So you think you know North Carolina… No. 52

1. “When I was growing up, Billy Graham was very popular…. I went to two or three of his rallies in the ’50s or ’60s. This guy was like rock ‘n’ roll personified — volatile, explosive. He had the hair, the tone, the elocution — when he spoke, he brought the storm down. Clouds parted. Souls got saved, sometimes 30- or 40,000 of them”….
Who said it?

2. In 1967 Spray, Leaksville and Draper merged to form what Rockingham County town?

3. In 1925 what sculptor proposed carving an enormous memorial to Confederate heroes Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and Stonewall Jackson on the cliffs at Chimney Rock above Lake Lure?

4. No fewer than six communities in the U.S. claim to possess “the world’s largest frying pan.” Where is North Carolina’s?

5. In 1950 when the Atomic Energy Commission chose Nevada for atmospheric tests of nuclear weapons, what site was runner-up?

Answers below





1. Bob Dylan.

2. Eden.

3. Gutzon Borglum, who would later become famous for Mount Rushmore.

4. Rose Hill, not coincidentally the site of the annual North Carolina Poultry Jubilee.

5. The Outer Banks.


FDR at UNC in 1938: I eat no “grilled millionaire.”

This month marks the 80th anniversary of a speech by President Franklin D. Roosevelt at UNC, an event that is considered significant in FDR’s political career.

Roosevelt’s arrival on December 5th, 1938 was the first visit to Chapel Hill by a sitting U.S. President in the 20th century. And his speech took place scarcely a month after midterm elections in which the Democrats lost 72 seats in the U.S. House and seven seats in the U.S. Senate.

William E. Leuchtenburg, an emeritus professor of history at UNC-Chapel Hill and an expert of Roosevelt’s presidency, says some questioned whether the New Deal and Roosevelt’s liberal outlook could survive.

“This was the very first time that Roosevelt had made a public address anywhere since his setback in the 1938 elections,” Leuchtenburg said.

Carolina Political Union invitation to FDR event
Roosevelt came to Chapel Hill at the invitation of the Carolina Political Union, a non-partisan student organization that promoted discussions on political and government issues. He spoke at Woollen Gymnasium, a venue selected after rain forced the cancellation of an outdoor appearance at Kenan Stadium.

More than 6,000 people packed into the gym. Those unable to squeeze into that location could listen from Memorial Hall where the speech was piped in. The CBS and NBC radio networks broadcast Roosevelt’s voice live on more than 225 stations around the nation. The BBC also carried the speech in the United Kingdom. And those in Europe could listen over shortwave to the speech translated into French, German, Italian, and Russian.

The Daily Tar Heel reported that the podium from which Roosevelt spoke was bedecked with 15 microphones and that eight newsreel crews, equipped with five 1,000-watt lights, filmed portions of the speech. Writing about the speech in the next day’s paper, a New York Times reporter noted that Roosevelt repeatedly pulled a handkerchief from his pocket to wipe sweat created by the powerful lights.

Prior to Roosevelt’s remarks, Clyde R. Hoey, North Carolina’s governor, and Frank Porter Graham, UNC’s president, offered welcomes. Graham also presented FDR with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. He cited the President for standing on the side of “oppressed minorities and disinherited majorities,” and for promoting an America that “stands for the freedom of open and wide discussions of all issues and a fair hearing for all sides, for the ways of peace and democracy rather than of war and dictatorship; for a new hope to you and a more equal educational opportunity to all children in all states.”

Leuchtenburg says Roosevelt was pleased to receive the degree from Graham, who was “regarded as perhaps the most important liberal in the South—a strong supporter of the New Deal.”

Roosevelt began his remarks by quoting Justice Benjamin N. Cardozo of the U.S. Supreme Court. Cardozo was considered an eminent legal scholar and had died in July 1938.

“We live in a world of change,” Cardozo wrote. “If a body of law were in existence adequate for the civilization of today, it could not meet the demands of tomorrow. Society is inconstant…..There is change whether we will it or not.”

Leuchtenburg says that, throughout his speech, Roosevelt sought to underscore openness to change and the importance of liberal thought.

“Roosevelt thought that what he could count on from young people was a new generation that, if one could appeal to them properly, would quite naturally be willing to move forward on more progressive paths,” Leuchtenburg said.

Roosevelt praised the University of North Carolina as “representative of liberal teaching and liberal thought.”

With his remarks, Roosevelt also hoped to portray himself as benign and “defang the criticism of him as someone who hated the rich,” Leuchtenburg said. Though, Leuchtenburg noted, during his 1936 campaign for president, Roosevelt did denounce the rich as “economic royalists” and said, “They hate me and I welcome their hatred.”

