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First black student in white school reflects on family, life

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Peck said those ugly comments reflected the social thinking of the time.

"The only movie theater we could go to was the Maryland, but we had to go down a back alley and enter near the stage and then climb up to the projector area to watch the show."

"Black people could buy clothes and shoes in stores on Baltimore Street, but they couldn't try them on and put them back because the store owners said white people wouldn't buy them."

Peck said he believes that by staying calm and talking with white students at Fort Hill that he helped break down social barriers with some individuals.

His first job after high school was at the Manhattan clothing store on Baltimore Street where he washed windows.

"At Christmas time, though, I would work inside behind the counter as a cashier," he said.

Peck said the store's owners, the Pariser brothers, taught him the importance of dressing well and he has continued that throughout his life.

"It helps people to respect you and what you say."

Peck enlisted in the Army.

"We were sent on a bus to Fort Jackson in South Carolina for basic training. When the bus would stop for food, we couldn't go inside the restaurant so our food was brought out to us. If there was a restaurant that allowed us to enter, we had to go to the back and were told not to talk with the white customers."

Peck became a communications officer, including a stint in Germany.

"I was a Spec 5 (specialist 5, same as sergeant) and I had a white private as my driver. We would travel to a unit where I was supposed to help with their communications and they would come out and greet the private, thinking he was the communications specialist."

At one Army school Peck attended, he felt that an instructor was being especially hard on him, the only black.

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