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William Lewis Dye, Jr.

William Lewis Dye, Jr.

African American alumnus of Sanford Middle School who chose to serve his country as a Sergeant in the Marines and later became an anesthesiologist.

Born: Minneapolis, MN, United States
Heritage: African American

Some words of advice that I will give you is to not let anyone tell you that you can’t attain something. You will have to work hard no matter what, and listen to your parents. Everything you do from now on will lead you down the life. When you are at school and at home, do not make excuses. You can reach higher levels if you stay out of trouble.

William Lewis Dye, Jr.

African American alumnus of Sanford Middle School who chose to serve his country as a Sergeant in the Marines and later became an anesthesiologist.

My name is William Lewis Dye, Jr. I was born at home on July 21, 1937. I weighed 3-1/2 pounds. I lived in the hospital for 6-1/2 months. I come from a family of 11 children. We all had to sit around the harvest table every day to discuss the day’s events. When I was 5 years old I as able to write a plan to stay out of school and I did. My parents tried to put me in a school for advanced learners, but I did not like this idea.

As a child I met ex-slaves. I talked to Grandma Rice who was 120. She had fingers and toes missing because she was running away. They were cut off by their ex-masters. In 1899 my grandma started walking from Franklin County, Kentucky.

They walked into Evansville, Indiana, where my oldest aunt lived. When the slaves were going to escape from the camps they had a small quilt. They couldn’t read or write, but they could tell colors. This was a map to get out of the South.

My grandmother was the last direct descendant of slaves in our church. I’m now the oldest baptized member in our church. When Barack Obama was elected we cried for hours. We never thought that would happen.

I played the bass when I was 9. I came to Sanford when I was 10. I lived at 37th and Minnehaha. We were the only black family in the community. Over 500 protesters lined up to stop us moving in. After that we couldn’t go across the street. I was the only black student at Sanford.

I went to Roosevelt High School. When I was there I got into jazz and started a band called the Jazz Knights. I had some teachers who were racist, but it wasn’t too bad. My teachers recommended a nursing class to me. I did very well. After high school, my dad signed me up to go in the Marine Corps. I served for 8 years. I was in Okinawa fro 14 months and saw the horrors of war. People wonder why people come back from combat so confused. It’s because you’re killing people you don’t know and it is hard.

In the Marine Corp I made sergeant and I boxed 104 fights and won 90. I figured there was more than boxing. I decided I had to do something with my brain.

In the nursing program I was in the upper 1% of my class I studied hard while other people were out dancing. Besides being intelligent, I worked hard. In medicine you have to know everything about the subject you are studying. You’re not allowed to say, “I didn’t know that.” I spent all my time off reading. All six hours I was off, I spent reading.

I went on to get a Masters degree in anesthesia. At the University I ran the anesthesia machine off and on for 22 years. I also did a lot of teaching.

In all the things I’ve endured, you can make it no matter how disadvantaged your are.


Don’t Let No One Ever Stop You

Honoring William Lewis Dye, Jr.

Don’t Let No One Ever Stop You
(Honoring William Lewis Dye, Jr.)

Don’t let no one
Ever stop you
You can do it
Yes you can!

Back in my day
When we were younger
All us children
Were born at home
Round a big
Harvest table
We all gathered
Never alone

My grandmother
Who delivered
Me did nt
Know what to do
There were no
At the hospital
To care for you
Never alone

I use to see
Black folk picking
Coal that fell
Off railroad cars
Sometimes I saw
Women walking
Down the streets
Time were hard.
Never alone

Like Grandma Rice
She was one-hundred
And twenty, once a slave
She had fingers
And toes missing
They cut them off, after she ran away
Never alone

On up the river
The Mississippi
Had few horses and no cars
Came the Freedmen
Into the Northland
Into Freedom, followed the stars
Never alone

Don’t play the victim
No excuses
If you work hard you will succeed
In these times
Of Obama
Get up and stand on your own two feet
Never alone

Music by LARRY LONG. Words by LARRY LONG with Eric Spark’s 7th Grade Social Studies Class,
Sanford Middle School, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

© Larry Long 2009 / BMI