Conversations With Sam McCord
October 14, 2012 - Mr. Sam McCord joined the
Spirits in the Sky yesterday around 5pm, so for those who came in late, this
article was originally posted on this website on July 11, 2006 and was so
popular, it was published in
Bugler's summer 2010 issue for posterity. And to re-quote one of my favorite
quotes from Mr. Anonyman - Sam, I'm
glad you are free from your "prison" and finally be a normal person on the other
Over the years, Sam Mc Cord and I shared many
conversations at many gatherings. Also I have had the opportunity to observe Sam
in action when people - from all walks of life, be it young or old, hearing or
deaf – would ask him questions. Whether it would be silly, obscure, or even a
trivial kind of question on anything, Sam would give them an answer in a
dignified manner. He treated all people equally regardless of who they are. In
the course of my observations, I realized that Sam is a walking historical
encyclopedia on information about NCSD. And very few people like him are left
In fact, his depth of memory never ceases to amaze me. He even remembers when
and where we first met. It was in the fall of 1965 at the Goodwin Hall
playground area I was walking towards the back of the Goodwin Hall cafeteria to
do one of the Saturday morning assigned tasks.
William Samuel McCord IV is a 1962 NCSD graduate. He retired after 35 years as
a dormitory supervisor – Goodwin Hall for 14 years, and then Henderson Hall for
21 years. In his retirement, he stays active writing about deaf activities
"Around Unifour/Asheville" article in "The News From Around The State" section
of The Bugler. He also serves as Vice President of the NCSD Museum.
The Student Union Building on the NCSD campus was
dedicated to his father,
William S. McCord III, who was a leader in the deaf community and was a member of
the NCSD advisory board.
He has two sisters, Barbara Allison who recently died on January 27, 2006, and
Donna Smolik who now lives in Charlotte, NC. Sam and his wife, Gerry, celebrated
their 36th wedding anniversary on December 27, 2005.
Because there are very few people left to leave us with knowledge or information
about NCSD, I decided to create this page; and call it "Conversations with
Lester: Can you give me a brief family history of the superintendents of
McCord: Dr. Edward McKee Goodwin who died on July 18, 1937, had 4
daughters (1), Louise, Edith, Miriam, who never married, and Maude. The 4th
daughter was actually a twin but the twin brother was stillborn and is buried on
NCSD’s campus. Goodwin’s wife, Maude, died in the superintendent’s house in
1934. Goodwin and all of his family are buried in Forrest Hills Cemetery in
Dr. Carl E. Rankin passed away on February 24, 1974 (2) in Durham, NC. He
married Louise, one of Goodwin's daughters. She also died in the
superintendent's house, on March 23, 1955. She was buried in Chinese clothing
and both are buried in Forrest Hills Cemetery. Dr. Rankin and his wife also
lived in China for five years and had a baby boy there. Dr. Rankin resigned his
Superintendent position in 1955 to take a teaching position at Gallaudet College
Dr. Ben E. Hoffmeyer was the School’s Principal for eight years prior to
becoming a Superintendent in 1955. In 1969, he postponed his resignation to
accept the position of Headmaster at The American School for the Deaf for almost
a year so that he can be involved with NCSD's 75th Anniversary. He retired in 1981, died in 1994 and is interred
with his wife in Burke Memorial Cemetery.
Then you have Dr. Charles (Rance) Henderson, who was the School’s Superintendent
for 20 years (1970-1990) and moved to Connecticut.
Bill Simpson was acting Superintendent during the 1990-1991 school year and everyone was hoping he would be
appointed bona fide.
Elmer Dillingham became Superintendent in 1991. He later resigned and went to
the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind as the Principle for the first year and
then became President of the School effective July 1, 1997.
Dr. Gary Mowl and Kent Mann were later Superintendents. Currently the school’s
Superintendent is Dr. Linda Lindsay, PhD. (As of recent, the title of
Superintendent is now called Director).
Lester: I noticed some of the superintendents were called doctors.....
McCord: Yes, Dr. Rankin was the only "real" doctor. The others were
honorary members of their profession. (Editor's note: Dr. Rankin majored in
psychiatry). Dr. Goodwin actually received two honorary degrees: one from Wake
Forest College, an Honorary Doctor of Humanities in 1932 and in 1935 from
Gallaudet College, an Honorary Doctor of Letters. (4)
Dr. Hoffmeyer was honored by Gallaudet College in May 1969 with the Honorary
Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. (4)
Dr. Charles (Rance) Henderson's received an Honorary Degree from Gardner Web
University and is still active in the education aspect of his profession, namely
the Smart Start program in North Carolina). (5)
Lester: Tell me a little sports history at NCSD.
McCord: The original football field was located at the Goodwin Hall site
(circa 1900). Football was suspended twice, the first time in 1905 and restored
in 1907, In 1912 Dr. Goodwin again suspended the football activity because a boy
got hurt and around that time he started the Army type drill program in order to
keep the boys active.
