July 1963: The North Carolina Fund

This Month in North Carolina History

lbjOn July 18, 1963, the state of North Carolina began an “all-out assault on poverty” with the incorporation of the North Carolina Fund. The North Carolina Fund was an innovative program designed, administered, and operated by local communities. It was the first project of its kind in the country.

In the early 1960s, many North Carolinians were in trouble. Historians James L. Leloudis and Robert Korstad describe the economic conditions in the state when Governor Terry Sanford took office in 1961:

North Carolina’s factory workers earned some of the lowest industrial wages in the nation; thirty-seven percent of the state’s residents had incomes below the federal poverty line; half of all students dropped out of school before obtaining a high school diploma; and one-fourth of adults twenty-five years of age and older had less than a sixth-grade education and were, for all practical purposes, illiterate.

By 1960 the state’s rate of growth had been falling for decades, in part because of heavy emigration due to the declining number of agricultural jobs. Governor Sanford promised to experiment with new programs and ideas in order to enable North Carolinians to compete in a rapidly changing society.

The North Carolina Fund was established as an independent, non-profit corporation. Incorporated on July 18, 1963, by Governor Sanford, Charles H. Babcock, C.A. McKnight and John H. Wheeler, the Fund was financed by a seven million dollar grant from the Ford Foundation and by additional funding from Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation.

Having secured funding and organized a Board of Directors and Executive Committee composed of many of the state’s most prominent citizens, the agency established program offices in eleven urban and rural counties across the state. This decentralized structure was designed to permit each office to coordinate locally administered public and social services and to assist the poor by developing an approach unique to each community’s needs.

In 1964, Lyndon Johnson successfully pushed the U.S. Congress to pass the 1964 Economic Opportunity Act — a piece of legislation shaped both by Governor Sanford and Executive Director George Esser and the experience of the nascent North Carolina Fund — and the direction of the state’s antipoverty initiative took a new turn. On May 7, 1964, President Johnson, accompanied by Governor Sanford, visited the home of tenant farmer William D. Marlow near Rocky Mount, to promote the President’s “War on Poverty.”

This new national program, the cornerstone of which was the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO), would administer millions of dollars in federal funding for the creation of local anti-poverty projects across the country and offered the possibility for expanding existing anti-poverty efforts. As the OEO called for the creation of community action programs developed with the help of the people the programs would serve, the North Carolina Fund instructed its own local programs to submit proposals to the federal agency with an increased emphasis in grassroots community development. Within a year of the Fund’s incorporation a number of these applications were approved and many local offices soon became not only federally-funded Community Action Agencies but partners in the national War on Poverty.

The North Carolina Fund developed a variety of programs across the state, including: the North Carolina Volunteers, a service corps initiative that trained college students to work in rural communities; a program to train community action technicians (CAT) to work in North Carolina and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA); a summer internship and curriculum development program; academic research on poverty and economic development in North Carolina; daycare, home, and lifestyle management programs such as sewing and cooking classes, tutoring for school children, and adult literacy programs; community action and civic engagement programs; manpower and economic development initiatives such as Head Start and Neighborhood Youth Corps programs; and low-income housing development.

Over the next five years the Fund’s staff and volunteers touched the lives of countless North Carolinians and its programs and services affected communities across the state. However, many lawmakers began to question the uses of Fund resources and services, especially when some North Carolina Fund programs became involved with local black freedom movements. By 1968, according to historians Leloudis and Korstad,

“[T]he Fund’s future was in peril. “The agency “had expended its initial foundation grants, which had been awarded for a five-year period, and the national War on Poverty was under siege. When the Fund’s philanthropic backers offered to extend their support, its leaders declined. In part, they held to a vision of the Fund as a temporary and experimental agency. The founders had no desire to see their work routinized; to allow such a development, they insisted, would be to sacrifice innovation to the very forms of inertia that had for so long crippled the nation’s response to its most needy citizens.”

At the end of 1968 the North Carolina Fund disbanded, spinning off many of its successful state-wide programs into independent non-profit organizations.


