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The people and places of the Tar Heel state day by day.
Updated: 11 hours 35 min ago

Crackdown on Klan, 1952, Nets Grand Dragon

12 hours 14 min ago

Hamilton (center at podium, unmasked) speaks at an August 1951 Ku Klux Klan rally. Image from the Associated Press.

On July 30, 1952, Thomas L. Hamilton, Grand Dragon of the Association of Carolina Klans (ACK) was sentenced to four years in prison for kidnapping and assaulting Evergreen Flowers, an African American woman from Chadbourn.

Hamilton’s arrest in May 1952 was in many ways the culmination of a larger crackdown on the Ku Klux Klan in Columbus County and Horry County, S.C. by federal, state and local state authorities that had been underway since the beginning of the year.

Hamilton and the mob he led apparently targeted Flowers because a Klansman claimed that he saw Evergreen’s husband Will have sex with Bessie Page, a white woman who was Flowers’s neighbor in Chadbourn.

After first pleading not guilty in the case, Hamilton changed his plea to guilty on the first day of his trial on July 22. From prison, where he would ultimately serve only 17 months of his four-year sentence before being paroled, Hamilton wrote a letter repudiating the organization he played such a central role in:

All my friends everywhere should disband the Ku Klux Klan…. I am through with [it] and believe all my former associates will best serve themselves and society as a whole by taking a similar stand.

After leaving prison in 1954, Hamilton and his wife returned to their native South Carolina where they lived with their daughter. Hamilton, later ordained a Baptist minister, died in 1976.

The Tabor City Tribune and Whiteville News Reporter, two weekly newspapers in Columbus County, were awarded the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service for the coverage of the case and their role in helping to bring down the Klan’s strong presence in the area.

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Synthetic Fabrics Boosted Burlington Industries

Fri, 07/29/2016 - 06:30

Men working in Burlington Mills textiles factory, circa 1948. Image from the State Archives.

On July 29, 1924, Burlington Mills, owned by entrepreneur J. Spencer Love, began operations.

Initially Love struggled with sales, but his luck began to change as soon as he began experimenting with the newly-created synthetic yarn called rayon. Burlington Mills produced an incredibly popular rayon blend bedspread, the success of which allowed Love to diversify into other rayon products including draperies and cloth for garments. During this time, Love built new facilities and purchased old cotton mills for conversion to rayon production.

In the late 1930s, Love, on the advice of an associate, began to advertise his goods. Burlington Mills was marketed as the manufacturer of the best quality rayon fabric available—fabric that would not shrink or fade. By 1955, the business had been renamed Burlington Industries, and had expanded to weaving new synthetic fabrics—nylon, acrylic and polyester.

Toward the end of the 20th century, the company operated 130 manufacturing plants with 65,000 employees in 16 states and seven foreign countries and had earned the title of largest textile corporation in the world.

Despite its size, the company wasn’t immune to the economic challenges affecting the textile industry at-large in the Tar Heel state. Burlington Mills declared bankruptcy in 2001 and was absorbed into the massive International Textile Group in 2004.

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School of the Arts Screenwriter’s Tapes Sought by Simpson Attorneys

Thu, 07/28/2016 - 06:30

Laura Hart McKinny and Mark Fuhrman. Image from Getty Images.

On July 28, 1995, Forsyth County Superior Court Judge William Z. Wood, Jr., ruled against O. J. Simpson’s attorneys, holding that aspiring screenwriter Laura Hart McKinney did not have to turn over her taped interviews with Los Angeles police officer Mark Fuhrman and others.

Professor McKinney of the North Carolina School of the Arts, who was working on a screenplay and novel about women police officers, conducted the interviews about the work of LAPD officers between 1985 and 1994. She had amassed about 13 hours of tapes in which Fuhrman repeatedly used racial slurs and made remarks about police brutality, planting of evidence and harassment of female officers. 

Fuhrman later became a central figure in the O. J. Simpson trial after he found a bloody glove at the murder site on Simpson’s estate. Simpson’s defense team argued that the glove was planted and sought to use the tapes to bolster their argument as well as to prove that Furman perjured himself by denying his use of racial slurs. 

The following month, Simpson’s North Carolina lawyers, Kenneth B. Spaulding and Joseph B. Cheshire V, successfully appealed the decision to the North Carolina Court of Appeals on the grounds that it interfered with the defendant’s right to a fair trial. 

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Bingham Fortune Tied to Flaglers and Kenans

Wed, 07/27/2016 - 06:30

Image from UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries.

