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James Larkin Pearson, Longtime Poet Laureate

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 08/02/2015 - 06:30

Image from the Iredell County Public Library.

On August 2, 1953, James Larkin Pearson was appointed the second Poet Laureate of North Carolina by Governor William B. Umstead. He would remain in the post until his death at age 102 in 1981.

Born in a Wilkes County log cabin in 1879, Pearson showed talent for rhyming despite his limited formal education. Determined to become a poet from an early age he practiced his craft and saw some early successes. A local Wilkes County newspaper published some of his work in 1896 and The New York Independent bought one of his poems for $8 in 1900.

To support himself Pearson pursued farming and carpentry at first, but soon turned to news. He started his own newspaper and later worked for The Yellow Jacket in Wilkes County and the Charlotte Observer. In 1910, he returned to Wilkes County to publish a monthly paper, The Fool-Killer, which eventually achieved a circulation of 50,000.

He printed five volumes of poetry from the basement of his farmhouse, continuing to work on the farm while writing poetry.

His poems are lyrical, optimistic and traditional, with simple, lighthearted dialect verse. Selected Poems (1960) and My Fingers and My Toes (1971) were well-received collections from commercial publishers.

In 1934, the News and Observer wrote:

More than any other living North Carolinian he has put the life of the people into poetry, made it tangible and beautiful and easily seen.

Pearson remained Poet Laureate until his death. His printing press, library, manuscripts, and portrait are housed in the James Larkin Pearson Building at Wilkes Community College.

Other related resources:

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.


Lowe’s and Homegrown Home Improvement

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 08/01/2015 - 06:30

Lowes founded his first store in North Wilkesboro in 1921. Image from
the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill.

On August 1, 1952, Lowe’s Home Improvement was incorporated.

The chain can trace its roots to 1921 when I. S. Lowe founded a hardware store in North Wilkesboro. His son, Jim Lowe, and son-in-law, Carl Buchanan, took over the store after his death, but the two disagreed on whether or not to expand the business, and Buchanan ultimately bought out Lowe.

Buchanan recognized the post-World War II building boom that was coming to the county, and narrowed Lowe’s focus to selling only hardware, appliances and building materials (at the time hardware stores tending to sell a lot of general merchandise). He quickly tied the company’s reputation to low prices, buying products directly from manufacturers and operating on very slim profit margins to keep costs.

Buchanan’s model took off, and by 1960, Lowe’s had 15 stores and $30 million in annual sales. The company continued to grow quickly in the 1960s and 70s by focusing on selling primarily to contractors. After a new chairman took over in 1978, the hardware chain began marketing directly to the general public.

Still based in North Carolina, Lowe’s is one of the nation’s 50 largest companies, according to Fortune. It operates nearly 2,000 stores across the United States and Canada, and had  revenues of more than $52 billion in 2014.

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.


J. C. B. Ehringhaus, Governor, 1932-1936

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 07/30/2015 - 06:30

Image from the State Archives.

On July 31, 1949, Depression-era governor John Christoph Blucher Ehringhaus, died.

Born in Elizabeth City in 1882, Ehringhaus represented Pasquotank County in the General Assembly and served as the modern-day equivalent of a district attorney before becoming governor.

Ehringhaus is probably best remembered for balancing the state’s budget during the turbulent times of the Great Depression. He improved the way the state’s public schools were managed, while ensuring no teachers lost their jobs or pay, and made certain that the schools kept functioning eight months a year with busing and textbook rentals.

Ehringhaus cut the state budget and returned the government to fiscal stability, while increasing its power with the introduction of a state sales tax to fund the public school system. He reorganized the prisons to make them self-sufficient and left the state with a $5 million surplus.

An advocate for farmers, Ehringhaus closed the state’s tobacco markers in 1933 and traveled to Washington, D.C. to demand the federal government set higher prices for the crop. He publicly supported Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, but did little to help implement them.

Ehringhaus’s popularity declined in the mid-1930s, and he returned to his law practice in Raleigh after his term.

Other related resources:

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.


