"An Average Guy"

Max Courtney June 1965 Smoke Signals Interview.jpg


"An Average Guy"


Florida State University--History
Desegregation in higher education


June 1965 Interview from "Smoke Signals" magazine with Max Courtney.


Nelsen, Dave


Smoke Signals, June 1965.


Smoke Signals Magazine [original version]; Special Collections, Florida State University Libraries, Tallahassee, Fla. [digital version]




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Magazine Article


Max Courtney June 1965 Smoke Signals Interview


(Editors Note: The first Negro undergraduate to at-tend classes at FSU was an 18-year-old product of Lincoln High School in Tallahassee. Max Courtney applied to FSU because he felt that Florida A & M University did not offer the educational opportunities he desired. Max now is a senior math major with a 2.5 average. He will graduate in August. While a student at FSU, Max has been forced to undergo indignities and trials that are not readily apparent to those who are familiar with his warm outgoing personality. He has served his student body as a student senator, "Flambeau" news writer, member of the Board of Student Publications as an appointee of Jim Groot, and has participated in numerous other campus activities as would any other above average college student, Beneath this slightly extroverted personality, however, lies the courage of a pioneer and the strength of a leader. Max soft-pedals these thoughts however saying that he is basically no different from any other student and wants only to be treated like an "average guy.")


S.S. When did you enter FSU, was it as a transfer and did you have any trouble?
MAX: I started in the fall of 1962 as a freshman. I simply applied and was accepted.
S.S. Did you participate in freshman orientation, and if so, what was the reaction of other freshmen?
MAX: Well, I did participate in orientation. Strangely enough, I didn't see that much of a reaction. Oh sure, there were two or three empty seats around me, but that happens even now. I think, though, that the idea of orientation and college sort of made me, as a Negro, secondary.
S.S. Did you feel uncomfortable at any time?
MAX: You feel uncomfortable in any situation until you become adjusted. Then too, there were certain students and teachers, especially Dean John Carey, Dr. Paul Minus, some members of Alpha Council and Sophomore Council, who were very helpful during that initial period.
S.S. How did your first classes go?
MAX: They were quite smooth. My biggest problem
was locating the buildings and finding the quickest routes across campus.
S.S. How are your classes now?
MAX: Relative to my first ones, they're about the same.
S.S. Were there any repercussions after you entered?
MAX: There were none from outside the University, but when I graduated from high school I was awarded a $300 scholarship. Somehow it turned out that although it was established in the name of a late FSU student, for me it was only applicable at FAMU. In the past it had been given to white students who were going to FSU. The scholarship, by the way, was sponsored by an FSU faculty member. It's interesting to note that he suggested that I go to FAMU because my score on the 12th grade test wasn't that high and that I wouldn't be able to live up to the ideals in the scholarship. Yet I'm a senior expecting to graduate in August with active participation in many areas of student life.
S.S. What activities are you in?
MAX: Oh, the ''Flambeau", Board of Publications, Student Senate work, and now I'm a summer senator.
S.S. Are you associated with a religious house on campus?
MAX: Yes, but it's a qualified yes. I'm from Tallahassee and my home church is here. So you see, it's a situation of divided time. Whenever I can, I go to the Wesley Foundation. Though I would like to go more often, it sometimes seems impossible.
S.S. How do the students react to you?
MAX: Most of them are very nice, enjoyable to work with and friendly. I traveled with a delegation from the Foundation to Nebraska to a meeting and I really enjoyed it.
S.S. Changing the subject somewhat, let me ask you what your reaction was to the picketing of the Mecca?
MAX: Good question. Actually, I thought it was good, but many people wondered why there were no students, that is Negro students, on the picket-line. The reason is that we simply thought it wasn't in the best interest.
S.S. For whom?
MAX: For everyone involved, that is for the solving of the situation as it was, and also for our personal interest. I would rather not expand further.
S.S. Do you have many friends here at FSU?
MAX: I think I have some, but many, no. To be perfectly honest, I see too much hypocrisy everyday. Alone or in a small group, a student might be the nicest person I want to meet; but let the person get out on campus and the stunts and gyrations they go through to avoid speaking are hilarious. There are people I know, like and respect who are liberal or moderate in their thinking, but there are also some conservative-minded students that I like and respect.
S.S. Along another line, where do you spend your time between classes and where do you eat on campus?
MAX: Generally I go to the library, the Soda Shop, the "Flambeau" office, the Union browsing lounge or Dr. Walborsky's lab where I work as a student lab assistant. I eat in the Soda Shop; it's small and I know a great many people who frequent it. S.S. Have there been any incidents here on campus?
MAX: No major ones that have not been settled rather smoothly. Naturally there are minor things --things said by white construction workers or maintenance Workers, etc. Some students too, I must note, are not without their shallowness. Last Friday, for example, another Negro student and I were on the tennis court behind the women's gym when not one but two cars came along and said some very derogatory things.
S.S. How do you generally act when these things happen?
MAX: Usually I ignore them because to do or show a sign of reaction would be to lower myself to their level. And I'm not about to get that low. Looking at people like that makes you wonder who's inferior to whom.
S.S. What's your feeling about FSU?
MAX: Perhaps I'll look back and be reminiscent. My experiences have not been the best, but they were and are interesting. I just can't make a blanket statement.

Original Format

Magazine article



Nelsen, Dave, “"An Average Guy",” Integration at The Florida State University, accessed September 24, 2018, https://fsuintegration50.omeka.net/items/show/5.