Remembering Florence King remembering Raleigh

“During the mid-50s at The Raleigh Times, I worked across the hall from a News & Observer features writer named Florence King. Ms. King had a distinctive style that paved the way for a career as a nationally recognized author, essayist and columnist. Her piercing pen could puncture the most inflated egos.

“In one of her books, ‘Southern Ladies and Gentlemen,’ she recalled Raleigh as a place ‘Where people thought of the South as the womb and the rest of the country as “up North.”

“ ‘I suppose that has changed now, which makes me rather sad,’ she continued. ‘A Southerner without paranoia is like an egg without salt.’

“The local folks were ‘set on Raleigh becoming the Athens of the South,’ she wrote. ‘They never realized the flaw in the logic. Ancient Athens was not criss-crossed with pickup trucks containing gun racks driven by good ol’ boys who bragged that they had never gone further than the eighth grade.

“ ‘Plato and Aristotle did not punch each other in the ribs and say, “Let’s go git some beer.” ’ ”

— From “Raleigh, the Athens of the South?” by A. C. Snow in the News & Observer (May 10, 2014) 

Miss (her preference) King’s obit in the Washington Post lists her reporting tenure at the N&O as 1964-67. Half a century later, her feature on Slimnastics remains a classic of zeitgeist-nailing.


Think there’s nothing new in UFO stories?

“Mark Schultz’s News & Observer colleague John Frank calls this ‘the BEST lede ever,’ and others agree. ‘Totally restored my faith in the snarky wonder of journalism,’ tweeted Khadijah Britton.”

— From “ ‘Peeing in his compost’: Best newspaper lead ever?”   at (Nov. 12)


Charlotte: Like Mary Ann on ‘Gilligan’s Island’?

Say about us what you will, Democratic conventioneers — as already recalled here and here, we’re no novices in civic disparagement:

“If you all think dealing with Charlotte is difficult from up here, try being one of their neighbors.”

— Rep. Drew Saunders of Huntersville, enlisting legislative sympathy for his bill to thwart Charlotte’s road-widening plans. (2005)

“I happen to love Charlotte, which may edge out Dallas and Atlanta as home to the purest strain ever discovered of the Southern booster gene.”

— Peter Applebome, author of “Dixie Rising,” mentioning us in the very same sentence as Dallas and Atlanta! (1994)

“North Carolina, that is.”

— First Lady Laura Bush, in a White House ceremony honoring the Museum of the New South, clarifying the location of “Charlotte.” (2006)

“It was either us or a monster truck show.”

— Bette Midler at Blockbuster Pavilion, summing up the evening’s entertainment options. (1994)

“Like Mary Ann on ‘Gilligan’s Island’ trying to outshine the starlet Ginger.”

— Ruth Sheehan, News & Observer columnist, sighing over Raleigh’s failure to keep the CIAA basketball tournament from being wooed away by “Boosterville.” (2004)

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.’ “

When Ike criticized Robert E. Lee, South rose again

“When President Eisenhower and Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery jocularly agreed that Generals Lee and Meade should have been ‘sacked’  for their blunders at Gettysburg, they committed themselves irrevocably to battle….

” ‘President Eisenhower,’ sputtered the Shelby, N.C. Star, ‘must have lost his mind.’

“[But] the Raleigh, N.C. News and Observer argued that Lee’s own view of his performance at Gettysburg was at variance with the ‘Southern Oratory’ used to defend it…. Lee himself had conceded afterwards: ‘It is I who have lost this fight.’

“It was, as North Carolina’s Durham Herald noted, ‘one of those tempests in a teapot in which Americans delight to engage. It gives them a chance to argue without having to decide, to debate without some vital result depending on the outcome.’ ”

— From Time magazine, May 27, 1957

Here’s a more recent view of Lee and Ike.