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Bayard Wootten, Esteemed Photographer, of Chapel Hill and New Bern

An image of Wootten from the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill

An image of Wootten from the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill

On April 6, 1959, pioneering photographer Bayard Wootten died in New Bern.

Born in New Bern in 1875, Wootten left the area to attend college in Greensboro and then teach. She returned to New Bern to help family members. Once back, she did design work to support her family, eventually creating Pepsi-Cola’s first trademarked logo. She embraced photography in 1904 and, after displaying her first photograph that year, orders for her work began to roll in.

After working for the National Guard as photographer and director of publicity, she turned to aerial photography in 1919, taking pictures of New Bern and the Neuse River in a Wright Brothers plane.

Wootten moved to New York, and after a brief stint there and running a statewide portrait photographic service, she settled in Chapel Hill in 1928. She would remain there until her retirement in 1954. During her time there she received frequent invitations to exhibit her work, and assembled popular slide presentations based on her architectural and landscape photography. She also illustrated books for UNC Press, Houghton Mifflin and J.B. Lippincott publishers during that time.

Shortly after her retirement she returned to New Bern where she died five years later.

The UNC-Chapel Hill Library has collected a number of biographical materials and photographs associated with Wootten on this page.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Horace Kephart, and the “Back of Beyond”

Kephart cooking in at a camp in the Smokies

On April 2, 1931, naturalist and writer Horace Kephart was killed in a car crash near Bryson City. Kephart was riding in a taxi driven by another author, Fiswoode Tarleton, when the car plunged from the highway and overturned three times. Both Kephart and Tarleton were killed instantly.

A former librarian, Kephart came to the Great Smoky Mountains in 1904 seeking solace and spent the rest of his life there, writing about the environment and outdoor life. By 1913, he had published three books on self-reliant living and the natural world. He was an early advocate of the mountain region and tirelessly promoted the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Though born in Pennsylvania and raised in the Midwest, Kephart lived in a remote cabin on Hazel Creek in Swain County for much of his later life.

Kephart wrote many books and articles about the southern Appalachian culture and the natural environment of the area he adopted as his home, which he heralded at the “Back of Beyond.” His book Our Southern Highlanders, published in 1913, is the classic work on the region.

Kephart is buried in Bryson City on a hill overlooking the Great Smoky Mountains.

Western Carolina University holds many of Kephart’s papers.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Modernist Giant George Matsumoto

The Matsumoto House in Raleigh. Image from the  State Historic Preservation Office

The Matsumoto House in Raleigh. Image from the
State Historic Preservation Office

On March 27, 1950, George Matsumoto was licensed to practice architecture in North Carolina. Known for his Modernist designs, Matsumoto was one of the founding faculty members of N.C. State’s School of Design in 1948. Born in 1922, he grew up in San Francisco. He studied architecture at the University of California at Berkeley, Washington University in Saint Louis and Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan.

In 1952, Matsumoto began construction of his own house in Raleigh, extending the living space visually into the wooded hillside. The Matsumoto House, a designated Raleigh Historic Landmark, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

He returned to San Francisco in 1961 to teach at Berkeley, and later opened a successful private practice with commissions in commercial, educational and recreational work as well as campus and community planning. He was elected a fellow of the American Institute of Architects.

North Carolina has the third largest collection of Modernist houses in America, a residential building style initiated by Matsumoto. The George Matsumoto papers and drawings are now held by N.C. State’s D. H. Hill Library.

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Howard Cosell, North Carolinian: Like Him or Lump Him

Howard Cossell and Muhammad Ali

On March 25, 1918, television sportscaster Howard Cosell was born Howard William Cohen in Winston-Salem. Before Cosell turned three, his family moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., where he later changed his surname from Cohen to Cossell to reflect his Polish roots. Cosell studied law at New York University, passed the state bar in 1941 and served in the U.S. Army in World War II.

After the war, Cosell practiced law in Manhattan and hosted a Saturday-morning ABC radio show featuring Little Leaguers interviewing major leaguers. He became a full-time ABC sportscaster in 1956, first gaining fame as a boxing announcer.  He went on to co-anchor Monday Night Football, for which he is now best known.  

With his staccato style of speech and trademark “tell-it-like-it-is” approach, Cosell transformed sports broadcasting, winning fans and detractors alike. He wrote four best-selling books, made several movie cameos, and was inducted into the American Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame in 1993.

Diagnosed with cancer in 1991, Cosell died of a heart embolism in 1995, at 77. The next year, he was posthumously awarded an Emmy for lifetime achievement in sports.

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Old Quork’s Day: The Origins of an Ocracoke Legend

Shrimping in Pamlico Sound, 1948. Image from the N.C. Maritime Museum

Shrimping in Pamlico Sound, 1948. Image from
the N.C. Maritime Museum

On March 16, most likely in the 1780s, an odd and offbeat mariner from Ocracoke Island known as Quawk or Quork went to sea in his small fishing skiff despite warnings of impending foul weather. He never returned. The sailor was said to be a loner, and was, by some accounts, the sole survivor of a shipwreck on the island. He was called Quork because of his voice, which was said to be like that of the “quawk,” the colloquial name for the black-crowned night heron.

The day became known as Old Quork’s Day, a day of bad luck or misfortune for seamen who might fall victim to quick-forming storms that could catch a mariner unwary. On Ocracoke Island and as far south as Carteret County, cautious fisherman and old salts still stay ashore on March 16, for only the foolhardy go out on Old Quork’s Day.

North Carolina storytellers and raconteurs have kept Quork’s tale alive for more than 200 years. In Morehead City during the 1970s, “Old Quork’s Day” was held as a promotional activity on a Saturday in mid-March to open the vacation season.

