Remembering Wense Grabarek, Mayor Of Durham During Integration

Dec 19, 2019

Grabarek was born in Pennsylvania and moved to Durham after serving in World War II.
Credit Credit: Herald-Sun Courtesy of Durham County Library

Former mayor of Durham, Wensell “Wense” Grabarek, died on Sunday, Dec. 15 at the age of 100.

Grabarek entered office just as the Civil Rights movement reached a boiling point in May of 1963. Police were ready with tear gas as mass demonstrations advocating for integration took over the city. After 850 protesters were arrested, the new mayor asked permission to speak at a rally at St. Joseph’s AME Church. Standing at the pulpit, he acknowledged the congregation’s grievances and asked for time to find a solution. 

Later that week, Grabarek formed the Durham Interim Committee, which was made up of business leaders — two black and nine white. The resolutions from that committee prompted sweeping integration across the private businesses downtown. Former City Councilman Eddie Davis joins host Frank Stasio to situate Grabarek’s legacy within the long fight for racial justice in Durham and across North Carolina.