Black Labor: Pinkney Comer
Comer Field, now known as The Station at Mill Point served as a prominent athletic field and stadium for Elon’s baseball, football, and track teams starting in 1919. After it's construction in 1919, Pinkney Comer began maintaining these facilities along with other duties. Soon after Pinkney Comer's untimely death in August 1920, the first documented reference to Comer Field occured in the Maroon and Gold student newspaper in October 1921. Making “Comer Field” the first space on Elon’s campus named for a Black employee.
The field was equipped with a dirt track, baseball diamond, football gridiron, and grandstand. Football continued to be played on Comer Field until the Burlington Memorial Stadium was constructed at Williams’ High School during the early post WWII years. Baseball and track continued to use Comer Field until the late 1960s when new facilities on campus were constructed.
In 2018, a marker commomorating Comer Field was placed at the Station at Mill Point located in the Love Student Commons.
Black people have contributed their labor to the success of Elon College from the institution’s earliest days. White faculty, staff and students, however, did not always demonstrate appreciation for this service. Indeed, in some instances White members of the Elon community instead dishonored the humanity of those who provided it. Many Black people worked at Elon from our founding through the 1960s, before integration, but White commentators focused attention on just a few — most notably Pinkney Comer and Andrew Morgan. This attention was not positive, despite the efforts of some White contemporaries to characterize it as such. At best, it can be described as paternalistic and served to reinforce a racial hierarchy.
Comer arrived sometime between 1906 and 1910 to assist in the care of retired clergyman James W. Wellons and worked at Elon until his death in August 1920. While many Black people worked at Elon before and during Comer's time. He stands out in the archival sources. The nature of his early financial relationship with the college is unclear; in 1910 the census still lists “Pink B. Comer” as self-employed, doing “odd jobs” and renting a house near campus with his second wife, Pattie, three daughters and a grandson. Just as they would have addressed other Black men with whom they assumed familiarity, White people called Comer “Uncle Pink[ie].”
White students in Elon’s Clio Literary Society made Comer the butt of a very public and ugly joke in early 1920. They scripted an elaborate “Black-face playlet in three acts,” which they performed to the delight of their audience. According to the Greensboro Daily News, “The second act consisted of a mock trial with a local setting, in which the case of Pink Comer who was charged with beating his wife was tried.” Six months after the play, Comer died in unknown circumstances while crossing the train tracks.
The campus community continued to remember Pinkney Comer, and he was highlighted in a 1957 Maroon and Gold article Elon College Band has long history, writers remembered Comer as an “interested and devoted fan” of the group.
"Elon College Band Has Long History,” Maroon and Gold, January 16, 1957.
"Historical markers around campus highlight Elon's past," Elon News Network, September 4, 2018.
Elon Committee on History and Memory report, (pgs 17-19)