Suggestions for further reading:
James L. Leloudis and Robert R. Korstad, “Citizen Soldiers; The North Carolina Volunteers and the South’s War on Poverty,” in Elna C. Green, ed., The New Deal and Beyond: Social Welfare in the South since 1930 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2003), pp. 138-162.

LeMay, Erika N. “Battlefield in the Backyard: A Local Study of the War on Poverty.” M.A. Thesis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1997

Alt, Patricia Maloney. “The Evolution of Community Action: Training Goals and Strategies of the North Carolina Fund.” M.A. Thesis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1971.

Archival Resources:
North Carolina Fund Clippings: People, General Articles, and History of the Fund, 1963-1969. North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

North Carolina Fund Records (#4710). Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Billy Ebert Barnes Collection (# 34), containing a number of photographs of North Carolina Fund people and activities. North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) (Series O. Foundation History). Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

George H. Esser Papers (#4887). Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Jesse Helms on TV

Jesse Helms’s forthcoming memoir, Here’s Where I Stand, is scheduled to be published this fall by Random House. The News & Observer’s Rob Christensen had a preview in Friday’s paper. Christensen included several quotes from Helms’s television editorials. Longtime North Carolinians will remember that Helms first came to the public’s attention when he delivered the nightly editorial, entitled “Viewpoint,” on WRAL-TV in Raleigh. His editorials were often picked up and re-run througout the state on the Tobacco Radio Network. Helms appeared regularly on the station from 1960 until 1972, when he left to run for the Senate.

The North Carolina Collection has a full set of transcripts of the “Viewpoint” editorials. These are continually one of our most popular resources, with students and faculty using them to trace the development of Helms’s political philosophies, and to study his growing influence in North Carolina and national politics. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any way to view the editorials as they were originally televised. We asked WRAL several years ago and they said that they never kept copies of the editorials. In the days when broadcasts were filmed, it was simply too expensive to keep archival copies of everything, and they were recorded over.

June 1756: Birth of William Richardson Davie

This Month in North Carolina History

Davie

William Richardson Davie, the “Father of the University of North Carolina,” was born on June 22, 1756, in the Parish of Egremont, County Cumberland, England.

His parents, Archibald and Mary Richardson Davie, were Scottish but had moved to the northwest of England prior to his birth. The future soldier and statesman immigrated with his parents and siblings to the Waxhaws region of South Carolina around the time he was eight years old.

The exact reasons for the Davie family leaving England are open to speculation. Some conjecture has centered on Davie’s uncle and namesake, William Richardson. Coming to America in the early 1750s, Richardson was ordained by the Presbyterian Church in 1758. After a brief mission trip among the Cherokee Indians, he accepted a call to serve the Waxhaw Presbyterian Church in Craven County, South Carolina.

Richardson wisely invested and nurtured an inheritance and his income as minister, so by the early 1760s he was a well-established member of the Waxhaws area. This material prosperity, however, did not diminish Richardson’s disappointment that he and his wife remained childless. In an attempt to fill the void, Richardson convinced his sister, Mary, and her family to move to the backcountry of South Carolina in 1764.

Davie enjoyed a comfortable childhood and the beginnings of a classical education while growing up near his uncle. He attended Queen’s College, later Queen’s Museum, in Charlotte before enrolling in the College of New Jersey (now known as Princeton University). Graduating in 1776, Davie moved to Salisbury, North Carolina, to study law in the office of Spruce Macay. The mounting conflict of the Revolutionary War forced Davie to suspend his studies and immediately involve himself as a Whig partisan fighter in the North Carolina Piedmont. Eventually, he would climb to the rank of commissary general, serving Nathaniel Greene’s Southern Army during the last years of hostilities.

As did many Revolutionary War leaders, Davie translated military success and prowess on the battlefield into achievement in the world of politics. After the conflict, he moved to Halifax, North Carolina, to practice law and was elected as a representative to the General Assembly. In 1787 he was selected by the legislature as one of North Carolina’s delegates to the Federal Convention in Philadelphia, which drafted the United States Constitution. Although Davie did not stay to sign the final document, he successfully fought for North Carolina’s eventual ratification.

