Celebrating Our Black History Linning: ‘Teaching is a calling from God’

  • Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Provided Calvin Linning during his days at T.J. Elder Comprehensive.


Calvin Linning Jr. remembers growing up and repeatedly posing the question to his father: “Dad, why are you teaching?”

His father, Calvin Linning Sr., would always answer the same way, “Teaching is not a job, or an occupation. Teaching is a calling from God.”

The elder Linning is a Summerville resident and former teacher who is known for having a passion for serving his students, said his son.

Linning Sr. was born Nov. 11, 1940. He graduated from eighth grade at Alston Middle School and then proceeded to Alston High School, which was a brand new segregated building at the time.

Linning Jr. said his dad was in awe over the new facilities, classrooms, athletic fields and more that came with the school.

“He remembers going into that school and feeling how proud he was and he couldn’t stop smiling because of all the new things,” the younger Linning said. “It was really an emphasis in education.”

Linning Jr. believes his dad’s love for education stemmed from that new high school.

He graduated in 1959 and received an academic scholarship to attend Claflin College (now University) in Orangeburg, where he had a dual major in math and science. His senior year he was voted by his class to receive the Bishop Kenney Character Award, and also served as vice president of his senior class.

When he graduated in 1963 Linning Sr. went on to teach at Boylan-Haven-Mather Academy, which Linning Jr. described as a prestigious private United Methodist prep school in Camden.

“He taught college classes to high school students,” Linning Jr. said. “He taught advanced math and science classes.”

Linning Sr. was at the school for a year and then moved to Sandersville, Ga. to teach at T.J. Elder Comprehensive High School. He met his wife Mary and had Linning Jr. as well their daughter Katrina.

When integration started happening in the mid-1960s many African American teachers were being let go and replaced with Caucasian teachers. The Linning family realized there was no room for growth in their careers and decided to move back to Summerville in 1971. Linning Jr. was 4 years old at the time.

Linning Sr. took a job teaching Algebra II, Trigonometry and Calculus at Summerville High School, where his son now teaches as a physical education teacher. Mary Linning taught at – and retired from – Alston Middle School, where she served as the principal for some time.

“He saw a need for those kids who weren’t necessarily on the college track but could have been – should have been,” Linning Jr. said.

The younger Linning said not a day goes by without someone approaching him and saying things like, “I know you – you’re Mr. Linning’s son” or “Your dad saved my life because he helped me get into the military” or “He helped me go to college because I was not even thinking about going to college – your dad had confidence in me and believed I could do it.”

Linning Jr. said it is always very appreciative to hear those comments. “It is really gratifying to know your father has made that kind of impact and left that kind of legacy,” he said.

Linning Sr. was known for bringing in members of the military, the Marines, the Coast Guard, etc. to come and talk to his students about their career paths and what they needed to do in school to be successful. He also invited people from various colleges to come and talk to students about staying on track for college and what they could do with a college degree.

“He really was a trend-setter and made a lot of difference in the lives of all of these kids,” Linning Jr. said. “He persevered and found ways to help them. He said, ‘It isn’t about me, it isn’t about Claflin or the military, it’s about giving these kids opportunities to succeed so they can make a good life for themselves and their future families.”

The elder Linning retired from Summerville High School in 1996, his son said. Linning Sr. still recruits students for Claflin.

“I think he has inspired so many people to want to be able to achieve their dreams,” his son said. “Through God, hard work and education, there are just so many people he has inspired. He inspires me every day. He has just really been phenomenal.”

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