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Betty Debnam and the “Mini Page”

This Day in North Carolina History - 13 hours 30 sec ago

The first issue of the Mini Page.
Image from UNC-Chapel Hill.

On August 29, 1969, the News and Observer published the first issue of the “Mini Page.”

From its first appearance in the Raleigh newspaper in 1969 to its final publication in 2007, the “Mini Page” engaged children through fun and educational activities. Through the paper, kids could be like adults, reading their own page in the newspaper and learning at the same time.

Created by UNC graduate, News and Observer editor and former elementary school teacher Betty Debnam, the “Mini Page” quickly took off. In 1970, the Charlotte News became the first paper outside of Raleigh to publish the section; and national syndication followed in 1977. At its peak, the “Mini Page” appeared weekly in more than 500 newspapers weekly.

Debnam was the section’s sole staff member for many years, writing and editing all the content and laying the feature out, though she did eventually have two staff members come on board. During her time with the publication, she wrote several “Mini Page” companion books and won numerous awards including the Newspaper Association of America’s first Lifetime Achievement Award.

Debnam sold the “Mini Page” in 2007, but every issue is now available online for free through UNC-Chapel Hill’s digital collections.

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Laurinburg-Maxton Army Air Base and Glider Warfare

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 08/28/2015 - 06:30

Laurinburg-Maxton postcard. Image from the Library of Congress.

On August 28, 1942, the U.S. Army activated Laurinburg-Maxton air base in Scotland County. The facility, where glider pilots trained, played a little known role in the Allied victory in World War II.

Germany had pioneered the use of gliders, demonstrating their effectiveness in Holland and on Crete.

The individual most responsible for incorporating gliders into the U.S. military was Maj. Gen. William C. Lee, who had initiated the use of airborne forces at Fort Bragg and Camp Mackall.

Paratroopers practice at Laruinburg-Maxton Army Air Base during World War II. Image from the
N.C. Museum of History.

The Laurinburg-Maxton Army Air Base housed the First Troop Carrier Command. The 4,600-acre base contained three 6,500-foot long runways that formed a triangle. The triangle’s center was 510 acres of Bermuda grass, the landing site for the gliders.

The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps considered the glider concept viable as well, and incorporated the craft into their own training exercises. From 1942 to 1945, thousands trained for combat in Scotland County, including troops that took part in the D-Day invasion at Normandy.

At the war’s conclusion the base was deactivated. With the advent of helicopters, the military had no further need for the glider program.

The Scotland Memorial Hospital was housed on the base’s former site from 1946 to 1951, and today the facility houses an industrial park and public airport.

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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, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.


Flight of Robert Williams as Racial Tensions Rise in Monroe, 1961

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 08/27/2015 - 06:30

A headline in the Statesville Record and Landmark announcing the violence in Monroe. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill.

On August 27, 1961, civil rights protests in Monroe escalated into a riot, leading to local NAACP leader Robert Williams being charged with kidnapping and fleeing across state lines.

In late August 1961, Freedom Riders and members of other civil rights organizations traveled to Monroe where they hoped to assist Williams. He aimed to press charges against a Ku Klux Klansman who had assaulted him the previous year. They planned to carry out peaceful demonstrations to protest the injustice.

The FBI’s “Wanted” poster for Williams. Image from the FBI.

Despite the group’s nonviolent discipline, confrontations escalated, and on August 27, as the crowd at the courthouse grew unruly, the police line collapsed and a white mob attacked some of the activists. The remaining picketers were loaded into cars and taken into custody. Gunfire was heard around Monroe for hours, and a policeman was wounded.

Shortly thereafter, a white couple made a wrong turn onto the street where Williams lived. Williams’s supporters forcibly removed the couple from their car and took them to Williams’s house where they were held by armed individuals before being released unharmed.

Before learning of the kidnapping charges against him, Williams escaped with his family to Cuba where, by 1963, he was broadcasting a radio program called Radio Free Dixie.

Other related resources:

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Spanish Attack on Beaufort, 1747

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 06:30

A 9160 re-enactment of the Spanish invasion of Beaufort.
Image from Beaufort, North Carolina History.

On August 26, 1747, Spanish privateers attacked and plundered Beaufort. The attack was one in a multi-year series of assaults by the Spanish on the largely undefended coast of North Carolina. It dramatically demonstrated the constant threat posed by the Spanish on the colony.