It was in the General Assembly, however, that Davie would earn the title by which he is still known today. He proved to be the major force in satisfying the requirements of Section 41 of North Carolina’s constitution, which stated, “all usefull [sic] learning shall be duly encouraged and promoted in one or more universities.”

In 1789 Davie introduced a bill to establish the University of North Carolina and led the charge to secure its passage. Furthermore, his involvement with the University did not end with its creation: he served on the Board of Trustees, presided at the cornerstone laying ceremony of the first building, helped to formulate its first curriculum, consulted on selecting faculty members, procured additional financial support, donated books and other artifacts, and took part in the many other activities needed to launch the University. Even after moving back to South Carolina in late 1804, Davie continued to correspond with and give advice to the University’s trustees.

Although Davie would go on to serve as North Carolina’s governor from 1798 to 1799 and as a minister plenipotentiary to France from 1799 to 1800, his main contribution to his adopted country and state remains as “Father” of the nation’s first public university.


Suggestions for Further Reading
Blackwell P. Robinson. William R. Davie. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1957.

R. D. W. Connor, Hugh T. Lefler, and Louis R. Wilson, Eds. A Documentary History of the University of North Carolina, 1776-1799 (2 vols.). Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1953.

William D. Snider. Light on the Hill: A History of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992.

Kemp Plummer Battle. History of the University of North Carolina. Raleigh: Edwards & Broughton, 1912. Available online at Documenting the American South.

May 1925: Carolina Coal Company Mine Explosion

This Month in North Carolina History

Coalglen1
News & Observer. [Raleigh, N.C.] 29 May 1925.
At 9:40 in the morning on May 27, 1925, a massive explosion shook the town of Coal Glen, N.C. “All at once, we heard this big noise, like booooom, and black smoke just boiled and rolled up in the sky,” recalled Margaret Wicker, who was a young girl at the time. The blast came from the Deep River Coal Field, where local miners were working nearly a thousand feet underground. The explosion, probably touched off by either coal dust or natural gas, was devastating: fifty-three miners were killed.

Ben Dixon McNeill covered the catastrophe for Raleigh’s News & Observer as a correspondent and photographer. His first-person accounts appeared on the newspaper’s front page for five straight days and included a retelling of his descent into the mine on May 31st. Seven photographs accompanied his articles on May 28th and 29th; the two images displayed here appeared in the latter issue with a caption that stated the photographs “need no explanation.”

The tragedy helped to speed passage of the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act, passed in 1929. North Carolina was the forty-fourth state to pass such legislation.

Coalglen2
News & Observer. [Raleigh, N.C.] 29 May 1925.

Historical Background

The presence of Deep River coal was first noted in print in 1820 in a letter to the American Journal of Science by Professor Denison Olmsted, chair of chemistry, mineralogy, and geology at the University of North Carolina. Olmsted, and later H. M. Chance in an 1885 report, noted that earlier uses of coal to meet local needs most likely dated to before 1775. The Deep River Coal Field is the only noteworthy source of coal in the state. There are some “sporadic deposits,” as Chance described them, in the Dan River region from the Virginia border southwest to Germanton on the border between Stokes and Forsyth Counties.

Attempts to develop commercial mining efforts in the Deep River Coal Field began during the early 1850s, and had a rocky history. The Western Railroad, chartered in 1852, was the first railroad to reach into the region. Completed in 1863, its purpose was to connect the coalmines centered at the village of Egypt (renamed Cumnock in 1895) to the riverside port of Fayetteville on the Cape Fear to the southeast. Coal was mined at three towns within a four-and-a-half mile band, all within close proximity of the Deep River: Egypt, Gulf (upstream to the west of Egypt) and Farmville (downstream and directly to the east of Egypt).

