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R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Empire Takes Shape

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 10/19/2014 - 06:30

R. J. Reynolds. Image from the
Forsyth County Public Library.

On October 19, 1874, R.J. Reynolds purchased his first lot, next to rail lines in Winston, from the Moravian Church.

Born into a prosperous Virginia tobacco family, Reynolds started what he called the “Little Red Factory” in 1874 with just $7,500 and some college and business school under his belt. A year later, the factory and its 12 workers had produced 150,000 pounds of southern flat plug chewing tobacco.

By the time of Reynolds’ death in 1918, the company had grown to a workforce of 10,000 spread across 121 buildings in Winston-Salem. The diversified tobacco manufacturing business included chewing and pipe tobacco and the legendary Camel cigarette. Other popular Reynolds brands included Winston, Salem, Vantage and Doral.

Outside of the business arena, Both Reynolds and his wife became known for their progressive politics, philanthropy and efforts to improve conditions for their workers.

Working a Reynolds Tobacco Plant. Image from the North Carolina
Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The story of Reynolds’ arrival in Winston in 1874, eager to make his fortune and the family’s economic and philanthropic legacy have been memorialized in a sculpture in Winston-Salem. Dedicated in 1979, the monument depicts the 24-year-old Reynolds blazing into town on a horse.

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African American Baptists in North Carolina Organized, 1867

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 10/18/2014 - 06:30

On October 18, 1867, the first meeting of the General Baptist Convention opened at the First African Baptist Church in Goldsboro.

After the Civil War, African Americans withdrew from Baptist churches across the state and established their own association, the General Baptist Convention, as the black counterpart to the Baptist State Convention. The withdrawal stemmed from strong white opposition to social equality and the desire by both races for separate churches.

In September 1867, a group of ministers called for an assembly. Each black Baptist church was asked to send its minister and two delegates. The planned assembly was held at the same time as the annual meeting of the white convention from which it received advice and $500 in financial support. Known for a time as the General Association for Colored Baptists, the group has been called the General Baptist State Convention since 1947.

Though the creation of the organization came at a time marked by poverty, discouragement and bitter struggle, by 1882 the group represented 800 churches and 95,000 members. Today, the convention represents over a half-million members.

First African Baptist Church of Goldsboro still owns the tract where the original meeting took place.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.


Lewis Leary, John Brown Accomplice, from Fayetteville

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 06:30

Marines attack the Harpers Ferry arsenal after it was taken by Brown’s forces.

On October 17, 1859, Lewis Leary was fatally wounded during John Brown’s raid on the arsenal at Harpers Ferry.

Originally from Fayetteville, Leary was a free mulatto who came from a family of saddle-makers. Leary moved to Oberlin, Ohio, in search of economic opportunity and because the town was considered to be among the most racially progressive in America. Once there, he gravitated toward the growing abolitionist movement and joined the Anti-Slavery Society.

Leary

In 1859, John Brown, a vehement anti-slavery advocate, was looking for men to spark a slave insurrection on the East Coast. Leary joined him enthusiastically. Unfortunately, Brown’s men lacked the resources needed to mobilize local slaves who had not been properly notified of the insurgency.

Local militia held off the raiders until Robert E. Lee’s Marines formally intervened. Brown’s men were unable to stockpile the weaponry or to escape. While attempting to flee, Leary was wounded and died several hours later.

Though the raid failed, Leary’s death was not in vain. Brown’s raid threatened the South by proving that a slave insurrection was possible, and the seizure was lauded in the North. The episode marked the obvious division between North and South, which would shortly culminate in the Civil War.

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Rick Dees’ 1976 Novelty Hit, “Disco Duck”

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 07:37

On October 16, 1976, Rick Dees’ song “Disco Duck” hit number one on the Billboard charts. At the time of the novelty hit, Dees was working as a disk jockey at a radio station in Memphis, Tenn.

Rigdon Dees III was born in Florida, but was raised in Greensboro. He attended Grimsley High School and graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a degree in radio, television and motion pictures. Dees went on to work at several radio stations around the South. He wrote and recorded “Disco Duck” as a parody of the glut of disco songs popular in the late 1970s. It was perfect timing for the song, which ended up being his only hit recording.

