Thomas Wolfe does double duty for Prof Koch

On this day in 1919: Professor Frederick Koch’s Carolina Playmakers debut with a trio of short plays in the Chapel Hill High School auditorium. Leading the bill: “The Return of Buck Gavin, A Tragedy of the Mountain People,” written by Thomas Wolfe, who also plays the part of Buck.

Among Prof Koch’s other notable early students: Paul Green, Jonathan Daniels and Frances Gray (Patton). By 1928 Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times will write that “what Professor Koch has accomplished, not only in Chapel Hill, but through the state, is nothing short of extraordinary.”

You can see costume items from “The Return of Buck Gavin” in the North Carolina Collection Gallery exhibit “Making a People’s Theatre: Proff Koch and the Carolina Playmakers,” from now until May 31.

How not to be named ambassador to New Zealand

“In 1943 Roosevelt asked Jonathan Daniels to serve as minister to New Zealand, [but] Senator Josiah W. Bailey blocked his appointment. A foe of Daniels in state politics, Bailey did not like Daniels’s  reference to Robert E. Lee’s army as ‘largely composed of white men who were not only slaveless but almost as degraded as colored men by slavery.’

“He also took exception to Daniels’ description of Senator Robert Rice Reynolds as ‘a demagogue who is a clown, not a master’ and of himself as a ‘demagogue’ and ‘sycophant.’ ”

— From “Jonathan Daniels and Race Relations: The Evolution of a Southern Liberal” by Charles W. Eagles (1982)


For N&O editor, ‘colorful’ word was worth fighting for

“Aware of the term’s inappropriateness in everyday speech, [Jonathan Daniels in 1941] yet considered [“nigger”] ‘an indispensable word… in all colorful discussions of American life.’

“He believed, and hoped others would agree, that when he used the word ‘nigger’ or ‘pickaninny,’ he used them with sympathy and not malice and to describe more accurately the condition of many black people. In most cases he did, but little credible excuse could have been made for his describing… night as ‘black as a pickaninny’s hide’ and summer as almost having ‘a pulse in it like a buck nigger panting.’ ”

— From “Jonathan Daniels and Race Relations: The Evolution of a Southern Liberal” by Charles W. Eagles (1982)


Newspapers wrestled with Catholicism issue

“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.’ “

Josephus Daniels, managing editor at large

“At 79, famed Tarheel Editor Josephus Daniels last week staged a spry comeback on his lively, incomplete, partisan, aggressive, successful Raleigh News & Observer. After a nine-year absence (as Ambassador to Mexico) shrewd old ‘Uncle Joe’ Daniels had ‘enlisted for the war’ to replace his son Jonathan, who went to OCD [Office of Civil Defense] in Washington.

“By contrast to his smart, facile son Jonathan, wrinkled old Editor Daniels, in his black planter’s hat and elder-statesman tie, was a figure who easily evoked oldtime reminiscences. A full-fledged editor at 18, he had tangled in many a garrulous crusade against North Carolina railroads, tobacco and power companies. Great pal of William Jennings Bryan (of whom he wrote an 8,000-word obituary in six hours) and a hard-shelled Dry, he banned liquor on Navy ships.

“Last week Editor Daniels added a commentary on his Navy days: ‘Even when I was “absent without leave” from the sanctum during the eight years as Secretary of the Navy in the Woodrow Wilson administration,’ chuckled old Josephus, ‘I thought of myself as managing editor of the Navy rather than as a Cabinet official.’ ”

— From Time magazine, February 16, 1942

Time certainly went into adjectival high gear for the Danielses and their newspaper, but where’s the imagination in referring to Josephus as “old” three times in three paragraphs?

Pictured: Josephus and Addie Daniels on one of their annual photo Christmas cards.

Jonathan Daniels: Brickbats for Boswell

“If Harry Truman ever had a faithful Boswell, he was Jonathan Daniels, the even-voiced editor of the Raleigh, N.C. News & Observer (circ. 113,277). Daniels, briefly Truman’s press secretary in 1945, was always welcomed at the White House as a friendly reporter. The President read, and edited in galley proof, large chunks of Daniels’  ‘The Man of Independence.’

“Last week Presidential Press Secretary Joseph Short angrily denounced an article by Daniels in Collier’s which…  attributed to the President some recommendations for reforming Congress. Most notable: limiting tenure to 12 years. Daniels pointed out that such a limitation would lop off such Democratic pillars as Speaker Sam Rayburn….

” ‘That subject,’ said Short, reading from notes he and Truman had prepared together, ‘was mentioned a long time ago in a casual, joking way during a confidential conversation…. The President never has considered the subject seriously . . . The article is an entirely misleading distortion….’

“Stung at being called a bad reporter, Daniels snapped back: ‘I wish . . . Joe Short had consulted the White House files . . . Letters . . . will show that the article was not even undertaken until I had written the President, asked him if I could see him to get the story, and had a reply that he would be glad to see me . . .’ ”

— From Time magazine, April 16, 1951

A triumphant day for ‘No Day of Triumph’

“In an event unprecedented in the South, a Negro last month won North Carolina’s Mayflower Cup, awarded annually by the North Carolina Society of Mayflower Descendants, for the best book by a resident of the State. This year’s winner is 37-year-old J. Saunders Redding, professor of English literature and creative writing at Virginia’s Hampton Institute [and former chairman of the English department at Elizabeth City State College].

” ‘No Day of Triumph’ [commissioned by the University of North Carolina with Rockefeller Foundation funds] is a study of Southern Negro life beginning with Redding’s own family background and finally based on a recent six-month tour of the South. ‘No Day’ scored over 29 competitors, including Betty Smith’s best-selling ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.’ Previous cup-winners include Jonathan Daniels’  ‘A Southerner Discovers the South’ and Archibald Henderson’s ‘Bernard Shaw: Playboy and Prophet.’

“Son of a Wilmington, Del., mailman, Redding was educated (M.A., Ph.D.) at Brown University. In 1939 he published his first book, ‘To Make a Poet Black,’ a critical analysis of Negro poetry and verse.”

— From Time magazine, Jan. 3, 1944