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Truman Adviser Kenneth Royall of Goldsboro

This Day in North Carolina History - 13 hours 46 min ago

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

This Day in North Carolina History - 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

This Day in North Carolina History - 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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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.


Matters of State at Issue in Hillsborough, 1788

This Day in North Carolina History - 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

This Day in North Carolina History - 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

This Day in North Carolina History - 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

This Day in North Carolina History - 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

This Day in North Carolina History - 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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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.


State Treasurer Edwin Gill, “Mr. Integrity”

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 07/16/2016 - 06:30

Gill at his desk at an unknown date. Image from the State Archives.

On July 16, 1978, long time state treasurer Edwin Gill died in Raleigh. Gill was known as “Mr. Integrity” during his more than 30 years of service as a public finance official.

Born in Laurinburg in July 1899, Gill opened a law practice there in 1924 after attending what’s now Duke University in the early part of the decade. He represented Scotland County in the legislature for one term before working as Governor O. Max Gardner’s private secretary.

Gill being sworn in as state treasurer by Associate Supreme Court Justice R. Hunt Parker. Image from the State Archives.

Gill became the first head of the North Carolina Paroles Commission in 1933 before serving as the state Commissioner of Revenue, his first financial post, for much of the 1940s. He was federal internal revenue collector for the state from 1950 until 1953, when he was appointed state treasurer.

After that initial appointment, Gill was consistently re-elected and remained the state treasurer for five consecutive terms until he retired in 1977. Under his direction, the state attained the highest possible credit rating, reflecting his saying, “In North Carolina, we have made a habit of good government.”

An avocational painter, he served on the boards of the North Carolina Arts Council, the North Carolina Museum of Art and the State Art Society. He was considered a “respectable” pianist and organist. An avid reader, he collected books and donated to libraries.

He is buried in Laurinburg.

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.


Good Times for Ernie Barnes of Durham

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 07/15/2016 - 06:30

Barnes with his painting “In Remembrance.” Image from the Barnes Family Trust.

On July 15, 1938, football player, painter and all around Renaissance man Ernie Barnes was born in Durham.

As a child, Barnes began to draw as an antidote to bullying. He later developed physical discipline and became captain of Durham’s then segregated Hillside High football team, receiving an athletic scholarship to what’s now N.C. Central University in 1956.

At Central Barnes studied art, but he left in 1959 before graduating to play professional football for six years.

Nicknamed “Big Rembrandt,” Barnes kept a sketchbook with him on the field and turned the physical and emotional violence of the game into paintings. He also became known for depictions of people, often African Americans, engaged in everyday life but with their eyes symbolically closed.

His work is evocative and tangible, fusing elongated sculptural forms of the human body with vibrant color, movement and emotional intensity.

Barnes’s paintings have appeared on the sitcom “Good Times” as the work of the show’s character JJ.  “The Sugar Shack”, a well-known painting, appeared in the show’s credits and later became the cover image for Marvin Gaye’s album “I Want You.”

In addition to his work as a painter and athlete, Barnes authored books, co-created a TV special, and appeared in a number television programs and films, including episodes of “Good Times”.

He died in Los Angeles in 2009.

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.


So Great the Devastation in 1916 Flood

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 07/14/2016 - 06:30

Devastation from the flood at an Asheville power plant. Image from the State Archives.

On July 14, 1916, the worst flood in western North Carolina’s history occurred after six days of torrential rain. In one 24-hour period the region saw more than half of a normal year’s total rainfall. The 22 inches of rain that fell that day set the record for the most rainfall in a single day in the United States.

Because the ground was saturated, most of the water immediately filled streams and rivers, causing them to reach flood stage in just a few hours. At least 50 people lost their lives and the property damage surpassed $22 million, $1 million of that in Asheville alone.

Asheville and Hendersonville were completely cut off from the outside for weeks. Railroad tracks that were not destroyed had their supports washed out from under them, leaving tracks eerily suspended over mud-covered ravines—895 miles of track were rendered useless.