Dees went on to become one of the most famous DJs in the country, hosting long-running shows such as The Weekly Top 40. He also has acted in television shows and movies, and has done voiceovers for movies, including Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

His many accolades include membership in both the National Association of Broadcasters and the National Radio Halls of Fame and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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Wake Forest Sets Up New Campus, 1951

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 06:30

President Harry Truman helps break ground on the new Wake Forest campus.
Image from the Wake Forest Historical Museum.

On October 15, 1951, President Harry S. Truman spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Winston-Salem campus of Wake Forest College. The president spoke for 20 minutes covering the history of the college and praising the people who made the move possible. A scale model of the planned campus was available for attendees to examine.

The move was several years in making. College trustees and the Baptist State Convention had agreed to move the school to the Forsyth County site during the previous decade, after the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation promised to fund the college in perpetuity if it moved. Charles and Mary Babcock, the daughter of R. J. Reynolds, donated 350 acres near Reynolda House for the campus.

Image from the Wake Forest Historical Museum.

The school’s roots, though, go back much further. The Baptist State Convention launched Wake Forest Institute in 1834 on the site of a Wake County plantation with an enrollment of 16. Designed to teach Baptist ministers and laymen, the school required students to spend half their day performing manual labor on the plantation.

In 1838, the school was renamed Wake Forest College, and the provision for manual labor was abandoned in favor of rigorous academic training. The village in Wake County that developed around the college became known as Wake Forest.

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University President, U.S. Senator Frank Porter Graham

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 06:30

Image from N.C. State Libraries

On October 14, 1886, Frank Porter Graham was born in Fayetteville.

Graham became a history instructor at UNC in 1914, but left to serve in the Marines during World War I. He was elevated to the rank of first lieutenant before returning to Chapel Hill as an assistant professor. He secured a full professorship in 1927 and three years later became president of the university. When the University of North Carolina, North Carolina State College and the North Carolina College for Women merged in 1932, Graham became the first president of the Consolidated University of North Carolina.

A flyer that portrays the choice between
Willis Smith and Frank Porter Graham in the 1950 U.S. Senate election in racial terms. Image from the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill.

In 1949, Graham resigned from the UNC system to accept an appointment to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat caused by J. Melville Broughton’s death. Graham’s 1950 Democratic senate primary race against Willis Smith has become legendary for the mudslinging and posturing. He lost the primary but maintained a commitment to public service.

Graham became the United Nations mediator and representative to India and Pakistan in 1951, and served as an assistant secretary general of the United Nations before retiring in 1967.

He returned to Chapel Hill where he died in 1972. The 1968 student union building at Chapel Hill bears Graham’s name.

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Gospel Music’s First Lady, Shirley Caesar of Durham

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 06:30

Image from the State Archives.

On October 13, 1938, Shirley Caesar, an award-winning gospel singer and preacher was born in Durham. Her beginnings were humble. She and her 11 siblings lost their father when they were young. She immersed herself in church and family life, and in singing, which she began at age 10.

When Caesar was 19-years-old she met Albertina Walker, a famous gospel singer, who was impressed with Caesar’s raw talent and invited her to join her group, the Caravans. Performing across the United States, she saw the racial adversity that was prevalent in America during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.  After eight years with the group she opted for a solo career, giving her the opportunity to preach and to affect change.

Caesar’s many accolades include 11 Grammy Awards, 15 Dove Awards and 13 Stellar Awards.  She has released more than 20 albums and a dozen singles, and she is commonly known as the “First Lady of Gospel Music.”

Caesar continues to be active in the Triangle community, preachingat Mount Calvary Word of Faith Church in Raleigh and has operated her Outreach Ministries in Durham for more than 40 years, inspiring many through her talent and selflessness.

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Monument Dedicated 1923 at Bennett Place Symbolizes Unity

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 10/12/2014 - 06:30

The Unity Monument is unveiled at Bennett Place in November 1923 (the dedication is the day we remember today). Image from the State Archives.

On October 12, 1923, the Unity Monument was dedicated at Bennett Place in Durham, memorializing the end of the Civil War and reunification of the country.

