Practice English Speaking&Listening with: The Life & Times of Carson Gulley

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Born in 1897, Carson Gulley grew up near Camden, Arkansas.

His parents were sharecroppers and his father

was a former slave.

At the age of six, he began to work picking cotton, and what

little schooling he received happened around the needs of

the cotton fields.

At 16, in an effort to enrich his education, his father

apprenticed him to a teacher in a nearby community.

Gulley graduated from high school in two years and

returned to teach in his local school, developing the skills

of an educator.

He also continued sharecropping while teaching.

At 20, he married Maybelle Lenor and they would have four

children together.

However, the marriage did not last and they would separate

in the 1920s.

Gulley became discouraged with sharecropping and low wages of

teaching and ventured out to try and find a new trade.

He traveled widely and worked in different cities as a chef,

continually improving his culinary skills.

In the summer of 1926, he was cooking at the Essex Lodge in

Tomahawk, Wisconsin and he met the Director of University

Housing, Don Halverson.

Halverson was impressed with Carson and offered him a job

at UW-Madison, where Gulley started in December of 1926 at

the age of 29.

As he was establishing himself in his work at the University,

he also found the love of his life.

On July 26th, 1930, Gulley married Beatrice Russey.

In the early part of the 20th Century, African Americans in

Wisconsin found segregation and discrimination similar to

that existing in the southern states.

The Gulleys experienced this in Madison, especially around

obtaining housing.

Several times, white neighbors in buildings where the Gulleys

rented circulated petitions to evict them, stating they did

not want African Americans in their building.

This discrimination continued and in 1935 Gulley decided to

give up his job at the UW and take one that had been offered

to him in another city.

To resolve the Gulley's housing problems and as an

inducement to stay at the University, Halverson got

permission to build the Gulleys an apartment in the

basement of Tripp Residence Hall.

In the summer of 1936, Gulley was invited by the President

of the Tuskegee Institute to develop a 10-week commercial

chef-training course.

He would lead this program, spending time immersed in life

at one of the most important centers of African American

identity in the United States.

As part of his teaching at Tuskegee, Gulley worked with

and was influenced by Dr. George Washington Carver, who

told him: "Chef Gulley, you are an artist, and you are

dealing with the finest of all arts.

You give so much time to the little things that most cooks


Replicating his Tuskegee teaching experience, Gulley

developed a successful Cooks and Bakers School for the U.S.

Navy at the UW from 1942 - 1944.

From 1944 - 1951,

he helped develop a professional cook's training

school at the UW.

Gulley was one of the early African American

instructors on campus.

In 1949, Gulley published his first cookbook,

Seasoning Secrets,

something first suggested to him at Tuskegee by Dr. George

Washington Carver.

Already a well-known personality in Madison, the

cookbook added to his celebrity, creating more

opportunities for him to address various groups around

the state, oftentimes speaking in towns that had no African

American residents.

His celebrity continued to grow and he had radio programs

on local Madison stations and in 1953, Carson and Beatrice

were invited to star in a local cooking program on WMTV

television called What's Cookin'.

Gulley was one of the early African Americans with his own

TV show in the United States, and it is the only known

program to feature an African American husband and wife team

on television during the 1950s.

Gulley retired from the University in 1954 after 27

years of service after continually being passed over

for Director of Dormitory Food Services and other promotions

that went to younger, less qualified white candidates.

After retiring, he focused on his catering, TV, radio and

speaking ventures.

In 1954, the Gulleys purchased land to build a home in the

new Crestwood subdivision.

Once again, they were faced with white neighbors

circulating a petition to prevent them from moving in.

A special meeting of the cooperative was held in

September to vote on this issue.

In an intense and divisive meeting, the housing co-op

voted 64 to 30 against the proposal and invited the

Gulleys to join the Crestwood community.

While this was an early and public individual victory for

open housing in Madison, more systemic change in Madison

housing laws would not happen for another decade.

In 1961, the Gulleys decided to expand their catering

business to a full-fledged restaurant.

They built a new building that would be their home and

business which opened on September 15th, 1962.

Two weeks later, Gulley became ill and entered the hospital.

He never recovered and passed away on November 2nd, 1962.

On February 20th, 1966 the building where Gulley spent

his University career was re-dedicated as

Carson Gulley Commons.

This was the first university building named after a civil

service employee and the first named

after an African American.

Carson Gulley spent his life not just nourishing people's

bodies through his cooking, but nourishing their minds

through his teaching.

Gulley was a civil rights pioneer in the state of

Wisconsin, breaking racial barriers in teaching, radio,

television, and housing, and doing it all prior to what we

think of as the start of the modern civil rights movement.

The Description of The Life & Times of Carson Gulley