Laura Marie Leary Elliott, the first African American graduate of what is now East Carolina University, died earlier this month in Maryland.
Elliott enrolled at East Carolina University in 1962 at the age of 17 after being the valedictorian at Pitt County Training School in Calico, North Carolina. Elliott reported that rarely was she taunted or subjected to racial slurs. But she felt lonely and didn’t feel welcomed on campus. Initially she lived off campus and when she decided to room at the school, her assigned roommate asked for a transfer. “Desegregation was publicly smooth,” Elliott later recalled. “But privately, we were hurting.”
After graduating from East Carolina in 1966 with a degree in business administration, Elliott taught school. Two years later she moved to Washington, D.C,, and became an auditor for the U.S. Department of Justice. She worked at the Treasury Department from 1987 until her retirement in 2006 as a senior accountant.