The Lilies Project

Caroline Armijo

Funding Received: 2017
Walnut Cove, NC
Funding Period: 2 years and 6 months
November 12, 2020
July 28, 2018


We will honor John L. Hairston during the Celebrating Courage Weekend August 11th & 12th. 

John L. was the seventh generation from the original Hairston settlers in the Walnut Cove/Pine Hall area. He went to great lengths to receive an education, even repeating the same grade a few times in the local school because it was the highest grade there and even as a young man Mr. Hairston had a passion for education.  

His education was interrupted for 12 years while he worked in the Brickyard to help take care of his family and John L. Hairston would go on to honorably serve his country in the United States Army in the 372nd Infantry Regiment of the United States Army for forty-four months.

During his service in World War II, Mr. Hairston married his childhood sweetheart, Ms. Ruth Anderson in 1942.  Mrs. Ruth Anderson herself was the Valedictorian of her high school class and they both would go on to earn college degrees:  Mr. Hairston from North Carolina A & T State University in Greensboro, North Carolina [NCAT] and Mrs. Ruth Hairston from Winston-Salem State University.

Mr. Hairston earned an engineering degree from NCAT with a minor in Math Education in 1951.   Although he was offered a job in New Jersey as an engineer where he would make much more money than he could in the segregated South the death of his grandmother kept Mr. Hairston in Pine Hall helping his family. 

This well-educated man ended up bagging groceries at the A & P in Greensboro. An offer came to him to teach math at the all-black London School in Walnut Cove. John L. took the job and taught for a while before being offered the engineering position in N.J. once more.

It would have paid twice as much money as he was making as a teacher but John L. Hairston remained dedicated to the development of educational opportunities for the children of African – American families including his three children; Ted, Tony, and Mona Lisa. Before long, John L. was principal of London School. Their three children would all go on to be college graduates and serve their communities in the spirit of their father. 

Although the nation had already passed desegregation laws, Stokes County schools were still segregated while Mr. Hairston was the principal of London High School. History was made when students from London School marched in protest down Main Street of Walnut Cove in 1968 when there was a push to close the London School. The march ended up fully integrating Walnut Cove and London High School became an elementary school; it became a grammar school, serving fifth through eighth graders of all races. Stokes County Schools became integrated.

John L. Hairston remained principal and served the State of North Carolina over the course of a forty-five-year career in education. While leading the way in education Mr. Hairston remained an active member of Pine Hall Baptist Church where he served as the head of the Deacon Board for thirty-five years, Building Fund Treasurer, Sunday School teacher, and the Sunday School Superintendent. As with their marriage and careers in education, his wife was by his side as the church pianist for four decades. John L. Hairston’s belief in service extended to his community where he was on the Board of Directors of the Yadkin Valley Economic Development District.  Among Mr. Hairston’s many charitable efforts was his fifteen years of service with the Stokes-Rockingham V.F.D. that he helped organize. Mr. Hairston was a member of the first County Planning Board and served on the Board of Directors of the East Stokes Outreach Ministry. Mr. Hairston received many awards, citations, and honors over his life; he remained most proud of The National Alumni Association of the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University for outstanding contributions to the desegregation of Stokes County Schools.