Roosevelt told his UNC audience that the press had portrayed him as “an ogre, a consorter with Communists, a destroyer of the rich,” and someone who, “‘breakfasted every morning on a dish of ‘grilled millionaire.'”

FDR drew laughter from the crowd when he said, “Actually I am an exceedingly mild-mannered person, a practitioner of peace, both domestic and foreign, a believer in the capitalistic system, and for my breakfast a devotee of scrambled eggs.”

Roosevelt listed some of his New Deal accomplishments — price supports for crops, federal insurance of banks, and social security — and then encouraged UNC undergraduates and young people listening on the radio to become politically active.

FDR concluded his speech by telling the audience that he feels a strong connection to the nation’s young people. “And that is why I am happy and proud to became an alumnus of the University of North Carolina, typifying as it does American liberal thought through American action,” he said.

Roosevelt’s visit to Chapel Hill received extensive coverage in many newspapers the following morning. Among the details featured, the New York Times reported that members of the President’s traveling party became separated as they left the gym with the large crowd. Their separation caused a delay in Roosevelt’s departure for Durham, where he boarded a train to return to Washington, D.C.

An audio montage produced for WUNC 91.5 with William Leuchtenburg’s comments on FDR’s speech

Listen to FDR’s full speech

New in the collection: Norlina license plate

License plate reading, "Norlina, where North Carolina begins"

“Many American place-names are purely arbitrary coinages,” H.L. Mencken noted in “The American Language” (1921). “Towns on the border between two states, or near the border, are often given names made of parts of the names of the two states, e. g., Pen-Mar (Pennsylvania+Maryland), Mar-Del (Maryland+Delaware), Texarkana (Texas+Arkansas), Kanorado (Kansas+Colorado), Tex-homa (Texas+Oklahoma), Dakoming (Dakota+Wyoming), Texico (Texas+New Mexico), Calexico (California+Mexico). Norlina is a telescope form of North Carolina….”

Mencken’s mention may have been the high point of Norlina’s national prominence. The town’s population has hovered around 1,000 for the past half century, as it was first bypassed by I-85 in 1960, then abandoned by Amtrak’s Silver Star  in 1986. Last year it even lost its library.

For a glimpse of a more robust era in Norlina, check out this postcard of the American Tavern on U.S. 1 from the Durwood Barbour Collection.


So you think you know North Carolina…. No. 51

1. Why did “Proud to be Bucolic” appear on bumper stickers in Winston-Salem in the 1980s?

2. What president instructed that redwoods and sequoias be planted in Great Smoky Mountains National Park?

3. What 1958 hit record by Dunn native Link Wray was banned in New York and Boston for fear it would incite teenage gang violence?

4. True or false: Under Jim Crow, black passengers were seated in the front of airplanes because the back was considered safer.

5. Nina Simone, best known for her recording of “I Loves You, Porgy,” was born in the same town where DuBose Heyward, author of the novel “Porgy,” died — what was it?

Answers below





1. After R. J. Reynolds Tobacco bought Nabisco, CEO F. Ross Johnson criticized Winston-Salem as too “bucolic” and moved company headquarters to Atlanta.

2. FDR. The experiment failed.

3. “Rumble,” a throbbing guitar instrumental that introduced the seminal “power chord” to rock ‘n’ roll. Peter Townsend of The Who: “If it hadn’t been for Link Wray and ‘Rumble,’ I never would have picked up a guitar.”

4. True.

5. Tryon.


New in the collection: Signed photo of Gov. Clyde Hoey

Signed photo portrait of Governor Clyde Hoey


The essay attached to Clyde Hoey‘s highway historical marker notes his “distinctive style of dress, replete with swallow-tail coat, striped pants, wing collar, high-topped shoes, and boutonniere,” and his official gubernatorial portrait doesn’t disappoint.

The inscription reads, “To my good friend, Hon. H. J. Hatcher. Yours truly, Clyde R. Hoey, Governor.”

John Blythe suggests that the friend was likely Howell John “Doggie” Hatcher of Morganton, decorated World War II veteran, legislator and commander of the State Highway Patrol.

As with many politicians, Hoey’s attitudes toward African-Americans and women have not aged well.


So you think you know North Carolina…. No. 50

1. What essential product does Spruce Pine provide the Masters golf tournament?

2. “They used to write in my studio bios that I was the daughter of a cotton farmer from Chapel Hill. Hell, baby, I was born on a tenant farm in Grabtown. How’s that grab ya? Grabtown, North Carolina. And it looks exactly the way it sounds.” — What actress thus described her roots?