Basketball was played in West Hall's Assembly area. A reminder;
West Hall was the
former High School before it burned down in 1938, Hoey Hall, aka Upper
School, was built in it's location. Most of West Hall’s classrooms were on the
1926 the boys assisted in building the new football field. Odi Underhill
restarted football and also started the Western Football Conference. The
original track field was located just south of the current football field and in
1957, Ben Hoffmeyer designated the football field to be named Alumni Field.
In 1960, the current football field was expanded to its current state. The track
field was relocated to encircle the football field.
Lester: Tell me about the buildings on campus.
McCord: The Superintendent House is the oldest building on campus.
In 1911, Dr. Goodwin decided the Main Building was too small to hold all of the
students so he had Goodwin Hall built to separate the young students from
the older ones.
In 1917-1918 construction started on the infirmary.
Around 1924, lack of funds prevented the completion of the interior of the Old
Gym and the boys in woodshop class completed the interior. The state later came
up with the funds to complete the swimming pool and Gougui, an Italian man from
Valdese, was hired to do the work.
The Vocational Shop (Rondthaler Hall) opened
in 1927-1928 and the next year, construction started on Primary School, now
called Joiner Hall.
In 1938, Dr. Rankin went to Raleigh to obtain funds to assist the fireproofing
Building and Goodwin Hall by replacing the wooden floors with concrete. School
closed April 12, 1938 so that the renovations could begin. And after the school
reopened on October 19, 1938, the students found that restrooms were added on
all floors in both buildings.
In 1954 Rankin Hall was built and some members of the Class of 1970 were the
students there one year later.
In 1967, Student Union Building was built and in June 1970 it was dedicated as
the McCord building.
Jeter Hall was built in 1971 as well as Henderson Hall and Crutchfield Hall.
Lester: Can you tell me where the caves used to be on campus?
McCord: These were really not called caves; they were actually
underground food storage cellars because in those days food was commonly stored
underground to preserve vegetables. These "caves" were forgotten over the years
when refrigeration was installed on campus.
In the early 1970's, they were rediscovered when the playground was expanded
between Rankin and Goodwin Halls.
Webmaster’s note: Since our original conversation The Bugler has printed
pictures and reprinted an article about these underground food storage cellars.
Lester: When was the Water Tower built?
McCord: In 1929 to replace the original water tank that was built inside
the Clock Tower when the Main Building was built in 1894. When Goodwin Hall was
built, their water was also coming from the Clock Tower's water tank and that
reduced the water pressure because everyone was using it. So, before the Clock
Tower's water tank was replaced, the Main Building students were allowed to take
their baths only on Saturdays. The showers were located in the basement of Main
In the 1960's, the campus started getting water from the city, yet other parts
of the campus was still getting water from the watershed.
Lester: Tell me about the going home policies during the Goodwin and
McCord: Dr. Goodwin ordered all students to arrive at school on the first
Wednesday after Labor Day and because of the hardships of transportation in
those days most students stayed until school closed for the summer. Dr. Goodwin
also made arrangements with ticket sellers to allow for half prices of
After 1940, Dr. Rankin ordered all students to be home for Christmas for a week.
During the conversations with Sam McCord, he
told personal tidbits that I would like to add here:
Dr. Goodwin was skinny but was very
athletic. At the age of 62, a student taught him how to drive!
All this happened in the mid 1920's. He was
leaving one of the buildings on campus in his car and was observing what he
thought was smoke. He drove into a tree, broke his nose and lost his sense of
Dr. Goodwin was skilled in sign language but
Dr. Rankin was not as knowledgeable. When Dr. Rankin left NCSD in
1955 to be a Professor at Gallaudet College (University) he was required to have
proficiency in sign language.
Dr. Rankin was a very strong supporter of Scouting. He was never a Scout
but became an Eagle Scout in his 50's while Paul Crutchfield was the ranking
Dr. Rankin also helped with the farming on
Campus, although farming on campus stopped in the early 50's.
Dr. Rankin was truly a statesman and a good
politician. He could argue among people but would be friends in public.
Dr. Ben Hoffmeyer had two
brothers that were Deaf, his twin who died at the age of 12 and an older brother.
Ben and his parents lived near a Deaf School in Fulton, Mo. Ben would sneak into
the School every Saturday to play sports with his brothers. Ben was very
heartbroken when his twin brother died and is the reason he was interested in
working with the Deaf.
Ben's favorite sport was softball and he
oftentimes, at a spur of the moment, would play basketball with the boys at
I am encouraging anyone to e-mail me if they
would like to see their questions about NCSD answered here.
I would like to thank Sam McCord for sharing
his memories and observations about NCSD. I would also like to thank MamaPat for
taking notes of my vocal interpreting of Sam's conversations for me.
(1) Goodwin’s daughters’ names were obtained from the NCSD’s 75th Anniversary
(2) Gallaudet University Archives – Vital Records: Convention of American
Instructors of the Deaf, volume 47 (1975), p645
(3) NCSD 75th Anniversary pamphlet p28
(4) Doctorate Degree info from ncsdmuseum.net
(5) Google search on Rance Henderson
The purpose of this Webpage is to provide access to hard to find, "signed"
history of NCSD.
Return to Previous Page
This page was originally posted on 07/11/06
and was last updated on