Lots of pinback buttons came out of Jim Hunt’s four successful runs for governor — as well as his failed attempt to unseat Sen. Jesse Helms — but campaigns for lieutenant governor are relatively understated. Hunt served just one term, 1973 to 1977, as a tune-up for moving up to “governor for life.”
“Pearl Jam played a liberal benefit concert in Charlotte, North Carolina last weekend, a show billed hopefully as a ‘farewell’ party for conservative North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms, who’s running for his fifth term. Also on hand was singer Eddie Vedder’s new political guru — Ms. magazine founder and inner-child advocate Gloria Steinem, back from the ’70s.
“Vedder: ‘We get a lot of letters, requests to play bar mitzvahs, Sweet 16 birthday parties and things like that, so when we heard there was a retirement party we didn’t think we could do it. When we heard it was for Jesse Helms we said, ‘Sign us up.’ ”
— From “Pearl Jam lends a hand” by MTV News Staff (Oct. 4, 1996)
Despite the efforts of Pearl Jam and Steinem, Helms for the second time turned back challenger Harvey Gantt. This is a signed mini version of the artist Emek’s widely praised gig poster.
“….There is one arena in which [Lebron] James has topped the man he wants to dethrone as the Greatest Basketball Player of All Time…. James has become the moral leader of the NBA….
“There’s absolutely zero chance that Michael Jordan would ever endorse a wildcat strike [such as the one proposed against Donald Sterling]. He’s always been incredibly careful not to say anything that might interfere with the massive marketing apparatus that he built or could in any way give the perception that the entire totality of his being wasn’t focused on destroying any and all opponents in his path on the court.
“In 1990, he was asked to support the progressive black mayor of Charlotte, Harvey Gantt, who was challenging an icon of racial animosity in Jesse Helms. As Nike’s chief pitchman, Jordan famously refused to give his endorsement because ‘Republicans buy sneakers too.’ ”
— From “LeBron James Is a Better Leader Than Michael Jordan Ever Was” by Robert Silverman in the Daily Beast (May 15)
Surely, “Republicans buy sneakers too” remains Jordan’s most memorable quote. (Alas, there’s not much competition.) But did he really say it?
In addition to the previously mentioned “Uncle Joe” Cannon (1923), Henry L. Stevens Jr. (1932) and Frank McNinch (1938), these Time magazine cover subjects are among those with various degrees of rootedness in North Carolina:
Wallace Wade, Duke football coach (1937). The cover line, noting the South’s newfound football prowess, was classic Timespeak: “Southward the course of history takes its way.”
Ava Gardner (1951).
Billy Graham (1954). Graham would repeat in 1993 (“A Christian in Winter: Billy Graham at 75”), in 1996 with son Franklin Graham (“The Prodigal Son”) and in 2007 (“The Political Confessions of Billy Graham”).
Althea Gibson, tennis player born in Silver, S.C., and reared as a teenager in Wilmington (1957).
Bowman Gray, chairman of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco (1960). Check out the illustration.
James Taylor (1971).
Sam Ervin (1973). The first of more than two dozen Watergate covers in coming months.
Jesse Helms (1981). “To the right, march!”
Stanley Pons of Valdese, supposed “cold fusion” discoverer, with colleague Martin Fleischmann (1989). “Fusion or illusion?”
Elizabeth Dole with Hillary Clinton (1996). “Who would be better First Lady?”
Michael Jordan (1998). “We may never see his likes again” — followed a year later by “The world’s biggest superstar calls it quits.”
John Edwards with John Kerry (2004).
“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
On this day in 1963: Jesse Helms, editorialist for Raleigh’s WRAL-TV, reacts to Harvey Gantt’s entrance into Clemson University:
“He has stoutly resisted the pose of a conquering hero for the forces of integration. He simply wants, he says, to be an architect — and Clemson is the only college in South Carolina that can teach him how to be one.
“He has rejected the fanfare and trappings of the NAACP. He has turned away from the liberal press and television networks which would glorify him. He has refused to make pompous speeches and statements.
“If ever a man put his best foot forward, Harvey Gantt has done so. His conduct will not cause South Carolinians to relish court orders relating to integration. But he has done a great deal, probably more than he himself realizes, to establish respectful communications across sensitive barriers in human relations.”
Helms goes on to cast Gantt and James Meredith, who desegregated the University of Mississippi in 1962, as “a study in contrasts. Meredith as a man handpicked as the showpiece of forced integration, Meredith as a man who never quite persuaded anybody that he was really interested in an education, Meredith as a man constantly and piously parading before the microphone and television cameras . ”
By 1990, when Gantt runs for Helms’ U.S. Senate seat, Meredith’s idiosyncratic career path will have led him to a job in Helms’ Washington office.
Still more phrase-frequency charts from the indefatigable Google Books Ngram Reader:
— sweet tea
— Jesse Helms vs. Terry Sanford and Sam Ervin
— Old North State vs. Tar Heel State. Only now has Tar Heel State become the more common usage? There’s something here I’m not getting.
— redneck vs. white trash and hillbilly
— Marshal Ney. His execution in 1815 apparently accounts for the first spike, his supposed reappearance as a North Carolina schoolteacher for the second.