GREENSBORO — You hear Room C3030 before you see it.

The door to this third-floor room in Scott Hall is open, and the music pounding from within spills out into the hall. Inside, Reginald Brown practices his dance moves.

Brown is visiting A&T junior James Woodert, who lies on his bed and watches his buddy move to the music. They turn down the music when Woodert's roommate, sophomore John Thompson, comes in with a cheese pizza.

C3030 is one of 493 rooms in N.C. A&T's largest residence hall. Like every other room, this one has a story, and it is this: Woodert and Thompson could have lived anywhere on campus or off. They chose this 10-by-15 cinder-block room in the aging dorm because of its location.

"It's better to stay close to campus so you don't miss what's going on and you can be with your people," Woodert said.

Scott Hall, he added, "is in the center of everything."

The center of everything. That has been Scott Hall's legacy since it opened 53 years ago. Its long run will end this summer when it is torn down to make room for a more modern residence hall.

If the walls of Scott Hall could talk, they would tell the stories of more than 40,000 Aggies, most of them young and black. They would tell of friendships made and dreams born. Of boys growing into men. Of late-night card games and early-morning raids. Of historic marches, snipers and fried bologna sandwiches.

Walls do not talk, of course. But the people who lived in Scott Hall do.

Jim Bridgett remembers moving into Room 1122 his sophomore year. It was paradise.

Bridgett and his roommate shared a small double desk and an oversized closet. A radiator supplied ample heat, and the bathroom was just down the hall. Best of all, there was a little privacy.

Bridgett moved into Scott Hall in March 1951, when it was brand-new.

And it sure was a lot better than his old dorm room, an Army barracks.

After World War II, A&T desperately needed dorm rooms. The war was over, and colleges everywhere braced for an enrollment boom. A&T officials figured student enrollment would double to 3,000. The school found a temporary solution to its room shortage in its back yard. The federal government gave the college part of the former Army Air Forces Overseas Replacement Depot, a stopover for military personnel returning from Germany.

The land would later become the college's north campus. Best of all, it had the barracks that provided housing and classrooms for the expected wave of students.

As many as 40 students lived in each open barracks, where they slept in wooden bunk beds separated by an aisle. Residents had room only for a footlocker.

"You ever watch the old TV show 'Gomer Pyle'?" Bridgett said. "It was like that."

In 1947, A&T's president, Ferdinand Bluford, pleaded to the state legislature to replace the barracks, which were made of green wood and tar paper, and were starting to wear out. The coal needed to keep them warm was expensive. The conditions "were not conducive to good study," noted Bluford, who worried the college would lose students to schools with modern dorms.

The pitch worked. By 1949, A&T had received nearly $2 million for the project.

The new dorm would be a massive brick structure with limestone trim. The three-story dorm would have 505 double rooms for 1,010 students. Named after the governor, W. Kerr Scott, the new dorm also would have student lounges, a recreation room and three apartments for the adults who looked after the building and the students.

The Scott Hall hype was as big as the building, which covered two city blocks and was believed at the time to be the biggest college dorm in the Southeast.

"Luxurious internally, mammoth externally,' was how a 1950 article in the student newspaper described Scott Hall. "It will be the showplace of the south."

Henry Frye, a former chief justice of the N.C. Supreme Court, was impressed by the size.

"The doggone thing was so big," said Frye, a 1953 A&T graduate who lived on Scott Hall's first floor. "It was one giant building sticking out all different ways."

Then, sheepishly, he added: "I got lost a couple of times in there."

In the fall of 1959, Ezell Blair Jr., a skinny freshman from Greensboro, was assigned to Room 2156.

Blair's roommate liked the room cold, so he kept the window open at night. Blair liked the heat, so he wanted the window closed.

The showdown came one chilly November evening.

Don't close that window, Blair's roommate warned him.

"At least I'll die warm," Blair thought. His roommate, a stocky baseball player, grabbed the 106-pound freshman and hung him out the open second-floor window.

Other students rushed in and pulled Blair back into the room.

That night, Blair packed his bags and moved down the hall to Room 2128, where another freshman lived. Blair knew the guy living there, Joseph McNeil, from their engineering classes. McNeil's roommate had dropped out of school, so there was a free bed.

