When Bob Kennel ’58 , ’60 MS helped put together the deal to buy the Carolina Pines Hotel in 1957, he didn’t realize he was actually brokering history.
But that’s just what Kennel, Fred Joseph ’56 and their fraternity did when Delta Sigma Phi purchased the hotel and turned it into the fraternity’s house, the site of an early sign of unity in the segregated South in the 1950s.
Kennel, a former president of the Alumni Association, says the hotel was designed as a “Pinehurst for the middle-class” in Raleigh. The resort opened in the early 1930s and “included the hotel, two golf courses, an outdoor theater, a camp for boys and girls and a water boiling plant,” according to a 1957 article in The News & Observer.
Despite its amenities, Carolina Pines never saw the year-round success of Pinehurst. That opened the door for Delta Sigma Phi to purchase the house for $71,000.
Nearly a year passed after the fraternity moved into the hotel in January 1958. And in December 1958, the house returned to what it knew how to do best—provide accommodations for some weary travelers.
It was just after Christmas in the Triangle, and the Dixie Classic was preparing to bring Tobacco Road and NC State their annual magnificence. “It was NC State at the centerpiece of basketball in the Southeast and in the nation,” Kennel says of the tournament, which was canceled in 50 years ago this May as a result of a point-shaving scandal that implicated area players. “It was placing Reynolds Coliseum as the palace of college basketball.”
NC State defeated Michigan State in the tournament’s final game, 70-61. That gave the Wolfpack its seventh and final Dixie Classic title.
But Kennel notes that NC State made gains off the court with that tournament, too. Cincinnati featured Oscar Robertson and Michigan State brought Jumping Johnny Green, both of whom were black.
Because of their inclusion of black players, those teams, Kennel says, could not find lodging in Raleigh. And once word got out, the men at Delta Sigma Phi offered sanctuary from a world divided.
“Back in those days, we still hadn’t integrated,” says Joseph ’56, who was still living in the Delta Sigma Phi house at the time. “What we did was put the teams up at our house. We fed them and housed them.”
Kennel sees it as more than just providing lodging with the hotel , now a Raleigh Historic Landmark. “It was one of the early signs of NC State stepping in and fixing a situation that shouldn’t have been,” he says.