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Artifact of the Week: Banner of the 115th Machine Gun Battalion

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 02/24/2017 - 08:00
Friday, Feb 24, 2017 8:00 AM The men of the 115th Machine Gun Battalion were sworn into active Federal service in August 1917 and joined the 119th and 120th Infantry Regiments in formi

This Day in North Carolina History is Moving

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 02/23/2017 - 14:55
Thursday, Feb 23, 2017 3:00 PM This Day in North Carolina History was launched on WordPress on October 1, 2013.  At the time we had no idea how long we would be able to continue to find

Portraits of War: Raleigh Iron Works

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 02/23/2017 - 08:05
Thursday, Mar 2, 2017 8:00 AM Between 1914 and 1918, manufacturers across the state competed for highly-prized government contracts, committing themselves to providing everything from f

Portraits of War: Benjamin Franklin Dixon, Jr.

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 02/23/2017 - 08:00
Thursday, Feb 23, 2017 8:00 AM One of the more heart wrenching primary sources I came across while researching for our upcoming book, North Carolina in the Great War, was a letter from a

Buckminster Fuller Developed Geodesic Dome Design at Black Mountain, Raleigh

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 02/23/2017 - 05:28

Buckminster Fuller (far left) with colleagues at Black Mountain College.
Image from the State Archives

On February 23, 1983, Buckminster Fuller was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, for his contributions as a geometrician, educator and architect-designer.

“Bucky” Fuller’s application of synergetic geometry to geodesic structures took root at Black Mountain College in Buncombe County. During the 1949 summer session at Black Mountain, Fuller erected, with his students and colleagues, the prototype “Autonomous Dwelling Facility with a Geodesic Structure.”

A geodesic dome at Black Mountain College.
Image from the State Archives

As a guest lecturer at the North Carolina State University School of Architecture from 1949 to1955, Fuller worked with his students to design uses of the geodesic dome for a cotton mill, military installations and the Ford Motor Company. He patented the structure in 1954. Fuller received an honorary Doctor of Design degree from N.C. State in 1954. After leaving academia, Fuller served as president of the Raleigh architecture firm Synergetics from 1955 to 1959, where colleagues and students created sustainable commercial domes.

The Buckminster Fuller Institute has now identified more than 300,000 geodesic domes around the world, ranging from shelters to radar stations to playground structures.

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Oliver, North Wilkesboro Native, a Sixties Pop Sensation

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 02/22/2017 - 05:27

On February 22, 1945, pop musician William Oliver Swofford, known professionally as Oliver, was born in North Wilkesboro.

A Morehead Scholar, Swofford joined his first band while at the University of North Carolina but they had no national success. In 1968, he came to the attention of music producer Bob Crewe, who described his voice as “pure, almost like a reed instrument.” After recording the song “Good Morning Starshine” from the musical “Hair,” but before releasing it, Crewe decided that Oliver would be a better name for the rising star.

In the summer of 1969, the song was a hit, climbing to number 3 on Billboard’s Hot 100. During his short musical career, Oliver had an additional hit with “Jean” from the movie, “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.” The song’s writer once said that Oliver did not just perform the song well,” he “set a standard for its performance.” “Jean” rose to number 2 on the Billboard chart in the fall of 1969.

In the early 1970s Swofford toured hundreds of college campuses and collaborated with Karen Carpenter before leaving the business. His debut album ultimately stayed on the chart for 38 weeks.  He died in 2000 in Louisiana.

“High Priestess of Soul” Nina Simone Born

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 02/21/2017 - 06:45

On February 21, 1933, Nina Simone, often called the “high priestess of soul,” was born in the small town of Tryon in Polk County.

Determined to become one of the first highly-successful African-American concert pianists, Simone spent a summer at the famed Julliard School after graduating high school in Asheville in 1950. Denied admission to music school in Philadelphia, Simone took menial jobs there.

While on a trip to Atlantic City, N.J. in the summer of 1954, Simone began to experiment with popular music. Word of her talent spread, and she became in high demand at nightclubs all along the Mid-Atlantic coast. After releasing her first album, Little Girl Blue, in 1958, her work began to reflect her increasing involvement in the civil rights movement and her close associations with leading African-American intellectuals like Lorraine Hansberry and Langston Hughes.

After releasing 13 albums during the 1960s, Simone hit a rough patch in the 1970s, struggling with a divorce and mental illness. She toured extensively in Europe during the 1980s and her career began to wind down in the early 1990s. She died in France in 2003.

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Piedmont Airlines Takes Flight

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 02/20/2017 - 05:28

On February 20, 1948, Piedmont Airlines launched its first passenger flight. The flight took off from Wilmington and arrived in Cincinnati after making several stops.

Piedmont Airlines’ roots stretch back to 1940, when a struggling aviation company called the Camel City Flying Service was reincorporated by Thomas H. Davis as Piedmont Aviation. Piedmont Aviation’s initial focus was training pilots and flight instructors to meet the needs of America’s involvement in World War II, but as that conflict wound down the company sought to change its focus to passenger service.

