Annie Carter Lee, From Virginia to North Carolina and Back

On October 20, 1862, Annie Carter Lee, daughter of Robert E. Lee, died in Warren County. She had been ill with typhoid fever while visiting the Jones Springs resort there.

Lee sent both Annie and her sister Agnes to North Carolina in June 1862 when Union troops occupied their home in Arlington, Va. When Annie died it was not possible to take her body back to Arlington, which was then behind enemy lines. The owner of Jones Springs offered to have her body buried in his family cemetery and the Lees accepted.

The monument to Annie Carter Lee in Warren County. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Zearell Crowder, a Confederate soldier, created the 11-foot tall obelisk that marks her grave to this day. It was dedicated in a ceremony in 1866. The Lee family and the citizens of Warren County paid for the monument, and Robert E. Lee visited the grave in 1870.

In 1994, descendants of the Lee family had Annie’s body removed from the Warren County grave and interred with the rest of the family at Washington and Lee Chapel in Virginia.

The obelisk remains in the Jones Family Cemetery located on Annie Lee Road.

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R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Empire Takes Shape

R. J. Reynolds. Image from the
Forsyth County Public Library.

On October 19, 1874, R.J. Reynolds purchased his first lot, next to rail lines in Winston, from the Moravian Church.

Born into a prosperous Virginia tobacco family, Reynolds started what he called the “Little Red Factory” in 1874 with just $7,500 and some college and business school under his belt. A year later, the factory and its 12 workers had produced 150,000 pounds of southern flat plug chewing tobacco.

By the time of Reynolds’ death in 1918, the company had grown to a workforce of 10,000 spread across 121 buildings in Winston-Salem. The diversified tobacco manufacturing business included chewing and pipe tobacco and the legendary Camel cigarette. Other popular Reynolds brands included Winston, Salem, Vantage and Doral.

Outside of the business arena, Both Reynolds and his wife became known for their progressive politics, philanthropy and efforts to improve conditions for their workers.

Reynolds Plant

Working a Reynolds Tobacco Plant. Image from the North Carolina
Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The story of Reynolds’ arrival in Winston in 1874, eager to make his fortune and the family’s economic and philanthropic legacy have been memorialized in a sculpture in Winston-Salem. Dedicated in 1979, the monument depicts the 24-year-old Reynolds blazing into town on a horse.

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African American Baptists in North Carolina Organized, 1867

General Baptist Convention Marker

On October 18, 1867, the first meeting of the General Baptist Convention opened at the First African Baptist Church in Goldsboro.

After the Civil War, African Americans withdrew from Baptist churches across the state and established their own association, the General Baptist Convention, as the black counterpart to the Baptist State Convention. The withdrawal stemmed from strong white opposition to social equality and the desire by both races for separate churches.

In September 1867, a group of ministers called for an assembly. Each black Baptist church was asked to send its minister and two delegates. The planned assembly was held at the same time as the annual meeting of the white convention from which it received advice and $500 in financial support. Known for a time as the General Association for Colored Baptists, the group has been called the General Baptist State Convention since 1947.

Though the creation of the organization came at a time marked by poverty, discouragement and bitter struggle, by 1882 the group represented 800 churches and 95,000 members. Today, the convention represents over a half-million members.

First African Baptist Church of Goldsboro still owns the tract where the original meeting took place.

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Lewis Leary, John Brown Accomplice, from Fayetteville

Marines attack the Harpers Ferry arsenal after it was taken by Brown’s forces.

On October 17, 1859, Lewis Leary was fatally wounded during John Brown’s raid on the arsenal at Harpers Ferry.

Originally from Fayetteville, Leary was a free mulatto who came from a family of saddle-makers. Leary moved to Oberlin, Ohio, in search of economic opportunity and because the town was considered to be among the most racially progressive in America. Once there, he gravitated toward the growing abolitionist movement and joined the Anti-Slavery Society.

Leary

In 1859, John Brown, a vehement anti-slavery advocate, was looking for men to spark a slave insurrection on the East Coast. Leary joined him enthusiastically. Unfortunately, Brown’s men lacked the resources needed to mobilize local slaves who had not been properly notified of the insurgency.

Local militia held off the raiders until Robert E. Lee’s Marines formally intervened. Brown’s men were unable to stockpile the weaponry or to escape. While attempting to flee, Leary was wounded and died several hours later.

Though the raid failed, Leary’s death was not in vain. Brown’s raid threatened the South by proving that a slave insurrection was possible, and the seizure was lauded in the North. The episode marked the obvious division between North and South, which would shortly culminate in the Civil War.

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Rick Dees’ 1976 Novelty Hit, “Disco Duck”

On October 16, 1976, Rick Dees’ song “Disco Duck” hit number one on the Billboard charts. At the time of the novelty hit, Dees was working as a disk jockey at a radio station in Memphis, Tenn.

Rigdon Dees III was born in Florida, but was raised in Greensboro. He attended Grimsley High School and graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a degree in radio, television and motion pictures. Dees went on to work at several radio stations around the South. He wrote and recorded “Disco Duck” as a parody of the glut of disco songs popular in the late 1970s. It was perfect timing for the song, which ended up being his only hit recording.

Dees went on to become one of the most famous DJs in the country, hosting long-running shows such as The Weekly Top 40. He also has acted in television shows and movies, and has done voiceovers for movies, including Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

His many accolades include membership in both the National Association of Broadcasters and the National Radio Halls of Fame and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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Wake Forest Sets Up New Campus, 1951

President Harry Truman helps break ground on the new Wake Forest campus.
Image from the Wake Forest Historical Museum.

On October 15, 1951, President Harry S. Truman spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Winston-Salem campus of Wake Forest College. The president spoke for 20 minutes covering the history of the college and praising the people who made the move possible. A scale model of the planned campus was available for attendees to examine.

The move was several years in making. College trustees and the Baptist State Convention had agreed to move the school to the Forsyth County site during the previous decade, after the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation promised to fund the college in perpetuity if it moved. Charles and Mary Babcock, the daughter of R. J. Reynolds, donated 350 acres near Reynolda House for the campus.

The school’s roots, though, go back much further. The Baptist State Convention launched Wake Forest Institute in 1834 on the site of a Wake County plantation with an enrollment of 16. Designed to teach Baptist ministers and laymen, the school required students to spend half their day performing manual labor on the plantation.

In 1838, the school was renamed Wake Forest College, and the provision for manual labor was abandoned in favor of rigorous academic training. The village in Wake County that developed around the college became known as Wake Forest.

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University President, U.S. Senator Frank Porter Graham

On October 14, 1886, Frank Porter Graham was born in Fayetteville.

Graham became a history instructor at UNC in 1914, but left to serve in the Marines during World War I. He was elevated to the rank of first lieutenant before returning to Chapel Hill as an assistant professor. He secured a full professorship in 1927 and three years later became president of the university. When the University of North Carolina, North Carolina State College and the North Carolina College for Women merged in 1932, Graham became the first president of the Consolidated University of North Carolina.

A flyer that portrays the choice between
Willis Smith and Frank Porter Graham in the 1950 U.S. Senate election in racial terms. Image from the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill.

In 1949, Graham resigned from the UNC system to accept an appointment to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat caused by J. Melville Broughton’s death. Graham’s 1950 Democratic senate primary race against Willis Smith has become legendary for the mudslinging and posturing. He lost the primary but maintained a commitment to public service.

Graham became the United Nations mediator and representative to India and Pakistan in 1951, and served as an assistant secretary general of the United Nations before retiring in 1967.

He returned to Chapel Hill where he died in 1972. The 1968 student union building at Chapel Hill bears Graham’s name.

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