On July 27, 1917, Duplin County native Mary Lily Kenan Flagler Bingham died under suspicious circumstances in Louisville, Kentucky.   

The daughter of Confederate officer and successful businessman William Rand Kenan, Mary had previously been married to millionaire Henry M. Flagler and became one of the wealthiest women in the United States at his death in 1913.

In 1916, Flagler married Judge Robert Worth Bingham, who was deeply in debt. Bingham signed a prenuptial agreement that gave up any claim to her fortune, but once they were married Flagler paid his debts and gave him a generous allowance. 

A headline announcing the controversy that followed Bingham’s death. Image from New York Social Diary.

Flagler’s death was suspicious primarily because Bingham had hired his dermatologist to give Flagler injections of morphine in the months leading up to it. The injections were supposed to be treatments for heart problems Flagler was experiencing. Additionally, relatives were surprised by a codicil added to Flagler’s will a month before her death. Written on the doctor’s stationery and witnessed by Bingham alone, the codicil left $5 million Bingham. 

Within weeks of Flagler’s burial, family members had her body exhumed from Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington, and an autopsy was performed. Enormous amounts of morphine and heavy metal poisons were found in her body. 

The Kenan family attempted to stop Bingham’s inheritance, but when the Kentucky courts ruled for Bingham, they did not pursue an appeal.


Robert C. Anderson, Presbyterian Leader at Montreat

Tue, 07/26/2016 - 06:30

The Montreat Gate at unknown date. Image from the Swannanoa Valley Museum.

On July 26, 1864, Dr. Robert C. Anderson was born near Martinsville, Virginia.

After attending Hampden-Sydney College and Union Theological Seminary, both in Virginia, Anderson was ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1890. From that year until 1911, he pastored four different churches, including one in North Carolina.

In 1911, Anderson became president of the Mountain Retreat Association (MRA) of Montreat. John Collins, a Congregationalist minister from Connecticut, had started the association nearly 15 years earlier with the goal of a building a Christian retreat where people could gather for physical and spiritual renewal.

It was Anderson who truly brought Collins’s vision to fruition and created much of what’s now the Montreat Conference Center.

During his nearly 40-year tenure at the helm of the group, MRA founded a small girls’ school and saw it grow into a four-year college, and completed construction on much of the current campus, including Anderson Auditorium.

Anderson also turned around the association’s financial fortunes, initiating a successful capital campaign and promoting the facility in a more focused way to both attract more visitors and give the center a larger role in the Presbyterian Church’s mission work.

In addition to welcoming visitors for more than a century, the center played an appropriate role as a testing ground for new doctrinal ideas and fostered racial justice.

Anderson died in 1955 and was buried in Charlotte.

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.


Horatio Gates’s Brief Revolutionary Command

Mon, 07/25/2016 - 06:30

A portrait of Gates from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

On July 25, 1780, Major General Horatio Gates assumed direct command of the American forces in the Southern Military Department at their campsite on the Deep River in Randolph County.

Born in 1727 or 1728 in England, Gates served in the British army before settling in the colonies. In 1775, he volunteered for the Continental Army and served as a staff officer before receiving field command.

In September and October 1777, Gates commanded an army that defeated a British invasion from Canada at Saratoga, New York. The victory led to a military alliance with France and propelled Gates to the forefront of American military heroes. His ascendance was accompanied by controversy, due to his ambitions and his reputation as an overly cautious commander.   

Influenced by faulty intelligence indicating an opportunity for a quick victory, Gates embarked on a campaign in South Carolina along a route lacking in food to support his army. On August 16, his exhausted and underfed army was routed by the British at Camden, South Carolina.

Nathaniel Greene was soon selected to replace Gates. He never received another field command. He retired from the army in 1784 and died in New York City in 1806.

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Truman Adviser Kenneth Royall of Goldsboro

Sun, 07/24/2016 - 06:30

A portrait of Royall. Image from the U.S. Army Center of Military History.

On July 24, 1894, Kenneth Royall, the last United States Secretary of War and the first Secretary of the Army, was born in Goldsboro.

After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1917, Royall joined the Army. He served in France from August 1918 until he was wounded in February 1919. At that time, Royall returned to Goldsboro and began practicing law.

In June 1942, he retired from his legal practice, by then headquartered in both Goldsboro and Raleigh, in order to accept a commission as colonel in the U. S. Army, managing the War Department’s legal services.

