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Fairgrounds Hosted Last NASCAR Race on Dirt Track

This Day in North Carolina History - 8 hours 13 min ago

A NASCAR race on a dirt track during the 1960s. The number 43 car belongs to
Richard Petty. Image from NASCAR.

On September 30, 1970, the last NASCAR race on a dirt track was held in Raleigh at the State Fairgrounds, Richard Petty took away the day’s top prize, in what was billed as the Home State 200.

Dirt track racing appeared in the South just prior to World War I. When the N.C. State Fair moved to its present site in 1928, the increasingly popular sport came with it. As a premier venue with access to fairgoers from across the state, the speedway boosted the racing phenomenon.

The half-mile track has only seen three NASCAR events in its history. The first was held in 1955, but was called due to rain while Junior Johnson was leading. The next one was fourteen years later in 1969, which James Hylton won. The last was the 1970 event, though the grandstand remains and sections of the old track are used each October.

Safety concerns were the main reason more modern, paved tracks replaced their dirt counterparts, the remains of some of the old ones still dot the Carolinas, with saplings poking through the stands and undergrowth overtaking sites where stock car racing had its start.

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John Hope Franklin, From Greenwood to the White House

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 09/29/2014 - 06:30

Image from the Washington Post.

On September 29, 1995, President Bill Clinton awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, to John Hope Franklin of Durham.

A pioneering historian who focused on the social and economic conditions of African Americans, A native Oklahoman Franklin was educated at Fisk and Harvard before moving to North Carolina in 1939 to teach at St. Augustine’s and North Carolina Central. He taught elsewhere and returned in 1982 to join the history faculty at Duke, where he remained until his death in 2009.

Not just a historian, Franklin helped shape American history. His research formed the historical basis for the groundbreaking NAACP brief that led to the Supreme Court’s dismantling of school segregation in the 1954 Brown v. Board decision and, in 1965, Franklin joined a cadre of academics who supported Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the Selma to Montgomery civil rights march.

During the course of his long career, Franklin wrote more than 15 books and received honorary degrees from almost 100 institutions. His 1947 book From Slavery to Freedom is still widely regarded as the best single-volume history of African Americans and has sold more than 3 million copies.


David Walker and His Appeal, a Transformative Book

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 09/28/2014 - 06:30

On September 28, 1829, North Carolina native David Walker published his Appeal.

A free-born African American raised in the Wilmington area, Walker traveled south to Charleston, which had a large free black population, before settling in Boston by 1825. A businessman, Walker also founded the Massachusetts General Colored Association, which actively opposed the colonization of free blacks to Africa. He spoke out publicly against slavery and racism. The Appeal carried those efforts into print.

The Appeal argued for the black community to take action against slavery and discrimination. Walker argued the key was to transform one’s self through individual moral improvement by education, temperance, religion, regular work habits and self-regulation. Through action, Walker contended, blacks could refute racism and claim the rights of citizenship. Walker did not advocate overthrowing the government, but rather sought to transform society.

The reaction of North Carolina’s white leaders to the Appeal was typical of that seen in other Southern states. Unsuccessful in their attempts at restricting the rights of free blacks prior to Walker’s Appeal, legislators quickly passed a series of limiting acts – including the ban of similar materials from entering the state – once the book was presented to the assembly.

Walker died in 1830 and is buried in an unmarked grave in Boston.

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Circus Tragedy in Charlotte, 1880

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 09/27/2014 - 06:30

A preserved Chief visits the University of Cincinnati after his death.
Image from the University of Cincinnati.

On September 27, 1880, Chief, a performing elephant, killed his trainer, John King, in Charlotte.

The John Robinson Circus, of which Chief was a part, had arrived in Charlotte that day with two shows planned. Crowds of spectators were camped out near the circus, anticipating the next day’s shows. Many of them witnessed the horrifying events of that evening.

John King’s grave marker in Charlotte. Image from the University of Cincinnati.