Fascist Writer and Politician William Dudley Pelley Lived in Asheville

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 07/30/2015 - 06:30

A signed photograph of Pelley.
Image from iCollector.

On July 30, 1965, American fascist and anti-Semite William Dudley Pelley died. A writer, novelist and screenwriter from Massachusetts, he turned to politics and religion after a near-death experience.

Pelley spent the 1930s in Asheville where he developed his “Liberation Theology,” a combination of elements of Christianity, fascism, nationalism, theocracy and socialism. In Asheville, he established Galahad Press, through which he published his radical magazine New Liberator. In 1932, he founded Galahad College where he further promoted his political and economic theories.

In 1933, Pelley founded the Silver Legion of America, better known as the “Silver Shirts,” an organization modeled on Hitler’s Brown Shirts. He ran for president in 1936 as a candidate of the Christian Party.

Convicted of fraud in North Carolina, Pelley moved to Indiana in 1940. Arrested in 1942 and charged with sedition and treason, he spent the rest of the 1940s in federal prison. After his release in 1952, he lived the rest of his life in Noblesville, Indiana, developing and publishing on another religious philosophy called “Soulcraft,” which was based on UFOs and later on his reported contact with souls of famous historical figures.

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Loyalists and Patriots Clash at Alston House, 1781

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 07/29/2015 - 06:30

A re-enactment of the skirmish at the House in the Horseshoe.
Image from North Carolina Historic Sites.

On July 29, 1781Phillip Alston and a small band of patriot militia were besieged at the Alston home by forces loyal to the king under the command of David Fanning.

The attack occurred in the early morning hours and, trapped in his house, Alston ordered his men to barricade the doors and windows. Fanning posted his men along a split rail fence outside the home and, for several hours, the men exchanged fire with no side gaining a real advantage.

As her house was being riddled by bullets, Temperance Alston, Phillip’s wife, was level-headed enough to hide her children in the chimney, standing them on a table so that their bodies were behind the brickwork. Just as Fanning was considering retreating, his men found a small wagon in Alston’s barn. He ordered it loaded with hay and set it afire with the aim of pushing it into the house.

In an effort to save the lives of everyone in the inside, Temperance cautiously stepped out and negotiated a surrender.

The Alston House, near the Moore County town of Carthage, is now known as the House in the Horseshoe and is a North Carolina State Historic Site.

Visit: House in the Horseshoe will commemorate the anniversary of the skirmish with re-enactments Saturday and Sunday.

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 Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.


Confederates Repulse Union Army at Boon’s Mill, 1863

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 07/28/2015 - 06:30

On July 28, 1863, a skirmish was fought at Boon’s Mill near Jackson. It marked the end of a Federal raid against Weldon, a major railroad hub linking the Deep South to Richmond.

The operation began three days earlier, when infantry under Maj. Gen. John G. Foster landed near Winton on the Chowan River. The next day they advanced toward Murfreesboro and defeated a Confederate force at Potecasi Creek.

The Union advance was slowed when a cavalry column under Col. Samuel P. Spear assigned to strike Weldon was delayed after losing a pontoon bridge in a storm. That, in turn, gave the Confederate military time to dispatch Brig. Gen. Matt Ransom’s brigade from Petersburg as reinforcements.

Ransom established a position at Boon’s Mill with the few companies that had arrived at that point. In the meantime, Spear reached Winton and headed for Weldon. Ransom and his staff were almost captured as they encountered the Federals, but raced back to their line. Spear made little effort to take the position, and the confrontation settled into an artillery duel which was ended by a storm.

Casualties were light on both sides. Spear retreated, and the railroad line was safe again for the moment.

Other related resources:

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.


Homegrown Jihadists Arrested in Raleigh, 2009

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 07/27/2015 - 06:30

Mugshots from members of the “Raleigh jihad ” group.
Image from FindLaw.

On July 27, 2009, seven men were arrested in Raleigh and accused of plotting to wage “violent jihad” outside the United States.

The alleged ringleader was Daniel Patrick Boyd, who recruited men, including two of his sons, to commit terrorist activities abroad. In the 1980s and 90s Boyd had traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan where he “received military-style training in terrorist training camps for the purpose of engaging in violent jihad.”

