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George Watts Hill, Tar Heel in Cloak

This Day in North Carolina History - 4 hours 58 min ago

On October 27, 1901, George Watts Hill was born to a prosperous family in Durham. The newborn would inherit wealth, commanding a fortune earned in banking, and over time would demonstrate an abiding sense of devotion to his country.

George Watts Hill

The gathering storms of war in 1939 roused alarm in Watts Hill and led to his involvement in the secret war against Hitler. In the face of neutrality advocates, he signed onto “A Summons to Speak Out” and enlisted the support of three dozen Tar Heel businessmen, educators and journalists on behalf of intervention in Europe. In March 1942, he joined what soon became known as the Office of Strategic Services.

Hill’s administrative experience made him invaluable to the OSS’s “Wild Bill” Donovan who placed him in charge of the camouflage unit and devices central to the work of spies, such as disguises, fake uniforms and passports and listening equipment. After the war Hill returned to banking but also played roles in health care reform, desegregation and, as a UNC trustee, the overturn of the Speaker Ban.   In 1984 Hill received the North Carolina Award for Public Service.  He died in 1993, the year that UNC named its alumni center for him.

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.

James H. Young, African American Leader in 1890s

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 10/26/2016 - 05:38

On October 26, 1858, James H. Young was born into slavery near Henderson. Thanks in large measure to his father’s emphasis on education, Young was hired to work in the office of Colonel J. J. Young, an internal revenue collector. While working in the office, he became involved with the Republican Party.

An industrious worker, Young was selected for multiple government patronage positions. As owner and editor of the Raleigh Gazette, the principal voice of black politics in North Carolina in the 1890s, Young became involved in the movement to merge the Republicans and Populists and became a central figure in the resulting Fusion movement. He was elected to the state legislature from Wake County in 1894 and 1896.

A lifelong advocate for equality and reform, Young succeeded in getting the Raleigh city charter amended to better represent the African American community and played a pivotal role in the election of Governor Daniel L. Russell. The Republican governor appointed Young colonel of a black regiment during the Spanish American War.

After the white supremacy campaign of 1898, Young and other prominent black politicians were prevented from participating in state politics. He spent the remaining years of his life working as a federal revenue collector and running private businesses, and he died in 1921.

A historical marker about Young stands in downtown Raleigh.

Durham’s Malcolm X Liberation University

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 10/25/2016 - 05:31

On October 25, 1969, the Malcolm X Liberation University opened in Durham. Founded by black activist Howard Fuller and named for then recently-slain civil rights leader Malcolm X, the school was founded in response to protests by students at Duke University over the lack of an African American studies program there. The school was first housed in what was once a hosiery mill on Pettigrew Street.

An image of Malcom X Liberation University in Durham, courtesy of Open Durham

In its first year, the university had 12 students and 40 teachers. The curriculum expressly focused on meeting the needs of black students to further the cause of the black liberation movement. In a two-year program, students took courses on the history of Africa, slavery and colonialism and then received technical training to prepare for careers that focused on civil rights.

The school struggled financially despite some strong initial support from the Episcopal Church. It moved to Greensboro in 1970, leaving a small presence in Durham, and closed its doors in 1973. Fuller later attributed the school’s failure to an overemphasis on Africa as an important factor in the lives of American blacks.

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Wrights Experiment with Gliders, 1911

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 10/24/2016 - 06:18

On October 24, 1911, Orville Wright set a world soaring record of nine minutes and 45 seconds of unpowered flight on the Outer Banks. Famous for the first powered flight in a heavier-than-air craft with his brother Wilbur in 1903, Orville Wright returned to Kitty Hawk after nearly eight years to conduct more experiments with flight. This time he was accompanied by one of his other brothers, Lorin; his nephew, Horace; and a friend who also served as the pilot during the experiments.

A full-scale reproduction of the glider that Orville Wright and British aviator Alexander Ogilvie flew at Kill Devil Hills in 1911 now soars inside the entrance at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh.

The 1911 attempts were different from the more famous 1903 ones in that they were with a non-powered glider. Since the Wrights had already shown that powered flight was possible, the tests were more focused on safety and were designed to try out new equipment; the new equipment ultimately had to stay under wraps because newspaper reporters came out to watch the experiments every day they were conducted.

