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Calvin Wiley, Education Visionary

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 00:00

Image from the N.C. Museum of History

On January 11, 1887, education advocate Calvin Henderson Wiley died.  Born in Guilford County in 1818, Wiley practiced law, edited a newspaper and wrote novels before entering the political realm. He was representing Guilford County in 1852 when he was instrumental in passing the legislation that created a state superintendent who oversaw all public schools in the state. Leaving the General Assembly later that year, Wiley was selected as North Carolina’s first superintendent, an office he held until April 1865.

When he arrived to take charge of the state’s schools, Wiley found an educational system in great disrepair. Throughout his tenure he sought to restore the people’s faith in public instruction under the banner of educational reform. In addition to accepting a host of speaking engagements around the state to promote education, Wiley founded several clinics that taught, examined and licensed North Carolina teachers. In 1851, he published, at his own expense, the North Carolina Reader, which quickly became the standard textbook statewide.

Within seven years of taking office, Wiley and his staff were able to raise North Carolina’s educational standards to create what many considered to be the most efficient system in the South. Several elementary, middle and high schools around the state are named in his honor.

Check out NCpedia for more on the history of education in North Carolina.

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.

Charlotte Hawkins Brown, Founder of Palmer Institute, Died

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 00:00

Charlotte Hawkins Brown on her wedding day in 1911.

On January 11, 1961, noted African-American educator and founder of the Palmer Memorial Institute, Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown died. Born in Henderson, Brown moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her family when she was young, and was educated there. In 1901, at age 18, she was persuaded by the American Missionary Association to return to North Carolina to assist in their effort to educate southern blacks.

Brown established the Palmer Memorial Institute in Sedalia, naming it for Alice Freeman Palmer, former president of Wellesley College, who was a friend and benefactor. The school opened in 1902. It first operated out of an old blacksmith shop, but eventually grew to house hundreds of students in more than a dozen buildings. Palmer grew to become known as an elite black preparatory school, hosting students from all over the country and world.

From left to right, Nannie Helen Burroughs, Charlotte Hawkins Brown and Mary McLeod Bethune, in 1922

During her tenure at Palmer, Brown actively toured, speaking on behalf of women’s suffrage and racial equality. She devoted her life to the improvement of the African American community’s social standing and was active in the National Council of Negro Women, an organization founded by celebrated educator Mary McLeod Bethune in 1935. Also as president of the North Carolina State Federation of Negro Women’s Clubs, Brown directed African American women’s formal civic experiences for more than twenty years.

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Tab Smith and the Birth of Rhythm and Blues

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 00:00

A circa 1946-1948 portrait of Smith from
the Library of Congress.

On January 11, 1909, alto saxophonist Talmage “Tab” Smith was born in Kinston.

Smith’s first professional musical endeavor came in 1929, when he formed the Carolina Stompers in 1929, and he soon achieved national acclaim as part of bands fronted by Count Basie and Lucky Millinder.

Through the 1940s he recorded with some of the finest performers, including Billie Holiday, Earl Hines and Coleman Hawkins. His peers on the alto sax included Johnny Hodges of the Duke Ellington Band and Earl Bostic.

With the evolution of musical tastes, Smith gravitated toward rhythm and blues in the 1950s, recording primarily on United Records. His version of the Tony Bennett hit “Because of You” was a chart topper in 1951. Most of Smith’s numbers were short and were favorites on jukeboxes.

He recorded a sax version of “Try a Little Tenderness,” latter covered by Otis Redding, and toured with the Five Royales, based in Winston-Salem, in the mid-1950s.

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Thomas Robeson, Patriot Leader at Moore’s Creek Bridge

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 00:00

On January 11, 1740, Revolutionary War colonel and state legislator Thomas Robeson was born in Bladen County.

Robeson first entered politics as a member of the Third Provincial Congress, held at Hillsborough in August 1775. During that session he was appointed colonel of the Bladen militia. He served in the Fourth Provincial Congress at Halifax the following year and was a member of the first Assembly at New Bern in 1777.

Leading the Bladen militia was not an easy task. A large number of loyal Scots had settled in the Sandhills region, meaning that the Tories, those loyal to the British crown, greatly outnumbered patriots. In 1775, Robeson and his men joined forces with local patriots, known as Whigs, and defeated General Donald McDonald and his Scottish Loyalist militia at the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge. When the Tories regained ground in the region in 1781, Robeson led between 60 and 70 men against several hundred British at Elizabethtown.

After the Revolution, Robeson served in the state legislature. He died in May 1785, and is buried near Tar Heel in Bladen County. In 1787, Robeson County was formed out of western Bladen County, and named in his honor.

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“Giant” Peter Francisco No Chicken

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 00:00

A portrait of "Giant" Peter Francisco

On January 16, 1831, Peter Francisco, the “Virginia Giant,” died in Richmond, Va.

Francisco was noted for his many feats of bravery during the American Revolution, especially during Battle of Guilford Courthouse in what’s now Greensboro in March 1781.

Not much is known of Francisco’s origins, except that he arrived in Virginia in 1765, possibly from Portugal. He stood at a statuesque six feet, eight inches, and weighed nearly 260 pounds. He enlisted in the 10th Virginia Continentals at the beginning of the Revolution, and saw much heavy fighting during his four-year tenure.

