Nathanel Morehead

Nathanael Morehead wasn’t in the band at A and T but had developed such a reputation as a musician and singer on campus, so he was well known by many of his fellow B1 bandmates.

He remembered: “I was a freshman at A and T when Dudrow came down to recruit. I didn’t want to be drafted into the Army, and I enjoyed music. It was a good opportunity and we were told we would staiy in Chapel Hill for the duration, so it sounded fine..”

Because he was married and with a child on the way, he and his wife lived in a Chapel Hill home rather than the band barracks. “Those were the best times, the people in the community, particularly the black citizens who were very receptive. We roomed with two or three families there before we got our own house.”

Morehead said he was more aware of segregation in Chapel Hill than in the Navy, especially that “we couldn’t remain on campus” for food or sleeping quarters. “The doors to the university were closed to us. We could practice in the Tin Can, but we had no access to the canteen, the dining halls. And the white merchants never did anything out of the ordinary for us.”

When the rumor began circulating that the band was headed for Pearl Harbor, Morehead said at first he didn’t believe it: “When I found out, I could’ve fainted. But first thing I had to do was go to a map to see where it was. I was scared to death. All I knew about Pearl Harbor was the bombing. I didn’t even know it was in Hawaii. As far as I was concerned, we were leaving the United States, and it was very frightening. But in the group, there was some consolation. We all wanted to come home.”

On the Pacific Ocean passage: “I didn’t know there was there was so much water on the the earth.”

The promise for service at one station for the duration of the war is commonly reported from black Navy bandsmen of other units, too. “That ‘duration thing came from some Navy officials,” Morehead said. “It wasn’t no skuttle-buttle. But I don’t think it was ever intended that we stay.” 

He added: “I think as a unit, we were able to adjust to the segregated environment. Some good will was created by our being in Chapel Hill. There was a need for such a unit in Hawaii. They felt we’d be able to foster some good will there. We could deal with adverse situations in a manner that wouldn’t upset the establishment. We’d dealt with segregation in Chapel Hill, we could do it in Hawaii.”

He was in the first group of B1 bandsmen to muster out, returning on an aircraft carrier and being discharged finally in Norfolk. “I expected to see more of a change than there was. As far as segregation was concerned, I was a little disappointed. As far as the acceptance of people, you expected to find people more receptive, more congenial, in view of the sacrifices service people had made. But we w=still couldn’t go to a theatre and sit down stairs.

“One thing, as a child, I always wanted to sit at a counter at Woolworth’s and eat a hot dog. But it was so long after we got back that that was possible. To this day [Oct 7, 1986], I’ve never done it. I know in my mind the people today aren’t responsible for the sins of yesterday, but something in me just won’t let me walk in there and order a hot dog. And it seems like when I was a kid, that was just about all I wanted to do.

“But I was discharged in October and next semester I was back in school and I began doing the same thing. As soon as class ended, I went to work, back at Dudley, helping the janitor clean up. More and more, I thought things were still the same.”

Morehead graduated from A and T in 1947 with an industrial arts major and math minor. He started teaching in High point that year, and after ten years became assistant principal at William Penn Hgh Schoo, the principal at Griffin Junior High for 8 years.

From 1970-1983, he worked as a personnel manager at Burlington Industries in six divisions.