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Senator Lee Overman and the Red Scare of 1919

This Day in North Carolina History - 17 hours 17 min ago

Three of the Overman Committee’s five members. North Carolina Senator Lee Overman is seated in the center. Image from the U.S. Senate Historical Office.

On February 11, 1919, a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee opened hearings on the influence of Bolshevism in America. Chaired by North Carolina senator Lee Overman, originally from Salisbury, the hearings are regarded as a forerunner of the House Un-American Activities Committee of the 1950s.

Overman’s committee was formed in 1918, as World War I drew to a close, to investigate the influence of German propaganda. Many Americans were uneasy about the repercussions of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917, so in February 1919, a resolution to expand the focus of Overman’s committee was passed unanimously by the Senate.

Hearings began shortly thereafter and lasted until March 19. Much of the committee’s questioning involved the upheavals caused by the revolution and subsequent civil war, and the potential threat of the revolution to American capitalism.

Anti-Semitic paranoia surfaced regarding the purported prevalence of Jews in the Bolshevik ranks. Accusations also circulated of pro-Bolshevism among American university professors and of promiscuity among Bolshevik women.

The committee’s final report was released in June 1919.While it provided little concrete evidence of Bolshevik activities in America, it coincided with and inflamed the emerging “Red Scare” panic that swept the nation.

The report is available online from Google Books in a first and second volume.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Champion Miler, Jim Beatty of Charlotte

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 02/10/2016 - 05:30

Jim Beatty. Image from UNC Athletics.

On February 10, 1962, Jim Beatty became the first man to run the mile indoors in under four minutes. 

Born in New York in 1934, Beatty moved to Charlotte with his family when he was 4-years-old. Growing up in the Dilworth neighborhood, he delivered the Charlotte Observer for five years. Then focused on boxing, the young Beatty decided to start running his paper route to help him train. 

Beatty convinced his high school’s track coach to let him try running the mile during the last meet of his junior year, discovered his speed and won it. In the course of a month he went from never having run a race to winning the state championship in the mile. He went on to run track at UNC, where he was a six-time All-American in track and cross country.

Beatty moved to California where in 1961 he joined the elite Los Angeles Track Club. The next year he broke 11 American records and three world records. Considered the nation’s top amateur athlete, he was named the 1962 James E. Sullivan Award winner. 

Beatty returned to Charlotte where he remains an active member of the community. He was an inaugural inductee into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1963.

Visit: The North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame exhibit is open on the third floor of the N.C. Museum of History daily.

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


At Point Guard, From Rocky Mount, Phil Ford

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 02/09/2016 - 05:30

Phil Ford with Dean Smith, circa 1974-1978. Image from the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill.

On February 9, 1956, basketball legend Phil Ford was born in Kannapolis.

Ford was raised in Rocky Mount, where he graduated from high school in 1974.

As a point guard at UNC-Chapel Hill, he led the basketball team to four NCAA tournaments. Ford’s accolades during his college career were many. In 1978, he capped off his senior year by winning the coveted John R. Wooden Award, given annually to the country’s most outstanding college basketball player.

He graduated that year with a degree in business administration.

Ford was the number two pick in the 1978 NBA draft, going to the Kansas City Kings. The following year, he was named NBA rookie of the year. During the course of his career, Ford also played professionally for the New Jersey Nets, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Houston Rockets.

Inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1991, Ford now works for the fundraising arm of UNC’s athletic department.

Visit: The North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame exhibit is open on the third floor of the N.C. Museum of History daily.

Other related resources:

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Designer Alexander Julian and Carolina Style

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 02/08/2016 - 05:30

Julian in his Chapel Hill store in 2013

On February 8, 1948, designer Alexander Julian was born in Chapel Hill. 

Julian’s father owned a menswear boutique, Julian’s, downtown near the UNC campus. Growing up visiting and later working in the store, young Julian took a natural career path.

Alexander often describes the moment that men’s fashion clicked with him. He’d torn the collar of his blue oxford shirt at school and stopped in at Julian’s to get the tailor to fix it. But instead of a mend, he asked that the collar of a yellow shirt be sewn on. He says he has been designing ever since.

Alexander’s first store was in Chapel Hill near his father’s, but he moved to New York in 1975. There he expanded into producing cloth, furniture and home goods.