The men arrested were attempting to make their way to the Middle East to join a terrorist organization. They failed, and in doing so were arrested by the federal government. The men were all American citizens who had radicalized at some point in their lives. Several of the members had been talking about waging some form of Jihad for years, and many people who knew them were not surprised by the arrests.

In 2011, Boyd plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, and one count of conspiracy to commit murder, maiming and kidnapping overseas. He later testified in court against some of his co-conspirators.

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 Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.


Hang Glider Adapted for Water Use, 1962

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 07/26/2015 - 06:30

Purcell demonstrates his FlightSail technology on Lake Waccamaw.
Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

On July 26, 1962, Thomas Purcell Jr. demonstrated FlightSail at Lake Waccamaw.

The Columbus County flight was the first water-based use of the glider that had been adapted by Purcell from technology created by aviation pioneer Francis Rogallo. The aircraft was a single seat open cockpit parasol-winged glider with skids to facilitate water takeoffs and landings.

Purcell, who studied at North Carolina State University, got a job at Bensen Aircraft Corporation, a gyrocopter manufacturer near the Raleigh-Durham Airport after graduating. He later opened his own company, Flight Dynamics, which designed and sold plans for a variety of aircraft.

Purcell thought up his designs after reading magazine articles about glider technology invented by Rogallo, often called the “father of hand gliding.”

A montage of promotional photographs for technologies Purcell invented.
Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

NASA, which had previously been interested in Rogallo’s work, began to take an interest in Purcell as well. Purcell visited NASA in 1961 to demonstrate the FlightSail glider, which the nation’s space agency thought could be used as a substitute for traditional parachutes for the Gemini program.

Though NASA ultimately decided to use regular parachutes for Gemini, the Flightsail system and others like it are still remembered as massive improvements in glider technology, and Purcell marketed his technology for recreation throughout the 1970s.

A model of the FlightSail Purcell flew at Lake Waccamaw is in the holdings of the North Carolina Museum of History.

Other related resources:

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.


Sit-in Victory in Greensboro, 1960

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 07/25/2015 - 06:30

N.C. A&T students sit-in at a lunch counter in Greensboro.
Image from the Library of Congress.

On July 25, 1960, Greensboro lunch counters opened to sitting customers of all races for the first time. The event was the culmination of a brief and intense desegregation campaign by black activists that sparked similar actions throughout the country.

In February of that year, four students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College began a sit-in at the lunch counter of downtown Woolworth’s, demanding equal service with white customers. The original demonstrators, Ezell Blair Jr., Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain and David Richmond, were joined on succeeding days by more and more protestors, and the campaign they began spread to other stores.

After six days, stores closed and the protesters declared a moratorium to negotiate with civic leaders. Similar protests spread throughout the South, while supporting demonstrations were launched in the North.

Negotiations failed and the demonstrations resumed in April. Stores that refused to seat black customers at their lunch counters were picketed. By the end of June, store managers gave up as the boycott hurt their businesses.

After new negotiations, it was agreed that blacks could eat at Greensboro lunch counters. The successful outcome of the campaign marked an important state and national milestone in the on-going civil rights struggle.

Visit: The International Civil Rights Center & Museum is now located on the site of Woolworth’s lunch counter where the sit-in movement began. It is open to the public Monday through Saturday.

Other related resources:

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.


Leo Haid and a Firm Footing for Roman Catholicism in North Carolina

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 07/24/2015 - 06:30

 

An early photograph of Belmont Abbey. Image from Belmont Abbey College.

On July 24, 1924, Leo Haid, abbot and founder of Belmont Abbey, died.

Born in Pennsylvania in 1849 as Michael Hite, he attended school at the nearby Benedictine abbey. Haid entered the order as a novice in 1868 and assumed the religious name Leo. Formal vows as a monk and priest followed four years later. He worked as a teacher and chaplain until 1885, when the Church promoted him to the abbacy of Maryhelp in North Carolina.

