Cover Story: Forgiveness and Healing

Published: Jun. 12, 2008 at 11:30 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 19, 2008 at 11:23 PM EDT
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She was turned away from her high school a half century ago.. in one of the darkest hours in Charlotte history.  Thursday night, Dorothy Counts walked across the stage to get her diploma from Harding High School.

The picture-- replayed countless times over last year.. Dorothy Counts' integration of Harding High School 50 years ago.

But more important the picture today is the forgiveness and healing that's come between two former Harding students--Dorothy Counts and Woody Cooper.

"She took a real hard shock in life being rejected by the students at Harding," says Woody Cooper.

Woody was in the mob that swarmed Dorothy Counts that day and for years it gnawed at him that he should say he's sorry.

His chance came after a Sunday School lesson on forgiveness the next day seeing an article about Dorothy in the newspaper.

He said, "It was kinda like God speaking to me saying this is the time you need to contact her."

He did.. and in the two years since-- she's forgiven him and he's forgiven himself for something he did 50 years ago.

"After she went into the school I thought to myself why didn't you at least say something?  She was just another student coming to school," according to Cooper.

The abuse from integrating an all-white high school in 1957 was too much for Dorothy.

Her parents took her out of Harding after four days.

Last fall though, on the 50th anniversary she received an honorary diploma from the school.

And tonight the class of 2008's invited her to join them for the graduation she never got when she was a teen.

Dorothy Counts-Scoggins says, "It really made me feel honored."

Woody Cooper.. who married his high school sweetheart both of them will be in the front row when Dorothy Counts-Scoggins walks across that stage all three of them now alums of Harding High.

Judy Cooper, Harding H.S. Alumna says, "This too a certain extent is closure of 50 years. It will be put in a different kind of member than where it has been."

Woody adds, "She's finally going to get to cross that stage with those students although they're 50 years younger. It's still Harding and it's still their graduation. And she's going to be a part of it."

As far as Woody knows in the more that 600 people who went to Harding with Dot Counts-Scoggins only a few (two or three) have ever personally contacted Dorothy to say they are sorry, which Woody and others say is a shame.

Dot and Woody have found a very dear friendship.. and others could have that as well.