It’s been a while since I last dumped a batch of North Caroliniana into the Google Books Ngram Viewer, that instantaneous measure of phrase frequency over the decades.
Caveat e-lector: This is data at its rawest — conclusions should be jumped to for entertainment purposes only.
— Duke lacrosse vs. Duke football and Duke basketball
— Grandfather Mountain vs. Cold Mountain
— Oprah Winfrey vs. Michael Jordan and Colin Powell
— Charlotte North Carolina vs. Raleigh North Carolina
— Southern fried chicken vs. Buffalo wings and Chicken McNuggets
The dust-up over state Sen. Don East’s 145-mph joyride brings to mind previous legislative wheelmen and their real or imagined immunities.
In 1992 state Sen. Joe Johnson of Wake County, pulled over by Raleigh police for not wearing a seat belt as he drove to a lobbyists’ reception, cited a 1787 law protecting legislators “except in cases of crime, from all arrest and imprisonment during the time of their going to, coming from, or attending the General Assembly.”
Johnson persuaded the district attorney to drop the citation, but two weeks later he gave in to public protest by paying the $25 fine and apologizing for having demanded that two police officers be fired. The legislature, embarrassed, rewrote the law to clarify that it doesn’t extend to infractions such as seat belt violations and expired inspection stickers.
And then there’s this intriguing brief from Time magazine (Jan. 21, 1952): “After a 17-mile race through a mounting North Carolina blizzard, Mississippi’s Democratic Representative John E. Rankin was arrested by a highway patrolman, charged with careless and reckless driving. Ol’ John’s futile defense: congressional immunity to arrest except for ‘treason, felony, or a breach of the peace.’ “
“At his next stop, in Raleigh, North Carolina, [Stephen Douglas, presidential candidate of the Northern Democratic Party in 1860] rode in a long train of carriages filled with dignitaries who had to inch their way through a throng of over 15,000. A band led the procession…. Women hung out of windows to wave their handkerchiefs…. After a reception like this, he knew he could carry North Carolina….
“He spoke for an hour and 45 minutes…. He railed against disunionists, North and South…. He told his audience… that just as he believed slavery belonged in the territories where people wanted it, slavery did not belong where it was not desired….
“That speech [and a similar one in Harrisburg, Pa., soon after] cost Douglas the South. … He was now despised for telling people bent on secession that they not only could not do it, but that Abraham Lincoln should stop them, and that he, Stephen Douglas, would help him.”
— From “Lincoln for President: An Unlikely Candidate, An Audacious Strategy and the Victory No One Saw Coming” by Bruce Chadwick (2009)
In a four-candidate race (except in the South where Republicans didn’t bother to put Lincoln on the ballot), Douglas finished second in popular votes, fourth in electoral votes. In North Carolina he won less than 3 percent of the vote.
“Roger’s long torturous season [1961, in which he hit a record 61 homers] was over…He had committed to a traveling, postseason home-run-derby exhibition that also featured Harmon Killebrew and Jim Gentile…. He had a miserable experience. Again, the press was at the heart of his problems. Gentile recalls:
” ‘We went to Wilson, Raleigh-Durham, Greensboro and a couple of other places…. After spending a whole season being given a hard time by hostile reporters in New York, having a bunch of new writers on his back was tough for him. He told them, “If I had known that you were going to ask me the same old questions, I would have brought a tape with me.”
” ‘In Wilson we had a real nice crowd, but then what Roger said wound up in the papers and it cut us down a little. They didn’t write anything nice about us after that ….
” ‘Poor Roger couldn’t go anywhere. He’d step out of the hotel and people were chasing him… I thought of Roger when I saw what happened to the Beatles.’ ”
— From “Roger Maris: Baseball’s Reluctant Hero” by Tom Clavin and Danny Peary (2010)
Maris died in 1985. Killebrew, whose only minor league experience came with the Charlotte Hornets in 1956, died last week. Gentile, 76, lives in Edmond, Okla.
“The most striking pages… tell the tale of Texas Rangers All-Star Josh Hamilton’s astoundingly precocious talent.
“At the age of 6, Hamilton could throw a baseball 50 mph — his first peg from shortstop in Little League knocked his bewildered first baseman to the ground. Shortly thereafter, he was elevated to a ‘Majors’ team in North Carolina’s Tar Heel League, where his manager (also his dad) batted him ninth behind boys twice his age for the sake of propriety. The first-grader punched his first home run over the left-center field fence off a pitcher who must have had at least the beginnings of pubic hair.
“It was Hamilton’s earliest spiritual moment: ‘It’s hard to explain, but on contact, I felt nothing. It’s one of the best feelings in the world.’ ”
— From a review of “Beyond Belief” in the literary magazine n + 1 (June 16, 2009)
Hamilton, born and reared in Raleigh, turns 30 today. Not the happiest of birthdays: The Rangers have sent him to the minors to rehab a leg injury.
“The North Carolina Medical Society overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to take in Negro doctors. Argued Dr. Millard Hill of Raleigh: as members, they would ‘seek to capitalize on their privileges and try to mix socially with whites.’ “
–– From Time magazine, May 17, 1954
On this day in 1865: As Raleigh awaits Sherman, Union Lt. George Round is sent ahead to set up a Signal Corps flag station. Scaling the eerily empty Capitol, Round makes a crucial misstep: “I … leaped gently to what I supposed to be the solid top of the dome,” he will write later. “I heard a sudden crash, and the top of the dome gave way beneath my feet. I had actually jumped into the circular glass skylight….
“The next instant I found myself grasping at railing and stonework and heard the broken glass of the skylight ring sharply on the stone floor of the rotunda one hundred feet below me.”
Round’s fall is broken by a wire net, and he survives with only “a terrible fright, a lacerated wrist and, on the next day, a lame shoulder.”
— Reconsidering North Carolina’s oldest known landscape photo.
— “It certainly would be nice to have another Ohio native become part of our basketball program here at Chapel Hill.”
— Bellum Charleston’s elite retreat. (Are East Flat Rock, Savannah and the Masters “actually part of Charleston”? )
— Great-grandpa sends a Tweet from Gettysburg.
— Number of Raleigh women listed in 1860 census as prostitutes: 46
On this day in 1920: Without warning, women show up at all Democratic precinct meetings in Raleigh and read statements demanding they be allowed to participate. Elsie Riddick, assistant executive secretary to the N.C. Corporation Commission, contends that since 35 states have already ratified the Nineteenth Amendment “and it is a certainty that we will vote in the next election . . . we have [the] right, therefore, to vote in this precinct meeting — just as any young man would who will become 21 years old prior to the next election.”
“The unexpectedness of the stroke gave the male Democrats no time to formulate any answers. . . . ” according to The News & Observer, and the women are allowed to vote.
— Break-in at Central Prison!
— Muskogee, Paducah or Chapel Hill?
— Reel-to-reel of MLK in Winston-Salem makes digital debut.
— Sorry, just couldn’t resist writing “Dateline: Spearfish.”
— Would historic Skyco be better remembered if it didn’t have to share its name with a mobile home builder, a paragliding outfitter and a supplier of knuckle boom grapple trucks?