Chief, a large male elephant, charged his keeper and smashed the man into a railcar, mangling him to the point that he was dead within minutes. The elephant then charged away from the scene, chased by circus workers who finally caught and lassoed him to an older, female elephant named Mary. Mary appeared to grasp the enormity of the younger elephant’s deed and beat him with her trunk as they were returned to the circus grounds.

King was buried in Elmwood Cemetery with the circus band playing and two other circus elephants in attendance. For the grave, Confederate veteran Billy Berryhill carved an obelisk monument with an elephant in the shaft.

Chief never worked in the circus again, although he remained with them and marched in the parades until he was exiled to the Cincinnati Zoo. Unfortunately, he did not curb his murderous ways and, after killing several other keepers, Chief was killed himself.

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Adelaide Fries and the Moravian Archives

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 06:30

Image from the Forsyth County Public Library.

On September 26, 1911, Forsyth County native Adelaide Fries was appointed Archivist of the Southern Province of the Moravian Church.

Born in 1871 and from a long line of churchmen, Fries graduated from Salem College with bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Guided to research primary sources from a very young age by her father, Fries learned to read Old German script so that she could translate the diaries in which she was interested. The culmination of that education came in 1899, when Fries accompanied her father to Germany where she examined many of the earliest records of the church.

Fries’s work as archivist of the Salem church began very unofficially when someone suggested that she find a room somewhere to house all the manuscripts that she was collecting. After that, with no official sanction, she began an intense collecting campaign that resulted in the preservation of many valuable papers.

Fries held the official position of archivist for the rest of her life, while pursuing companion interests in genealogy and church history. A popular speaker and author, Fries received honorary doctorates from Wake Forest and UNC.

She died in 1949 and was laid to rest in the Moravian burying ground known as God’s Acre.

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Greensboro-Born Doctor Pioneers “Tommy John Surgery,” Saves Baseball Careers

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 06:30

Tommy John (left) and Dr. Frank Jobe talking to each other. Photo from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

On September 25, 1974, Greensboro native Frank Jobe, an orthopedist for the Los Angeles Dodgers, replaced pitcher Tommy John’s torn medial collateral ligament in his pitching arm with a tendon from his wrist.

The injury had ended pitching careers since the beginning of baseball but, thanks to Jobe’s efforts, John resumed his career after a successful rehabilitation, playing for another 14 years and amassing 164 victories. The procedure, which has come to be known as the “Tommy John Surgery,” has saved the careers of countless pitchers and position players in all levels of baseball ever since.

Jobe, born in 1925, joined the Army at 18 and served as a supply sergeant in a medical unit with the 101st Airborne during World War II. He was inspired to become a surgeon after witnessing the bravery of army doctors on the battlefield, later recalling, “These guys would be operating in tents with bullets and shrapnel flying around. […] These guys became my real heroes.”

Jobe was honored for his pioneering contributions to baseball during the 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame awards ceremony, seven months before his death. Dodger’s president Stan Kasten remembered Jobe as a “medical giant and pioneer” who helped “athletes around the world.”

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Charlotte’s Thomas Polk Saved the Liberty Bell, 1777

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 09/24/2014 - 08:42

On September 24, 1777, Mecklenburg County resident Thomas Polk arrived safely in Allenton, Pa., after escorting the Liberty Bell there from Philadelphia.

Born in Pennsylvania, Polk and his family moved to Anson County, before becoming one of the first settlers of Mecklenburg County, and promoting the establishment of Charlotte. He  became a prosperous planter and was active in the local and state political scenes. As the American Revolution began to come into full swing, Polk was appointed colonel of a regiment of North Carolina militia. He fought at Brandywine and spent a harsh winter at Valley Forge.

As invading British forces approached Philadelphia in 1777, Polk was tasked with escorting some important items out of the city to avoid capture. The city’s bells—including what was then called the State House Bell and is now known as the Liberty Bell—were included among Polk’s precious cargo so they wouldn’t be melted down by the British to make cannon.

After saving what is now one of our nation’s most precious artifacts, Polk continued a successful military career, served on the Council of State and hosted George Washington during his southern tour. He died at his Charlotte home in 1794.

