Space Shuttle vet and UNC-CH alum dies

Challenger postcard with cancellations stamps noting the cards trip in space.
From North Carolina Collection Gallery. Gift of William and Virginia Powell.

UNC-CH alumnus and former NASA astronaut William “Bill” Thornton, who used his own inventions to measure and combat the ill-effects of microgravity while on board two Space Shuttle missions, has died at the age of 91. 

Born in Faison, N.C., Thornton received two degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill–a B.S.from in physics in 1951 and an MD in 1963–before enlisting in the U.S. Air Force.  He was selected by NASA to be part of its second group of scientist-astronauts known as the XS-11 class in 1967. NASA told the group that they would likely wait for some time before heading into space. 

Portrait of William Thornton from 1951 UNC-Chapel Hill yearbook
Portrait of William Thornton from 1951 UNC Yackety Yack.

Sixteen years passed before Thornton launched on the first of his two Space Shuttle flights as a mission specialist aboard the Challenger on August 30, 1983.  Thornton was added to the crew primarily to observe their susceptibility to space adaptation sickness (SAS), a condition that affects the vestibular system as the human body adapts to microgravity.  Thornton’s work on the 1983 flight led him to invent a treadmill for use aboard the Space Shuttle.  The 1983, six-day STS-8 mission also deployed a weather and communication satellite and carried more than 260,000 stamped envelopes.   

On April 29, 1985, Thornton again launched aboard the Challenger for his second space flight.  The seven-member crew worked in two teams around the clock on more than a dozen experiments in the Spacelab module.  They conducted experiments using the first laboratory animals in space and exercised on the space shuttle treadmill invented by Thornton.     

Thornton served 27 years with the space agency before retiring in 1994. During the course of his two expeditions, he logged 13 days, one hour and sixteen minutes in space.  For his service to the nation’s space program, Thornton received the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal, and two NASA Space Flight Medals. 

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

Swamped with campaign mailings? We’ll take ’em

Lest you need reminding, Election Day is 26 days away. Candidates and their supporters are knocking on your door, calling you at supper time, and filling your mailbox with campaign literature. We have no way to protect your doors or keep your phone from ringing. But we’re glad to help with the mailbox clutter. As with past elections, we’re collecting campaign literature. Instead of dumping those mailings in the recycle bin (we hope you’re recycling!), send them to us.

Campaign ephemera from 1970s
1970s-era campaign ephemera from our collection.

Our collection of campaign ephemera includes more than 5000 items and dates back to the 1800s. We want to ensure that researchers in 2068 or, heck, 2118 are able to learn a little about today’s campaigns. We’re keen to document campaigns throughout North Carolina for General Assembly, U.S. House, and constitutional amendments. That’s hard to do from our spot here in the Triangle. Please help us. Hold on to those mailers, flyers and voter guides. Then when you can stomach the clutter no longer, send the material our way. The address is:

John Blythe
Assistant Curator
P.O. Box 8890
Wilson Library, CB#3930
Chapel Hill, NC 27515-8890

One final note. We like knowing about the yard signs, particularly ones that strike you as unique. Unfortunately, they take up significant space and it’s hard for us to store them. Before you send us the actual sign, would you mind taking a photo of it and emailing the file to us as an attachment? The address is blythej@email.unc.edu Please remember to tell us where and when you spotted it.

A Belated Happy 100th to JFK

We’re a day late in marking the 100th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s birth. But, on the principle of better late than never (that’s always been my view on gift giving and receipt), North Carolina Miscellany and its sister blog A View to Hugh share with you images of the 35th President.

Many of the North Carolina Collection’s images of Kennedy are found in the Hugh Morton Collection. Morton, less than four years younger than JFK, photographed Kennedy on several occasions. The photo above features Kennedy, at the time a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, addressing the North Carolina Caucus at the 1956 Democratic National Convention.

In 1961, as President, Kennedy visited Chapel Hill and spoke at UNC’s University Day celebration in Kenan Stadium. Morton was among the photographers who snapped photographs that day.