Royall was soon promoted to brigadier general and, in 1945, he was appointed undersecretary of war and received the Distinguished Service Medal. President Harry S. Truman selected him to be Secretary of War in July 1947.

Two months later, with the formation of the Defense Department, that position was eliminated, and Royall was designated Secretary of the Army. He held that position until he resigned in April 1949. Later that year Royall became a partner in a New York City law firm where he worked until 1968. 

Royall retired to Raleigh and died in 1971. He is buried in Goldsboro.

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.


Universalists and Inman Chapel Near Canton

Sat, 07/23/2016 - 06:30

Haywood County’s Inman Chapel. Image from Harvard Divinity School.

On July 23, 1868, western North Carolina’s first Universalist congregation was organized in Haywood County after traveling preacher Benjamin F. Strain converted a handful of citizens.

Universalists, also known as Hell Redemptionists, were a denomination whose beliefs were based on a benevolent God and salvation as opposed to damnation.   

Strain granted a Universalist license to Jonathan Plott, who in turn designated native James Anderson Inman, to serve as the congregation’s permanent pastor. With assistance from the North Carolina Universalists Conference, which was organized in 1896, a chapel was built in 1902 and named for Inman who donated much of the construction funds.

Following Inman’s death in 1913, the chapel reverted to management by the Universalist’s Women’s National Missionary Association (WNMA). Though it had almost dispersed by 1921 when Hannah Jewett Powell became regional denominational representative, the congregation flourished under Powell’s leadership.

Following Powell’s retirement in 1942, the congregation of Universalists declined and the WNMA closed the chapel and community center in 1957. 

In 1961, the Universalists merged with the Unitarians to become the Unitarian Universalist Church. A congregation was established in Asheville in 1969. The Inman Chapel has undergone restoration and is used by the Inman family for homecoming gatherings.

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.


“Poet of the People” Carl Sandburg at Home in Flat Rock

Fri, 07/22/2016 - 06:30

Sandburg presents a program at Asheville’s Pack Library, circa 1951. Image from the State Library.

On July 22, 1967, American poet, journalist, biographer and folk musician Carl Sandburg died at Connemara, his antebellum home in Flat Rock, where he wrote a third of his works and spent the last 22 years of his life.

Born in January 1878 to Swedish immigrants in Galesburg, Illinois, Sandburg left school after the 8th grade. He worked numerous odd jobs and hoboed his way across the West before serving in the Spanish-American War. Afterward, he attended Lombard College in his hometown but never graduated.

In 1908, Sandburg married Lillian Steichen. They had four daughters.

As a family man, Sandburg settled into journalism, writing for the Chicago Daily News while still pursuing his poetry. By 1945, when the family moved to Flat Rock, Sandburg had published several volumes of poetry, written five children’s books and received two Pulitzer Prizes, one for Corn Huskers and another for Abraham Lincoln: The War Years.

He won a third Pulitzer Prize in 1951 for his Complete Poems.

Connemara’s 264 acres offered plenty of space for Mrs. Sandburg’s prize-winning goats and plenty of solitude for the poet. There, in an upstairs garret, Sandburg wrote, and in a downstairs bedroom, he died at age 89.

Visit: Connemara is now Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, open to the public seven days a week.

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Matters of State at Issue in Hillsborough, 1788

Thu, 07/21/2016 - 06:30

On July 21, 1788, 270 delegates convened in Hillsborough for what would become a two-week debate on ratifying the national Constitution that had been drafted in Philadelphia in 1787. The Anti-Federalist delegates outnumbered their Federalist colleagues by a margin of two-to-one.

The Federalists wanted to strengthen the powers of the federal government to help keep the country from dissolving. They argued that the powers granted to the federal government in the Articles of Confederation were not sufficient.

On the other side, the Anti-Federalists were suspicious of the federal government, and did not want self-rule to come under fire from a government that could intrude on state and individual rights.

Knowing that they would likely lose, members of the Federalist minority brought a stenographer to the convention to record their arguments for publication in hopes of changing public opinion in the future.

The debate resulted in the delegates voting 184 to 84 to neither ratify nor reject the Constitution, meaning that North Carolina would not become part of the Union until the 1789 Fayetteville Convention. One of the major reasons why North Carolina didn’t ratify the Constitution was the lack of a Bill of Rights.

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Surveying of the State Boundary and the Block House Near Tryon

Wed, 07/20/2016 - 06:30

On July 20, 1813, representatives from North Carolina and South Carolina met near the present-day town of Tryon. and marked the state boundary at a prominent building of the period known as the Block House

The event was designed to help resolve a series of bitter boundary disputes with South Carolina. The Proprietary province of Carolina was divided into two separate colonies as of 1712, but no official boundary was specified for many years.

