What is it that binds us to this speech? Charles Kuralt’s 1993 UNC Bicentennial Address

“What is it that binds us to this place as to no other? It is not the well or the bell or the stone walls . . . ” – Charles Kuralt

These words, spoken in Charles Kuralt’s iconic voice, will be familiar to anyone who has watched a UNC sporting event on TV the past few years. The speech provides the background narrative to the promotional spots run by the university during televised football and basketball games. This speech was given by Kuralt on October 12, 1993, during the celebration of UNC’s bicentennial.

Kuralt (class of 1955) began his journalism career as a student at UNC. He was editor of the Daily Tar Heel and did some of his earliest broadcast work with WUNC radio. During a long career with CBS in New York, he was known nationwide for his On the Road segments on the evening news and later as the anchor of CBS Sunday Morning.

Kuralt, a native of Wilmington, never lost touch with North Carolina. He wrote about the state in his book North Carolina is My Home and was an active alumnus, frequently returning to Chapel Hill and remaining an avid fan of Tar Heel basketball. Kuralt was the featured speaker at the 1985 graduation ceremony, during which he talked about the importance of UNC for the rest of the state: “And so, in concentric circles, as if from a pebble tossed from a pool, the influence of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill moves outward to the farthest corners of our state, and far beyond its boundaries.”

(Charles Kuralt’s speech during commencement 1985, from the Charles Kuralt Collection, 1935-1997, #04882, Southern Historical Collection.)


Kuralt expanded on this theme, and on his own deep appreciation for UNC, in his 1993 address, delivered in Kenan Stadium before a large audience that included President Bill Clinton and Governor Jim Hunt. In a memorable opening, Kuralt said “I speak for all of us who could not afford to go to Duke, and would not have, even if we could have afforded it.”

The now famous lines from the TV commercials come early in the speech: “What is it that binds us to this place as no other? It is not the well or the bell or the stone walls. Or the crisp October nights or the memory of dogwoods blooming. Our loyalty is not only to William Richardson Davie, though we are proud of what he did 200 years ago today. Not even to Dean Smith, though we are proud of what he did last March. No, our love for this place is based on the fact that it is, as it was meant to be, the University of the people.”

A video of Kuralt’s address is available online from UNC-TV (his speech begins at 11:30 into the recording). The full text, from a book about the bicentennial, is here:

Charles Kuralt’s Speech During the Bicentennial Observance Opening Ceremonies [Tepper, Steven J. The Chronicles of the Bicentennial Observance of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 1st ed. Chapel Hill: The University, 1998: 219-220.]

January 1925: UNC Faces the Poole Resolution

(from the University of North Carolina Papers, #40005, University Archives)
Telegram from President Chase asking for help to defeat the Poole resolution (from the University of North Carolina Papers, #40005, University Archives)

On January 8, 1925, David Scott Poole from Hoke County introduced a resolution in the North Carolina State Legislature stating:

“That it is the sense of the General Assembly of North Carolina  that it is injurious to the welfare of the people of the State of North Carolina for any official or teacher in the State, paid wholly or in part by taxation, to teach or permit to be taught as a fact either Darwinism or any other evolutionary hypothesis that links men in blood relationship with any lower form of life.”

(North Carolina General Assembly, “Joint Resolution Restricting the Teaching of Darwinism in the Public Schools of North Carolina”)

This resolution was the culmination of at least five years of increasing debate over the teaching and learning of evolution in public schools. In 1920, the President of Wake Forest University, William L. Poteat, accepted the teaching of evolution as part of Wake Forest’s biology curriculum. At the same time, President Henry W. Chase and Dr. Howard Odum at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill sought to increase the scope of the academic research done at the school. Social Forces, a journal founded by Odum in 1922, published several articles on the issue of religion and academic freedom. The John Calvin McNair Lecture Series, which was founded in 1906 and focused on the relationship of science and theology, also hosted talks on this topic in the years leading up to the resolution.

