March 1, 2021
I was surprised recently to notice a Facebook message from an elementary school teacher in Greenville, N.C.
Buddy Hyatt had grown up in Edenton and wanted to talk about the Little Rascals Day Care case. “It ripped apart many families and almost destroyed the town,” he wrote. “In 1989, when the accusations started, I was in first grade. But earlier I had attended Little Rascals. My parents had me and my younger brother checked over by an unbiased child psychiatrist in Greenville. After several sessions he reported that we had no indications of physical or sexual abuse.”
Buddy had multiple other windows on the case. ‘”My grandfather, Pete Manning, was editor and publisher of the Chowan Herald, and my dad was associate pastor and minister of music at Edenton Baptist.
“The Twiddys, the Kellys and Nancy Smith were all members of our church, as was [initial accuser] Jane Mabry Williams. This split the church right down the middle. Because the pastor and staff wouldn’t take sides, quite a few people got mad as fire. A good handful left. Some (especially those against the Kellys) spoke harshly and rudely to both my dad and grandmother.
“I feel most sorry for Bob and Betsy’s daughter, Laura. We had been in the same kindergarten class when the accusations started. My mom carpooled us. We did everything we could to be kind and remain friends with Laura and her family. I cannot imagine the pain and heartbreak they experienced.
“Lew, I know that’s a lot of information. Forgive me. I am happy to talk any time about the case or Little Rascals. The accusations and trial were a travesty and left so many people hurt and broken. No matter how much exoneration is given, the damage is already done.”
A few days passed before I heard from Buddy again: “Forgive me for being slow to respond. I happened to catch Covid, so the past week has been quite a struggle. Once I get through this (hopefully I’m on the tail end of it), we can plan to talk….”
Two weeks later Buddy Hyatt was dead. We never talked. I’m grateful for his big-hearted recollections and for his resolve to say more. RIP, Buddy.