Between October 16 and 26, Wright made nearly 100 glides. Most of them were made into winds 35 miles per hour or faster. The record-breaking, nearly 10-minute glide was into 50 mile-per-hour winds and did not reach the 120-foot distance that the powered flight had made earlier. The record would stand internationally until 1921.

Baron von Graffenreid and the Swiss Colony of New Bern

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 10/23/2016 - 06:07

Image of von Graffenreid courtesy Tryon Palace.

On October 23, 1711, Baron Christoph von Graffenreid, founder of the Swiss colony of New Bern, penned a lengthy description of his capture by the Tuscarora Indians.

In mid-September of that year, von Graffenreid and John Lawson led a surveying expedition up the Neuse River. Lawson was the Surveyor General of the colony and was well-known to the Indians. When the Indians discovered the party in their territory, and unannounced to their leader King Hancock, they captured the men and took them to the Tuscarora village of Catechna, near present-day Grifton.

The Indians were angry over encroachment on their lands and they believed the surveying party was out to take more.  Graffenreid was spared, but Lawson was executed.  Held at the village for several weeks, von Graffenreid, bargained for the safety of the New Bern colony. Nevertheless the Tuscarora, in alliance with other aggravated tribes, attacked settlements on the Pamlico, Neuse and Trent Rivers, and in the Core Sound region in what would become known as the Tuscarora War.

A drawing of von Graffenreid and John Lawson under capture by the Tuscurora. This drawing is sometimes attributed to von Graffenreid.

After his release from the Tuscarora, von Graffenreid wrote his account of the ordeal in order to explain Lawson’s fate and to clarify the promises that he made to the Indians during his capture.

Painter Elliott Daingerfield of Fayetteville, Blowing Rock and NYC

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 10/22/2016 - 05:59

On October 22, 1932, painter Elliott Daingerfield died at age 73 in New York and was buried in Cross Creek Cemetery in Fayetteville, where he was raised. Daingerfield left for New York when he turned 21 to apprentice at the National Academy of Design. He joined the Holbein Studios in 1884 where he was influenced the naturalist Barbizon School technique and by artist George Inness.

Recuperating from diphtheria in Blowing Rock in 1886, Daingerfield began painting the surrounding mountains, and built three homes, one of which, “Westglow,” today operates as a spa and is open to the public.

Daingerfield returned to the northeast and taught composition at the Philadelphia School of Design and the Art Students League in New York City. He received the National Academy of Design Clark Prize for the best figure composition in 1902, and traveled in the southwest under commission by the Santa Fe Railroad Company, painting the Grand Canyon in 1911.

His work is noted for capturing the light and mood of various scenes, and is now featured in some of leading museums of the South and the nation, including the N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and the Smithsonian American Museum Art in Washington, D.C..

Tom Dula: Poor Boy Was Bound to Die

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 10/21/2016 - 08:29

On October 21, 1866, Tom Dula was convicted of the murder of Laura Foster.  It was at daybreak that the jury returned the verdict in the Iredell County Courthouse, where it had been moved from Wilkes County.  The jury had not received their orders from the judge until about midnight the night before. They deliberated during the night.  The defense moved for an arrest of judgment, which was overruled and the judge pronounced sentence: that Thomas Dula be hanged by the neck until dead on November 9, 1866.  Former Governor Zebulon B. Vance represented Dula pro bono.

Speculation abounded as to Vance’s reasons for taking the case, one of the few he ever lost before a jury. Regardless of his motives, he gave a spirited defense and succeeded in twice taking the case to the North Carolina Supreme Court.  The crowds of spectators and reporters that appeared in the courtroom were as likely there to see the charismatic Vance as they were to hear the sensational testimony.  Ultimately, however, the High Court upheld the conviction and Dula was hanged for the crime in May 1868.

Lincolnton Native Stephen Ramseur, Casualty of Shenandoah Campaign

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 10/20/2016 - 06:00

On October 20, 1864, Maj. Gen. Stephen Dodson Ramseur died from wounds received the previous day. Born in 1837 in Lincolnton, he attended Davidson College, where he studied mathematics briefly before entering the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1856. There he became close friends with several future Union generals including George Armstrong Custer.

After graduation Ramseur served with the 3rd United States Artillery stationed in Washington, D.C. He never reported to his new command after a promotion in February 1861 and instead he resigned his commission and offering his services to the Confederacy.

