John Gill In Mr. Freedman’s first honors math class, he noticed a student, John Gill, who looked similar to the students he had grown up with in New York, sitting alone in the middle row. Mr. Freedman decided to talk to him and they had a great relationship. It was only two months in to talking to this student every day that Mr. Freedman realized he was African-American. The other students knew he was African-American and purposely decided not sit with him because of prejudice. Mr. Freedman has since lost contact with him and John Gill has not reached out to Georgia Tech.
One of Mr. Freedman’s roommates was also good friends with John Gill Living on Campus During Mr. Freedman’s first year at Tech he lived in Towers Residence Hall with a student from Winder, Georgia. His roommate had never met a Jew before, but they still got along fine. He was invited to leave by Georgia Tech. His roommate was a munitions expert and would fuse M-80’s and set them off in the stairwell. He also had a radio transmitter, and they would go watch basketball games and block the transmission to the Georgia Tech radio station.
Because of this behavior they were kicked out of the dorms the day before the last spring final, but Mr. Freedman just moved into his fraternity house, so it wasn’t inconvenient. First Football Game Mr. Freedman had grown up with Tech and learned the fight song before he could speak, but he had never been to a football game. The first home game his freshman year was against Auburn University. The morning of the game someone stole his wallet, so he had to walk around the entire stadium and fin an entrance. He ended up joining an alumni group that was meeting the naval armory and followed them in. He never found his wallet, but he did make it to the other games.
Fraternity Mr. Freedman rushed fraternities, particularly AEPI, his first semester of college. His grandfather had founded AEPi after he graduated, but there was a question of which Jewish house he would join. Mr. Freedman did not consider any of the Christian nor nondenominational fraternities because they would not accept Jews. Mr. Freedman rushed Phi Epsilon Pi (PhiEp) and Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT), but considering he was a legacy at AEPI, he chose to pledge there. He has made many friends there who he still talks to today. Whenever he was looking for distractions, his fraternity was always there to deliver some.
He met a number of girls through the fraternity. Mr. Freedman got involved with the Reck Parade and other homecoming activities early in college education. AEPi had serious Recks as well as seriously involved fraternity members. Study Habits Mr. Freedman was not good at studying. He was very sure that he has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), but in the 60’s no one knew what that disease was. He believe he has it because recently one of his brothers and a cousin have been diagnosed with the disorder. Being able to focus and stay on track for any period of time was very hard for him to do while attending Tech.
When he graduated there was only one person he knew who had a lower GPA than he did, and he struggled through his last two quarters. He worked for a year, was in the army for two years, and when he finished grad school, he had doubled his undergrad GPA. Never Seen the Dean After the explosion in the stairwell, Mr. Freedman did not have to go see the dean because the RA could not prove that he and his roommate had done it. The RA came into the room looking for evidence of the explosion, but he could not find it.
What he did find was a six month old beer that Mr. Freedman’s roommate had forgotten about, and he used that as the reason to remove them from the residence hall. Mr. Freedman only ever saw Dean Griffin under pleasant and friendly circumstances. The Dean of Students at the time was likely James Dull because neither Mr. Freedman’s parents nor grandparents knew that he had been kicked out of his dorm. Summers During his first summer out of school, Mr. Freedman went back to New York and worked in a plastics factory that made gas station signs. He cleaned up any messes made at the factory, and during the two week break he and someone else were assigned to clean out the paint rack.
They had to use a chemical solvent and they got nothing to protect their faces. It was okay until they had to spray higher areas and the toxic substance would run down their arms into more “sensitive” areas. The following summer, he was a janitor for the local school system. The arrangement he had with his parents was that they covered his living expenses and he had to earn spending money on his own. His last summer before his 5th year he worked for a company that installed false ceilings. As long as he had his work done by Friday he made his own hours and it was making more money than he had before.
Second Year Mr. Freedman was happy to come back to school after working at the plastics factory all summer. He was determined to do better and he moved into the house. Moving into the house did not hurt his grades much, and he did not need a required GPA to stay in the house which was great. He kept his grades up until his spring quarter of his sophomore year, but they still let him live in the house the following year. Mr. Freedman became more aware of the Civil Rights Movement during his second year at Tech. He had previously been to a couple of marches in Long Island, so he understood some of the situation.
He had a younger cousin who had been sending him articles about what had been occurring in Georgia while he was in New York. Mr. Freedman was never a part of a protest while he was at Tech, but his father was a part of one. Mr. Freedman’s father was a part of the protest to reaccredit Georgia Tech after Governor Eugene Talamadge removed its accreditation. There were very few Civil Rights Movement on the campus. There was one fraternity on campus, the “Old South” fraternity that was not friendly to African Americans or Jews. Anytime Mr. Freedman’s fraternity would play them in intramurals, a bloodbath would ensue.
Air Force ROTC Mr. Freedman went into the Air Force after graduating for Georgia Tech. Mr. Freedman could not join the Navy because he was legally blind, and the Army was extremely strict about a number of things. As a part of the Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (AFROTC), Mr. Freedman had drill every Thursday. He did not learn much discipline because that was not the Air Force’s focus, and the classes were dull. He only stayed for two years, and was planning on joining for the next two, but when he went to join they would not let him in because of his eyes.
He finds at ironic that the air force would not let him do an analytical desk job because of his sight, but the army did not mind sending him to traipse around the jungles of Vietnam. In the Fall of 1964, the Air Force was playing the Navy and a bunch of fraternity from Tech drove do n to watch the game in Florida. The night before the game they went to Gainesville, Florida to visit the AEPi chapter at University of Florida, and it was the first time that Mr. Freedman ever saw somebody with marijuana. Georgia Tech was very conservative campus so marijuana could not be found because most students studied not under the influence.
Mr. Freedman was still learning that the school was tough on his own. He recalls a social science course freshman year where they still read J. Edgar Hoover’s A Study of Communism. Third Year Not much happened that year, but he made a couple of friends at Emory University. Third year was the year that Mr. Freedman slipped, and he regrets not participating in the activities that Tech had to offer outside of the fraternity. It was hard trying to study and cutting up in the fraternity. He still dressed the way he did in New York which was different from the way everyone else at Tech dressed.
The first time an African American student integrated the living environment of campus was during Mr. Freedman’s time at Tech. His name was Enoch Ward, and he was moving to Atlanta from Augusta, Georgia. His first roommate was happy with him the first day, but his parents found out and moved him to a different dorm. His second roommate was a guy from New York who could care less where he was from or who he was. Mr. Freedman says that if he had roomed with John Gill he may have studied better. Mr. Freedman never knew Ron Yancey nor Fred Espy who were the first two African-American students to graduate from Georgia Tech.