The mine at Egypt closed down in 1870 and remained flooded until 1888. Three years earlier, in 1885, H. M. Chance submitted his “Report on an Exploration of the Coalfields of North Carolina,” which identified two coal beds between Egypt and Farmville that might be worthy of thorough exploration, but doubted the likelihood of large scale production. Furthermore he did not believe further expenditures would be justified outside of the limited area. When Chance described Deep River Coal Field, he listed eight “Obstacles to Successful Mining,” he wrote:

In the Richmond coalfield great trouble has been caused by what is called spontaneous combustion. Judging from the similarity of the coals it seems possible that this same difficulty may obtain here. While this is a mere supposition, it is one that cannot safely be ignored.

The Egypt mine reopened in 1888 and ran continuously through 1902 after sizeable gas explosions in 1895 and 1900, and financial difficulties once again forced closure. In 1915, Norfolk Southern Railroad obtained the property and ran the mine under the name of Cumnock Coal Company, the word Egypt having become synonymous with explosions and failures. The company supplied coal primarily for railroad purposes and was a small operation. In September 1922 the Erskine Ramsey Coal Company purchased the company with plans to significantly enlarge the enterprise and its output. Around 1921, the Carolina Coal Company developed a mine on the site of the old Farmville village on the Chatham County side of the Deep River, less than two miles east of the Cumnock Mine.

There is some confusion over the name of the event. The News and Observer called the event the “Cumnock Mine Disaster” in its initial coverage and a negative envelope in the Ben Dixon McNeill Collection carries the same title. The Cumnock Mine, however, was not the mine where the accident occurred. Farmville was later renamed Coalglen, or alternately Coal Glen at a date not readily available. The disaster has since been referred to in association of one of these three nearby locations. The dateline in the New York Times is from Coal Glen.


Printed Sources:

“Red Sand Stone Formation of North Carolina: Extract of a letter from Professor D. Olmstead, of the College at Chapel-Hill, North-Carolina, dated Feb 26, 1820.” American Journal of Science, 2:1 (April 1820), 175-176.

Wilkes, Charles. Report on the Examination of the Deep River District, North Carolina. Caption title: Report of the Secretary of the Navy, communicating the report of officers appointed by him to make the examination of the iron, coal and timber of the Deep River country, in the state of North Carolina, required by a resolution of the Senate. [Washington, 1859.]

Report on an Exploration of the Coal Fields of North Carolina: made for the State Board of Agriculture. Raleigh, N. C.: P. M. Hale, state printer and binder, 1885.

Campbell, Marius R. and Kent W. Kimball. The Deep River Coal Field of North Carolina. Prepared by United States Geological Survey, in cooperation with the North Carolina Geological and Economic Survey, 1923.

Coal Deposits in the Deep River Field, Chatham, Lee, and Moore Counties, N.C.: Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1952.

Reinemund, John A. Geology of the Deep River Coal Field, North Carolina. Washington, D. C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1955.

 

World Wide Web Sources:

Margaret Wicker: The Coal Glen Mine Disaster

The Coal Glen Mining Disaster

 

Image Source:

News & Observer. [Raleigh, N.C.] 29 May 1925.

Photographs cropped as they appeared in the newspaper. Originals in the Ben Dixon McNeill Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library, North Carolina Collection, Photographic Archives.

April 1947: Journey of Reconciliation

This Month in North Carolina History

In 1946, the United States Supreme Court declared that the racial segregation of passengers on interstate buses was an “undue burden on interstate commerce” and could no longer be enforced. Encouraged by the decision, but dubious as to whether it would be followed, the Congress of Racial Equality sponsored a two week “Journey of Reconciliation” through the upper South to test the effectiveness of the Court’s decision.

In April 1947, sixteen people — eight African Americans and eight whites — set off on a tour of cities in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky. They traveled by bus with the express purpose of challenging existing Jim Crow laws.

The freedom riders entered North Carolina on April 11 and made stops in Durham, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Greensboro, and Winston-Salem. Bus drivers and police officers challenged the passengers at nearly every stop, resulting in arrests in Asheville and Chapel Hill.

