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Lumbee's childhood stories published

By Samantha Langley
Asst. Around the Town Editor

February 23, 2012

Preston Chavis has been writing all his life, but has not been published until recently. Since he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's two years ago, his daughter, Michelle Dudley, has collected many of the stories of his childhood to make Memoirs of a Lumbee Boy.

Chavis was born in 1936 to a Lumbee family. He was the youngest member of his family.

Throughout his childhood his family suffered through many tragedies. His parents' first child died at birth, and their second child died when he was only 3.

He suffered third degree burns as a child and caught pneumonia from his body being so weakened.

Chavis also had many good things happen during his childhood. One of his and his family's favorite stories is when Chavis taught his mother how to drive when he was 7 years old. Women during his childhood were not taught to drive. It was considered unladylike, but Chavis' mother was not one to follow low the rules. While her lesson did not go very well, it did make a funny story.

Chavis first began writing in his early school years. He was encouraged by Alice Del, a classmate who enjoyed his stories.

He recalls giving her a book to read which she thoroughly enjoyed.

Once Chavis graduated from school, he fought in the Vietnam War. While there, he began to write war stories and draw war sketches.

"In school I just started writing stories, and then I got involved in the military. It was just something that I enjoyed doing and I couldn't stop," Chavis said.

Another thing that inspired Chavis' writing during his life was the amount of prejudice and discrimination involved in his childhood and within the military.

During Chavis' childhood, schools were segregated. He remembered as a child waiting for the school bus. Kids of different races would all talk together because the buses came to the same places. No one would use racial slurs or act rudely to one another. As he got older, this changed. Caucasians were racist towards Native Americans and African Americans, and vice versa, he wrote.

Chavis remembered going to the movie theatre as a child. African Americans and Native Americans had to sit above the Caucasian theatergoers.

The ones on top would throw things down on the Caucasians. One time Chavis' drunk uncle even threw up on those below because they were white.

Once Chavis joined the military, he noticed how prejudice continued. The military was also separated into three different categories: African Americans, Native Americans and Caucasians. The minority groups were not treated as well and were often sent into more dangerous situations.

While Chavis has had to deal with prejudice in his past, it has not defined him. Chavis wrote in his story Racial Prejudice:

"Life is like traveling a street. One end carries you to Eternal Life while the opposite end to Eternal Death. Racial prejudice is like a street. It can take you to Non-prejudice or the opposite end to Prejudice. We have the choice of going in the direction of either."

In the past two years, Chavis has been forced to stop writing. According to his daughter, Michelle Dudley, he is currently in the sixth stage of Alzheimer's, a disease that degenerates the brain.

His wife, Dorothy Chavis, also has the disease. Dudley is taking care of both of them.

"My parents are like children. He [her father] has to ask me for anything that he wants. It's weird to see your parents like this. It's really a reverse role," Dudley said.

Dudley first moved in with her parents two years ago. She was living in Atlanta with her military husband. However, when she realized that she was going to have to take care of her parents, she moved back to North Carolina. Getting her husband to North Carolina was a challenge within itself and was only done with the help of Sen. Kay Hagan, to whom she wrote a letter about the situation.

Dudley also is not able to see her grandchildren as much as she would like because of the move.

Financially and emotionally taking care of her parents has been a burden on her, Dudley said.

Around a year ago, Dudley decided to get her father's stories published. She took several of them and sent them to a self-publisher. The publisher agreed to publish the stories and the book Memoir of a Lumbee Boy was created.

Dudley hopes to get more of her father's stories published in the future, but financial reasons have stopped her from self-publishing another book.

The stories are available on the blog at

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Updated: Tuesday, March 13, 2012
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