Transylvania Citizens Improvement Organization (T.C.I.O.)

Mrs. Selena Robinson researched and contributed this article that appeared in REFLECTIONS: TCIO Celebrates 40 Years of Community Service, published in 2000.

The Transylvania Citizens Improvement Organization is an organization that was established in 1960 to promote the civic, educational, political and economic opportunities for African American citizens in Brevard and Transylvania County. It made an immediate impact by fighting racial discrimination in both private and public institutions and by building coalitions with white citizens that created an avenue for all to support a cause that helped to shape the future of Brevard and Transylvania County.

During the implementation stage, Rev. Samuel L. Raper, Pastor of Bethel “A” Baptist Church during that period, met with several concerned citizens and encouraged the organization of T.C.I.O. Many community people attended the meeting, which held as its first objective, the goal of enabling African American students admittance to the Transylvania County Schools. During this period (1962), the T.C.I.O. approached the Board of Education regarding this concern. The group was equally concerned with the fact that African American students were forced to travel outside of the county where their parents were paying taxes (Transylvania), to attend school in Hendersonville, a distance of 42 miles away.

Their initial request to have the African American students attend the Transylvania County Schools was flatly denied by the Board of Education. T.C.I.O. members, however, were determined that they would not give up. Several meetings were held with the School Board, but each request for full integration of Transylvania County Schools was denied. However, the group was offered ‘token integration” which would have permitted nine African American students attendance at Brevard High School. This was totally unacceptable to the organization, as their steadfast policy was: “all, or nothing.”

Disappointed, but unwilling to accept the Board’s decision, the organization took its case to the Federal Courts. They contacted several local attorneys to represent the organization but were unable to get any of them to accept their case. Luckily, they were successful in finding Attorney Reuben Dailey, in Asheville, North Carolina who agreed to represent the organization. The decision was made to sue the Transylvania Board of Education to receive full integration of schools in Transylvania County.

The case was heard in the Federal Court, in Asheville, by Judge Wilson Warlick. Several African Americans were sworn in to supply testimonies in this case, however, only two from the group actually took the witness stand to testify: Mrs. Vinnie Gordon and Mrs. Selena Robinson. As a direct result of these two ladies’ testimonies, determination and active participation by the T.C.I.O. and other members of the community, Judge Warlick ordered the Board of Education to integrate the entire African American student body into the Senior and Junior High School System.

Other T.C.I.O. Accomplishments

Camp Straus Cookout: Another primary concern in which T.C.I.O. became actively involved was with the annual cookout at Camp Straus. These cookouts were sponsored by Olin Corporation for the benefit and pleasure of all its employees. African American employees, however, were systematically discriminated against, in that they were isolated from other employees and shuttled off to a hillside with no protection from the elements, nor water or sewer accommodation. As a result of these grave concerns, in June of 1962, the T.C.I.O. organized and established a recreational program at the Mary C. Jenkins Community Center for the young people to enjoy. On July 4, 1962 the African American participation at Camp Straus had practically dwindled to nothing, as both old and young were now coming to the Mary C. Jenkins Center enjoying swimming, hot dogs, hamburgers and other refreshments prepared by the organization. The day was a whopping success. The following year (1963), the outing and full facilities of Camp Straus were opened to all employees without exception to color.

Transylvania Community Hospital: The T.C.I.O. was instrumental in integrating Transylvania Community Hospital through meetings with members of the Hospital Board. It appeared that the Hospital Board wanted to delay integration as long as possible, but when faced with the threat of a lawsuit, the Board proceeded to integrate its facilities. This transition was very smoothly executed.

Public Housing: In the late 1960s, the T.C.I.O. recognized the need for public housing in Brevard. This need was especially felt in the African American community. The T.C.I.O. worked diligently to arouse the interest of many African American citizens, as well as Whites to this cause. A petition was circulated throughout the African American community that was signed by a large number of citizens. This petition was presented to the Mayor and the Board of Aldermen (prior to City Council). To the dismay of all in attendance and the community at large, the petition was given a very cold reception. The T.C.I.O. was disappointed but not discouraged. The movement became more widespread, including an even wider sector of the community, both African Americans and Whites. This widespread community support was very effective in getting the attention of the Mayor and the Board of Aldermen. The Mayor named a Housing Authority, however, it was not very effective. It was not until a newly elected Mayor took office that changes were realized. One major initiative implemented by the Mayor was to name an African American, Otis Jones, to the Housing Authority. Public housing became a reality for Brevard in 1974, largely through efforts spearheaded by the T.C.I.O.

Senior Citizens’ Day: In 1983 the T.C.I.O. implemented an annual Senior Citizens’ Day to recognize Seniors for their contributions to the Transylvania County community.

T.C.I.O. Scholarship Fund: Established in 1988, theFund awards scholarships, annually, to deserving Transylvania County African American students to attend a 4-year college of their choice.

Ulysses Wynn Scholarship: This scholarship is given by Blue Ridge Community College in honor of former T.C.I.O. President Ulysses Wynn. Screening for the Ulysses Wynn Scholarship is conducted by the T.C.I.O. Education Committee.

Cornelius Hunt Memorial Endowment: Provides for a series of projects that provide enrichment experiences to meet the specific needs of Transylvania County African American youth. It was established in1992.

Membership in the Transylvania Citizens Improvement Organization is open to all persons who support the promotion of civic, economic, educational and political opportunities for African American citizens. T.C.I.O. believes that Transylvania County is at its best when ALL of its citizens are contributing.