Everyone was taken by surprise at the speed with which the water rose. People were stranded in trees when their cars or homes were overwhelmed and they had nowhere else to go. Industrial plants along the rivers were swept away and landslides engulfed homes.

For most of western North Carolina the 1916 flood remains the benchmark for disasters.

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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.


Tryon Mountain Along the Indian Boundary, 1767

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 07/13/2016 - 06:30

On July 13, 1767, a public proclamation made official a new boundary line delineating the western frontiers of the province of North Carolina from the Cherokee hunting grounds. The boundary mandated that white settlers west of the line should remove themselves by January 1768, and anyone wishing to trade with the Cherokees was required to obtain a license from the governor.

In 1766, John Stuart, superintendent of Indian affairs for the southern colonies, pressed Governor William Tryon to enter into negotiations with the Cherokees regarding extension of the boundary line. Tryon appointed commissioners to conduct the survey and mounted a personal military expedition to take part in the negotiations.

The Cherokees were flattered to receive the governor’s visit and gave him the title “Great Wolf of North Carolina.”

The commissioners began their work in June 1767 at the Reedy River in South Carolina. From there, with the assistance of the several Cherokees, they surveyed a line 53 miles north to a tree atop the peak that the Indians called the “great Mountain” and that the commissioners renamed Tryon Mountain.

It was agreed that the boundary would extend in a straight line into Virginia, but that that portion would by necessity remain unsurveyed.

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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.


Southern Banks Fell to British in War of 1812

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 07/12/2016 - 06:30

On July 12, 1813, a British fleet under the command of Admiral George Cockburn continued the invasion of the Outer Banks that had begun the night before. Before the day was over, the British had taken Ocracoke and Portsmouth Islands.

The invasion, which was part of the War of 1812, was the most serious attack on North Carolina during the course of the war. Cockburn’s fleet included a 74-gun man-of-war, three frigates, a brig, three schooners and several transport vessels carrying nearly 3,000 British soldiers and marines

The British plundered the islands of “200 head of cattle, 400 sheep, and 1,600 fowls of various kinds.” The troops paid the inhabitants for what they took but at prices far below actual value. The Redcoats took customs collector Thomas Singleton’s “papers in his library” and “tore up his law books.”

Though the British took two privateers, a revenue cutter managed to escape their grasp, reach New Bern and alert the rest of the state to the attack. That, in turn, allowed state militiamen to march on and guard coastal towns.

The British fleet sailed for Nova Scotia on July 16, but warned locals that the entire North Carolina coast remained under a British blockade. There is no evidence that the fleet ever returned to enforce it.

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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.


Ill-Fated Windmill Just Outside Boone

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 07/11/2016 - 06:30

The Mod-1 windmill. Image from NASA.

On July 11, 1979, Boone celebrated “Windmill Day” with a street festival to dedicate NASA’s Mod-1, the world’s largest megawatt industrial windmill on Howard’s Knob.

The windmill was installed on the 4,400-foot peak as part of a program run by NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy to study wind power in response to the petroleum shortages of the 1970s OPEC oil embargo. The mammoth steel structure—which was 140 feet tall, 200 feet wide across the blades, and weighed more than 350 tons—had propellers supplied by Boeing and generator by General Electric.

The Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation ran the project locally to return electricity, anticipated to power 500 homes, to the energy grid.

A harbinger of the project’s fate, the winds only blew at about 6 miles per hour that first day, requiring manual rotation of the propeller blades. The windmill was soon plagued by terminal structural issues, inconsistent winds and negative public perception from complaints of noise, disrupted television reception and wasted public dollars.

Too costly to repair, the federal government dismantled and sold the windmill in 1983.

The windmill also became the centerpiece of pranks by Appalachian State University students. In one account, TV news cameras were met by students dressed in sheets, calling themselves “Wooshies” who worshipped the god Nay-zuh.

Check out the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Digital Collection from the State Archives and State Library to see an array of primary materials related to science and technology.

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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