Cascade Media Groups New Columnist/Contributor Robert Louis Durrah, Jr.


Robert Louis Durrah, Jr was born Paul Washington in the District of Columbia on August 4, 1957.
His adoptive parents, Daisy Mae and Louis Durrah, changed his name upon his adoption so that he
would fit more easily into his new family. Robert senior worked for the National Bureau of Standards as
a mathematician working with NASA to get rockets into space. His mother Daisy worked in Cordele, GA
at the Gillespie-Selden Institute, a boarding school for African American students throughout the south
whose parents were committed to a high quality education for their children. Mrs Durrah got the
position shortly after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

After the adoption, Mrs Durrah took a job in Yanceyville, NC as a Librarian at Caswell County
Training School and moved back to NC with her young son and husband. While his mother worked in
another county, Bobby lived with his paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Teamer Barber during the week,
but at his parents’ home on weekends. He attended Jack and Jill Kindergarten on Gray Avenue, not far
from his Grandmother’s home on Camel Ave. Evelin Sellers was the kindergarten teacher and she also
taught piano lessons at the Kindergarten after school let out around 3 pm.
Daisy got hired by the Winston Salem Forsyth County Schools in 1963, and no longer commuted
to Yanceyville, NC, and President John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas,TX. Robert Jr started
attending St Benedict the Moor Catholic School in ’63 and recalls the nuns coming out of the building
and urging children to go home after the president was killed. And, by the time I got to Granny’s house,
she had no idea the president was dead. I graduated from 8 th grade in 1971, attended George
Washington Carver High School for 9 th grade, my daddy had had it with the nuns. After 9 th grade, I
subsequently enrolled in The Asheville School, Asheville, NC a private Boarding School formerly with all
white students. The Anne C Stouffer Foundation made substantial monies available for African American
Students to attend formerly segregated Southern boarding schools from DC to Texas. The sponsor of the
funds said, “If they can integrate Phillips Exeter and Andover Academies in New Hampshire, we ought to
be able to integrate Southern boarding schools, and Anne Cannon Reynolds did just that.
After Asheville School, Bobby Durrah chose to matriculate at Duke University, rather than the
University of Pennsylvania though he got in everywhere he applied. At Duke, Durrah played basketball
for a year, was Head Cheerleader for 3 unprecedented years in a row, was graduated in 1979, and
accepted a commission into the US Air Force (USAF) as a Nuclear Missile Launch Officer with the 381 st
Strategic Missile Wing, Wichita, KS. Four years, five months, and 22 days post arrival, RD separated
honorably from the USAF and after a very brief stint with Boeing Military Airplane Company, Durrah
took a job in the Wichita Public Schools as a Special Education Instructor at Jardine middle school, and at
Wichita High School East. Later he transitioned out of SpEd, and into a Social Studies Position also at
Wichita East. In 1989, after earning a Master’s Degree in Education from The Wichita State University,
Wichita, KS, Durrah became an Assistant Principal and went to Wichita High School Northwest as
Freshman Administrator. In 1992, after assisting with the opening of the North East Magnet High School

it was time to move on to other things, and Chicago called for Durrah’s presence in the PhD program at
the University of Chicago. Living in Hyde Park, and working for the Center for School Improvement was
beneficial. A group of investors became interested in hiring me away from the University of Chicago, and
they succeeded since two of their former administrators at the North Lawndale College Prep Charter
High School had been relieved of their duties in back to back episodes.
Durrah bought his new condo on the west side and vacated Hyde Park, living near the school
where he had become Principal, North Lawndale College Prep Charter High School. There, Bobby Durrah
resurrected an academic program that had stalled, hired an entirely new faculty since the old one
walked out on the last day of school, never to return. And, after a visit to Korea to get a close up view on
Korean Education and culture, Bobby got right to work on recruiting new faculty and staff members and
filled the entire school's needs completely, before school started in late August.
Chicago, IL would be home until a call from home would be the only time his mother had ever
asked him to come home. Dad was suffering from Alzheimer’s, and mom needed a hand. Putting his
condo on the market the next week, it sold for $40K more than he paid for it the year before, and he
packed up his belongings a little over two years after he arrived on the west side.
Returning to North Carolina was no mean feat. Talk about hating to go back home, it was way
more than any notion he had previously held about going back to NC. My parents did fairly well in their
late 80’s but Alzheimer’s and taking care of a sick spouse wore my mother down brutally. Dad passed in
April of 2012, and mom followed in December of 2012. What a sad time that was.
Well, there’s just me, and I’m in the home I mostly grew up in, in Forsyth County, North
Carolina. I will continue to travel as much as possible, and enjoy life without a mortgage.

nelson

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