The North Carolina Collection’s photographic archivist, Stephen Fletcher, has shared the stories behind some of Morton’s photographs of Kennedy on A View to Hugh.

The North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives includes the works of other photographers who captured Kennedy on film. Burlington Times-News staff photographer Edward J. McCauley covered a Kennedy campaign appearance in Greensboro in 1960. The future president appeared with Terry Sanford (to his left and campaigning for Governor), Governor Luther H. Hodges and Senator Sam J. Ervin.

Photographs of Kennedy and his 1960 Presidential campaign opponent Richard Nixon helped the Charlotte Observer‘s Don Sturkey win recognition as National Newspaper Photographer of the Year in 1961. In the photo below Kennedy is joined by U.S. Congressman Herbert C. Bonner and Sanford on a campaign stop at East Carolina University in Greenville.

Copyright is held by Don Sturkey. All use requires permission of Don Sturkey.

Word has it that our collections may include images of Kennedy captured by different photographers at the same event. One photographer may have even included another photographer in his shot. That’s for you to verify. Happy hunting!

Campaign clutter? We want it

Flyer for Dr. Ralph Mcdonald
Ralph McDonald ran against Clyde Hoey in the Democratic primaries in 1936.

Election day is a mere 27 days away, so the robocalls should be interrupting your evening meals and the postcards and fliers will be filling your mailboxes. We, in the North Carolina Collection, can’t help make your evenings more peaceful. But we can relieve you of some of the clutter. As with elections past, we’re eager to collect campaign flyers, postcards and fundraising letters. Our collection of campaign ephemera now includes more than 5000 items and dates back to the 1800s. And we’re eager to keep it growing. We want to document campaigns across the state and at all levelsᾹlegislative, judicial, Council of State, Congressional and Presidential. That’s hard to do from our spot here in the Triangle. Please help us. Hold on to those mailers, flyers and voter guides. Then when you can stomach the clutter no more, send them our way. The address is:

John Blythe
Assistant Curator
P.O. Box 8890
Wilson Library, CB#3930
Chapel Hill, NC 27515-8890

One final note. We like knowing about the yard signs, particularly ones that strike you as unique. Unfortunately, they take up significant space and it’s hard for us to store them. Before you send us the actual sign, would you mind taking a photo of it and emailing the file to us as an attachment? The address is blythej@email.unc.edu Please remember to tell us where and when you spotted it.

Thanks for helping us document North Carolina politics.

N.C. Digital Heritage Center Celebrates a Milestone

2000parntersimages_539.png

If your web browsing has included perusal of yearbooks or newspapers from North Carolina colleges and universities, then you likely have seen the work of the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center. Its mission includes scanning and publishing online materials from cultural heritage institutions throughout North Carolina. The center and its hardworking staff are headquartered in Wilson Library, here in Chapel Hill. And this month the Digital Heritage Center is celebrating a milestone. It just added its 200th partner institution. And those partners extend across 119 communities in 73 counties.

A big congratulations to the Digital Heritage Center. Its interim director, Lisa Gregory, is rightfully proud of the work that the center has accomplished since opening its doors in 2009.

Thanks for the cards, Mr. Barbour

Among the jewels of the North Carolina Collection are more than 15,000 postcards. And we have one man to thank for about 8,000 of those items—Durwood Barbour. For 25 years, Barbour combed through boxes at coin and postcard shows looking for images that told stories of bygone people, places and doings in his native state. His collection, housed mostly in shoeboxes, grew so large and valuable that he worried about keeping it at his home in Raleigh. In 2006, he generously donated it to the North Carolina Collection. We learned on Sunday that Barbour died on March 2. He was 87.

Barbour was born in the Barbourtown section of Johnston County, an area near Four Oaks. His parents were farmers and he grew up helping in the fields. In 1948 Barbour enrolled at UNC-Chapel Hill. He was the first in his immediate family to attend college and he told an interviewer in 2010 that he earned the money for tuition by raising sweet potatoes. Barbour graduated from UNC-CH in 1952 with a degree in geology, and, shortly thereafter, he began work as an asphalt engineer for the state highway department, where he remained for many years. Barbour made his home in Raleigh with his wife and two sons. Later in life, Barbour sold real estate. He was an active member of two Raleigh Methodist churches, including Edenton Street United Methodist, where his memorial service is scheduled for Tuesday. Barbour was also a local historian, working with Todd Johnson, executive director of the Johnston County Heritage Center, to produce a book of images of his native county in 1997.

