Canon Nelson Wardell Pinder

Marian Grant Pinder

pinderEpiscopal priest Father Canon Nelson Wardell Pinder from Miami, FL and his wife Marian Grant Pinder from Jacksonville met on the campus of Bethune Cookman University. Father Pinder earned a Religion and Philosophy degree in 1956 and Mrs. Pinder earned a BS in Social Science in 1958. The Pinder’s two children Gail and Nelson II, granddaughter Crystal Priester, her aunt Sherry Parramore, niece and nephew, Nicole Pinder and George Alan Pinder and other extended family members all graduated from Bethune Cookman College or Bethune Cookman University, thus making the Pinder family the personification of a Bethune-Cookman Legacy Family.

Father Pinder began his Orlando ministry in 1959 at The Episcopal Church of St. John the Baptist. Known as “the Street Priest” because of how he organized and participated in protests and sit-ins during the turbulent days of the Civil Rights Movement in Orlando, Father Pinder was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity in 1970 at the last commencement over which BCC President Richard V. Moore presided. One of Father Pinder’s memories of President Moore occurred when “We were having men’s senate meeting, giving the president a fit, a fit that he didn’t have an earned doctorate. I was embarrassed and scared. Moore asked if we were through, then said, ‘My master’s degree hires and fires all those doctors!’.

The Pinders recalled their parents wanted them to attend Bethune Cookman College because Mrs. Bethune was such an honored and respected person, noting that Bethune always referred to her students as “my black boys and girls” and never used the term “colored”. Father Pinder described their first impressions of the school when entering as freshmen. “The student body bonded closely, like one big family. Teachers were helpful and it was comforting to be here. It was not like a big university where you were a number. The rules were strict. Students had to go to chapel, had to attend class…. we managed, we enjoyed it. We obeyed the rules”.

The Pinders joined faculty, staff, students and community members who attended 3:00 PM Sunday Community Meetings when male students dressed in required blue suits and ties and female students wearing blue skirts and white blouses would march into White Hall. Mrs. Marion Pinder emphasized that “when Mrs. Bethune would come into chapel, when she appeared at door, everything stopped. She was awesome and demanded respect and we gave it to her.” The audience of these fundraising meetings also included “tourists who came from all over to see us, and hear us sing. Mrs. Bethune brought outstanding people here, like First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Madame Pandit.” (sister of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister)

“BCC was only place in Daytona Beach where integration could take place. International gatherings included Indians, Cubans, Africans, and when entertainment came here, Blacks and Whites came to campus. “

The cost of tuition was offset when student got scholarships for performing duties on campus. Tuition, room and board was $750.00 a year and “I think 99% of us were on scholarship. We had to work the farm, where the gym is. We had a tennis court we had to take care of. Everyone had a job.” One of the most popular spots on campus was a cabin located on what is now the Quad. “ “C.C. Kemp built this cabin, you would sit and talk and if a girl liked you she could come and get an ice cream cone. During football season, after finishing practice, students would line the sidewalk and sing the fight song on the way to dining hall. It was like one big family.”

Father Pinder revealed that earlier in his life he wanted to become a lawyer, but smiled saying “The Lord got a hold of me before law school.” As a student, he sometimes acted as a guide to Bethune’s home, and that occasionally she would be home. He quoted Bethune as always saying “Either you are here on business or you have no business here.” You have one chance to make a good impression, make that good impression for my sake. Ms. Bethune would want you to be dignified to represent the spirit of Bethune Cookman College. ‘When you go to interviews show manners. Enter to learn, depart to serve’.” She would say, “‘Service is the price we pay for the space we occupy. Here lies gossip. We bury gossip’.”

Mrs. Bethune’s death in 1955 had an enormous impact.

“I was a freshman the night Mrs. Bethune died at about 5:00 or 6:00 in afternoon. Classes were out and news got around that she passed. The President and Dean said to gather behind house, and we watched as she was carried down the stairs. We sang “Let me call you sweetheart” We stayed there for hours. Everyone was crying, phone lines were jammed, I saw the ambulance drive away with her magnificence. We participated in the funeral in White Hall. They put chairs for the student body to sit outside. Had loudspeakers, many dignitaries were here. They closed everything down. I was in the service and we mourned her death.”

When BCU Oral History students what they should do to instill passion for BCU, Father Pinder responded:

“Togetherness. If you can’t speak well about a BCC person, don’t say anything at all. BCC is more important than any person. Never let anyone knock BCC down in your presence. YOU have to sell BCC. Secondly, represent MMB. Thirdly, you have to represent yourself. You cannot go around splitting verbs, going around not dressing for the occasion. Think, ‘I am an BCU student and I represent all Mary McLeod Bethune stood for. She was proud to be black. She let you know. I never heard her say ‘Negro’ or ‘colored’, she always said ‘Black’. BCC is unique school, geared toward building a family both here and when you leave. The school prepared me to go to seminary and go out, through teaching and behavior. How not to be hostile and not turn people.” Father Pinder advised students not to boast, “We party hard at our school!”. He said, there should be “none of that. Pass your tests, you are somebody, God didn’t make junk.

