Battle of the State Songs

I found this interesting article in the June 4, 1926 issue of The Pilot, then published in Vass, N.C. When I saw the headline about the state song, I assumed it would be about William Gaston’s well-known “The Old North State,” which we wrote about a few years ago in This Month in North Carolina History. It turns out that there may have been some competition.

S. M. Kendrick’s appeal to state pride was played before Governor Angus McLean in an effort to have the song chosen to be played at the Chorus of the States, which was to be part of the national Sesquicentennial celebration in Philadelphia in July 1926. Kendrick’s piece is praiseworthy enough, but, in my opinion, lacks the poetry and charm of Gaston’s song, with its memorable line “the scorner may sneer at and witlings defame her” and the reference to North Carolina’s “daughters” as “the Queen of the Forest resembling.”

I haven’t yet looked around for any more about this, deciding to appeal instead to NC Miscellany readers first. What do you think — was Kendrick’s song indeed sung at the Chorus of the States? And was this challenge what led the legislature to decide to adopt “The Old North State” as the official state song less than a year later?

Check out what’s new in the North Carolina Collection.

Several new titles just added to “New in the North Carolina Collection.” To see the full list simply click on the link in the entry or click on the “New in the North Carolina Collection” tab at the top of the page. As always, full citations for all the new titles can be found in the University Library Catalog and they are all available for use in the Wilson Special Collections Library.

A burning cross and other memories of the Klan

I had known the prolific author William Stadiem was born in Kinston, but I was jarred at seeing this passage in his Feb. 1 column on

“As a 10-year-old Jewish boy in North Carolina, I had a cross burned on my family’s lawn by the local Ku Klux Klan. I am thus particularly sensitive ….”

When I asked for details, Stadiem promptly provided (via his publicist at St. Martin’s Press) this vivid recollection:

“The cross burning happened when I was ten, so I don’t remember many details. I doubt that law enforcement did anything, in that the Klan was still very much feared in eastern NC as a dark shadow presence in the 1950s.

“There was a giant billboard on the Lenoir County line showing a mounted Klansman in white robes on a white horse. The sign read, as I recall: ‘Entering Lenoir County. This is Klan Kountry. All Jews, Negroes and Catholics Stay Out.’ The billboard stayed up for all the years of my youth.

“The mythology was that the Klan had round-the-clock snipers posted in the murky swamps around the billboard, to protect the Klan’s warning sign in case any ‘Yankee Communist Types’ might try to take it down.”

Although the wording of the Klan billboard might not quite qualify it for James Loewen’s list of “Possible Sundown Towns in North Carolina,” its repugnant message could hardly be any more congruous.


UNC students, circa 1800, bridled at authority

“…When college students, like those at the University of North Carolina in 1796, could debate the issue of whether ‘the Faculty had too much authority,’ then serious trouble could not be far away….

“Between 1798 and 1808, American colleges were racked by mounting incidents of student defiance and outright rebellion — on a scale never seen before or since in American history….

“In 1799 , University of North Carolina students beat the president, stoned two professors and threatened others with injury.

“Finally, college authorities tightened up their codes of discipline. But repression only provoked more rebellions. In 1805, 45 students, a majority of the total enrollment, withdrew from the University of North Carolina in protest….”

– From “Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815” by Gordon S. Wood (2009)