After problems over a contract, Piedmont Airlines took the federal government’s airline regulator—the Civil Aeronautics Board—to court. The case rose to the level of the U.S. Supreme Court and eventually ended in the airline’s favor, allowing the first commercial flight to go forward.

The airline grew steadily, and acquired a unique reputation for simultaneously having excellent customer service and bare-bones airplanes and other equipment. Piedmont Airlines was sold to U.S. Airways in 1989.

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Poole Bill and Anti-Evolution Fervor

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 02/19/2017 - 05:28

William Louis Poteat

On February 19, 1925, the North Carolina House defeated the Poole anti-evolution resolution. The resolution, introduced by D. Scott Poole of Hoke County, proposed that it was harmful to the welfare of the citizens for “Darwinism or any other evolutionary hypotheses” to be taught in the schools.

In January 1924, Governor Cameron Morrison denounced two high school textbooks for their inclusion of evolution. Poole’s resolution sought to keep all such lessons out of the state’s classrooms. William Louis Poteat, a former biology professor, president of Wake Forest College and a devout Baptist, believed that evolution demonstrated the “divine method of creation.” He became one of the outspoken advocates for keeping it in the curriculum.

Although the House appeared to be quite divided on the issue, when it was put to a vote, the resolution was defeated by the comfortable margin of 67 to 46.

The evolution debate received national attention just a few months later during the Tennessee case that has come to be known as the Scopes “Monkey Trial.”  The case was in response to a Tennessee law that was similar to the one that was defeated in North Carolina.

A great overview of the evolution debate in the 1920s in North Carolina from UNC Libraries.

“Witlings Defame Her:” William Gaston and “The Old North State”

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 05:29

On February 18, 1927, the General Assembly adopted “The Old North State” as North Carolina’s official state song.

State Supreme Court Justice William Joseph Gaston of New Bern penned the song’s patriotic lyrics in the 1830s, when North Carolina was lagging economically behind its neighbors and masses of people were moving away. A dedicated public servant and advocate for internal improvements, Gaston sought to defend North Carolina against accusations of being backward.

When court was in session in Raleigh, Gaston stayed at the home of Mrs. James F. Taylor. One day after a couple of women in the household returned from a concert by a group of visiting Swiss bellringers, they began to sing and play one of the concert tunes on the piano. Gaston became inspired. At his office on Hargett Street, he wrote several verses of the now-familiar song, adapting it to the melody he had just heard. A chorus of 50 young women first performed the song at the Whig state convention in Raleigh in October 1840.

R. Culver set Gaston’s poem to music in 1844, but the arrangement composed in 1926 by Mrs. E. E. Randolph in Raleigh is the version familiar to North Carolinians today.

For more on Gaston and the state song, check out the Old North State Fact Book from North Carolina Historical Publications.


This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 13:12
Friday, Feb 17, 2017 1:15 PM test

Artifact of the Week: A Family's Grief Delayed

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 08:00
Friday, Feb 17, 2017 8:00 AM Yes, this week’s Artifact of the Week is a newspaper clipping. Seems boring, right? But bear with me; the story begs to be told.

Basketball Superstar Michael Jordan Born

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 05:25

On February 17, 1963, American basketball superstar Michael Jeffrey Jordan was born in Brooklyn, New York. Before his first birthday, Jordan’s parents moved to Wilmington, where he played three sports at Laney High School and was named to the McDonald’s All-American team.

As a UNC-Chapel Hill freshman, Jordan scored the winning basket in the 1982 NCAA title game. In 1984, he was named College Player of the Year and won the first of two Olympic gold medals (the other was in 1992) with the U.S. men’s basketball team. After his junior year at Carolina, Jordan entered the NBA draft and was picked by the Chicago Bulls.

His high-scoring, high-flying antics quickly made “Air Jordan” an international sports celebrity and marketing marvel. After leading the Bulls to three consecutive NBA championships, Jordan unexpectedly retired in 1993 to pursue a career in baseball. He rejoined the Bulls in 1995 and led them to three more NBA titles before retiring again in 1999. After a two-year hiatus, Jordan returned to basketball, playing with the Washington Wizards. He retired for the final time in 2003. Now the primary owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, Jordan is still widely regarded as the best basketball player of all time.

Portraits of War: Junius Franklin Andrews

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 02/16/2017 - 08:00
Thursday, Feb 16, 2017 8:00 AM North Carolina sacrificed over 2,300 of its sons in President Woodrow Wilson’s mission to make the world “safe for democracy.” But not all of these men wer

Henry Bacon, Designer of Washington’s Lincoln Memorial

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 02/16/2017 - 05:24


The dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in 1922. Image from the Smithsonian Institution.

On February 16, 1924, Henry Bacon, Jr., architect and designer of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., died.

