This week at StoryCorps, we remember William "Lynn" Weaver, one of StoryCorps' most frequent participants. Weaver died at the age of 69 on Saturday.
We first heard from Weaver in 2007. In that conversation, Weaver remembered his father, a janitor and chauffeur in Knoxville, Tenn., who learned algebra one night from a textbook so that he could help his son, who was struggling with his homework.
Weaver returned to StoryCorps to talk more about his father and his childhood. In 2017, he recounted his experiences with racial discrimination in 1964, as one of the first black students to integrate his all-white high school and its football team in Knoxville.
Weaver, a surgeon who went on to become chief of surgery at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, also paid tribute to his dad and other role models who supported him. His most recent job was as the head of surgery at the VA in Fayetteville, N.C.
"That's the ignorance of youth and the wisdom of age — when you look back on it you say, 'How did I get here? How did I make it?' Because people helped you, whether you knew it or not," Weaver said in a 2017 interview.
Audio produced for Morning Edition by Aisha Turner, Katie Simon and Jud Esty-Kendall.
StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
It's Friday, which is when we hear from StoryCorps. Now, over the years, hundreds of people have let us into their lives through the StoryCorps segments here on NPR News but none more so than Lynn Weaver, who has appeared on our air four different times. We're sorry to report that Lynn Weaver has died - died over the weekend at the age of 69.
We first heard from him in 2007, when he sat down to recall his father, Ted Weaver, a janitor and chauffeur in Knoxville, Tenn. Lynn Weaver remembered a day when he was a kid, struggling through high school algebra.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
LYNN WEAVER: So my father said, what's the problem? And he said, well, let me look at it. I said, Dad, they didn't even have algebra in your day. And I went to sleep. And around 4 o'clock that morning, he said, come on, son; get up. He sat me at the kitchen table. And he taught me algebra. What he had done is sit up all night and read the algebra book. And then he explained the problems to me so I could understand them. And to this day, I live my life trying to be half the man my father was.
INSKEEP: Lynn Weaver went on to become a surgeon and chief of surgery at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. He came to StoryCorps multiple times over the years to pay tribute to his father and recall his own childhood, including integrating his high school in 1964 and playing for their football team.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
WEAVER: There were always racial comments. I remember we played a all-white school. The game was maybe only in the second quarter. My brother tackled their tight end and broke his collarbone. And when they had to take him off the field with his arm in a sling, that's when the crowd really got ugly. We were on the visitor's sideline, and they were coming across the field. So we backed up against the fence. I remember the coach saying, keep your helmet on. So I was pretty afraid. And then a hand reaches through the fence and grabs my shoulder pads. I look around, and it's my father. And I turned to my brother. I said, it's OK, dad's here.
The state police came and escorted us to the buses. The crowd is still chanting and throwing things at the bus. And as the bus drives off, I look back. And I see my father standing there and all these angry white people. And I said to my brother, how's daddy going to get out of here? They might kill him. We get to the high school, and the most incredible feeling I think I've ever had was when my father walked through the door of the locker room and said, are you ready to go? As if nothing had happened. And I wanted to tell him, Dad, don't come to any more games. But selfishly, I couldn't. I needed him there for me to feel safe.
Normally, when you're with a team, you feel like everybody's going to stand together. And I never got that feeling that the team would stand with me if things got bad. I think a number of the white students who were there with me would say now, if I could have did something different, I would have said something. But that's what evil depends on - good people to be quiet.
(SOUNDBITE OF ENDING SATELLITES', "A DAY IN PORT-ROYAL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.