For the university community, and President Chase in particular, the issue of teaching evolution was not one of religion but freedom of speech and the freedom to teach the “scientific truth”. President Chase vigorously defended the fact that the University of North Carolina was not trying to suppress religion in its schools. Instead, religious activities and studies were actively encouraged and supported by the university. What President Chase objected to was the interference of political agendas in teaching.

“The state of North Carolina has shown that it believes in the free thought and discussion necessary to secure the advancement of the knowledge in the world. I have simply tried to point out that such freedom does not produce an atmosphere of indifference to religion, that, as the unrestricted right to seek for truth, it is the vital and essential thing to which a University must be dedicated. Scientific truth has never, in the long run, done the slightest harm to religious faith, but has on the contrary widened and deepened that faith.”

(Vol. II 1923-30, page 290, in the Harry Woodburn Chase Papers, #3429, Southern Historical Collection)

President Chase and his allies helped to defeat the resolution in committee. It also failed when brought to the full General Assembly for a vote.

For more on the anti-evolution debate see: “The Evolution Controversy in North Carolina in the 1920s”, an online exhibit provided by UNC Libraries.

The Struggle for the Navy Pre-Flight School

In 1941 the United States Department of the Navy was determining which four universities would house the Naval Aviation Cadet Instruction Centers. The schools under consideration had to have extensive recreational facilities to accommodate the rigorous physical training required for naval cadets. Furthermore, there needed to be classroom space, dormitories, mess hall space and infirmary space available. All of this also had to be supported by janitorial services, laundry facilities and regular maintenance services. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill believed that it could provide all of this, and if it did not already exist, further infrastructure would be built to fill the gaps. However, UNC was fighting an uphill battle. The University of Georgia had been appointed as the southern region school while UNC was still being inspected by the Navy for suitability. Below is UNC Controller William D. Carmichael Jr.’s response to the news (click to enlarge).

Letter from William D. Carmichael Jr. to Tom Hamilton. From the Office of the Vice President for Finance of the University of North Carolina (System) Records, 1923-1972, #40011, University Archives.

The president of the United States at that time, Franklin D. Roosevelt, apologized personally when he found out the University of Georgia had been appointed for the southern region over the University of North Carolina:

Letter from F. D. R. to Josephus Daniels concerning appointment of Navy Pre-Flight Schools. From the Office of the Vice President for Finance of the University of North Carolina (System) Records, 1923-1972, #40011, University Archives.

This meant that UNC had to fight to be the eastern region school, and this was a much tougher battle to win. Through hard work, and a lot of lobbying,  UNC won the battle against all of the universities in the northeast to host the eastern region pre-flight school. It was not just patriotic fervor that pushed the administration to bid for one of these pre-flight schools–there was also a financial advantage. The Navy split the costs of  improvements and additions to the campus that were made to house the pre-flight school, paying the lion’s share themselves. The Navy also paid for the housing and feeding of their cadets while stationed at UNC and compensated the university for any wear and tear to the facilities used. The following is a breakdown of the work done at UNC to enable the Navy pre-flight school to operate.

Report on work done to make the UNC Chapel Hill campus ready for the Navy Pre-Flight School. From the Office of the Vice President for Finance of the University of North Carolina (System) Records, 1923-1972, #40011, University Archives.

Another advantage of having the Naval Aviation Cadet Instruction Center at UNC was bragging rights. The UNC administration at the time was adamant that UNC would become the “first” of the four schools, meaning the very best  of the “Annapolises of the Air”.

Remembering Dean Smith

Dean Smith pictured on the cover of the program for the 1966-1967 season. From the Records of the Office of Athletic Communications (#40308), University Archives.

Few people in UNC’s history are as iconic and universally-beloved as basketball coach Dean Smith, who passed away this Saturday at age 83.