In the late 1980s, Alexander designed the original, signature teal and purple uniforms for the Charlotte Hornets. In 1990, Dean Smith asked him to update the uniforms for his Tar Heel team.

At age 33, Alexander became the youngest inductee into the Fashion Hall of Fame. He has won five Coty Awards, the highest honor in the fashion industry. His furniture design garnered him the Pinnacle Award. 

Alexander recently moved his headquarters back to his hometown.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


The Power of Flour, Graham’s Biscuitville

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 02/07/2016 - 05:30

On February 7, 1978, the Graham-based fast food chain Biscuitville filed to register a trademark for the first time.

Now based in Greensboro, the chain got its start as Pizzaville in 1966 when former flour salesman Maurice Jennings began selling take-out pizzas from two bread and milk stores that he owned in Burlington. The chain expanded to six stores across the Triad region and southern Virginia.

The chain first started selling biscuits to supplement its income and drive more traffic in the morning, and the first biscuit-only store opened in Danville, Virginia, in 1975. Eventually all the chain’s Pizzaville locations were converted to Biscuitville stores.

Biscuitville moved its headquarters from Graham to Greensboro in 2007, and today operates more than 50 stores in North Carolina and Virginia. It is still owned by the Jennings family. Maurice Jennings’ son Burney has been the company’s CEO since 1996.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Long Route to Roanoke River Lighthouse

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 02/06/2016 - 05:30

The lighthouse in 1916. Image from
North Carolina Historic Sites.

On February 6, 1832, Elizabeth City congressman William Shepard petitioned the House of Representatives for a light station to help guide sailors to safety by the mouth of the Roanoke River.

Two years later, Congress appropriated $10,000 for a lightship to operate on the Albemarle Sound. The ship operated through the Civil War, but was replaced by a screw-pile lighthouse that operated on whale oil in 1867. That structure, in turn, was damaged by fire and ice in the 1880s.

A larger lighthouse, the one that currently stands, was authorized in 1886 and finished by 1887. It was fitted with a Fresnel lens and continued to operate until 1941, when it was decommissioned by the Coast Guard.

The 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse changed hands twice in the 1950s, sold for $10 each time. Edenton businessman Emmett Wiggins moved the structure to land he owned in the Chowan County town in 1955, and he lived in the building until his death.

In 2007, the Edenton Historical Commission purchased the lighthouse and restored it in cooperation with the state of North Carolina. The restored lighthouse opened to the public as part of Historic Edenton State Historic Site in 2012.

Visit: The lighthouse is open every day of the week just steps from downtown Edenton.

Other related resources:

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Dunn Favorite Son, General William C. Lee

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 02/05/2016 - 09:08

Lee receives an honorary degree from N.C. State University in 1945.
Image from NCSU Libraries.

On February 5, 1944, William Carey Lee, the “Father of the Airborne,” suffered a heart attack that ended his military career.

Born in Dunn in 1895, Lee volunteered for the United States Army during World War I. After the war, he remained in the army and, in 1939, was assigned to the Chief of the Army’s office in Washington, D.C. There he became part of a maverick group of army officers advocating for the development of an airborne army infantry force.

The Army authorized the development of a test platoon of paratroopers, and placed Lee in charge. When the Amy raised two airborne divisions, Lee received command of the 101st. He oversaw its development and training and was instrumental in getting airborne and glider operations going at Camp Mackall and Laurinburg-Maxton Army Air Base.

The inclusion of the airborne divisions in the Normandy Invasion in June 1944 was a direct result of Lee’s work. Nevertheless, he was unable to participate due to the heart attack. However, the members of the 101st Division, the Screaming Eagles, were ordered to yell the name “Bill Lee” as they departed their transports over France in the early morning hours of D-Day.

Lee died in 1948, and is buried in Dunn.

Other related resources:

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Tar Heel New Dealer, Annie O’Berry

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 02/04/2016 - 05:30

O’Berry (back row, far right) with other members of the 1925 executive board
of the North Carolina Federation of Women’s Clubs. Image from
UNC-Chapel Hill Public Libraries.

On February 4, 1944, Annie Land O’Berry, administrator of the North Carolina Emergency Relief Administration, or NCERA, and president of the Rural Rehabilitation Corporation, died while undergoing treatment for an illness.