Upon his discharge, Francisco quickly re-enlisted and continued to serve in the American army in South Carolina.

Francisco was cited for saving a cannon at the Battle of Camden in August 1780, and while serving with Colonel William Washington’s dragoons at Guilford Courthouse, Francisco is said to have killed 11 British soldiers in succession with his broadsword.

One British soldier pinned Francisco’s leg to his horse with a bayonet, and he killed the soldier with a strike from his sword. Despite his wounds, Francisco continued to fight till the end of the engagement.

After the war, Francisco retired to Richmond. He later became famous for saving a number of people from a burning theater.

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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.

Death of Editor Josephus Daniels

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 00:00

A portrait of Josephus Daniels in the collection of the N.C. Museum of History

On January 15, 1948Josephus Daniels, newspaper editor and former Secretary of the Navy, died in Raleigh. While at school in Wilson, Daniels developed a love of journalism, and became local editor of the Wilson Advance. He later bought the newspaper, and over the next few years purchased several other papers with various partners.

Daniels remained a loyal Democrat throughout his career. In 1892 he received an appointment to a post in the Department of the Interior. He held the position for two years before returning to North Carolina, having just recently purchased the Raleigh News and Observer at public auction.

Because of his staunch support of the Democratic Party in the early 1900s, Daniels became close friends with President Woodrow Wilson. He served as Wilson’s publicity chief during the 1912 campaign, and was appointed Secretary of the Navy, a post he held through both of Wilson’s terms. In 1921, Daniels returned to Raleigh and his beloved newspaper.

Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Daniels ambassador to Mexico in 1934, a post he held for 7 years. Late in life Daniels wrote a series of memoirs. Daniels remained active until his death from pneumonia. He was buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh.

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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.

Harold Cooley, Powerful Agriculture Committee Chair

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 00:00

Cooley at his desk, date unkown. Image from the Library of Congress.

On January 15, 1974, congressman and agricultural advocate Harold Cooley died from the effects of emphysema.

As longtime chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee, Cooley, native of Nash County, was a powerful spokesman for farmers from the New Deal to the Great Society.

Democrat Cooley, by virtue of a special election in July 1934, filled the House seat in the Fourth District vacated with the death of Edward Pou. He went on to serve 17 terms in the U.S. House. His length of service as Agriculture Committee chairman (from 1949 to 1952 and from 1955 to 1967, interrupted by the 83rd Congress when Republicans held the majority) has not been exceeded.

Cooley joined the Agriculture Committee during the height of the New Deal and was a driving force in the development of Roosevelt’s agricultural program. He backed several reforms including those that provided for allotments, price supports, rural electrification and soil conservation.

Cooley also sought to reach the world market with agricultural products, stating that “bread and butter rather than bullets and bayonets are the most powerful weapons in our arsenal.”

Cooley returned to his home in Nashville after losing his reelection campaign of 1966.

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.

The Fall of Fort Fisher

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 00:00

A depiction of the capture of Fort Fisher

On January 15, 1865Fort Fisher, nicknamed “Gibraltar of the South,” fell to Union troops.

Built on a peninsula known as Federal Point at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, 18 miles south of Wilmington, Fort Fisher was the largest earthen fortification in the Confederacy. It guarded the port of Wilmington, and, in that capacity, was the most powerful seacoast fort in the South.

Fort Fisher was the last remaining lifeline in the closing months of the Civil War, allowing blockade runners to take advantage of the Cape Fear River to route supplies to troops inland.

On December 23 and 24, 1864, the Union Navy bombarded the fort. At the same time, the fort’s forces were reinforced with about 600 more men from Wilmington, increasing the number to around 2,000. The Union Navy attacked again on January 13, 1865. After two days, Union forces led by Gen. Alfred Terry overwhelmed the Confederate defenders led by Maj. Gen. W.H.C. Whiting and Col. William Lamb, and captured Fort Fisher.

The fall of Fort Fisher robbed Robert E. Lee’s army of its last connection to the outside and served as the beginning of the Wilmington Campaign, which also resulted in the fall of Fort Anderson and the occupation of Wilmington.

The Union attack on the fort, featured in the recent film Lincoln, was the largest amphibious attack by American forces until World War II.

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The Original Queen’s College in Charlotte

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 00:00

 

The NC Highway Historical Marker designating the site of Queen's College

On January 15, 1771, the legislature passed an act to establish Queen’s College in Charlotte.  The act stressed the urgent need for educational opportunities in what was at the time the “backcountry.”

However, the school, which was to be established under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church, was in conflict with royal authority and the Church of England.

Gov. William Tryon believed that the school’s charter would show his appreciation to the Presbyterians who aided him in the ongoing conflict with the Regulators. The British government determined that it would not be appropriate for the crown to approve a Scots-Irish institution that could perpetuate anti-royalist views in the colony, and the charter was revoked.

The trustees continued to apply for a charter and operated the school under the name of Queen’s Museum. During the Revolution, school trustees sympathized with the colonial cause and many future leaders, including William R. Davie and Andrew Jackson, were educated there. When independence was declared, the school became known as Liberty Hall Academy. It relocated to Salisbury in 1784.

The institution that we know today as Queens University of Charlotte was founded by Presbyterians in 1857.

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.