One of the riders arrested in Chapel Hill was Bayard Rustin, who was on his way to becoming a prominent Civil Rights leader and is now perhaps best known as the organizer of the 1963 march on Washington where an estimated quarter of a million people gathered to hear Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Rustin was sitting in the front seat of a Trailways bus in Chapel Hill on April 13, and was ordered to move to the back. When he refused, he and the white man sitting next to him were arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and for refusing to obey the order of the bus driver. Two more riders were arrested and all four were released on bond and taken to the home of Charles Jones, a local Presbyterian minister who agreed to host the travelers for the night. Before they could leave, a taxi driver assaulted one of the freedom riders, striking James Peck, a white man, in the head. Two cars filled with angry men followed the group back to Rev. Jones’s house where they made several threats before leaving. Wary of more violence if they stayed in Chapel Hill, Rustin and the others left for Greensboro that night.

Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1946 decision overturning segregation on interstate carriers, the arrests of the freedom riders were upheld by the North Carolina Supreme Court. The North Carolina Court argued that because the passengers were not travelling outside of the state that day, they were not interstate travellers and thus the Supreme Court decision did not apply to them. Bayard Rustin spent twenty-two days on a prison chain gang in Roxboro.


Sources

George Houser and Bayard Rustin. We Challenged Jim Crow!: A Report on the Journey of Reconciliation, April 9-23, 1947. Congress of Racial Equality, [1947].

“4 Men Testing Law Against Segregation Placed Under Arrest.” The Chapel Hill Weekly, 18 April 1957.

“Race Incidents Arise After Bus Seating Arrests.” Daily Tar Heel, 14 April 1947.

Jim Peck, “The First Freedom Ride, 1947.” Southern Exposure, vol. 9 no. 1 (Spring 1981), pp. 36-37.

“State v. Andrew S. Johnson, Bayard Rustin, Igal Roodenko and Joseph A. Felmont.” North Carolina Reports 229, pp. 701-707. North Carolina Collection call number C345.4 N87 v.229

March 1863: The Salisbury Bread Riot

This Month in North Carolina History

Account of Salisbury bread riot from Carolina WatchmanOn the 18th of March, 1863, the streets of Salisbury, North Carolina, were invaded by a group of about 50 determined local women, identified only as wives and mothers of Confederate soldiers. The women believed that local merchants had been profiteering by raising the prices of necessary foods and demanded that the merchants sell these goods at government prices. When the merchants refused the women broke down one shop door with hatchets and threatened other storekeepers. What a local newspaper described as the “Female Raid” netted the women twenty three barrels of flour as well as quantities of molasses, salt, and even twenty dollars in cash.

The Salisbury “Bread Riot,” and the more widely known food riot in Richmond, Virginia, also in 1863, are dramatic evidence of the stresses on local life brought on by the Civil War. Volunteers for the Confederate army from Salisbury and surrounding Rowan County at the beginning of the war were by and large young, unmarried men. In 1862 demand for fresh troops brought about the increasing enlistment of older men with wives and families. In a county such as Rowan, with a large number of small farms, the absence of a husband and father was a serious economic loss. The failure of the county’s attempt to provide for soldiers’ families also contributed to the hardship. The fact that the women involved in the incident were never prosecuted is evidence of the understanding and sympathy of their neighbors. The Carolina Watchman, which reported the incident, extended its most scathing criticism not to the women, but to the county commissioners who failed to provide adequate aid for soldiers’ families and who should “go, all blushing with shame for the scene enacted in our streets on Wednesday last.”Image of Confederate Monument in Salisbury


Sources
Graham, Christopher A. “Women’s Revolt in Rowan County,” Columbiad: a quarterly review of the War Between the States, vol. 3:1 (Spring 1999); pp. 131-147.

Brawley, James S. Rowan County: a brief history. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1974.