After three days under siege, the colony’s inhabitants fought back and drove the privateers away. From records it is clear that some Spanish captives were taken in the skirmish. What was called “the alarm” was in effect until September when it became clear that the marauders would not be returning.

The next year, however, the Spanish attacked again, temporarily driving away the inhabitants of Brunswick. As part of an inter-colonial war with the Spanish and French that had roots in Britain’s battles with the two countries, the skirmishes ended in 1748 with a treaty that was but a brief respite before the French and Indian War began in 1754.

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Little Eva and Her 1962 Classic “Loco-Motion”

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 08/25/2015 - 06:30

On August 25, 1962, Little Eva hit the top of the charts with her recording of “The Loco-Motion.”

Eva Narcissus Boyd, fresh from her home in Belhaven, can be said to have been in the right place at the right time. In 1960, she left North Carolina and headed to New York to try to break into the music business.

While she sang backup in some studio sessions early on, it was not until “The Loco-Motion” that she got her big break. At the time of the song’s release, the 17-year-old Boyd was working as babysitter to songwriters Gerry Goffin and Carole King. The duo wrote “The Loco-Motion” and asked Boyd to sing on the demo with King doing the backup vocals. While they had intended the song for Dee Dee Sharp, who turned it down, producer Don Kirshner decided that the demo was fine as it was.

Little Eva had some modest success with other songs but none equaled the popularity of “The Loco-Motion.”

The song has the distinction of being one of the few to reach #1 in three different decades with three different artists. After Little Eva’s success with it in 1962, Grand Funk Railroad and Kylie Minogue had break out versions of the song in in 1974 and 1987, respectively.

Boyd died in Kinston in 2003.

Other related resources:

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A Hex on Her Houses: Harriet Irwin of Charlotte

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 08/24/2015 - 06:30

An illustration from Irwin’s 1869 patent. Image from
the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

On August 24, 1869, Harriet Morrison Irwin became the first woman to patent an architectural design.

Irwin’s design was for a hexagonal house, planned in such a way that there were no hallways and no four-cornered rooms. Concerned with domestic efficiency, she theorized that her idea utilized space more effectively than a rectangular building and encouraged better airflow.

Irwin’s ideas received some attention from the press at the time and reportedly inspired at least two houses in Charlotte, though both were demolished.

Born in Mecklenburg County in 1828 to a prominent clergyman’s family, Irwin spent most of her life in and around Charlotte. Aside from her work in architecture, Irwin was an author and social commentator. She wrote primarily nonfiction articles related to history and progress but also penned one novel concerning her architectural theories in which the hero lives in a hexagonal house.

She and James Irwin had nine children, five of whom survived infancy. She died in 1897.

The original patent is available online from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

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.


Duke’s Sonny Jurgensen, Key Player for the Washington NFL Team

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 08/23/2015 - 06:30

Jurgensen playing for the Washington Redskins in October 1967. Image from the National Football League.

On August 23, 1934, legendary quarterback Christian Jurgensen, was born in Wilmington. Known to the world as Sonny, the spirited and redheaded Jurgensen is considered one of the all-time best passers in pro football history.

Jurgensen was a multi-talented athlete in Wilmington during the 1940s and 1950s, playing baseball, basketball, football and tennis. He attended Duke and joined the varsity football squad in 1954 as a defensive back, becoming starting quarterback the next year and leading the team to the Orange Bowl.

He then played seven seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles after signing as a 4th round draft pick in 1957. In 1964, the Eagles traded him to the Washington Redksins, where he spent the rest of his career and helped to change the team’s fortunes and image.

Jurgensen achieved legendary status through strength and pinpoint accuracy in passing. Reluctantly forced into retirement in 1975 at age 41, he had logged more than 32,000 yards in passing, 255 touchdowns and an impressive 57% pass completion rate.

In retirement, Jurgensen began an enduring sports casting career, first with CBS, and since 1980 for Redskins Radio. He was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1971 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983.

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.


Connie Gay, Country Music Entrepreneur and Starmaker

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 08/22/2015 - 06:30

Image from the Wendell Historical Society.

On August 22, 1914, Country Music Association founder Connie Barriot Gay was born in Lizard Lick in rural Wake County.

After working on his family’s tobacco farm as a youth, Gay become an agricultural extension agent. That job led him into radio broadcasting in the 1940s when he took over the Farm Security Administration’s National Farm and Home Hour.