Smith arrived at UNC in 1958 as an assistant basketball coach under Frank McGuire. Three years later, he took on the role of head coach during a difficult time for the team. After a massive 1961 gambling conspiracy in which players from 22 schools threw the outcome of games, the team faced sanctions by the NCAA and the resignation of Coach McGuire.

Despite assuming leadership in such a challenging time, Smith soon brought the Tar Heels to the top, winning three consecutive ACC titles in 1967, 1968, and 1969. In his 36-season career, the team made eleven appearances in the Final Four and won two NCAA championships (1982 and 1993). Smith was credited with the invention of several basketball innovations, including the four corners offense, and retired with 879 career wins, a record which went unbroken for a decade. During his tenure at UNC, he coached an array of basketball legends including Phil Ford, Billy Cunningham, Charlie Scott, Bob McAdoo, James Worthy, Michael Jordan, and Vince Carter, just to name a few.

However, it was not Smith’s skill as a coach alone that made him an icon. Committed to racial integration, he used his influence to promote the integration of local businesses and was the first coach in the ACC to recruit black players. He emphasized the importance of

Smith speaking to players. From the 1973 Yackety Yack, North Carolina Collection.
Smith speaking to players. From the 1973 Yackety Yack, North Carolina Collection.

personal integrity and promoted academic excellence for his players, opposing freshman eligibility for high-profile sports. Perhaps most of all, Smith is remembered for his life-long devotion to his players, remaining a mentor and friend to many of them long after they left Carolina.

John Motley Morehead III: Ten Facts from a Remarkable Life

John Motley Morehead, III (center), from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Image Collection (#P0004), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archive. 
John Motley Morehead, III (center), from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Image Collection (#P0004), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archive.

This Thanksgiving marks the 83rd birthday of one of UNC Chapel Hill’s most recognizable landmarks: the Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower. Dedicated right before the UNC-Virginia Thanksgiving Day game in 1931, the Bell Tower has been marking the quarter hour of countless Tar Heels’ lives for over eighty years, becoming a classic symbol of the University.

But the name Morehead can be found not only on the iconic Bell Tower, but across campus–from the Morehead Planetarium to the Morehead-Cain Scholars Program, to the Morehead Laboratories. One of the University’s major benefactors, John Motley Morehead III made a remarkable impact on the campus and its students. Here are ten facts about his life, legacy and work.


  1. John Motley Morehead, III was a third-generation Tar Heel. The Morehead saga begins with the first John Motley Morehead (Morehead III’s grandfather), who graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 1817, and later became North Carolina’s 29th governor. His son, James Turner Morehead, also attended UNC, graduating in 1861. Three decades later the baton was passed to John Motley Morehead III, who graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a degree in Chemistry in 1891, becoming the fourteenth member of his family to graduate as a Tar Heel.
  2. He was an influential chemist. One year after graduating from UNC,  Morehead discovered acetylene gas while working at his father’s aluminum company in Spray, NC. He used this new-found gas as a way to mass-produce calcium carbide, subsequently co-founding one of America’s most influential corporations: Union Carbide. Morehead would go on to work at Union Carbide for 56 years as the company’s chief chemist and construction engineer.
  3. He was heavily involved in WWI. In addition to being an Army major, Morehead III also served on the Interdepartmental Ammonia Committee, the War Industries Board as chief of the Industrial Gases and Gas Products section, and also as secretary to the Explosives Committee. Under his supervision, it is said that the Americans’ supply of toluene–the second “T” in T.N.T–increased ten-fold.
  4. He was once a mayor. Proving to be just as proficient in politics as he was in chemistry, Morehead served as the mayor of Rye, New York from 1925 to 1930.
  5. He served as the United States Minister to Sweden. Cognizant of Morehead’s outstanding scientific work in WWI, former engineer President Herbert Hoover appointed Morehead to the title of Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Sweden in 1930. Adding yet another achievement to his already illustrious resume, Morehead III served as Minister to Sweden for three years, ultimately receiving the gold medal of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences from King Gustav V. Morehead was the first non-Swede to ever receive the honor.
  6. The Bell Tower’s current location was not Morehead’s first choice. During the early 1920s, as plans were being made to renovate South Building, Morehead sought to replace South’s belfry with an extravagant Bell Tower if the university agreed to change the building’s name from ‘South’ to ‘Morehead’. Although Morehead’s proposal was denied, the Bell Tower would eventually be completed in 1931 in its current location right outside Kenan Stadium.
  7. Morehead Planetarium, funded by and named for Morehead, has hosted astronauts including Neil Armstrong and John Glenn. Completed in 1949, Morehead built the luxurious Morehead Planetarium as a way to reinvigorate Chapel Hill’s and the South’s thirst for scientific knowledge. Since its construction, the advanced facilities of Morehead Planetarium have been used to train and host an impressive number of NASA astronauts. Famous visitors to the planetarium include Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, John Glenn (pictured below), and the crew of the Apollo 13 mission.