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James Kenan and the Family Legacy

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 09/23/2014 - 06:30

On September 23, 1740, civic, military and political leader James Kenan was born.

Kenan began his long career in public service at age 22 when he was elected sheriff of Duplin County. After leading local opposition to the British Stamp Act, he served in the colonial assembly and the provincial congress. As a member of the militia in Duplin County, he helped lead a group of volunteers against Scottish Loyalists at the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge in 1776.

Kenan continued his involvement in politics after the Revolutionary War, serving in the state Senate for more than 10 terms and as a delegate to the State Constitutional Conventions.

Outside of the political arena, Kenan was a member of the original board of trustees for the University of North Carolina, where several buildings are now named for the Kenan family. He was also the first Master of the original Masonic lodge in Duplin County.

Kenan died in 1810 and is buried in Kenansville. His descendants have continued his legacy of philanthropy and public service, making significant contributions to the arts and education in North Carolina.

Liberty Hall, his father’s plantation and the site of his grave, is now open to the public as a museum.


Lincoln Takes Initial Step to Free the Slaves

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 09/22/2014 - 06:30

Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Image from the National Archives.

On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, stating his intention to free slaves in states that were rebelling against the Federal government.

Although he had conceived the idea earlier that year, Lincoln heeded the advice of his cabinet and waited for a Union battlefield victory to introduce the proclamation so it would not be viewed as an act of desperation. The Union victory at Antietam provided Lincoln with the opportunity, and he seized the moment.

The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on view at the N.C. Museum of History in 2013. Image from the News & Observer.

The Federal military governor of North Carolina, Edward Stanly, disapproved of the proclamation. He understood his duty was to return the state to the Union as it was prior to the crises—a Union where slavery was included. Lincoln offered exclusions and exemptions in the proclamation, including the exclusion of any area that had a representative in the Federal legislature.

Stanly seized upon this as a possible avenue to forestall the implementation of the proclamation in North Carolina, calling for and holding elections for the statewide office of U.S. Senator. Congress refused to seat the person who won the election, and Stanly resigned rather than implement Lincoln’s proclamation.

The final Emancipation Proclamation became active on January 1, 1863, freeing slaves in occupied eastern North Carolina.

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Bearded Brinkley Buried at Buladean

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 09/21/2014 - 06:30

Image from the State Archives.

On September 21, 1850, Sam Brinkley, who became known for one of the world’s longest beards in the early 20th century, was born near Burnsville in Yancey County.

As an adult Brinkley stood at 6 feet, two inches with a beard that measured in at 5 feet, 4 inches at its peak length. Notoriety came with the remarkable growth of his beard. He began by exhibiting it to the curious, and he went on tour with the Barnum and Bailey Circus. He reportedly earned thousands of dollars by charging people to see his beard, which he kept tucked in a pouch.

Brinkley was a late bloomer when it came to facial hair. According to newspaper accounts, until he was 21, he had no real beard to shave. By 23, the growth had reached the astounding rate of a full beard in a week’s time. One article reported that the beard was entirely natural, not the result of restorers or invigorators. Another called it “soft and beautiful.” For decades Brinkley was known as the world’s expert on the cultivation of beards.

He died in 1929 from complications of tonsillitis, and he is buried at Buladean in Mitchell County with a striking photo featuring his legendary beard recessed into his tombstone.

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Martin Luther King’s 1958 Surgery Led by North Carolinian

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 09/20/2014 - 06:30

On September 20, 1958, Beaufort County native Dr. John Cordice operated on Martin Luther King, Jr. in a Harlem, N.Y., hospital. He is now widely credited with saving Dr. King’s life.

Born in the small community of Aurora, east of Greenville, Cordice was raised in Durham. After college and medical school at New York University and a work as a doctor alongside the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, Cordice became a heart surgeon at Harlem Hospital.

On the day in question, King was stabbed by a woman outside a New York department store while autographing copies of a book he was promoting. He was brought to Harlem Hospital, where then New York Gov. W. Averell Harriman requested that African American doctors work on him. Cordice, who wasn’t even on duty that day, happened to stop by Brooklyn medical office where he received a call to come at once and operate an important person who had been injured.

