Going to the doctor’s office during segregation was the most vivid memory for Jepson professor Gill Hickman and philosophy and women’s studies professor Ladelle McWhorter.

“I always thought that separate waiting rooms was a funny idea,” Hickman said, “Since everybody was there to see the same doctor. People went to extreme lengths to show that black was inferior.”

Students and professors gathered in the Think Tank of the Tyler Haynes Commons to hear the two professors — one white, one black — discuss their personal experiences about growing up on both sides of the segregated South and the 1960s Civil Rights struggle in Birmingham, Ala.

The talk was held during the first Brown Bag Discussion series of the semester, lead by the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement and part of the University’s commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Hickman told a story of being chased away from a lunch counter as a child because she had climbed up on a chair without knowing better. McWhorter said that she had been snatched up for going into the black waiting room at the doctor’s office.

“When they would open a school in the black neighborhood it would be a building with desks, a blackboard and chalk,” Hickman said. “That was it. All the books and anything the school needed had to be paid for by parents. There were local fundraisers all the time for the school.”

Hickman and McWhorter used a PowerPoint presentation to illustrate what life was like during segregation. The photos showed separate fountains and waiting rooms, some marked “White” and others marked “Colored.”

The professors also remembered being threatened by the Ku Klux Klan.“I remember crosses burning on our front lawn and death threats to my father regularly,” McWhorter said. “I remember my father sitting in the garage all night with a shotgun and keys in the ignition just in case something happened.”

As a child, McWhorter attended a socially-liberal, white Methodist Church that supported integration. “Everyone who expressed any sympathy for the movement was threatened,” she said.

At the discussion, Hickman tied her talk about her experiences growing up during segregation, to her decision to become part of the Jepson School. She immediately knew she wanted to be part of the school, she said, when she had read about its commitment to nurture students who would be devoted to both leadership and action.

Hickman participated in the early structuring and formation of the leadership program. In the classroom, she focuses on leading change, leadership in organizations, and leadership in a diverse society.