Check out North Carolina Legends from N.C. Historical Publications for more.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Secret Basketball Game of 1944

The NCCU team from the “Secret Game”

On March 12, 1944, an all-white team from Duke University’s medical school faced off against an all-black team from what is now North Carolina Central University, the Eagles, in a secret, interracial basketball game.

At the time, strict segregation laws criminalized racial interaction and fostered a dangerous environment for those who violated them, prompting the participants to take extreme caution in planning and attending the event. Coaches kept school administrators in the dark and barred the doors to the Eagles’ gym.

The two teams played cautiously at first, worried that a foul might morph into a fight. But, by the second half, the jitters subsided, and the teams focused on just playing the game. When the clock ran down, the Eagles, who had lost only one game that season, emerged victorious. The final score was 88-44.

The two teams then mixed their squads and played a second game. One Duke player told his family “we sure had fun and I especially had a good time, for most of the fellows playing with me were Southerners.  . . .  And when the evening was over, most of them had changed their views quite a lot.”

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Centennial of Babe Ruth’s Fayetteville Visit, First Home Run

Babe Ruth in Fayetteville. Image from the State Archives

On March 7, 1914George Herman Ruth Jr. hit his first home run as a professional baseball player and was given the nickname “Babe” in Fayetteville.

Ruth began playing baseball in his native Baltimore. At age 19, Jack Dunn, manager of the Baltimore Orioles, recognized his talent and signed him to his first professional contract. A few weeks later, the team headed to Fayetteville en route to Florida for spring training.

While in Fayetteville, the players learned that Dunn had legally adopted Ruth to keep him with the Orioles. That, combined with Ruth’s playing on the elevators at the Lafayette Hotel, resulted in the older players teasing him as “Dunn’s baby,” later shortened to “Baby” and “Babe.”

In the last inning of the exhibition game at the Cape Fear Fair Ground, Ruth hit a long home run. He described it saying, “I hit it as I hit all the others, by taking a good gander at the pitch as it came up to the plate, twisting my body into a backswing and then hitting it as hard I as I could swing.” Ruth later commented, “I got to some bigger places than Fayetteville after that, but darn few as exciting.”

The Museum of the Cape Fear will be hosting a number of events this weekend to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Babe Ruth’s first home run. Be sure not to miss them!

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Boone Tract in Davie County

A portrait of Boone held by the N.C. Museum of History

A portrait of Boone held by the
N.C. Museum of History

On February 21, 1764, famed frontiersman Daniel Boone sold land near what is now Mocksville to settle debts before exploring westward. Aaron Van Cleave, a former ship’s captain from New York, paid Boone “80 pounds Proclamation money of the state of North Carolina” for his 640 acres at the forks of the Yadkin River.

The property had been the Boone family’s first home in North Carolina. Squire Boone, Daniel’s father, had moved his family there from Pennsylvania and acquired the tract along Bear Creek from John Carteret, Earl Granville, in December 1753. Squire Boone sold the tract to his son in October 1759. The original 1764 deed, in which Boone and his wife Rachel, transferred the property to Van Cleave, can still be found in the Rowan County Register of Deeds office in Salisbury. It bears Daniel’s signature and Rachel’s mark.

Between 1767 and 1775, Boone helped blaze the Wilderness Road across the Appalachian Mountains via the Cumberland Gap and lead three expeditions into Kentucky, opening the west for settlement. In 1775, he founded the village of Boonesborough, Kent., and moved his family there, along with some North Carolina friends and neighbors. That group included five of the Van Cleaves’ sons and their only daughter.

For more, check out Davie County: A Brief History from North Carolina Historical Publications.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

“Witlings Defame Her:” William Gaston and “The Old North State”

Sheet music for “The Old North State.” Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Sheet music for “The Old North State.” Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

On February 18, 1927, the General Assembly adopted “The Old North State” as North Carolina’s official state song.

State Supreme Court Justice William Joseph Gaston of New Bern penned the song’s patriotic lyrics in the 1830s, when North Carolina was lagging economically behind its neighbors and masses of people were moving away. A dedicated public servant and advocate for internal improvements, Gaston sought to defend North Carolina against accusations of being backward.

When court was in session in Raleigh, Gaston stayed at the home of Mrs. James F. Taylor. One day after a couple of women in the household returned from a concert by a group of visiting Swiss bellringers, they began to sing and play one of the concert tunes on the piano. Gaston became inspired. At his office on Hargett Street, he wrote several verses of the now-familiar song, adapting it to the melody he had just heard. A chorus of 50 young women first performed the song at the Whig state convention in Raleigh in October 1840.

R. Culver set Gaston’s poem to music in 1844, but the arrangement composed in 1926 by Mrs. E. E. Randolph in Raleigh is the version familiar to North Carolinians today.

For more on Gaston and the state song, check out the Old North State Fact Book from North Carolina Historical Publications.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

UNC’s Star Guard Phil Ford

Phil Ford with Dean Smith, circa 1974-1978. Image from the North Carolina Collection

Phil Ford with Dean Smith, circa 1974-1978.
Image from the North Carolina Collection

On February 9, 1956, basketball legend Phil Ford was born in Kannapolis.

Ford was raised in Rocky Mount, where he graduated from high school in 1974. As a point guard at UNC-Chapel Hill, he led the basketball team to four NCAA tournaments. Ford’s accolades during his college career were many. In 1978, he capped off his senior year by winning the coveted John R. Wooden Award, given annually to the country’s most outstanding college basketball player. He graduated that year with a degree in business administration.

Ford was the number two pick in the 1978 NBA draft, going to the Kansas City Kings. The following year, he was named NBA rookie of the year. During the course of his career, Ford also played professionally for the New Jersey Nets, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Houston Rockets.

He was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1991. Today he works for the fundraising arm of the university’s athletic department.

Other related resources:

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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