encompassing all of this, a humanitarian. His slow southern drawl is still missed but his influence remains forever strong. He was indeed, as Judge Brooks said, 'a man for all seasons.'"

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