“In later years — probably to burnish his image as a hero and spokesman for his sport — [Ty Cobb] and his boosters went out of their way to note that his early encounters with the Negro race were either inconsequential or benign. A 1909 editorial in the Charlotte Observer said, ‘Cobb, born with the prominence that is universal among white persons in Georgia, sought no further prominence by buckshotting his compatriots. So far as is known, he never attended a lynching.’
“Faint praise indeed, but baseball was just as racist as the rest of society…..”
— From “Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty” by Charles Leerhsen (2015)
“….And offend [Doug Marlette] did. In 2002, when he drew a cartoon showing a man in Arab headdress driving a Ryder rental truck hauling a nuclear missile — under the caption ‘What Would Mohammed Drive? — he set off a campaign orchestrated by the Council on American-Islamic Relations; he and the newspaper received more than 20,000 e-mail messages from people who accused him of bigotry and blasphemy and some who included death threats.
“Writing about the incident in The Tallahassee Democrat, where Mr. Marlette was then on staff, he said: ‘In my 30-year career I have regularly drawn cartoons that offend religious fundamentalists and true believers of every stripe, a fact that I tend to list in the “accomplishments” column of my résumé. I have outraged fundamentalist Christians by skewering Jerry Falwell, Roman Catholics by needling the pope, and Jews by criticizing Israel. I have vast experience upsetting people with my art.”
— From “Doug Marlette, Cartoonist Who Won the Pulitzer Prize, Dies at 57” by Motoko Rich in the New York Times (July 11, 2007)
Marlette, a Greensboro native, last lived in Hillsborough. His 1988 Pulitzer recognized cartoons he had drawn about PTL at the Charlotte Observer.
On this day in 1908: Greensboro opens a week of centennial festivities, including a re-enactment of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, a parade of Confederate veterans and the dedication of the 20,000-seat Hippodrome Auditorium. (The corrugated iron building, purchased from the Jamestown Exposition of 1907, is billed as second only to Madison Square Garden in seating capacity.)
The Charlotte Observer reports favorably on “the generosity shown by the Greensboro white people to the negroes in their midst. At the fair the darky has been given a show and in the auditorium a section. This broad-minded way of dealing with the negro caused favorable comment by visitors.”
“…I clicked immediately, curious to see ‘the most famous book’ set in North Carolina. Would it be Thomas Wolfe’s ‘Look Homeward Angel?’ Charles Frazier’s ‘Cold Mountain’? Or maybe ‘A Long and Happy Life,’ the debut novel that vaulted Reynolds Price to national fame?
“Wrong, wrong and wrong. The most famous book set in North Carolina, according to Business Insider, is….”
— From “What’s the most famous book set in North Carolina?” by Pam Kelley at charlotteobserver.com
A somewhat similar undertaking from 2012: “The six most influential books in telling North Carolina’s history….Discuss!”
“Jerry Moore, who paints houses in Black Mountain, had just bought his first computer, and he Googled ‘Stonewall Jackson Training School.’ Up popped a UNC Chapel Hill website with a grainy black-and-white photograph of boys cultivating a corn field at the school in 1937. Linked to that was another website with a glowing description of Stonewall Jackson.
“Moore, 60, was so upset by what he read, he broke years of silence and posted a comment: ‘I remember severe cruelty.’ He accused his adult caretaker of hitting him in the face, kicking him in the ribs and slapping his penis with a rubber strap.
“Other men found Moore’s lament and added their own, launching a painful conversation that continues today.”
— From “Stonewall Jackson secrets: ‘Children against monsters’ “ in today’s Charlotte Observer
Building on the scores of vivid — and often shocking — responses to Jason Tomberlin’s Miscellany post of May 27, 2010, Elizabeth Leland has put together a powerful indictment of how North Carolina tortured generations of misfit boys, often guilty of nothing more than bad luck.
Who knows how long this story would have remained buried without Jason’s post to provoke, however inadvertently, such an outpouring of horrendous memories?
“Did Jesse Helms ever call UNC the ‘University of Negroes and Communists’?
“That line has been attributed to the late longtime U.S. senator for many years by many sources. John Dodd, president of the Jesse Helms Center in Wingate, says it is ‘a fabrication.’ ”
— From “Jesse Helms and the ‘University of Negroes and Communists’ “ by Taylor Batten in today’s Charlotte Observer
“The more violent forms of hate-peddling [during the 1960 presidential campaign] have come in for attack by major Southern papers [such as] the Greensboro, N.C. News: ‘Organized efforts on the part of respectable Protestant churches to inject venomous, and in many cases false, prejudice into the presidential campaign are in themselves violative of the American tradition of separation of church and state’…. Said the Raleigh News & Observer: ‘Certainly to hold John Kennedy responsible for the Spanish Inquisition is to say the least a little ex post facto.’