January 1958: The Lumbee Face the Klan

This Month in North Carolina History

On the night of January 13, 1958, crosses were burned on the front lawns of two Lumbee Indian families in Robeson County, N.C. Nobody had to ask who was responsible. The Ku Klux Klan had risen again in North Carolina, its ranks swelling after the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education calling for the desegregation of public schools. While the Court instructed schools to proceed with “all deliberate speed,” the Klan fought — often in the form of anonymous nighttime attacks — to slow the process of integration.

Robeson County in the 1950s had a uniquely tri-racial population. There were about 40,000 whites, 30,000 Native Americans, and 25,000 African Americans, each group with its own separate school system. Although the Klan had typically targeted African Americans, in early 1958 a group led by James W. “Catfish” Cole of South Carolina began harassing the Lumbees. One of the crosses burned on the night of January 13 was on the lawn of a Lumbee family that had recently moved into a predominantly white neighborhood, while the other was intended to intimidate a Lumbee woman who was said to have been dating a white man. Not content to leave it at this, the Klan planned a rally in Robeson County to be held just a few days later.

The rally was scheduled for the night of January 18, 1958, in a field near Maxton, N.C. The stated purpose of the gathering was, in the words of Catfish Cole, “to put the Indians in their place, to end race mixing.” The time and location of the rally was not kept secret, and word spread quickly among the local Lumbee population.

Reports vary about the number of people gathered on that cold night, but there were thought to have been around a hundred Klan members. They brought a large banner emblazoned with “KKK” and a portable generator, which powered a public address system and a single bare light bulb. When the meeting began, the arc of the dim light didn’t spread far enough for the Klansmen to see that they were surrounded by as many as a thousand Lumbees. Several young tribe members, some of whom were armed, closed on the Klan meeting and tried to take down the light bulb. The groups fought, and a shotgun blast shattered the light. In the sudden darkness, the Lumbees descended upon the field, yelling and firing guns into the air, scattering the overmatched Klansmen. Some left under police protection while others, including Catfish Cole, simply took to the woods.

News photographers already on the scene captured the celebration. Images of triumphant Lumbees holding up the abandoned KKK banner were published in newspapers and magazines throughout the world. Simeon Oxendine, a popular World War II veteran, appeared in Life Magazine, smiling and wrapped in the banner. The rout of the Klan galvanized the Lumbee community. The Ku Klux Klan was active in North Carolina into the 1960s, but they never held another public meeting in Robeson County.


Sources:
Gerald M. Sider, Lumbee Indian Histories: Race, Ethnicity, and Indian Identity in the Southern United States. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Adolph L. Dial, The Lumbee. New York: Chelsea House, 1993.

December: Old Christmas

This Month in North Carolina History

The Outer Banks town of Rodanthe oldxmashas long maintained a custom once observed in many parts of North Carolina: the celebration of “Old Christmas.” After observing modern Christmas on December 25th, people in Rodanthe and a few other places on the Outer Banks enjoy another Christmas Day on January the 5th.

Historians agree that Old Christmas arose from a change in calendars. In 1752 the government of Great Britain adopted the Gregorian calendar to replace the less accurate Julian calendar. To make the change, eleven days were dropped from the month of September 1752 in Britain and all of her colonies. This made Christmas day fall on December the 25th, but many North Carolinians continued to celebrate Christmas on the old date in January.

Ultimately, only on the Outer Banks was the day preserved. One feature of Old Christmas in Rodanthe is the appearance of “Old Buck,” a four-footed creature looking something like a bull which is said to roam the forest during the year. At Christmas he appears to dance and frolic among the celebrating children and adults. Music, bonfires, and oyster roasts also mark this unusual North Carolina event.


Sources
Kane, Harnett T. The Southern Christmas Book: The Full Story from Earliest Times to Present: People, Customs, Conviviality, Carols, Cooking. New York : D. McKay Co., 1958.