They were friends with two other freshmen, Franklin McCain and David Richmond, who had been Scott Hall roommates before moving into town.

The four freshmen regularly met after dinner in Room 2128. Some nights they did their homework. Every night they talked about the issues of the day. Civil rights. Equal rights. Freshman hazing. The books they were reading.

After Christmas break, McNeil came back to school mad. He had spent the holiday in New York City, where he could eat wherever he wanted. But when he returned to segregated Greensboro, the cook at the bus-station grill refused to serve him a hamburger.

On the night of Jan. 31, 1960, Blair was studying in his room when his friends came in and told him of their plans. Blair, a reluctant fourth, agreed to go along.

That night in Room 2128, Blair, now known as Jibreel Khazan, tossed and turned in his bed. McNeil slept little as well.

The next day, the four freshmen headed downtown to the Woolworth's lunch counter and sat down.

Don't bother looking for Room 2128.

The room is there, but the number, like Scott Hall, has changed through the years.

From the outside, Scott Hall looks more or less like it has for 53 years: a squat brick building that makes up in sprawl what it lacks in height.

But inside, some dorm rooms are now offices. Other rooms disappeared when Scott Hall gained an annex on the back and stair towers in the center.

Visiting football teams no longer sleep in the basement as they did during the segregation years. And fraternities no longer meet in basement rooms. The dorm was all-male until 2001.

One of Scott Hall's quirkiest features is gone, too.

When it rained, students who wanted a dry shortcut from old campus to new campus walked from one end of the dorm to the other. It helped to know the football players, who lived on Scott Hall's first floor in the 1970s.

To block the shortcut and improve safety for Scott Hall residents, the school put up plywood boards and later doors. Residents just broke down both barriers. Later, the school replaced the plywood with concrete blocks.

The walls turned the mammoth residence hall into three smaller dorms. The center section was called Scott A. The wing closest to Laurel Street became Scott B, and the wing nearest Moore Gym became Scott C.

Room 2128, if anyone is looking, is now C2016.

Frederick Stocks so enjoyed his freshman year in Scott Hall he spent his next two years there.

He remembers the guys from his freshman hall 32 years ago. There was Eric Salter, his roommate from Philadelphia. Another was David Timmons, later to be his best friend, who today lives near Winston-Salem.

"You knew 70 to 80 percent of the people who lived on your floor," Stocks said. "It didn't matter about your good parts or bad parts. You were still family."

When Scott Hall's family got together on weekends, they played cards. Bid whist and gin rummy were once popular. Stocks' game was spades, which Scott Hall dwellers still play today.

He learned the game from Rocky Peterkin, a sophomore who lived on the first floor. Both were from Red Springs, and once Stocks learned, they were spades partners.

On Friday nights, Stocks and Peterkin and two other students would drag a desk into the middle of whatever room they were in and play all night. When the sun came up, they would quit playing, go to breakfast and come back to Scott to sleep.

"But we did study," Stocks insisted with a laugh. "Monday through Thursday."

Card games were permissible in Scott Hall, but other things were not.

Food was forbidden because it attracted bugs. Before the dorm went co-ed in 2001, women were not allowed inside except on parents' weekend.

Squatters were against the rules, too. But Scott Hall had its share.

Back in the day, students who could afford tuition but not a place to stay were known as sundowners because they showed up at night to sleep on a mattress on the floor. In the morning, they pushed the mattress under a bed and went to class.

John Petty and Thaddeus Smith, two freshmen from Virginia Beach, Va., played host to a sundowner during the 1966-67 academic year.

One of the dorm supervisors, Ernest "Zip" McCoy, would inspect their second-floor room, confiscate the mattress and warn them not to do it again.

The next night, the mattress — and the sundowner — would reappear, and the catch-and-release cycle would begin again. McCoy seemed to have a soft spot for students who wanted an A&T education so badly they would sleep on the floor.

"He'd catch us over and over again, but he didn't do anything," said Petty, who works in the Maryland governor's office. "He understood what was going on."

Before Domino's and Papa John's pizza, Scott Hall residents relied on Sockwell's grill.

In the fall of 1969, Robert Sockwell, a freshman from Winston-Salem, ran the grill nightly from his third-floor Scott Hall room.