Born in Illinois in 1866, Bacon moved with his family to Brunswick County in 1876 and then to Wilmington. He attended school in Boston and Wilmington and went on to study at the University of Illinois for a year before moving to Boston to join the architectural firm of Chamberlain and Whidden as a draftsman. He progressed quickly from there, winning awards and joining New York’s prestigious firm of McKim, Mead and White. He studied in Europe during various periods and eventually would partner with James Brite for a time.

Bacon won the commission for the Lincoln Memorial design in 1912 and oversaw its completion. During the next ten years he, somewhat ironically, also served as designer and architect of two of North Carolina’s most well-known Confederate monuments: Raleigh’s Monument to the Women of the Confederacy and Wilmington’s Confederate Monument, working alongside sculptor Francis Herman Packer on that project.

His own grave marker was created from drawings found in his desk following his death in 1924. He kept close connections to the Wilmington area throughout his life and is buried in the family plot in the city’s Oakdale Cemetery.

What's Happening: February 17 - 19

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 02/15/2017 - 15:26
Wednesday, Feb 15, 2017 3:30 PM Check out some of the wonderful opportunities for fun, discovery and learning this weekend with the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

Western Archives Staff Works with BBC Radio to Highlight N.C.’s Black Mountain College

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 02/15/2017 - 10:13
Wednesday, Feb 15, 2017 10:15 AM When BBC Radio wanted to research a program about the experimental Black Mountain College, they came directly to the source – NCDNCR’s Western Regional Arc

Encampment at Rockfish Creek, Prelude to Moores Creek Bridge

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 02/15/2017 - 05:25

On February 15, 1776, Patriot forces under Colonel James Moore camped on Rockfish Creek in Cumberland County.

Nearby more than 1,500 Loyalist militia, most of them Scottish Highlanders, gathered under General Donald McDonald at what’s now Fayetteville to march to Wilmington. By fortifying the encampment at Rockfish Creek with over 1,000 men and five artillery pieces, Moore blocked the Loyalists’ most direct route to the coast, forcing them to utilize a narrow bridge at Moores Creek.

There, on February 27, the Loyalists were ambushed by about 1,000 Patriots, artillery and rifles, from Col. Richard Caswell’s and Col. Alexander Lillington’s forces. The Patriots were victorious, killing or wounding at least 50 men and capturing about 850 more.

The Battle of Moores Creek Bridge was a pivotal moment in North Carolina history. Without Loyalist forces to protect the colonial government, the royal system collapsed, allowing Patriot leaders the chance to establish a fledgling state government. The Patriot victory also denied Britain use of North Carolina’s ports, which were logistically significant. The battle at Moores Creek is often referred to as the “Lexington and Concord of the South.”

Initially a state park, the battlefield is now managed by the National Park Service.

Maceo Parker of Kinston Brought the Funk

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 02/14/2017 - 05:23

On February 14, 1943, saxophonist Maceo Parker was born in Kinston. Perhaps best known for his work with James Brown, Parker brought funk to the soul music of the James Brown Band. For nearly 20 years, Brown’s call “Maceo, I want you to Blow!” summoned his unique sound.

Parker was exposed to music early. His father played at least two instruments, and both of his parents sang for their church. His brother was also musical, and the pair joined James Brown’s band together in 1964. He has gone on to collaborate with a host of artists including George Clinton, Prince, Ray Charles, James Taylor, the Dave Matthews Band and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Among Parker’s many accolades and awards are the 2003 Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award, the 2012 Les Victoires du Jazz in Paris Lifetime Achievement Award and the  Icon Award at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam.

Parker tours internationally to this day. He is featured in the book African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina, published by the North Carolina Arts Council.

Blind Boy Fuller of Durham, Blues Master

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 02/13/2017 - 05:22

On February 13, 1941, Piedmont Blues musician “Blind Boy Fuller” died in Durham. Fuller was famous for playing a steel-bodied National guitar that was a natural resonator before amplification. Along with Reverend Gary Davis, Fuller dominated the Bull City’s blues scene, attracting and influencing many musicians.

Born Fulton Allen in Wadesboro in 1907, Fuller learned guitar and country rag songs from older singers in Rockingham. In his late teens, he moved to Winston-Salem where he played on sidewalks for shift workers in tobacco factories. He became completely blind in 1928 and moved to Durham the next year.

In 1935, Fuller was taken to New York by white merchant J. B. Long for the first of many recording sessions with the American Recording Corporation. He released more than 130 songs on several labels in his five-year recording career. Many of his songs centered on the daily struggles of black tenant farmers and the experiences of those who left the South for the North.

Fuller’s repertoire ranged from ragtime to the blues, including “Rag, Mama, Rag,” “Truckin’ My Blues Away” and “I Want Some Of Your Pie.” Fuller often recorded with other musicians, including guitarists Floyd Council and Bull City Red, and harmonica player Sonny Terry.