Editorial: Softball field wrong spot to honor Suiter

Published 9:09 am Thursday, October 21, 2021

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Let’s say this from the start.
Julius Suiter is a great man. He’s probably done more than anyone around to help us get through school de-segregation in the late 1960s. A black teacher at the traditionally black Central Davie at that time, he and his wife Selma went on for long careers in education here. They were among the first teachers at the now de-segregated Davie High School. Mr. Suiter ended his career as a principal.
To say that tensions were high when schools were de-segregated is putting it lightly. I’ve never heard him give details, but I’m sure he put up with a lot of grief as he started working at a high school with the nickname “Rebels.” Many of the white folks didn’t like the idea that someone of color would be teaching their children. Some of the black folks considered him a sell out.
But he persevered.
And along the way, he earned a lot of respect – from all corners of the community.
I was too young to remember all of the details, but I had older brothers and sisters, and tensions were high on school days as our parents worried that there could be trouble at school. I’m sure Julius Suiter worried, too.
But he persevered.
He earned respect of a countless number of students, in the classroom and on the ball fields and courts. He earned the respect of the community. He has graciously served on just about every appointed board there is, never causing trouble, but always adding a positive vibe and insightful input. Most of the time, possibly all of the time, he was the only person of color on those appointed boards. It couldn’t have been easy.
It’s enough that there should be a statue of Julius Suiter somewhere in the county, right?
His daughter has petitioned the Mocksville Town Board to name the softball field at Rich Park after Mr. Suiter. Their decision is expected next month after a public hearing on the subject.
Board member Brian Williams asked the question on everyone’s mind when Mr. Suiter’s daughter made a passionate presentation before the board earlier this month. Williams said he could envision a school being named after Mr. Suiter, even something else bigger, but the softball field?
It turns out that Mr. Suiter’s connection to that softball field is pretty light. He used to take his son there to practice baseball. As a baseball coach at Davie High, he sometimes took players to that field to practice.
That’s not much to name a field after someone. I’m sure there are softball players and coaches who have created much more positive impact on that field than Mr. Suiter. If the field needs to be named after someone – and it doesn’t – pick one of them.
Naming that softball field after Mr. Suiter would be beneath his status in the community. Think bigger if his name needs to be on a building or street or whatever for future generations to see. Put a special section in the Davie County museum (which is in the works) about Mr. Suiter and his accomplishments. Name Central Davie after him. Name our next new school after him. Name an event after him.
But the softball field?
No. Save that one for someone who had a greater impact there.
– Mike Barnhardt