Never mind that the whole enterprise was very much against dorm rules. People were hungry, and there was money to be made.

The grill opened at 11 p.m. each night, and students trekked upstairs to Sockwell's for the only thing on the menu: fried bologna sandwiches.

Sockwell somehow managed to hide a hot plate and a small refrigerator from the hall directors, who also failed to notice eight to 10 students, 50 cents in hand, lined up outside his room.

"Even if the dorm reps knew it, no one said anything because Sockwell was serving a purpose," said Rob Edwards, who lived on the second floor and now calls New Jersey home. "He was feeding the masses."

And the sandwiches?

"The sandwiches were OK, if you consider they were made on a hot plate," Edwards said. "But they hit the spot at 2 o'clock in the morning."

Sometimes the rules got bent at Scott Hall. But for three days in May 1969, there seemed to be no rules at Scott — or anywhere else on the A&T campus.

Senior Royall Mack, captain of the baseball team that had just won the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association baseball tournament, was looking forward to commencement in June.

But on May 21, a disputed student-government election at nearby Dudley High School sparked a riot that carried over to A&T. That night, Greensboro police were shot at, reportedly from snipers on the roof of Scott and other A&T buildings.

National Guard troops arrived on the second day, which was marked by more rock-throwing and the overturning of a car. Late that afternoon, Mack and a couple of thousand other A&T students gathered near Brown Hall, then a cafeteria.

The rally broke up just after dark. As students tried to leave campus, they heard shooting. So they ran for the sturdy brick fortress of Scott Hall.

Mack and a dozen other students ran into the dorm from the Laurel Street side and took shelter in the first room with an open door.

The students crouched on the floor. Guardsmen opened fire. Mack heard windows shatter and bullets ricochet off the outside wall. Mack's shortstop, Lloyd Lightfoot, threw up while hiding under a bed.

Twenty minutes of gunfire was followed by tear gas, which drifted into the room through the broken windows. The next sound Mack heard was the slap of boots on the tile hallways and soldiers shouting "Stay down! Stay down!"

In those three days, one A&T student, Scott Hall resident Willie Grimes, was killed. Two other students were wounded, including one as he stood inside a Scott Hall window. Six police officers and soldiers were wounded.

Scott Hall was a shambles. Most of the dorm-room doors had been kicked in or shot through. The building reeked of tear gas.

Neither Grimes' killer nor the snipers was ever found.

President Lewis Dowdy closed the school for the rest of the year and canceled final exams, so Mack and the other students packed their stuff.

On the drive home to West Point, Va., Mack's mother asked her son whether he wanted to go back for graduation.

"Scott Hall saved a lot of lives yesterday," Mack told her, "and I want to go back."

Mack and the rest were saved by what Aggies today call the bullet wall, which faces Laurel Street. The wall is scarred with 50 bullet holes.

A&T will save the wall when crews tear down Scott Hall this summer. It will be turned into a memorial that will stand near the new 880-bed dorm.

The first two buildings of the new $33.4 million residence hall — paid for by a state bond — will open this summer.

The last two buildings will be open in the fall of 2005.

The new dorm is being built in front of Scott Hall, which looks drab and dreary by comparison. The new dorm has central air. Scott Hall has air-conditioners jutting from each window.

The new dorm will have plenty of light. Scott's hallways are narrow and dark. The new dorm will have suites for three or five people each. Scott Hall's bathrooms are shared by 30 to 40 residents.

"A building that age shows its age," Roselle Wilson, A&T's vice chancellor for student affairs, said of the 53-year-old Scott Hall. "We have spent a fair amount of patching and making do, but the state bond made it a no-brainer that it should be replaced."

Its former residents agree. Scott Hall was a great place to live, they said, but A&T needs a new dorm, one that today's students will enjoy, to keep going forward.

Not that Scott Hall will be forgotten. "This was a big building that 1,000 men lived in," said Willie Deese, a 1977 graduate who spent nearly three of his four A&T years in the venerable dorm.

"Even if you'd never been to A&T, you knew about Scott Hall before you got there," he said. "You knew about its size. You knew about its history. You knew it was a passage you went through in life at A&T."

Contact John Newsom at 373-7312 or jnewsom@news-record.com

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