“Most papers try not to cover the subject until it hits them in the face. Jonathan Daniels of the News & Observer states the case baldly: ‘We wouldn’t dream of going out and trying to stir up more debate.’
“The section that causes most concern to Southern editors is the often-neglected letters-to-the-editor column…. The Charlotte Observer… declines to run letters ‘in which members of one faith attempt to recite what members of another faith believe…. We are not prepared, for one thing, to check the authenticity of statements attributed to Catholic authors or clerics. We want to know what our letter writers think, not what our letter writers believe someone else thinks.’ “
“[Bill France] plunged back into the racing business almost as soon as the fireworks of V-J day had sputtered out. In October  he traveled to Charlotte, N.C., to promote a stock-car race on the old half-mile clay oval at the local fairgrounds. ‘I went to see Wilton Garrison, who was the sports editor of The Charlotte Observer, trying to get some publicity for my race,’ says France. ‘I told Wilton I was going to stage a national championship race out at the fairgrounds.
” ‘ “Who’s going to be in this race of yours?” Wilton asked me.
” ‘ “Why, I’ve got Buddy Shuman, Skimp Hershey and Roy Hall,” I answered, figuring he’d be impressed.
” ‘ “How can you call it a national championship race with local boys like that running?” Wilton said. “Maybe you could call it a Southern championship, but there’s no way it’s a national championship race.” ‘
“Garrison counseled France that he needed to create a series of races, with rules continuity and a point-standing setup, to determine an overall champion…. France [created] what he called the National Championship circuit in 1946, then… NASCAR a year later….”
— From Sports Illustrated, June 26, 1978
Now that stock car racing has been chosen the official sport of North Carolina — where were you, Putt-Putt lobby? — let’s give Wilton Garrison credit for lending fender-bending a crucial organizational concept.
Personal note: Dannye and I live in the house Wilton and his wife Eudora, best known as the Observer’s food editor, bought in 1940. The builder was C.D. Spangler Sr., father of the future UNC president, who had just gone out on his own after working as secretary for Dilworth developer E. D. Latta.
— Jack Betts, the Great State’s foreign correspondent in Raleigh for the past two decades, debarks more suddenly than but just as gracefully as his positively-addicted readers would expect. Jack will dispute this — of course! — but it was his unrelenting editorials and columns that took the lead in sparing Eastern North Carolina the Navy’s ill-sited landing field. In his un-bow-tied hours, he has been an unrivaled fool for tools, managing to wring romance out of an aluminum pot that “perked coffee in five states, on four boats and in at least three houses,” a C-ration can opener brought home from the Army and on his last day a humble tin cheese grater. Happy retirement, Jack.
— Yet another remarkable entry in the New York Times’ Disunion blog, this one about North Carolina’s wrenching decision to secede. Overall, it’s been exciting to see historians and journalists in 2011 probing the way to war so much more ambitiously than in 1961.
— Surely someone saved Garner’s historic last Slim Jim for the North Carolina Collection Gallery.
“Charlotte’s Observer, the biggest (circ. 138,183) daily in the Carolinas, is a newspapering nugget of gold that seldom glitters. Its news pages are a typographical mishmash, its editorial voice a whisper. Yet because in its leisurely stride it picks up every crumb of news in its territory, the 82-year-old Observer is one of the biggest profitmakers of its size in the U.S.
“Since its longtime publisher, Curtis Johnson, died last October, the rich daily has been run by an editorial board, overseen by banks, has had no top boss. Last week it got one. In as publisher and part owner stepped Hoosier-born Ralph Nicholson, 52, who has made a reputation for picking up bargains on a shoestring.
“The deal was sealed so secretly that not even Observer editors knew it until they were handed the story to run. If they had any Tarheel resentment at an outlander moving in, they covered it with Southern tactfulness: ‘Mr. Nicholson,’ said the Observer story, ‘was born in Richmond, Ind. [where] his ancestors migrated from North Carolina during the early part of the last century.’ ”
— From Time magazine, Aug. 13, 1951
Two turbulent years later, Nicholson was gone, squeezed out during a struggle over the estate of former owner Curtis Johnson. Most memorable moment of his tenure: a radical page redesign that temporarily cost the paper more than 8,000 subscribers. But he also air-conditioned the newsroom.
The Observer, where I labored happily, proudly and sometimes productively for more than 34 years, is now celebrating its 125th birthday.