After rushing to the hospital, Cordice and other surgeons used a hammer and chisel to crack King’s sternum and remove the blade with which he had been stabbed, thereby saving King’s life.

At the time, credit for feat was given to Dr. Aubré de Lambert Maynard, the hospital’s chief of surgery, but historians have since concluded that it was Cordice and Dr. Emil Naclerio, an Italian-American , who truly ensured King’s survival.

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Cherokee Defeat by South Carolina Militia, 1776

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 06:30

On September 19, 1776, troops from South Carolina defeated a band of Cherokee Indians in what is now Swain County. The battle took place in a mountain cove known as the “Black Hole,” and was coordinated with a larger effort, now known as the Rutherford Expedition, to punish the Indians for raids on white settlers in the area.

The conflict had its roots earlier that month, when Colonel Andrew Williamson led 2,000 South Carolina militiamen north into Cherokee territory in early September. As they came to the cove, his men marched into an ambush in a gorge. The ensuing battle lasted for nearly two hours. The militiamen were surrounded by Cherokee and forced into a circular formation, leading to the engagement being known in time as the “Ring Fight.”

Williamson eventually led a bayonet charge, driving the Cherokees from the field. Relatively few casualties were incurred. The Cherokee left four dead on the field; 11 militiamen were killed and 24 wounded.

A week later, Williamson’s force united with Rutherford’s men at Hiwassee.

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The “Cherry Bounce King,” Amos Owens

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 06:30

Image from the Rutherford County Historical Society.

On September 18, 1906, Amos Owens, a notorious moonshiner from Rutherford County, died. Known as the “Cherry Bounce King,” Owens was renowned for the delightful mixture of whiskey, honey and cherries that he made at his “castle” on Cherry Mountain.

Described as a fearless yet energetic Irishman, Owens achieved success quickly. People from all over the South visited him to taste his celebrated beverage. Owens was also was an infamous fixture in the local courthouse. Vehemently opposed to taxes on alcohol, he believed that he owed nothing to the government after fulfilling his civic duty as a Confederate soldier. Often arrested for his activities,

Owens was occasionally acquitted for minor crimes, but didn’t always manage to escape the long reach of the law. He frequently had to pay fines or spend time in jail, too. At one point he was locked up for an entire year.

Despite the risks that came with it, Owens continued to distill Cherry Bounce and every summer he hosted lively gatherings at Cherry Mountain to celebrate the cherry harvest. A colorful local figure who embodied the vitality and grit of Appalachia in the aftermath of the Civil War, Owens didn’t stop making moonshine until he was sent to prison in his 70s.

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Signers in Philadelphia Endorse Federal Constitution

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 06:30

Howard Chandler Christy’s Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the
United States,
with the North Carolina signers identified.

On September 17, 1787, a majority of delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia approved the U.S. Constitution, with North Carolina representatives William Blount, Richard Dobbs Spaight and Hugh Williamson signing on behalf of the state. Despite advocacy for its adoption by Federalists Spaight and Williamson, the North Carolina Convention declined to ratify the Constitution until the Bill of Rights was proposed in 1789.

A composite of North Carolina’s delegates to the Constitutional Convention. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

Interestingly, Williamson and Blount were not among the delegates originally selected. When the legislature met the previous January, it selected then Governor Richard Caswell, William R. Davie, Willie Jones, Alexander Martin and Spaight as delegates. Jones, staunchly anti-Federalist, did not accept the appointment, and Caswell was ill and unable to travel. Williamson and Blount were appointed in their stead. Davie and Martin left the convention early, leaving Williamson, Spaight and Blount remaining as signatories.

Richard Dobbs Spaight, from New Bern, later served as governor, and. Hugh Williamson—sometimes referred to as North Carolina’s Ben Franklin—was a physician, scientist scholar and resident of Chowan County. William Blount, a Bertie County native, was later governor of the territory that is now Tennessee, and U.S. Senator from that state as well.

A plaque in the rotunda of the State Capitol in Raleigh commemorates the three signers.

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.

 


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