Abbot Leo Haid in 1914. Image from The Catholic Church in the United States of America: Undertaken to Celebrate the Golden Jubilee of His Holiness, Pope Pius X via Google Books.

With its few dilapidated buildings, poor farm and small staff, Maryhelp needed strong management. Though young and untested in leadership, Haid vastly improved and exponentially expanded Maryhelp, constructing many fine buildings, making the farm productive, growing the number of monks to 70 and welcoming several hundred students.  It became known as Belmont Abbey in 1913, and its success helped Catholicism become more accepted in North Carolina.

Dedicated to his post, Haid almost turned down his election as titular bishop of Messene and vicar-apostolic of North Carolina, only agreeing to the promotion when his superiors allowed him to continue as abbot.  His accomplishments gained him a reputation as a skilled orator, writer and Church leader, especially in the area of Benedictine education.

He served as abbot and bishop until his death.

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 Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.


Kay Kyser:“C’mon Chillun! Le’s Dance!”

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 07/23/2015 - 06:30

On July 23, 1985James “Kay” Kyser, popular radio personality and bandleader, died in Chapel Hill.

Born in Rocky Mount in 1905, Kyser attended UNC where he was an exuberant head cheerleader and the class president. Also known as the “Ol’ Professor of Swing,” Kyser became one of the wildest and most grandiose bandleaders of the swing era.

In the 1930s, Kyser toured with his band, Kyser’s Kollege of Musical Knowledge, through much of the Midwest. Over the next two decades, they garnered national attention and had 11 number-one hits. Although he never learned to play an instrument, Kyser was a top-notch entertainer and went on to star in over a dozen movies, co-starring with greats of the time like Lucille Ball and John Barrymore.

In 1941, Kyser was the first person to perform live at camp shows for U.S. military personnel, predating performers such as Bob Hope. He retired suddenly in 1950, withdrawing to Chapel Hill where he remained until his death.

In 1999, he was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame.

Other related resources:

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.

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 Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.


Planter and Politician Elias Carr

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 07/22/2015 - 06:30

Image from the State Archives.

On July 22, 1900, Elias Carr, planter and former governor, died at “Bracebridge Hall,” his Tarboro home for most of his life.

Born in 1839 to early settlers and planters in Edgecombe and Nash Counties, Carr was orphaned with the death of his mother in 1840 and his father in 1843. He was raised by an aunt and uncle in Warren County where he received his early schooling before finishing his education at UNC and the University of Virginia.

Carr was an enlightened farmer, and his use of scientific methods in his varied agricultural endeavors made him very wealthy. In 1887, he became the first president of the North Carolina Farmer’s Association and as such he became well known throughout the state.

After gaining significant political experience with the Farmer’s Alliance, Carr was nominated for governor by the Democratic Party in 1892 and won the office. His single term in the state’s top job was marked by progressive policies and efficient management, and he advocated for many of the same things he championed before entering the political sphere, including better roads and more funding for rural schools.

After his term, Carr retired to “Bracebridge Hall,” where he died a few years later.

Other related resources:

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.


Precepts for Colonial Government Set, 1669

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 07/21/2015 - 06:30

The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina.
Image from the Library of Congress.

On July 21, 1669, the Lords Proprietors signed and sealed the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina.  The document, perhaps written by John Locke who served as secretary to one of the Proprietors, established a framework of government for the nascent colony.

While the document recognized the Church of England, it also promoted religious tolerance. It attempted to set up an orderly feudal system with landed gentry, freemen, “leet-men” (similar to serfs), and slaves.

The Proprietors were given authority to grant titles, but not titles that existed in England, so they came up with landgrave (a title used in central Europe) and cacique(a term used for chiefs by some Caribbean natives). The Constitutions proposed a relatively low threshold for giving property owners the right to vote.

The complex document, with 111 often impractical provisions, was never popular among the residents of Carolina. One element of the Constitutions that came to fruition was the Palatine Court which operated in the colony for about 50 years and in some ways was a precursor to our modern legal system.

The full text of the Fundamental Constitutions is available on the Yale Law School’s website.

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 Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.


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