GALESBURG, Ill – It has taken more than 5 decades, but retired lawyer Alva Earley finally has his high school diploma reported WQAD-TV.
Earley was supposed to graduate from Galesburg High School in Illinois in 1959.
But Earley was denied that honor because he attended a class picnic in a section of a public park that was for whites only. Early is black.
“I didn’t know I was going to get in so much trouble,” said Earley.
The picnic was at Lake Storey Park and in 1959 it was a racially divided park. The south side of the park was for African Americans and the north side was for whites. The picnic was on the north side of the park.
“I went to North Lake Story because it was the right thing to do. I didn’t go because I was a rebel. I didn’t go to act smart. I went to bring the beans, and I brought some darn good beans,” said Earley.
Early had the grades and the requirements to graduate, but it was that picnic he was told he would not be given a diploma.
Instead he was forced to watch from the sidelines.
“I got to watch my friends’ parents stand up, cheer, take pictures of their sons or daughters. That’s important and I missed all that,” said Earley.
After high school Earley applied to several colleges, but was turned down since the high school wouldn’t recommend him.
Knox College eventually did offer him admission and he graduated with several degrees. Earley went on to a successful career as a lawyer in Colorado.
“I did the right thing and I paid the 55 year price,” said Earley.
The diploma was awarded at the high school’s 55 year class reunion.