An initial agreement in 1730 called for the boundary to start 30 miles south of the mouth of the Cape Fear River and run northwest parallel to the river. Surveys in 1735 and 1737 brought the diagonal line beyond the settled regions to a remote meadow that was thought to lie on the 35th parallel.

As early as 1750, the Block House site stood as a prominent landmark along the line between the Carolinas, although technically 300 feet within South Carolina. It was used a trading post and fortification.

In 1764, another survey began at the same meadow where the line had ended in 1737. Work began on the boundary again in 1772. After years of disagreements, both states finally accepted the 1764 and 1772 survey lines in 1813, reasoning that what each state lost in one survey was made up for by the other.

Border disputes have continued into the modern era, and after more than 20 years of debate over minor adjustments, the Carolinas reached a final border agreement in 2016.

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Justice at Nuremburg: Judge Fitzroy Donald Phillips

Tue, 07/19/2016 - 06:30

A poster advertising Phillips’s run for solicitor. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries.

On July 19, 1982, former Superior Court Justice Fitzroy Donald Phillips died in Rockingham. He was one of two North Carolina judges who participated in the second phase of trials of former Nazi officials at Nuremberg, Germany (the other was Richard Dillard Dixon).

Phillips was born in Laurinburg in 1893, where he practiced law after studying at UNC. After service in the American Expeditionary Force in the First World War, he was elected mayor of Rockingham. In 1923, he was elected solicitor of the Thirteenth Judicial District, a role similar to that of district attorney, and 11 years later he was elected a Superior Court justice for the same district.

Following the major war crimes trials held before the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg in 1945 and 1946, the United States established military courts to try lesser Nazi officials. In November 1946, Phillips resigned his judgeship to serve as one of the three judges of what was called Military Tribunal II, which presided over two trials in 1947.

The tribunal met again in 1948 to hear additional details concerning the second case. The Nuremburg trials collectively established the precedents for the successful prosecution of war criminals.

Phillips returned home to serve as Superior Court judge before retiring in 1962.

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.


Scourge of Poverty Target of North Carolina Fund

Mon, 07/18/2016 - 06:30

The North Carolina Fund headquarters in Durham, circa 1968. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries.

On July 18, 1963, Governor Terry Sanford announced the establishment of the North Carolina Fund, an interracial antipoverty initiative that predated and anticipated President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty.”

Sanford laid out his course in a speech at N.C. A&T State University in April 1963, rejecting segregation and proclaiming, “We must move forward as one people, or we will not move forward at all.”

The governor and his aides, principally novelist John Ehle, crafted a plan, using nonprofit and federal monies, to promote objectives without legislative interference. Startup funds, in the amount of $2.5 million, came from Z. Smith Reynolds and Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundations. A boost came from the Ford Foundation, in the amount of $7 million.  Over the course of five years, federal funds totaling $7 million, were routed to the Fund.

George Esser directed the effort, with the assistance of hundreds of student volunteers. Headquarters were set up in a former auto dealership in Durham, but the focus was statewide and not entirely urban. Special focus went to four mountain counties, Watauga, Avery, Mitchell, and Yancey.

The project in time became a political target, and while the Fund did not succeed in eliminating poverty, its ideals inspired subsequent efforts and activists.

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Bebop and Avant Garde Jazz Master, Saxophonist John Coltrane

Sun, 07/17/2016 - 06:30

A circa 1951-55 promotional poster for Coltrane. Image from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Libraries.

On July 17, 1967, legendary jazz saxophonist and composer John Coltrane died.

Born in 1926 in the small Richmond County town of Hamlet, Coltrane and his family moved to High Point by the time he was 3-years-old. Coltrane’s love of music developed early, and he played both clarinet and saxophone in high school.

After graduating from William Penn High School, Coltrane moved to Philadelphia to attend music school. He made his professional debut in 1945 and collaborated with Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis in milestone recordings before forming his own group in 1960.

Though he died at age 40, Coltrane released nearly 50 studio albums and almost 20 singles during the course of his career.

He is perhaps remembered best for spanning genres and audiences and establishing avant garde jazz while also achieving popular success. He was posthumously awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997 and a special Pulitzer Prize in 2007.

One measure of Coltrane’s significance is that he has been the subject of at least four biographies.

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