    John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, pictured with his family on the Morehead Planetarium Sundial. From the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Image Collection (#P0004), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archive.
  8. John Motley Morehead III is the creator of one of the nation’s most prestigious scholarships: The Morehead-Cain Scholarship. First handed out in 1951, the Morehead-Cain Scholarship has become one of the most prestigious undergraduate merit-based scholarships in the United States. Notable recipients of the scholarship include three U.S. congressman, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity International, a Pulitzer-prize winning historian, and an ACC commissioner just to name a few.
  9. The name of Morehead’s grandfather, Governor John Motley Morehead, is inscribed on the Bell Tower’s largest bell. Dedicated in 1931, the Morrison-Patterson Bell Tower included 12 bells (now 14), ranging in weight from 300 to 3,500 pounds. Each bell was inscribed with names from both the Morehead and Patterson families, with Morehead III dedicating the largest bell to his grandfather who was an important influence not just in his own life, but in the life of the university they both called home.
  10. He was affectionately referred to by UNC students as “Uncle Mot.” Despite his adventures around the globe, Morehead  always maintained a close relationship with UNC Chapel Hill and its students. From the familiar peal of the Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower, to the peerless altruism of the Morehead-Cain Scholarships, and the scientific advancements of Morehead Planetarium, multiple generations of Tar Heels have been influenced by the life and contributions of John Motley Morehead III.


Building Old West

On this day in 1822, the cornerstone of Old West was laid. The building was finished and in use by July of 1823.

In 1848, additions were made to both Old West and Old East to accommodate the debating societies. Both the original Old West and its additions were built using the labor of  enslaved African-Americans.

The postcard in the gallery above, postmarked 1911 and addressed to “Mr. H.B. Marrow, Raleigh, N.C.”, shows Old West. It reads:

Hello How are you getting on these hot days? I hope you are having a real good time — and be sure and don’t work too much. (?) I am having a fine time this summer. I suppose you will be back before very long now. Mama came home from Va. a few days ago. Sincerely, H.M.P.

For more on the history of UNC buildings, see the exhibit, “Architectural Highlights of Carolina’s Historic Campus.” For more on slavery and the history of UNC, see the Virtual Museum exhibit, “Slavery and the University.”

Happy Birthday, Louis Round Wilson!

Louis Round Wilson was born on December 27, 1876, in Lenoir, North Carolina. He graduated from the university in 1899, and became the University Librarian in 1901. He would later head UNC’s first extension program and help found and oversee UNC Press. In 1931, Wilson established UNC’s School of Library Science (now, the School of Information and Library Science), serving as its first director. A dedicated educator, Wilson was elected president of the American Library Associations in 1935 and to this day remains an important figure in the history of library education. In 1930, the university named its then-new library for Wilson: the Louis Round Wilson Library. Wilson Library now houses the university’s special collections, including the Southern Historical Collection, which holds the Louis Round Wilson Papers. Happy Birthday, Louis!