A recent gift to the ECU Foundation by James L. “Jim” Ratledge ’51 of Roswell, Georgia, came with a note that shines light on an era when the Dail House–the official residence of East Carolina presidents and chancellors for six decades—was actually known as the Young House.
Ratledge’s $10,000 gift to the foundation honors an aunt and uncle—the late Anne and Willoughby F. “Red” Young. A prominent Greenville family, the Youngs owned what we call the Dail House for 10 years.
When he graduated high school in 1947, Ratledge’s parents enrolled him in ECTC and shipped him off to live with his aunt and uncle in Greenville. As a small town boy from the western part of the state, moving into the mansion on Fifth Street was a cultural shock.
“I remember walking into their house for the first time, and I was just awed at how big it was, and how tastefully decorated it was,” says Ratledge. “They were such nice people, always helping somebody. They took me in and gave me a home and really made college possible for me. Looking back on it now, it was their help and loving support that put me on the right track in college.”
Ratledge lived with the Youngs and their two children for two years. In 1949 the Youngs sold their home to East Carolina and moved to Durham to be close to their daughter, Bettie Ann Young Doebler, after she enrolled at Duke University. She is now is a professor emeritus at Arizona State University.
“When I was a teenager,” Doebler recalls, “sometimes six or eight of us would take our sheets outside (and sleep on) the roof over the sun room–there was no air conditioning in those days. In (the living room) was a baby grand piano that my grandmother gave me, and I often played hymns and sang for the family.”
The Youngs’ other child, William Foster “Billy” Young ’66 came back to Greenville for college, and then settled in Charlotte.
The Youngs were generous to others in their extended family. When Mary Anne Howard ’73 of Raleigh, a niece of the Youngs, was in high school in Greenville, her mother died. The Youngs took her in, just as they had done for Ratledge.
About a dozen years ago Ratledge was back on campus for an event and asked about seeing the home where he lived for two years.
“The chancellor was Dick Eakin then, and when I called him he said come right on over, and he gave me a tour of the place. And it looked exactly like it did in 1947 when I first walked through the door.”
The Chancellor’s Residence was built in 1921 by William Haywood Dail Jr. He owned a brick-making company in Greenville that supplied the brick for the original six buildings on campus. It’s because of his role in East Carolina’s early years that the home bears his name.
A complete history of the Dail House was written by Gladys Howell in 1987 upon the retirement of her husband, Chancellor John Howell. It can be downloaded here.
– Steve Tuttle