Sponsored by the Samuel Tate Morgan family and the state of North Carolina, the monument is composed of two Corinthian columns symbolizing the Union and the Confederacy topped by a beam bearing the word “Unity.” The inscription on a stone at the monument’s base details the surrender of Confederate troops by General Joseph E. Johnston to General William T. Sherman in 1865 at the farmhouse owned by James and Nancy Bennitt.

Sherman and Johnston met at the Bennitt farm three times during the month of April 1865 to negotiate the war’s largest surrender of Confederate troops. Their first meeting came just two days after Lincoln’s assassination. Although Lee’s April 9 surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House is often considered the end of the Civil War, Johnston’s April 26 surrender of the armies of the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida to Sherman is more correctly viewed as the close of the conflict.

Following the surrender, the two generals became friends. Johnston even served as a pallbearer at Sherman’s funeral in 1891.

Visit: Bennett Place State Historic Site in Durham, the site of the largest surrender of the Civil War.

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U.N. Representative Herschel Johnson Advocated Partition of Palestine, 1947

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 10/11/2014 - 06:30

A U.N. Security Council meeting in December 1947. Herschel Johnson is seated fifth from the left in the front row. Image from the United Nations.

On October 11, 1947, as the newly created United Nations debated the partition of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel, North Carolinian Herschel Johnson was at the center of the deliberations.

The plain-spoken career Foreign Service officer understood that no plan could satisfy both Arabs and Jews but “if we are to effect through the United Nations a solution to this problem, it cannot be done without the use of the knife.” The plan, with the support of the Soviet Union, passed the Assembly by a 33-17 vote.

Born in Atlanta in 1894, Johnson moved to Charlotte with his family when he was 6. He attended UNC and Harvard before joining the State Department in 1920. He served in junior roles in American embassies in Switzerland, Bulgaria, Honduras, Mexico and Great Britain, where he acted as ambassador after the death of Robert W. Bingham and departure of Joseph P. Kennedy.

In 1946, Johnson became acting U.S. representative to the U.N. He followed his service in New York with the ambassadorship to Brazil. A lifelong bachelor, he died in 1966 and is buried in Charlotte’s Elmwood Cemetery.

Johnson’s speech is available online.

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


Jazz Giant Thelonious Monk of Rocky Mount

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 06:30

Monk plays the piano in September 1947. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

On October 10, 1917, Thelonious Monk was born in Rocky Mount. Though Monk lived most of his life in Manhattan, his North Carolina roots ran deep.

Monk’s style was original and unorthodox, incorporating elements of stride piano and gospel to create a “rhythmic virtuosity,” striking dissonant notes and playing skewed melodies. He collaborated with Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and many other noted jazz musicians of the time. Along with Dizzy Gillespie, another of his collaborators, Monk is credited as an architect of bebop; The third composition he copyrighted, and his first as sole composer, was also his best-known, “’Round Midnight.”

Personally, Monk had a reputation as the ultimate hipster, with his goatee, skullcap and bamboo-rimmed sunglasses. He often left his keyboard to dance while onstage and, at random moments, on the street or in public spaces, would twirl for several minutes. Viewed by some as temperamental and eccentric, he is described by his biographer Robin Kelley as essentially rebellious. Kelley documented that Monk suffered from bipolar disorder most of his adult life.

In 1972, Monk withdrew from public appearances and was hospitalized intermittently until his death. Among his last extended stands was a week at the Frog and Nightgown in Raleigh’s Cameron Village in 1970. A park in his hometown has carried his name since 2000.

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W. W. Kitchin, North Carolina-Style Progressive Politician

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 10/09/2014 - 06:30

Image from the State Archives.

On October 9, 1866, Governor William Walton Kitchin was born near Scotland Neck. Educated in local schools and at Wake Forest, he studied law and in 1888 opened a practice in Roxboro.

Kitchin, a Democrat, entered politics at a point when his party’s fortunes were at a low point. He was the sole Democrat elected to either house of the Congress from North Carolina in the fall 1896 election.

After 12 years in Congress, Kitchen was elected governor in 1908. While he held the state’s top job, he worked to increase expenditures for education, public health, care for the mentally handicapped and drainage of swamp lands.