After briefly serving with an artillery unit, Ramseur was appointed colonel of the 49th North Carolina, a regiment he led with distinction at Malvern Hill where he was severely wounded. Promoted to brigadier general and assigned a brigade in the Second Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, he led his brigade at Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor. In the fall of 1864, Ramseur led his division in the Shenandoah Campaign. On October 19, 1864, he was mortally wounded at Cedar Creek, Virginia. Taken prisoner, he died the next day at Union headquarters surrounded by many of his former friends and West Point classmates including General George A. Custer.

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The Road to Yorktown via the North Carolina Piedmont

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 10/19/2016 - 07:53

On October 19, 1781, Lord Cornwallis surrendered more than 8,000 troops to a combined Franco-American force at Yorktown. The surrender came on the heels of much fighting in North Carolina. From January to March 1781, Cornwallis’s army pursued troops—including some local militia—under Daniel Morgan around the state. He continued chasing Morgan’s successor Nathanael Greene, in what became known as the “Race to the Dan.”

The campaign included several skirmishes, namely Cowan’s Ford, Bruce’s Crossroads, Clapp’s Mill and Weitzell’s Mill. It culminated in the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, the largest engagement fought in North Carolina during the Revolution. Although an American defeat, Cornwallis lost more than a quarter of his army; so many men that he had to retreat to British-held Wilmington. Charles Fox, a British Parliamentarian, reportedly exclaimed upon learning of Cornwallis’s losses, “Another such victory will ruin us.”

After Guilford, as Cornwallis’s army marched for Virginia, and Greene headed into South Carolina, North Carolina became a battleground for an ongoing civil war between local Patriots and Tories. Loyalist David Fanning terrorized the region, and in September captured Governor Thomas Burke and other lawmakers in a raid on Hillsborough. Fanning left North Carolina for the relative safety of the British forces at Charleston after the surrender at Yorktown.

Thomas Wolfe and “The Old Kentucky Home”

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 10/18/2016 - 06:00

The Old Kentucky Home in Asheville in 1946. Photo from the State Archives

On October 18, 1929, Charles Scribner’s Sons published Look Homeward, Angel, the best-known novel by Asheville author Thomas Wolfe. Inspired by a marble angel outside his father’s monument shop on Pack Square, Wolfe wrote his first and largely autobiographical novel about the fictional Gant family wherein the father is a volatile stonecutter and the mother a business-minded boardinghouse operator.

Wolfe was only 6 when his own mother, Julia Westall Wolfe, left her husband and older children and bought the “Old Kentucky Home,” a rambling Victorian boardinghouse in downtown Asheville, to which she brought young Tom. With his family divided, Tom felt lost amongst his mother’s tenants and resentful of the changes the tourists were wreaking on his hometown.

Always aware of the life and people around him, Wolfe later turned his observations into a novel in which his mother’s boardinghouse became “Dixieland” and Asheville, the fictional town of “Altamont.”  Although names were changed, Asheville residents still recognized Wolfe’s characters as themselves and were scandalized. Only in 1937, a year before he died, did Wolfe return home to visit. He was, however, buried in Asheville’s Riverside Cemetery. His mother’s boardinghouse is now the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, one of 27 state historic sites.

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“Choo Choo” Justice Barreled Down the Football Field

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 10/17/2016 - 06:00

Justice with fellow Tarheel teammate Art Weiner in 1949. Image from the UNC-Chapel Hill Library

On October 17, 2003, football star Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice died at his home in Cherryville at the age of 79. A native of Asheville, Justice acquired his nickname in the Navy, into which he was drafted in 1943. Seeing him dodge tacklers for the Bainbridge Naval Training Center team, an officer remarked, “He looks like a runaway train. We ought to call him ‘Choo Choo.'”

After the war, Justice played for the UNC, though many other college vied for his talents. From 1946 to 1949, while Justice played for the Tar Heels, the team had a record of 39-9-2, went to three bowl games and even achieved a number one ranking in the AP Top 10. Justice was named National Player of the Year in 1948, was runner up for the Heisman Trophy in 1948 and 1949 and remains in the record books at UNC for a number of achievements.

Justice played for the Washington Redskins in the National Football League in 1950 and again between 1952 and 1954, before retiring to work in the oil business and then in the insurance industry. He was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1963.

