Early Years

Born in Dover, Delaware, on Sep 8, 1931, Norman Casson was the third child of Clarence Roosevelt Casson and Nancy Jane Ingram Casson.  Growing up at that time in history, and as a member of an extremely poor family, he nearly died of asthma at age 3, and he faced minimal educational opportunities as a child. His grade school teachers in New Castle, Delaware recognized gifted talent in Norman, and though there were no special programs available to him, they skipped him through the grades.  Norman’s Aunt Sussie was the church pianist.  She taught him how to play classical piano.  He started playing piano when he was 3 years old.  He was so tiny that his older brother would sometimes get down on all fours so Norman could sit on his back to reach the keys.  Several years later, she said she had taught him all she knew, and recommended other instructors.  

In the video above, Mr. Casson speaks of his childhood experience with asthma between around minutes 23 - 27.

Norman attended Booker T. Washington Junior High School in Kent County, Delaware, transferring to the High School for Colored Students.  Due to his economic condition at the time, Norman recalls great difficulty in affording a gardenia corsage and associated costs for his high school prom date.  Little did he realize that years later, as a businessman, he would own over 30 acres, filled with gardenias, an irony worth mentioning at this point.  

Mr. Casson was inspired in the 30's and early 40's by a collection of Encyclopedia Americana.

Norman received his high school diploma, then transferred to Delaware State College, now known as Delaware State University.  Inspired by his Advanced Mathematics Professor, Elvira Tooks, he set a career in engineering as his goal.  Before launching his long engineering career, Norman played varsity basketball.  Also, thanks to his Professor of Music, who arranged for Norman to play a performance at Delaware Hall for some very wealthy benefactors, Norman was sent to Europe for advanced studies in classical piano.

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