Born in Edgecombe County in 1885, O’Berry lived on her family’s farm until she was sent to live with her sister in Littleton after her parents’ deaths.

After graduating first in her class from what is now William Peace University in Raleigh, O’Berry went to live with her brother in Kinston. Active in civic organizations and the North Carolina Federation of Women’s Clubs, she demonstrated leadership that garnered the attention of Governor Angus McLean, who appointed her to the Commission to Study County Government and the North Carolina Historical Commission.

In 1930, O’Berry was named vice-chair of the state executive committee of the Democratic Party.

In 1933, O’Berry was tapped to serve as head of the NCERA. She was one of the few women to administer a state emergency relief agency. As head of NCERA, she helped provide relief to many citizens through direct aid and employment.

She remained in charge of the off-shoot Rural Rehabilitation Corporation, which provided loans to farmers, until her death.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Steamboat “Mountain Lily” Plied the French Broad

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 02/03/2016 - 05:30

The Mountain Lilly, abandoned in the French Broad River, circa 1880-1885, near Hendersonville. Image from UNC-Asheville.

On February 3, 1881, entrepreneurs chartered the French Broad Steamboat Company, with the objective of ferrying passengers and freight along the river from Asheville to Horse Shoe to Brevard.

Six months later, they christened the frame, 90-foot-long, two-deck excursion boat the Mountain Lily. Like its eastern North Carolina counterpart, the CSS Neuse, the Mountain Lily met its fate not far from where it was constructed after a few years.

Many at the time and since have regarded the venture as folly. The French Broad is a low-volume river that can barely float low draft vessels in any season. In the years before the launch, federal funds had permitted the removal of debris and stumps, which helped make the project more viable.

On August 2, a champagne bottle was broken on the prow of the steamboat, gleaming white with green trim and sporting two staterooms each with a capacity of 100. Supporting the vessel were two 12-horsepower motors. The crowd and brass band enjoyed a barbecue. The captain rang the ship’s bell in celebration.

The dream was to be short-lived. Four years later the ship ran aground and was abandoned. Salvagers used the lumber to construct Riverside Baptist Church in Horse Shoe where they installed the bell. The two engines were re-purposed to serve local sawmills.

Visit: The N.C. Maritime Museums in Beaufort, Hatteras and Southport, and the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer all tell the story of water-based transportation across North Carolina.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Illinois Soldiers Overrun Thomas’s Legion, 1864

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 02/02/2016 - 05:30

“Cherokees of the Thomas Legion” by Andy Thomas

On February 2, 1864, Union Maj. Francis M. Davidson and the 14th Illinois Cavalry engaged in a skirmish with Thomas’s Legion, a Confederate company of Cherokees led by Col. William Holland Thomas, on Deep Creek near Quallatown in Haywood County.

Accounts differ as to what exactly occurred that morning, but Union forces apparently surprised the Confederates and overran them. On the Union side, two men were killed and another six were wounded, while Thomas most likely lost 10 killed and 32 captured.

Eighteen Confederate Cherokees were taken prisoner. The captives were imprisoned in Knoxville, then Union control, where all of the Cherokees took the oath of allegiance to the United States in early March. The event was a turning point in Cherokee allegiance to the Confederacy.

The affair at Deep Creek undermined Thomas’s recruiting efforts among the Cherokees. The event coincided with internal conflicts, skyrocketing food prices due to inflation, a harsh winter and an increase in starvation among Indian families.

Thomas attempted to assuage the food shortages by purchasing grain from South Carolina, but the raids into western North Carolina, such as that at Deep Creek, led to the desertion of the Eastern Band from the Confederate cause.

Other related resources:

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Streetcars Debut in “The Land of the Sky,” 1889

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 02/01/2016 - 05:30

Asheville’s first streetcar makes its 1889 debut. Image from the
North Carolina Collection of the Pack Memorial Library.

On February 1, 1889, the first streetcar in North Carolina made its debut in Asheville. The first line extended from Pack Square down Biltmore Avenue and Southside Avenue, and then was routed west of present-day McDowell Street to a train depot.