Gay’s interest in radio and music grew, and in 1946, he approached the program director of an Arlington, Virginia, radio station about starting a country music show called “Town and Country.” Through the show, Gay polished the image of what had been known as “hillbilly music” and he is credited with coining the term “country music”.

After his radio career ended, Gay went on to be a prime mover and shaker in the growth of the country music industry. Many of the shows he produced sold out to thousands of fans. He teamed up with the “Grand Ole Opry” for several years, planning and promoting shows for radio, the stage and TV, and in the process, discovering Patsy Cline and Jimmy Dean.

After a brief hiatus to address his alcoholism, Gay returned to the public scene to found the Country Music Association and the Country Music Foundation. By 1980, he had earned a spot in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

He died in 1989, leaving a star-studded legacy behind.

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.


Priestly Mangum and His Innovative Terrace

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 08/21/2015 - 06:30

A completed set of Mangum terraces on a farm near Raleigh, circa 1912. Image from
The Mangum Terrace in its Relation to Efficient Farm Management.

On August 21, 1829, Priestley Hinton Mangum, Jr. was born in Wake County.

Educated at Wake Forest College, Mangum would be little known today but for a revolutionary erosion control technique he pioneered in 1881 that became known as the Mangum Terrace.

Image from Biographical History of
North Carolina.

As a farmer, Mangum faced two significant problems with the lay of his land: first, what to do with the wasted land necessary for ditches to control water runoff and, secondly, how to incorporate farm machinery that was not adapted for ditched land. His answer, which he engineered with the help of his African American farm hand Tom Jones, was a terracing system comprised of broad ridges with smaller gentle slopes that would control water flow and still permit crop growth and machinery use.

Knowledge of Mangum’s system spread by word of mouth in the decade following its development, and soon the Mangum Terrace was being publicized by agricultural periodicals. By 1912, the system had been officially adopted and endorsed by the United States Department of Agriculture, and within another ten years it was utilized in nearly every state in the country.

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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, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.


Terry Sanford: From Executive Mansion to Duke University to U.S. Senate

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 08/20/2015 - 06:30

Sanford speaks at a Jones County school during his 1965 Education Tour.
Image from the State Archives.

On August 20, 1917, North Carolina governor and U.S. Senator Terry Sanford was born in Laurinburg. An Eagle Scout as a youth, Sanford graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1939 and became an FBI agent before marrying Margaret Rose Knight in July 1942. They later had two children.

During World War II, Sanford fought in France as a U.S. Army paratrooper. Returning home a decorated combat veteran, he earned a law degree from Carolina, began a legal career and soon entered politics.

A Democrat, Sanford served one term as state senator before winning the 1960 gubernatorial race. As governor, he advocated for civil rights and education, led efforts to consolidate the UNC system and helped create a statewide community college system.

In 1969, Sanford began a 16-year stint as Duke University president. Twice during the 1970s he unsuccessfully sought the Democratic Party’s nomination for U.S. President. His formal return to politics came in 1986 when he was elected to the U.S. Senate, but he went on to lose his re-election bid in 1992 to hog farmer Lauch Faircloth.

During his later years, Sanford wrote several books, practiced law and taught at Duke. He died of cancer on in April 1998, at age 80, and was entombed in the crypt of Duke University Chapel.

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.


Progressive Education and Fine Arts Magnet, Black Mountain College

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 08/19/2015 - 06:30

Students at Black Mountain College. Image from the State Archives.

On August 19, 1933, Black Mountain College was established in Buncombe County by disgruntled faculty from Rollins College in Florida.

Unconventional by almost every standard, the college served as an alternative to traditional education and was one of the first schools in the nation to create an educational plan embodying the principles of progressive education. One of the major tenets of the school’s plan was to elevate the fine arts to full curricular status.

The school was based on a “whole student” concept, where students and faculty lived and worked together and there were no required courses.

Owing partly to the imbalance between the arts and sciences, Black Mountain College was never accredited. Despite that fact, many of its graduates enjoyed successful careers in the fine arts, education and letters.

Among the students or faculty were architects Buckminster Fuller and Walter Gropius; artists Josef Albers, Willem DeKooning Robert Motherwell and Robert Rauschenberg; dancers Merce Cunningham and Paul Taylor; musician John Cage; filmmaker Arthur Penn; and writers Eric Bentley, Robert Creeley, Paul Goodman, Alfred Kazin, Charles Olson, Joel Oppenheimer and Jonathan Williams.

