Ted Williams makes secret trip to Raleigh (shh!)

“In the late 1940s, when the Red Sox were in Washington to play the Senators, Williams received a telegram from a doctor in North Carolina who was attending a dying boy. The doctor said the boy talked about him constantly and wondered if Williams could send him an autographed ball to give him a lift. Ted flew down [to Raleigh] to deliver the ball in person and returned to Washington that night.”

— From “The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams” by Ben Bradlee Jr. (2013)

According to Bradlee, the often-cantankerous Williams made at least three such long-distance deliveries, always avoiding publicity about his generosity.

John Blythe has detailed Williams’ earlier stay in Chapel Hill for Pre-Flight School.


Oakwood architectural dispute goes national

Lewis Mumford wrote that, in a city, ‘Time becomes visible.’ Not, it would appear, in Raleigh, North Carolina, where a city board has just decided that a rather discreet and understated modern house might need to be torn down because it damages the ambience of a historic district, which is to say it destroys the illusion that the [Oakwood] neighborhood is a place in which time has stopped….

“It’s especially odd that this is happening here, since there is a lot of history for modern architecture in North Carolina, which actually has more significant modern houses than any state except California and New York…”

— From “Is This House Too Modern to Exist?” by Paul Goldberger in Vanity Fair (April 29)


Hacker trackers find prey in Raleigh apartment

On this day in 1995: After a 24-hour stakeout of his Raleigh apartment building, FBI agents capture Kevin Mitnick, “the most wanted computer hacker in the world.”  Mitnick, 31, had used his sophisticated skills to worm his way into the nation’s telephone and cellular telephone networks and vandalize government, corporate and university computer systems.
He first came to national attention at age 17 when, as a prank, he tapped into a North American Air Defense Command computer.

Mitnick’s crucial mistake: breaking into the home computer of Tsutomu Shimomura, a San Diego computer security expert, who became obsessed with tracking him down.

Most recently Mitnick has worked as a security consultant.


Pick up the phone, it’s Lee Harvey Oswald

Fifty years ago today — the day after Oswald killed Kennedy, the day before Ruby killed Oswald — a telephone call may have been attempted from the Dallas jail to a number in Raleigh. Regardless, no call went through.

This lengthy and evenhanded account of the episode appeared in the News & Observer in 1980, but what has become known to the conspiracy community as “the Raleigh Call” continues to defy convincing explanation.


Bluegrass master shares ‘Moment’ with Raleigh fans

“In bluegrass circles, it is being called ‘The Moment,’ and some of the people who saw it wept. I heard about it from Gillian Welch. It involved the master guitar player Tony Rice, who was giving a speech late last month in Raleigh, North Carolina, on the occasion of being inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Fame.

“Rice, who is sixty-one [and lives in Reidsville], is a revered figure in bluegrass…. He released his first record in 1973, and the shadow of his articulate and forceful style falls across the playing of nearly all other bluegrass guitarists. If you play bluegrass guitar, you have to come to terms with Rice the way portrait photographers have to come to terms with Avedon….”

— From “An Astonishing Moment from a Bluegrass Legend” by  Alec Wilkinson at newyorker.com (Oct. 14, 2013)  

Wilkinson, a New Yorker staff writer since 1980, has also written appreciatively about North Carolinians  Doc Watson and Garland Bunting.


A ‘wide and pitiful difference’ during Reconstruction

“I often had occasion to notice [in the Carolinas and Georgia] the wide and pitiful difference between the residents of the cities and large towns and the residents of the country. There is everywhere a rigid spirit of caste….

“Thus, Charleston has much intelligence, and considerable genuine culture; but go 20 miles away, and you are in the land of the barbarians. So, Raleigh is a city in which there is love of beauty, and interest in education; but the common people of the county are at least 40 years behind the same class of people in Vermont.”

— From “Three Months Among the Reconstructionists” by Sidney Andrews in The Atlantic (February 1866)

Andrews, a prolific correspondent for Northern journals, spent September, October and November 1865, traveling North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia by stage and railway.  After having  “had much conversation with many individuals of nearly all classes,” he came away repulsed by the region’s present and future. Here’s how he viewed  “the native North Carolinian.”


Raleigh 1861: A lament on watered-down whiskey

“Times are tight here, as indeed they seem to be everywhere.  Pea-nuts have advanced fifty per cent., and three-cents-a-drink whisky is now so diluted, I am told, that a good sized drink would come near to bursting a five gallon demijohn.  I have noticed several who kept well soaked during the winter season, have not been generally more than half drunk during the present, owing to the aqueous element present in the elevating fluids, thus preventing the stomach from holding enough to affect the head. ”

— “A Raleigh correspondent of the High Point Reporter,” quoted in the Memphis Daily Appeal (October 16, 1861)


We’ll always have… Thomasville?

“Bogart-themed bistros, taverns and bars sprouted up all across the United States, and even in Mexico. Most were unimaginative recreations of the ‘Casablanca’ set, replete with ceiling fans and waiters in rumpled white linen suits. But a few played up Humphrey’s image, among them Bogart’s American Restaurant in Raleigh, North Carolina….

“Thomasville Furniture unveiled its Bogart Collection in the late 1990s. According to the ad copy, Humphrey ‘believed that true class could not be imitated or taught.’ You either had it or you didn’t…. The collection presented close to a  hundred pieces, including the Trench Coat Chair….”

— From “Tough Without a Gun: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of Humphrey Bogart” by Stefan Kanfer (2011)


Veterans rehabilitation, circa 1866

“North Carolina was the first former Confederate state to provide funds for prosthetics [for veterans], signing an April 1866 contract with George B. Jewett, a Massachusetts inventor and the manufacturer of the Salem Leg and Arm. Governor Jonathan Worth provided a building for limb manufacturing in Raleigh and paid Jewett $5,000 in advance; in return, Jewett would sell legs to the state for $75 each, a steep discount. The state also paid for railroad transportation to the factory and housing for amputees during their fittings.

“The state program ran until 1871, spending $81,310.12….”

— From “Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War” by Megan Kate Nelson (2012)


Jim Crow deal overcomes railroads’ resistance

“RALEIGH, N.C. — There has been a demand for separate coaches for the whites and blacks on the railroads of this State ever since the war, but the influence of the railroads has been sufficient to prevent the introduction of the ‘Jim Crow’ cars as they are called by the negroes. The argument of the railroads was that separate coaches would add greatly to their expense, and this prevailed with the Legislature and the Railroad Commission until now.

“Last week a resolution before the commission requiring the railroads to provide separate coaches was laid aside in order that the Legislature…  may provide for this new feature in transportation by regular enactment. Some of the railroads have withdrawn their opposition to the ‘Jim Crow’ cars, with the understanding that the second-class fare will be abolished, and the first-class fare reduced from 3 1/4 cents to 3 cents.

“Of course the same accommodations are to be provided for the same money, but it is well known that nothing connected with the race problem so galls and cuts the negro as separate cars. The negro never goes into a second-class car if he has the money  for first-class.

“Here in Raleigh, where the Union Station has a separate room for the negroes, there has been continual opposition and complaint on the part of the negroes. The result of the recent election has settled this matter, and it will be put into law by the incoming legislature….  The white people seem to be in no humor for any delay in carrying out this policy.”

— From “Race Problem on Railroads: The Plan in North Carolina for Running Separate Coaches” in the New York Times (Dec. 18, 1898)