Image Source:
“Dare County: Rodanthe: Old Christmas, circa 1920s-1930s,” P0078_0181, Ben Dixon MacNeil Photographic Collection (P0078), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

November 1920: Exum Clement

This Month in North Carolina History

Article about Lillian Exum Clement

On November 2, 1920, Lillian Exum Clement of Buncombe County was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives, becoming the first woman in the history of the state to be elected to the legislature. Although only twenty-six years old at the time, it was not the first of Clement’s firsts.

Clement was born near Black Mountain, and raised there and in Biltmore. She attended local schools and the Asheville Business College. After her formal schooling was done, but still eager for education and experience, she began work in the Buncombe County sheriff’s office while studying law in her spare time. Clement was admitted to the bar and began practicing law in 1917, the first woman in the state to open her own practice. One of the local judges gave her the nickname “Brother Exum,” which stuck with her for the rest of her career.

Clement quickly gained a reputation as a competent criminal lawyer and after several years of a successful practice, she decided to run for office. This was a bold decision, considering that at the time of the Democratic primary, the 19th Amendment had yet to be ratified and women would not vote in the election. Running against two men in the primary, Clement won by just 83 votes over her closest competitor. With the Democratic party firmly in control of the state, the general election was a mere formality, and Clement was swept into office by a commanding margin.

Once she reached Raleigh for the 1921 legislative session, Clement was not content with just being there. She was an active participant in the House, introducing at least seventeen bills, many of which were passed. Although one of her first bills — proposing private voting booths for elections — was defeated (some argued that other legislators opposed the bill because it would be impossible to bribe or intimidate voters if you couldn’t see them cast their ballots), Clement was successful in passing bills requiring testing of dairy herds and sanitary dairy barns and decreasing the number of years of abandonment required for a decree of divorce.

After her marriage in 1921, Clement decided not to run for office a second time. She was active in local civic groups and was a director of the state hospital in Morganton. Clement died of pneumonia in 1925.


Sources
Alice R. Cotten, “Stafford, Lilliam Exum Clement.” In Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, vol. 5. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994.

“Woman Legislator Travels Long Way To Capitol.” Asheville Citizen-Times (Asheville, N.C.), May 8, 1960. In North Carolina Collection Clipping File through 1975: biography, vol. 28, pp. 753-755.

Image Source:
News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), January 6, 1921.

October 1954: Hurricane Hazel

This Month in North Carolina HistoryPhoto by Roland Giduz of tree fallen on car in Chapel Hill

Fifty years ago this month, North Carolina was hit by Hurricane Hazel, at the time the greatest natural disaster in the state’s history. On the morning of October 15, 1954, Hazel slammed into the coast near the border between North Carolina and South Carolina, a strong category four storm packing winds of 155 miles per hour. Beachfront property along the southeastern coast was decimated, leaving entire sections where not a single structure was left standing. The storm moved due north, continuing to inflict damage. In Wilson, there were gusts of up to one hundred miles per hour and even in Chapel Hill, more than 150 miles from the coast, the storm remained strong, bringing sixty-eight mile per hour winds, uprooting trees, destroying homes, and dumping about four and a half inches of rain on the town.

The damage done by Hazel was catastrophic. Nineteen North Carolinians were killed, fifteen thousand buildings were destroyed, and thirty-nine thousand more were damaged. Thirty North Carolina counties were affected by the storm. Although some recent hurricanes have rivaled Hazel in the amount of damage measured in financial terms, none have topped its strength. In the fifty years since Hazel, no other storm at a strength of category four or higher has reached North Carolina.

Map showing path of Hurricane Hazel


Suggestions for Further Reading
Jay Barnes, North Carolina’s Hurricane History. Third edition. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001.

“Hurricane Hazel Was Biggest Catastrophe Ever to Hit N.C.” Durham Morning Herald (Durham, N.C.), October 24, 1954.

“Town Pulls Through Hurricane, But Damage is Heavy.” Chapel Hill News Leader (Chapel Hill, N.C.), October 18, 1954.

Image Source:
Chapel Hill in the aftermath of Hurricane Hazel. Photograph by Roland Giduz, 1954. Roland Giduz Collection, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.