The respected educator, now 90, played a key role in integrating NC’s public schools. He spent his life pushing the state to make sure every child received equitable opportunities.
Dr. Dudley Flood’s critical role desegregating North Carolina’s schools was part of his lifelong effort to make sure all of North Carolina’s children have access to the same opportunities.
Flood was born in 1932 in the small town of Winton in Hertford County. He worked as a teacher and later principal in Pitt County before joining the state education department, where he worked for two decades championing educational equity for all children.
“I just thought that was the most noble contribution you could make to humankind, was to be a teacher,” Flood said.
A Life Spent Helping NC Children
The schools Flood attended as a child and later taught at were segregated and underfunded, with older facilities and fewer resources for Black and Native children, despite the best efforts of the educators who worked at those schools.
Though the US Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education called for the desegregation of schools in 1954, most Southern states refused to follow the ruling for years.
That’s where Flood came in. He and his late colleague Gene Causby, who was white, traveled to each of North Carolina’s 100 counties to bitterly divided communities to create integration plans.
It wasn’t an easy task, however. Anger from white North Carolinians veered into violence and threats from the Ku Klux Klan. Many Black families feared having their children leave the safety of community schools for hostile, majority white environments.
Hyde County, for example, saw Black families and children begin a yearlong school boycott in September 1968 because the white-controlled school board chose a desegregation plan that would have shut down the county’s Black schools and put Black students at a disadvantage. Amid peaceful protests, arrests of children, and rallies by the Ku Klux Klan, Flood and Causby came to Hyde County, where they spent months talking to residents of both races. At one high-stakes community meeting, Flood held up a ball of two colors to illustrate how an issue can look different from another viewpoint. His work helped usher in change, and a desegregation plan that included input from the Black community as well as the white.
“I felt I was making a contribution every single day,” Flood said in a video for the North Carolina Award, the state’s highest civilian honor, which he accepted last year.
Flood, 90, lives in Raleigh and continues to challenge the ways systemic racism affects NC students. He remains active with the Dudley Flood Center for Educational Equity and Opportunity, a namesake group housed under the NC Public School Forum.