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Local History Notes

Notes about the history of Iredell County by Joel Reese, Local History Librarian.

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Dec 30

Eric Coperning and the African American Struggle

Posted on December 30, 2019 at 9:08 AM by Jenny Levins

District Nine was the only name they gave to the junior high school that I attended in Caldwell County. I don’t know why they didn’t give it a name. It was in the black community separate from the rest of the schools in the area and only seventh and eighth grade kids went there.


Eric Corpening was one of my classmates in the seventh grade. Eric was black and was friends with everyone in class though back then the black guys usually hung together as a group. One day our principal Mr. Boggs came to the door and motioned for our teacher to come into the hall. Mr. Boggs was huge. He was over 6 ft. 4 inches tall and looked like an offensive linemen. There was another man in the hall with him. After a minute my teacher stepped in and asked Eric to come out into the hall.


Normally when the principal came looking for you it was because you were in trouble, but I remember Mr. Boggs stepping into the door and putting his hand on Eric’s shoulder as they went out. Our teacher just sat in front of the class with a funny look on her face while we all listened to the muffled voices outside the door. Finally, they moved away and started walking down the hall.


My teacher looked around the room at us for a few seconds and then spoke.  She said Eric’s mother had been killed in an accident and that he would not be coming back to class for a few days. She didn’t say anything else. She just started back into her lesson leaving us all trying to grasp what we had heard.  


It was the next day at home that I learned from the newspapers that Eric’s mother had been killed by an elderly woman in a nursing home. His mother was a single parent and had worked for years supporting her family while going to nursing school. She finally got her degree and had just started her first job as a nurse. She had gone into this old woman’s room to check on her and was leaning down when the woman woke up.


I don’t know if it was the fact that she was black or just that she did not know who she was or what, but the woman grabbed a pair of scissors and stabbed her in the neck.  She bled to death. I think they sent the old woman to Broughton’s Hospital after declaring her insane and she died a few months later. I have always remembered her death. It seemed so unfair. Eric was out several days before he came back. He looked like his heart had been torn out. I know that what happened left a tear in mine.


Joel Reese, Local History Librarian

Iredell County Public Library


This article appeared in the Statesville Record and Landmark as “Iredell’s black-school history on display” on Feb. 20, 2008


(Note: The Local History Department sponsored a program on “The History of Black Schools in Iredell County” on February 23, 2008 as part of our Black History Month celebration. The program’s speaker was Teresa Turner, a retired Iredell County school teacher and a native of the Harmony community. Teresa provided a history of black education in Iredell and displayed rare photos and memorabilia from the early black schools in the county. Teresa passed away a few years ago and since then her sister Phyllis Bailey and brother Burgess Bailey have continued presenting programs on Black history in Iredell County