Kelly Bryant

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Mr. R. Kelly Bryant, Jr. was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, where he graduated from high school in 1935. He then attended Hampton University and received a degree in Business Administration after participating in a Hampton and FDR National Youth Service program to fund his education. Relocating to Durham, North Carolina, North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company hired him, and he advanced from Accountant to Assistant Secretary after 41 years of employment.

His exceptional career is matched by a dedication to his community. He is currently a Trustee at White Rock Baptist Church and a Right Worshipful Grand Secretary for the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of North Carolina. A glance at Mr. Bryant's resume is also a chronicling of Durham's history, particularly with regard to civil rights and black community leadership: A life-long NAACP member, a 37-year scout master, Secretary-Treasurer of the Selective Buying Campaign/B lack Solidarity Committee/Black Christmas, board member of the Durham Business and Professional Chain, and on the list goes...

Even while speaking casually on the telephone with Mr. Bryant, he mentions his role in integrating Kerr Reservoir, federal park land in Henderson, North Carolina--with one black site compared to the ten white areas. Planning a company department picnic, completely unaware, he reserved a white area for the all-black group. Some "concerned" white park-goers reported their presence to the local sheriff, who was powerless to do anything but guarantee no foul play occurred. Later, the Durham paper reported the North Carolina Mutual picnickers as playing a central role in desegregating the Reservoir. I include this anecdote because it exemplifies Mr. Bryant's quiet manner of sharing with me the central role that he has played in fostering and improving his community.

interviewed by Jen Steen

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