3. In the event of nuclear war, where would the U.S. Supreme Court relocate?

4. What comedian considers a 1975 performance at the Hub Pub Club in Winston-Salem a turning point in his career?

5. What famous structure was made of metal curtain rods from Woolworth’s in Asheville?

Answers below





1. Quartz sand, a sparkling white byproduct of feldspar mining, is used to fill the bunkers at Augusta National.

2. Ava Gardner.

3. The Grove Park Inn in Asheville.

4. “While I was on stage doing my act to churchlike silence,” Steve Martin recalled, “a guy said to his date, loud enough that we all heard it, ‘I don’t understand any of this.’” A year later he was starring on “Saturday Night Live.”

5. Buckminster Fuller’s first successful geodesic dome, built at Black Mountain College in 1949.


New in the collection: cotton gin ‘fire tag’

Cotton gin tag


After cotton was picked and baled, it was stored at the local gin and tagged with an identifying number linking it to the farmer who owned it. Cotton is highly flammable, so the metal tags were especially important in the event of fire. These “fire tags” had mostly given way to other means of identification by the end of the 20th century.

A busy day at Cochran’s Gin in the late 1940s. 


So you think you know North Carolina…. No. 49

1. In 1948 citizens of Newport News petitioned Virginia’s governor to close its southern border — why?

2. In 1988 officials at Raleigh-Durham International Airport teasingly distributed pinback buttons asking, “Parlez-vous Francais, Charlotte?” — why?

3. After this educator’s death at the age of 39, Frederick Douglass lamented that “the race has lost its ablest advocate.” To whom was he referring?

4. Duke Ellington composed what 1930s classic at a party in Durham’s North Carolina Mutual Building?

5. The last Confederate veteran in Congress served until 1910, 1920 or 1930?

Answers below





1. North Carolina was suffering the nation’s worst epidemic of infantile paralysis — better known today as polio. In 1959 the state became the first to require children to be inoculated with the new Salk vaccine.

2. RDU had just added an American Airlines flight to Paris — a direct connection then lacking at Charlotte/Douglas International. (American dropped the Paris flight in 1994 and shut its RDU hub a year later.)

3. Joseph C. Price, founder of Livingstone College.

4. “In a Sentimental Mood.” As Ellington recalled: “We had played a big dance in a tobacco warehouse, and afterwards a friend of mine, an executive in the North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company [treasurer Edward Merrick], threw a party for us….

“I was playing piano when another one of our friends had some trouble with two chicks. To pacify them, I composed this there and then, with one chick standing on each side of the piano.”

5. 1930. Former Confederate major Charles Manly Stedman, elected to the House 10 times by his Greensboro district, died at age 89.


‘…annoyances to which a President of the US is subjected’

“Among others who called this morning was rather an elderly woman who said she lived in Alexandria. She wanted money to pay her rents and for other purposes. She brought no letters. I did not learn her name. She said she had lived in Alexandria many years. She had a genteel appearance.

“I endeavored to waive her application by treating her civilly and telling her she should apply to her neighbors and friends, who knew her. She became more and more importunate and I was forced at last to give her a positive denial. This did not satisfy her, and she named a sum which would satisfy her. I declined to give it to her and was compelled at last to tell her plainly that I did not know her or that she was worthy. I informed her that I contributed to objects of real charity as far as my means permitted, and asked her again why she had not applied to her neighbors in Alexandria, to which she replied that she did not wish to expose her necessities.

“I note this case to show some of the annoyances to which a President of the US is subjected.”

— From the diary of James K. Polk, Jan. 19, 1849

h/t Winston Blair


New in the collection: sweet pickles label from Faison

Label for Swathmoor Farm Brand Sweet Pickles

“Through various civic activities, [Charles F.] Cates had made the friendship of John Sprunt Hill, an attorney in Durham…. Desiring to do something for his native community of Faison [in Duplin County], Hill persuaded Cates to move his pickle operation there [from Swepsonville in Alamance County], and local farmers were soon persuaded to begin growing the variety of cucumber best for pickling….”

From Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, Cates entry by Charles M. Ingram

John Sprunt Hill, catalyst for the North Carolina pickle industry!

In 1989 Dean Foods Co. bought Cates & Sons, but the Charles F. and Howard Cates Farm, also known as Swathmoor Farm, remains — a historic farm complex and national historic district in Alamance County.