North Carolina’s “Mount Rushmore”

For the past year or so, NC Collection staff members have been participating in a “staff picks” display. We come up with a topic or theme, and then we pick items from the NC Collection that fit. For example, we’ve had displays of our favorite fall festivals, summer-related books, and “what’s the connection to the collection.” You can see some of the past displays on the NC Collection’s fan page on Facebook.

Our current display is “Our Favorite North Carolinians.” It’s a very interesting display of native-born North Carolinians, and one of our staff members suggested that we share it on NCM. I then mentioned the idea to NCM contributor Lew Powell, and he suggested calling it “North Carolina’s ‘Mount Rushmore.'”

Here’s the list (in no particular order):

Terry Sanford
Gaston Means
Charlie Daniels
The Avett Brothers
William Powell
Carl Kasell
Roy Williams
Anna Julia Cooper
Ronnie Milsap
Doc Watson
Daniel L. Russell
André Leon Talley
Nina Simone

So, in the very interesting interconnected world in which we now live, we are opening this display (“virtually” opening it up) to our readers. Who are your favorite North Carolinians? If you’ve got one, share them as a comment.

PS. Just in case you are wondering….I’ve been in North Carolina since I was 4 (except for one sad year as a 12 year old in that state to the South), but I was born in Tennessee. So, you can’t add me as your favorite!

14 thoughts on “North Carolina’s “Mount Rushmore””

  1. I’d add Sam Ragan and Paul Green. I’m sure I could think of a dozen more, but it would get crowded on the mountain.

  2. Frank Porter Graham, Earl Scruggs, Michael Jordan, Thomas Wolfe, and whoever it was that invented Krispy Kreme doughnuts!

  3. Your list above is mostly very 20th century which is okay, but for a 20th century list you should surely have NC’s first multi-term Governor Jim Hunt (love him or hate him Gov. Hunt has had a huge and lasting impact on this state) and also UNC Presidents Bill Friday and Frank Porter Graham.

    But the real question is who ought to be on NC’s Mt. Rushmore from earlier times. President James K Polk (UNC Class of 1818) but I am not sure he was born in NC. Likewise Pres. Andrew Jackson has strong and early NC ties. Also we should note US Sup Ct Associate Justice James Iredell of North Carolina. All of them are men whose accomplishments stretched far beyond NC’s borders.

    Of course the politics of the 19th and 18th century are such that all women and people of color could not be prominent in the same way that white men could. I would love for someone more knowledgable than me to share some perspective on notable women and people of color from North Carolina from before 1900.

    Also I think during Reconstruction and immediately after, North Carolina had some courageous and visionary people in its government who would be very intriguing figures to have known. I am thinking of Civil Rights advocate and social reformer Albion Tourgee or NC’s #1 anti-KKK crusader, the much maligned Gov. William W. Holden. Others who know more about the history of that period could probably suggest some other names in this category. My point is that traditional NC history has VERY unfairly presented these visionaries as self-serving interlopers, almost completely glossing over the remarkable way in which they sought to reach out to the freed slaves of North Carolina as their political peers and equals.

    I guess my monument is going to turn out to be too big!

  4. How about George Moses Horton, the ‘Black Bard of North Carolina’? Actually Jason if you have never done a NC Miscellany posting on George Moses Horton before, then how about doing one now? The NCC must have some great and EXTREMELY rare printings of Mr. Horton’s poetry – maybe you could show us some digital pictures of interesting GMHorton items in the collection?

  5. Thomas Day or Henry Frye (first African-American Justice, and later Chief Justice, of the NC Supreme Court, and a stalwart contributor to the Civil Rights movement in the 60’s) for diversity.

    I think it would be remiss without both Jesse Helms and Sam Ervin, as our two most prominent 20th century national figures.

    The omission of Zebulon Vance would be remiss, also.

  6. Does anyone out there have any connections in Emporia or Topeka, Kansas? Can we contact their Vital Records office and have them whiteout “KS” on Dean Smith’s birth certificate? Can we have our state legislature push through a law to create an amended North Carolina birth certificate for him? Then, he can rightfully be included in this list.

  7. Jack Claiborne, who first mentioned to me the idea of a Tar Heel Rushmore, put James B. Duke high on his list. Duke not only fathered the tobacco industry, but also (through his electrification of the Piedmont) enabled the textile and furniture industries. Add to that legacy Duke University, the Duke Endowment and the chain of Duke Power lakes, and it’s impossible to deny him a piece of our mythical rock…. And basketball! What’s Batman without the Joker?

  8. Elisha Mitchell would be my addition to the list even though he was not born in NC, he made major contributions to the geography and geology of the state. Mount Mitchell bears his name and he probably knew more about the state than anyone alive at the time.

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