In line with the national efforts to break up trusts and regulate business, Kitchin backed legislation to strengthen antitrust laws, require better sanitation and set a 10-hour workday in factories. He also advocated prohibiting work by children under the age of 13 and licensing foreign corporations doing business in the state. During his term 1,300 miles of roads were constructed. He served as governor for four years and then returned to practicing law.

In 1919, a stroke forced him into retirement and he returned to Halifax County. He died in 1924.

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Edenton Courthouse, Built 1767 and Renovated 2004

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 10/08/2014 - 06:30

 

On October 8, 2004, the Chowan County Courthouse reopened to the public after years of renovation. The majestic courthouse, completed in 1767 in Edenton, is considered the finest example of Georgian architecture in the South.

While the architect remains anonymous, many have speculated that either Gilbert Leigh, known to have worked on many houses in the area, or John Hawks, best known for Tryon Palace, supervised construction.

The exterior, a large rectangular frame of Flemish-bond brick, rests on a central pediment overlooking Edenton Bay. The interior consists of two floors, the bottom a courtroom with a large magistrate’s chair in the center. English ballast stones pave the ground floor and, in lieu of paint, the plain walls were whitewashed.

The top floor, an assembly hall, was one of the largest during the colonial period. Beginning in 1778, the hall hosted the Masons of Unanimity #7, an order to which George Washington belonged. The first president’s chair remains a permanent collection piece in the courthouse.

Necessary utilities were incorporated through the years, including telephones, electricity and plumbing services. Although Edenton constructed a modern courthouse in 1979, the historic Chowan County Courthouse remains in use and open to the public.

Visit: Historic Edenton State Historic Site, which includes the 1767 Chowan County Courthouse.

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Patriots Victorious at Kings Mountain, 1780

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 10/07/2014 - 06:30

The “Overmountain Men: gather at Sycamore Shoals prior to the Battle of
Kings Mountain. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

On October 7, 1780, Patriot forces defeated the British in the Battle of Kings Mountain, signaling the beginning of the end of British control in the South.

Patriots had created an atmosphere of Tory persecution in western North Carolina and, in September 1780, British Major Patrick Ferguson decided to subdue the rebellious region. He warned mountain residents that if insurrection continued, he personally would “lay waste their country with fire and sword.”

Patriot volunteers heeded Ferguson’s challenge. Roused by the threats, many of those who gathered against Ferguson did so only to protect their communities. Joseph Winston and Benjamin Cleveland raised Surry and Wilkes County militias, marching to Burke County, where they met Major Joseph McDowell’s volunteers. Militia groups came from surrounding states—those from Tennessee were known as the “over-mountain men.”

When Patriot forces arrived at the foot of Kings Mountain, they found Tories camped at the top, prepared to repel any attack. Surrounding the base of the mountain, columns of men engaged the Tory line, and eventually the lofty position caused Loyalists to fire over the heads of Patriots who raced up the incline to overrun the first defensive line. Major Ferguson was killed and the Loyalist militia was overwhelmed.

The battlefield is now a national military park in South Carolina.

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Fire Destroys “Bandon,” Home of Inglis Fletcher

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 10/06/2014 - 06:30

Inglis Fletcher autographs a book. Image from the Outer Banks History Center.

On October 6, 1963, “Bandon,” the beloved plantation home of author Inglis Fletcher, burned.

Fletcher, the author of the Carolina Series–12 historical novels set in eastern North Carolina during the colonial and revolutionary period–purchased the early 19th century property with her husband in 1944. The mansion and several outbuildings were situated on just over 60 acres north of Edenton on the shores of the Chowan River. The house had been unoccupied for 18 years and was in a state of disrepair when the Fletchers bought it. A schoolhouse on the grounds dated to the 1750s, while the plantation house itself was completed around 1800.

At the time of the fire, Fletcher and her grandson were watching television on Bandon’s second floor. The blaze was discovered by neighbors who spotted flames coming from the roof. The fire was believed to have started in the attic.

Although the mansion was fully engulfed by the time firefighters arrived, neighbors had moved much of the antique furniture on the first floor out onto the lawn. Fletcher sold the land the following year, and the schoolhouse was moved to Edenton.

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.


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