Several months after this interview, “Pinder’s Kids,” an original play celebrating Father Pinder’s civil rights legacy, premiered in Orlando. Father Pinder said, “Pinder’s kids, shows hatred in Orlando, it’s a heck of a play that talks about how leadership is given. Look at it. Pass it around. Hate is the worst thing in the world. Don’t ever let anyone drag you so low so as to have you hate them. That is the lowest. “

Sherry Parramore

Sherry Parramore attended Bethune Cookman from 1987 until her graduation as a Political Science major in 1991 and worked at Bethune-Cookman College from 2003-2005 writing grants as the Director of Foundation Relations in the College Advancement Office. Asked if BCC transformed her, she stated “Of course! Marry McLeod Bethune is one of my heroes, that’s who I speak about all the time, that’s who I talk about when I go speak to people about her legacy and her life and how she lived and what she left the students here. The enter to learn depart to serve, that’s my life, that’s community service.”

Ms. Parramore named many younger family members who attended or graduated from Bethune-Cookman, , “Crystal (Priester),my older brother Ronnie who attended in 76, a nephew Shawn came in 2002, another cousin; she was here when I was here; she graduated in the 90s. My brother Kevin he was here in 89-91.”

She related “Like so many people, Bethune was not my first choice. I was headed to Spelman, and I was accepted and on my way, and, my parents did send my deposit in for housing and they were not going to let me live off campus. I was talking to my band director over at Jones (High School in Orlando), and he said “Why don’t you go to Bethune, let me call the band director you can go up there and be in the band. That’s how I got to Bethune Cookman, but never regretted it.

Dr. Bronson was president when she attended Bethune-Cookman and her first impression of the school was that it “was a lot like my high school, small, of course all African Americans, still in the band, so it reminded me of high school.” Describing rules that she observed as a student, she said, “The ladies had to be in the dorm at 11:00 PM on the week days and 1:00 AM on the weekends. The boys got to hang out as long as they wanted. It was just the curfew period. It still exists. My friends who went to other schools like Florida A&M and they didn’t have a curfew, that was the biggest thing.”

Oral History students asked what would happen if students broke the rules and Ms. Parramore replied, “They were sent home. I know couple people that were sent home because they were trying to sneak in the dorm. Missing curfew three times meant you were sent home.”

Students wanted to know about shopping and social life in Daytona Beach when she was a student, and based on her experience as a Soprano Saxophone in the Marching Wildcats Band she replied, “The sad part about it is; I was just telling my one of my friends that if you are in the band; you don’t really have that life. You spend all day from the time you get out of class till late at night, so I felt like I didn’t have a life at BCC. Then after I left my senior year, I marched in the first couple of games, and then I got a taste of what it was like, but I left school that December so I finished. I wish I had it all over again; I probably wouldn’t be in the band because it does consume so much of your time. I mean; you have fun, you develop very close relationships but it just takes up to much of your time.

One of the big campus events she recalled was homecoming. “The Thursday before homecoming, the pre-dawn dance would start in the gym and last till 6:00 in the morning. It was fun. You would go in your PJs and spend the night in the gym.”

Ms. Parramore is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha and reminisced about being a Political Science major under the tutelage of Dr. Jake Miller. “We participated in Modern United Nations and we got chance to go to New York City and that was nice, just going up there and spend the week.”

When asked: “If Mrs. Bethune was alive today; what would you think she would say about the current state of the school, would she like it being a University, what would she think of the students”? Parramore responded, “I think that she would be happy with that part of it, it becoming a University. Its kind of funny because they rank all the schools you heard about that and, we were kind of low on the list. One of the reasons that we were low is because of the kind of students that we accept. Alumni had this whole discussion about should we change the way we accept students? No because that’s how Dr. Bethune started to help people and to give everyone a chance. So is it more important to keep what she started and her dream; or to change are standards to make a list. I think that she would be happy that we’re still giving students a chance. We give students a chance that wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to go to college, and they come here get a second chance and it change their lives.

Advice Ms. Parramore would give to students graduating from high school to make them choose Bethune-Cookman University is “I would talk about Bethune-Cookman as being a family, defiantly small class sizes, hands on. The professors will work with you, go back and ask them to make sure you finish college. That’s kind of how I would sell it. I’m definitely a Wild Cat forever!

That advice is echoed in what Ms. Parramore say to students currently enrolled, “Definitely finish college. I know sometimes it gets hard and you want to quit, but the best advice is to go ahead and finish. Then go on to grad school and get your Masters. That’s what I did, I finished Bethune in three and a half years and then that extra semester I went to UCF and finish grad school; but you go through a burnout. I think if had to go back and do it today; I probably wouldn’t have made it. The best advice is to finish school go on to grad school and get your Master’s degree.”

George Alan Pinder


gpFather Nelson Pinder and Marian Pinder’s grandson, George Alan Pinder was born may 14, 1987 at Carver Ranches in Hollywood FL. He began attending Bethune-Cookman College in 2005 and graduated from Bethune Cookman University in 2010 as a Business major. Dr. Trudie Kibbe Reed was President at that time. George carried on a family tradition of being a member of the Marching Wildcats and lived in the Bronson Annex Dormitory.

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