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Dorton Arena Dedicated in 1961

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 10/16/2016 - 06:00

Dorton Arena against the backdrop of the 1962 N.C. State Fair.
Image from the N.C. Museum of History

On October 16, 1961, the Livestock Judging Pavilion at the North Carolina State Fair was dedicated and renamed the J. S. Dorton Arena, honoring the memory of “Doc” Dorton, a longtime fairgrounds manager who had died earlier that year.

Internationally recognized for its revolutionary architectural design, the arena opened in 1952. Its soaring, criss-crossed parabolic arched roof amazed fairgoers right from the start. The innovative creation was the work of Matthew Nowicki, a Polish architect who was then head of of the architecture department at what is now N.C. State’s School of Design.

Nowicki had sketched the building’s preliminary drawings in 1950, prior to his departure for India where he was engaged in planning the new Punjab capital city of Chandigarh. Returning to the United States, he was killed in a plane crash in Egypt, and Raleigh architect William Dietrick carried out the construction of Nowicki’s visionary work. Recipient of the first American Institute of Architects Honor Award in 1953, and recognized as a National Civil Engineering Landmark, the arena was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 for its exceptional national significance only 21 years after its construction.

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Alfred Moore, Soldier and Supreme Court Justice

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 10/15/2016 - 06:34

On October 15, 1810, Alfred Moore, Revolutionary War officer and associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, died. Born in 1755 in New Hanover County, Moore was descended from the early settlers of the Cape Fear region and was the grandson of the founder of Brunswick Town.

During the Revolutionary War, Moore was commissioned as a captain in the First North Carolina Continental Regiment. He saw action at Brunswick Town, Moore’s Creek Bridge and Charleston before resigning and returning home to manage the family estates. At the war’s conclusion, Moore began a lengthy career in public service, first as a state senator from Brunswick County, and then as state attorney general. He resigned that position in 1791 to return to the state assembly a year later. In 1795, he ran for a United States Senate seat, but lost.

In October 1799, President John Adams appointed Moore an associate justice to the United States Supreme Court upon the death of Justice James Iredell. Moore retired from the Supreme Court in 1804 due to ill health.  He is buried in the graveyard of St. Phillips Church in Brunswick Town, and Moore County is named in his honor.

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Randall Jarrell, “War Poet”

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 10/14/2016 - 06:29

On October 14, 1965, poet Randall Jarrell was struck and killed by a car while walking at dusk along the side of NC 54 Bypass. At the time, Jarrell was staying in the hospital in Chapel Hill recovering from a suicide attempt and being treated with antidepressants. Jarrell left behind nine volumes of poetry, four books of literary criticism, four children’s books, five anthologies, a novel and a reputation as a brilliant, if troubled, writer.

Born in 1914 in Nashville, Tenn., Jarrell attended Vanderbilt University where he captained the tennis team and studied under Robert Penn Warren. Hoping to become a pilot, Jarrell entered the Army Air Force in 1942.  He failed to qualify and served as a celestial navigation instructor for the remainder of the war.  From that experience came Jarrell’s best known poem, “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner,” ending with the line “When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.”

In the fall of 1947 Jarrell began teaching at what is now UNC-Greensboro, where he would live and work for the remainder of his life.

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“General” Julian Carr and Tobacco in Durham

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 10/13/2016 - 13:28

On October 13, 1845, tobacco magnate Julian S. Carr was born in Chapel Hill.  After serving in the Confederate cavalry and returning to a hometown largely in decline, Carr pursued business interests in nearby Durham. In 1870, he joined two partners there in the manufacture of Bull Durham Smoking Tobacco. Owing to Carr’s marketing skills, the brand and its hometown became internationally famous. Tobacco was only the first of his successful businesses, which also included banking and textiles.

Carr’s interests extended well beyond business. A generous philanthropist, he supported the education of a number individuals, provided the funds for a dormitory at UNC and helped establish Trinity College, the forerunner to Duke. As a politician, he was less successful; he failed in runs for the governorship and the U.S. Senate mostly because he refused to play hardball.

Despite his political failings, Carr was one of the most popular North Carolinians of his era. He was often called General Carr, and following the death of his wife Nannie in 1915, he was courted heavily. He often signed notes to female admirers as “Your Sweetheart General.”

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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 subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

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