Clara Mae Cobb-Fraling
Clara Mae Cobb-Fraling, RN’ 53, BSN, MSN, PhD
I, Clara Mae Cobb, was born in 1931 to Frank and Dora Cobb in Tarboro, North Carolina. The Cobb family included my sister, Mildred, my brother, Willie, paternal and maternal grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. My father worked for the 7-Up Bottling Company. My mother was a seasonal peanut factory worker, a mail clerk, and a cake baker for local county residents. My mother was raised by her mother and Quakers in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. After the death of her father, my mother and grandmother moved to North Carolina to be near my grandmother’s family.
I attended Eastern Star Baptist Church with my family. At age three my mother read to me from the Bible, showed me colorful pictures of flowers, animals, well-kept houses, and other interesting subjects. At age four Mrs. Henrietta Foster Mebane, a Lincoln Hospital School of Nursing (LHSN) alumnus and my Sunday School teacher, discovered that I could read some basic words-for example, is the, he, she, was, them-so she let me help other four-and-five-year-olds read the weekly Sunday School card. Upon Mrs. Mebane’s recommendation my mother took me to the first grade class. Mother was given a reading list (the Dolch) to teach me for one month and by September, I was in school!
Mrs. Mebane was the county’s only Black registered nurse who visited the schools for Black students. In eighth grade I talked with her about Lincoln Hospital School of Nursing. She was always positive in discussions of what is expected of any nurse. I became interested in nursing and made the honor’s list throughout my education at W.A. Pattillo Elementary and High Schools, graduating in 1950.
In 1947, my mother began taking me to visit the sick and shut-ins in our community. I started asking more questions about caring for the sick. I asked if we could visit some nursing schools close to home. She said, “You do not have to pick a school that is near home; you should select the one that teaches you what will take you through life.” We visited four schools, but I was not satisfied with any of them. My mother and I then visited Lincoln in Durham, North Carolina. I found Lincoln different from the moment that we met the director, Mrs. Lucille Z. Williams, for a conference and a tour. Lincoln’s smiling staff was introduced as we met them in the hallway. The facility looked clean and had no negative odors. Students, staff, and patients were groomed and professional. The hospital facility and the nurses’ dormitories were clean and well kept. The director’s communication skills during the tour and her honest interaction with my parents was impressive. I received materials, including information on what was expected, the facilities, and a summary of the curriculum (which would prepare me for the State Board Examination for licensure). I was impressed with the list of local religious facilities and with the opportunity to attend North Carolina College (now North Carolina Central University) for various classes. That comprehensive university offered academic programs that led to the certificate in public health. Attending LHSN would give me an opportunity to attend a nursing school that was affiliated with a college bearing a rich background in education taught by world scholars. That experience was so positive that my parents and I talked about Lincoln all the way home (three-and-one-half hours).
My decision to attend Lincoln Hospital School of Nursing was the greatest that I made and, as of this minute, I would not change Lincoln as my educational preparation for nursing. During my freshman year at Lincoln I was appointed by Mrs. Lucille Z. Williams to plan the weekly Wednesday evening Vespers for the group. Those plans were submitted to her every Monday. Those one-hour services were mandatory, consisting of guest speakers, drama groups, concerts, and individual topics selected by the student body. On graduation day I was awarded Dr. Robert P. Randolph’s certificate for most dedicated student nurse at Lincoln Hospital from 1950-1953.
While at Lincoln I was able to help Catholic students at North Carolina College and I assisted Father Risacher in building the statue of “Blessed Mary”, which is still standing. That site was a part of my wedding in 1955. Holy Cross Catholic Church was important to me. I attended services daily for three years. I was married there and Lula Cowan McNair, my roommate, stood with us when we took our vows. Lincoln Hospital School of Nursing united me with a roommate that I highly respected as a dedicated nurse.
Since becoming a registered nurse through Lincoln, I have never been involved in several assignments and received outstanding evaluations. I have been able to use the many skills received at Lincoln and have been invited to return to any position that I left. I have had a productive career in nursing. Following is a listing of some of my career experiences in psychiatric and general hospital settings: staff nurse, administration and education. Among my most notable positions are acting director of Crownsville State Hospital; numerous positions as supervisor; school teacher, elementary, secondary, and college (1965-2000), certification as elementary, middle, and high school principal; certification as science, math, and reading teacher; earning my bachelor of science degrees in nursing, my master’s degree, and a PhD. My dissertation is housed in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
I am a member of the following sororities: Chi Eta Phi, Phi Delta Gamma, and the Top Ladies of Distinction, Inc., Baltimore chapter. I was induced into W.A. Pattillo High School Hall of Fame and received the M. L. King’s Citation from Pleasant Plains Elementary School.
The people skills I was taught at LHSN are still apparent to others. I believe that Lincoln has guided my daily life and growth. During the graduation ceremony I felt that I was being dedicated to nursing. I was willing to work hard for the career that I had selected. Lincoln prepared me academically to leave those walls and go forward to be one of the best nurses employed by any facility. I still think of myself as being unique because LHSN was an excellent beacon that provided me with the educational background to reach my goal as a registered nurse. In my heart Lincoln will always be the lighthouse that guides my morals, as well as my willingness to learn, to be loyal, and to use my knowledge to promote quality health education.