When Merrilou Williams went to bed Tuesday night, she seemed headed for another term as the District 4 representative on the Greensboro Board of Education.
But what a difference a night makes.After all votes were counted by 6 a.m. Wednesday, Williams, 52, had lost to challenger Walter Pritchett Jr., 44. According to complete but unofficial returns, Pritchett had 17,535 votes to 15,348 votes for Williams.
``I wish I knew what happened,' Williams said Wednesday afternoon. ``I'm numb. I don't know what went wrong.'
Across town, board member Pershing Wall was also trying to get a handle on the election. Wall, 71, lost his bid for a third term to challenger Johnny Hodge. Hodge had 21,255 votes to 10,525 for Wall in the District 3 race.
``I just didn't have enough votes,' Wall said. ``This was a retrace from the last election. The NAACP didn't support me then, but I won and they didn't like it. They went after me. I couldn't have done anything to satisfy them.'
The Greensboro chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the black community have complained about the at-large method of electing school board members. Six of the board's seven members run in districts but are elected at-large.
Four years ago, neither Wall nor Board Chairman Jim Davis was endorsed by the local NAACP's political arm, nor were they the choice of voters in their predominantly black districts, but both won the general election.
In 1986, Wall beat out then-incumbent Alma Adams.
Adams, now a member of the Greensboro City Council, said she is delighted Hodge won and also is excited that three of the new board's seven members - Davis, Hodge and Pritchett - will be black.
``Our fate is still in the hands of the at-large white community,' she said. ``But I'm delighted we have fresh new blood on the board. They will surely be an asset.'
The incumbents held their seats in the other two races, with Davis winning another four-year term over Ed Whitfield in District 2 by a vote of 20,746 to 11,412; and Margaret ``Peggy' Abernathy beating out Sharon Schrier in District 6 by a vote of 22,880 to 9,021.
Hodge seemed more excited Wednesday afternoon about Pritchett's victory than his own.
``Walter Pritchett won,' Hodge said. ``Oh my God. I'm happy. I like to see others be successful.'
Abernathy, Davis, Hodge and Pritchett will be sworn in during a special meeting Dec. 1.
In six years on the board, Williams has garnered a reputation as the people's candidate and has prided herself on being the only board member to challenge Superintendent John A. ``Pete' Eberhart's recommendations, even voting to deny his bonus this year and to not renew his contract for another four years.
Williams said she thinks Abernathy will fill her vacated role.
``Peggy will be the lone voice,' Williams said. ``Walter is very capable. I just wish he had been involved in the schools more.'
Abernathy has said she wouldn't mind such a role.
Efforts to reach Pritchett were unsuccessful.
Wall said he hopes a black member will continue to head the board's finance committee, which oversees the school system's $111.8 million budget.
``Where the money is spent is where the personnel has to go,' Wall said, explaining why he pushed for membership on the board's finance and personnel committees. ``Curriculum will fall in place behind those two.'
Wall said he won't stop being an advocate for children, but doesn't think he'll run for another school board term.
``You get a certain age and you slow down,' he said. ``I'm not 49 any more, and I realize that myself.'