Barbour’s interest in postcards grew from his hobby of collecting coins and paper money. His wife, Mary Anne, recalled in 2010 that there were frequently a few boxes of postcards at numismatic shows. As her husband perused tables with coins and paper money, she looked at the postcards. Eventually Barbour, too, turned his interest to postcards. And we’re thankful he did.

As a tribute to Durwood Barbour, here are a few postcards of places or activities that represent significant parts of his life. All of Barbour’s postcards—and a few thousand more—are available via North Carolina Postcards.

Barbour's Grove in Four Oaks, NC
Though his relationship to K.F. Barbour is unclear, Durwood Barbour was born near Four Oaks in 1929.
Main Street of Four Oaks
The town of Four Oaks in the early 20th century.
New East at UNC Chapel Hill
New East at UNC-Chapel Hill served as the longtime home for the university’s geology department. Durwood Barbour graduated from UNC in 1952 with a degree in geology.
Postcard of early Mule Days parade
Benson’s Mule Days, which takes place the fourth weekend in September, has celebrated Johnston County’s agricultural heritage since 1950.

Road paving
Durwood Barbour began work for North Carolina’s highway department as an asphalt engineer shortly after earning his undergraduate degree.
Postcard of Edenton Street United Methodist Church
Durwood Barbour was an active member of Edenton Street United Methodist Church in Raleigh.

The Gold Leaf: “Clean news and some lengthy essays”

Masthead of Gold Leaf

From time to time, North Carolina Miscellany features short histories of North Carolina newspapers included on Chronicling America, a website produced by the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP). By August 2016, the North Carolina Collection and its partner, the North Carolina Office of Archives and History, will have provided 200,000 pages of historic N.C. newspapers for inclusion on Chronicling America. The Henderson Gold Leaf is among the available titles. This history was written by Ansley Wegner, Research Historian and Administrator of the North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program in Raleigh.

The Gold Leaf, a Democratic weekly newspaper in Henderson, North Carolina, was owned and edited by Thaddeus R. Manning (1856-1915) from 1882 until March of 1911. The paper was four pages with eight columns each. The Gold Leaf‘s masthead included the quote, “Carolina, Carolina, Heaven’s Blessings Attend Her.” Only scattered issues of the early years of the Gold Leaf have survived. The paper ran agricultural and household advice, editorials, local and social news, and many public notices and advertisements. Syndicated articles were reprinted from such newspapers as the Baltimore Sun and the Raleigh Post and Wilmington Messenger in North Carolina. Such articles contained state and national news, as well as farming and medical advice. The content of the Gold Leaf changed little throughout the 29 years of Manning’s tenure. Other papers published in Henderson at this time include the Henderson News and the Hustler.

By the 1900s, the share of local (vs. syndicated) material began to increase, and Manning occasionally wrote local historical pieces for the paper. Historian Samuel Thomas Peace described the Gold Leaf as carrying “clean news and some lengthy essays.” Its pages remained filled with a large amount of agricultural content, including advertisements for fertilizer and farm equipment.

On Thursday, March 30, 1911, the front page of the paper proclaimed, “Thad Manning has sold the Gold Leaf! Ah well! Time has a way of getting in its work, and he has held on for many years.” The article went on to say that Manning “loved his paper and sought to make it vital with his personality” and that “one could see the man in the very pages of the paper.” Upon hearing of Manning’s retirement, the editor of the Durham Daily Sun wrote, “[Manning] has elevated and brightened journalism. He has served his town, county, and State with superb devotion and zeal.”