The school fell into a period of decline following World War II, and it ceased operation in 1956.

Visit: The Western Regional Archives in Asheville holds an extensive collection of materials related to Black Mountain College. The Asheville Art Museum and Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center, both in downtown Asheville, showcase materials from the college’s people and programs.

Other related resources:

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Rescue of the Priscilla Crew, 1899

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 08/18/2015 - 06:30

“Priscilla” wreck near Cape Hatteras, circa 1899. Image from the State Archives.

On August 18, 1899, Erasmus Midgett single-handedly rescued the crew of the three-masted cargo ship Priscilla after it broke up while being driven ashore by the winds and waves of the San Ciriaco hurricane.

While patrolling on horseback from the Gull Shoal Lifesaving Station near Salvo, Midgett heard cries from the wreck. Around 3 a.m. the surfman saw part of the wreckage with several people on it. He knew that there was no time to get help and that he was the only hope for the men.

Image from the Library of Congress.

Getting as close to the wreck as he could, he yelled for the men to jump into the water one at a time. Midgett saved each of the seven men already in the sea by dragging them ashore. Three men were still on the vessel but injured enough that they could not jump. Midgett had to take each of the injured men off and carry him to shore. He thus saved 10 members of the crew including Captain Benjamin Springsteen of Baltimore.

Once all the men were ashore, Midgett got help from the station to transport the wounded to safety. For his part in the heroic rescue, Midgett received a Gold Lifesaving Medal from then U. S. Secretary of the Treasury Lyman Gage.

Visit: The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras tells the story of North Carolina’s treacherous coast and high concentration of shipwrecks.

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.


Samuel Johnston of “Hayes” in Chowan County

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 08/17/2015 - 06:30

Samuel Johnston. Image from
the State Archives.

On August 17, 1816, Revolutionary era political leader Samuel Johnston died.

Born in Scotland, Johnston immigrated to North Carolina as an infant. Trained as a lawyer, he represented Chowan County in the colonial assembly until the advent of the American Revolution.

During the Revolution, Johnston was a strong leader of the Patriot cause. He was a member of North Carolina’s Provincial Council, a delegate to the first four provincial congresses and worked as treasurer to fund and supply the war effort.

Johnston continued to be active in public life after the war, earning wide respect. When North Carolina’s first constitutional convention met in Hillsborough in 1788, Johnston, a leading Federalist, was elected president, even though the majority of delegates were opposed to ratification. He served in the same role in 1789 convention in Fayetteville.

A relative of royal governor Gabriel Johnston, Johnston served in the state’s top job from 1787 to 1789, before being elected one of North Carolina’s first U.S. senators in 1789. After serving a single Senate term, he retired from public life briefly, before being called on to again serve in the state legislature, this time representing Martin County.

His last public position was a superior court judge between 1800 and 1803, and he died less than two weeks after retiring from that post. He is buried at “Hayes,” his Chowan home.

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.


Oconaluftee, Replica Cherokee Village, Approved

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 08/16/2015 - 06:30

Historic interpreters at Oconaluftee, circa 1952.
Image from the State Archives.

On August 16, 1950, the Cherokee Historical Association agreed to build a replica of an 18th-century Indian village to depict Cherokee daily life and culture before European contact.

The site chosen was 40 wooded acres on the slope of Rattlesnake Mountain near the town of Cherokee. Called “Oconaluftee,” the recreated village is based on an older Cherokee community known as “Egwanulti,” meaning “by the river.” Early English explorer William Bartram wrote about the village in his 1775 journals. General Griffith Rutherford’s army likely destroyed it during the 1776 campaign against the Cherokee.

The job of creating an accurate replica of the village fell to archaeologists and anthropologists of the Tsali Institute for Cherokee Research. P.A. Willett supervised construction of the village, which features a seven-sided council house, homes and other circa 1750s structures.

It opened to the public in August 1952, and a botanical garden and nature trail were added in 1954. Today, Cherokee guides in authentic attire educate visitors about traditional Cherokee beliefs, government and family life, while demonstrating ancient crafts, such as pottery, weapon making and canoe building.

Visit: Oconaluftee is open to visitors six days a week and is located in Cherokee County.

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.


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