The system’s roots can be traced to the previous year, when the city authorized a charter for an electric railway that would include lines from Pack Square to various sections of the city. E.D. Davidson, who had designed a Canadian horsecar railway, agreed to build the system in collaboration with Frank Sprague, who engineered the streetcar system in Richmond.

After the initial launch, a number of railway companies organized and built streetcar lines to emerging neighborhoods and outlying areas, including the Sulphur Springs resort and Biltmore Village. By 1907, Asheville led the state in streetcar traffic, carrying 3 million passengers annually, compared to Charlotte and Wilmington with 2 million each.

By 1915, the streetcar railway reached its peak, operating 43 cars on 18 miles of track, including one to the newly opened Grove Park Inn and the surrounding upscale neighborhood.

The system ceased operation in 1934 when it was supplanted by buses.

Visit: The N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer features a variety of exhibits on North Carolina rail history.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


The Wreck of the Metropolis, 1878

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 01/31/2016 - 05:30

A sketch of the sinking of the Metropolis.

On January 31, 1878, the vessel Metropolis struck the shoals 100 yards from the beach at Currituck, halfway between two lifesaving stations.

Built in 1861 and originally called the Stars and Stripes, the ship was outfitted for naval service in September 1862 and saw action during the Battle of Roanoke Island later that year. The ship was refitted for freight and passenger service but eventually fell into disrepair, rendering it inadequate for the lengthy trips.

Nonetheless a Philadelphia company chartered the Metropolis to transport workmen and supplies to Brazil to build a railroad January 1878. By the time the ship reached the Chesapeake Bay, the cargo was shifting dangerously, causing seams in the hull to leak.

On January 31 at 6:45 a.m., the ship hit the shoals. Alarms were sounded and heroic efforts mounted but to no avail. Of the 245 passengers aboard, 85 died in the wreck.

The wreck of the Metropolis—combined with that of the USS Huron two months earlier— captured the attention of Congress and prompted it to authorize construction of new life-saving stations.

Other related resources:

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


J. P. Knapp, Publisher, Outdoorsman, and UNC Benefactor

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 01/30/2016 - 05:30

On January 30, 1951, publisher and conservationist Joseph Palmer Knapp died.

A native of New York, born in 1864, Knapp was the publisher of Collier’s magazine. His American Lithographic Company pioneered the use of color inserts in newspapers and baseball cards distributed with tobacco. That connection led to his acquaintance with James B. Duke and the Tar Heel State.

An avid sportsman and co-founder of what became Ducks Unlimited, Knapp settled in Currituck County where he built a 37-room mansion that would remain his residence from November to April for the rest of his life.

Though a part-time resident, Knapp became a generous member of the community, donating to the local schools. In 1947, at the urging of Governor Gregg Cherry, he extended his generosity to the entire state via a gift of $250,000 to survey school needs.

Once in North Carolina, Knapp also began a correspondence with Albert Coates, founder of the Institute of Government at UNC. Coates persuaded Knapp to fund the construction of a permanent home for the institution. Knapp did not live the see the building. After his death, the foundation transferred funds to be matched by the state for the construction.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Phoenix Speech by George White, 1901

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 01/29/2016 - 05:30

A sketch of White speaking in Congress.

On January 29, 1901, North Carolina Congressman George H. White delivered his now-famous farewell address.

White was the fourth of four African Americans to represent North Carolina’s Second District in the United States Congress in the late nineteenth century.

Born in Bladen County in 1852, White obtained a law license in 1879 and served in the North Carolina House of Representatives and the state Senate before being elected to the first of two four-year terms as district solicitor for the Second Judicial District.

White moved to Tarboro to run for office in what was known as the “Black Second.” Elected in 1896 and 1898, he was the only black representative in Congress at the time. He was attentive to local issues and appointed many blacks in his district to federal positions.

After the passage of legislation disfranchising black voters, White declined nomination to a third term, saying “I can no longer live in North Carolina and be treated as a man.” In his farewell speech he stated that “Phoenix-like he (the negro) will rise up some day and come again (to Congress).”

White was the last black member of Congress for 28 years, and the last black Southerner in the body until 1973. North Carolina did not see another African-American congressman until Mel Watt took his seat in 1993.

The full speech is available online through the Documenting the American South project at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Other related resources:

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


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