The Gold Leaf was sold to a company called Gold Leaf Publishing. Within a few weeks, it no longer ran the catchy quote, and the name of the paper was changed to the Henderson Gold Leaf. The new editor and manager was Preston Taylor Way (1869-1920). Way had previously published and edited the Waxhaw Enterprise in Waxhaw and another newspaper in Jonesboro, North Carolina. The Gold Leaf remained largely the same under Way, although there was a stronger political edge to the editorial page.

The Henderson Gold Leaf became a semiweekly publication in 1913, and, during World War I, a daily edition was added. In 1914, the daily paper was renamed the Henderson Daily Dispatch, and the Henderson Gold Leaf returned to a weekly publication. A fire at the Henderson office in 1946 destroyed much of the newspapers’ archival material. The Henderson Daily Dispatch is still published today.

Did some Roanoke Colonists head to Bertie County?

The dig had turned up many Native American artifacts, which are common in the region — but also some European artifacts. At the time, Mr. Luccketti hypothesized that they had been left by later European settlers, from a nearby plantation or the homestead of a trader who arrived in the mid-1600s.

But the recent insights from the British Museum’s analysis of the map prompted the foundation to re-examine the 2007 findings from Merry Hill and other dig sites in the region. A key to identifying the earliest colonial life was a type of ceramic known as Surrey-Hampshire Border ware, which was no longer imported to the New World after the Virginia Company dissolved in the early 17th century….

Slowly, the pits gave up their secrets. In just the small areas excavated, the hillside has yielded an unusually high concentration of Border ware and other colonial artifacts, such as a food-storage jar called a baluster, a hook used to stretch hides, a buckle, and pieces of early gun flintlocks called priming pans. No signs of a fort or other structures have been found, but the aggregate of the artifacts convinced the archaeologists that at least a few of the colonists wound up there.

Mr. Luccketti insists on the caveat that only a small number — fewer than a dozen — were present for an indeterminate amount of time. ‘ It wasn’t the relocated colony — I keep emphasizing that — and we need to do some more work here to understand,’ he said.

–from “The Roanoke Colonists: Lost, and Found?” in New York Times, August 10, 2015. The First Colony Foundation will discuss its latest findings in the Pleasants Family Assembly Room of Wilson Library on the UNC campus at 10 am on August 11.

Durham’s “Secret Game” against segregation

Sunday, March 12, dawned blustery. McLendon had scheduled the game when most of Durham, including its police force, would be in church. He hadn’t told the school administration about the game; when a reporter for The Carolina Times, Durham’s black weekly, found out, he agreed not to write anything. No spectators would be allowed.

Just before 11 A.M., the Duke team piled into a couple of borrowed cars. ‘To keep from being followed, we took this winding route through town,’ Hubbell recalls. They pulled their jackets over their heads as they walked into the small brick gym.

Inside, stomachs had been churning all morning. ‘I had never played basketball against a white person before and I was a little shaky,’ Stanley says. ‘You did not know what might happen if there was a hard foul, or if a fight broke out. I kept looking over at Big Dog and Boogie to see what to do. They were both from up North.’

The game began with a sputter. Both teams botched routine plays, and shots caromed off the rims. One of the Duke players made a gorgeous pass—right into the hands of a North Carolina College player. ‘On that particular morning, you didn’t exactly need to play skins and shirts,’ Hubbell says with a laugh….

The Duke players had never seen anything like it. By the end of the game, the scoreboard told the story: Eagles 88, Visitors 44.

Then came the day’s second unlikely event. After a short break, the two teams mixed their squads and played another game, an even more egregious violation of Jim Crow. This time it was skins and shirts. ‘Just God’s children, horsing around with a basketball,’ says George Parks….

The Durham police never found out what happened. Nor did the city’s two daily newspapers, and the black reporter kept his word. No scorecard exists, and as far as official basketball recordkeeping is concerned, the game never took place.

From “The Secret Game” by Scott Ellsworth. The article appeared in the New York Times Magazine on March 31, 1996. A fuller account of the March 12, 1944 basketball game between students from North Carolina College for Negroes (now North Carolina Central University) and medical students from Duke University—an illegal game in the Jim Crow South—is now available as The Secret Game: A Wartime Story of Courage, Change, and Basketball’s Lost Triumph.