Village People’s Cowboy Hailed from Raleigh

The original Village People. Randy Jones is on the far left. Image from Getty Images.

On September 13, 1952, singer Randy Jones of the disco group Village People was born in Raleigh.

Jones grew up in Wake County, graduating from Enloe High School in 1970. After attending the North Carolina School of the Arts and UNC, he began to dance and act professionally in New York City.

The concept of the Village People group was the brainchild of record producer Jacques Morali. Jones was cast as the original cowboy in 1977, and remained with the act for three years. The idea of a concept group was not a new one, but the Village People were imbued with such energy, irony and campy enthusiasm that they were wildly successful. In fact, some form of the group has been performing since the Village People scored their U.S. first hit with “Macho Man” in 1978.

The group racked up a number of big hits in the late 1970s and early 1980s with “Y.M.C.A.,” “In the Navy,” “Go West” and “Can’t Stop the Music” among others. That period of great creativity was the group’s heyday.

Jones, appropriately, lives in Greenwich Village. He continues to perform and act.

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Bounty Off Cape Hatteras in Shipwreck of the Central America

Sept-12

The SS Central America. Image from the Library of Congress.

On September 12, 1857, the S.S. Central America sank 200 miles off Cape Hatteras with great loss of life. The side-wheel steamer was bound for New York from Havana when she encountered a hurricane and sprung a leak.

In addition to about 500 passengers and a crew of 100 aboard, the Central America was carrying mail and more than $1.5 million in gold, including coins minted in San Francisco. Around 145 people aboard the ill-fated ship were rescued by three vessels that were in the vicinity of the wreck at the time of the sinking, but the rest perished.

The great loss of gold was a contributing factor to the Panic of 1857, a short yet severe economic downturn fueled by a loss of confidence in the banking system. The panic was marked by the suspension of gold payments by financial institutions, the failing of businesses, factory closings and a rise in unemployment.

Treasure hunters discovered the wreck of the Central America in 1988, and salvage of the gold began but was halted by a court order in 1991. In April 2014, Odyssey Marine Exploration resumed recovery of the Central America’s lost treasure. To date more than 13,500 coins, bars and ingots have been recovered.

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Moses Hopkins, From Slavery to Liberia via Franklinton

September11

On September 11, 1885, Moses A. Hopkins was appointed Minister to Liberia.

Born into slavery in Virginia in 1846, Hopkins worked as a cook in Union camps during the Civil War. In 1866, at age 20, he learned to read, launching his lifelong interest in education. When he completed his degree in theology in 1877, he was the first African American graduate of Auburn Seminary in New York. Ordained by the Presbyterian Church in 1877, Hopkins moved to Franklinton.

In Franklinton, Hopkins founded Mt. Pleasant Presbyterian Church and Albion Academy. He led Albion through its formative years, and published a newspaper, The Freedmen’s Friend, with his wife, Carrie. The only known issue is from August 1884.

When Hopkins was appointed Minister to Liberia, he reported to Monrovia within a month. He died there in August 1886. His place of burial is unknown.

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Road for Charles Kuralt Began, Ended in North Carolina

Kuralt hosts "CBS Sunday Morning" in 1991. Image from the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Kuralt hosts CBS New Sunday Morning in 1991. Image from the North Carolina Collection
at UNC-Chapel Hill.

On September 10, 1934, celebrated CBS journalist, television news anchor and bestselling author Charles Kuralt was born in Wilmington.

The winner of 12 Emmys and two Peabody Awards, Kuralt showed early promise as a writer. Voted “Most Likely to Succeed” by Charlotte’s Central High School class of 1951, the budding writer attended UNC, where he was editor of The Daily Tar Heel.

Kuralt’s first professional job was with the Charlotte News, where he wrote an award winning column called “Charles Kuralt’s People.” In 1957, at age 23, he became the youngest correspondent ever hired by CBS News.

A decade later, during a period of war and riots, he experimented with a good-news segment on The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. Called “On the Road,” the feature ran for more than 20 years. During that time, Kuralt and his crew wore out six campers, crisscrossing the country’s back roads and telling stories about ordinary Americans. He later anchored CBS News Sunday Morning before retiring in 1994.

Kuralt died in July 1997, at age 62, of complications from lupus. At his request, he was buried in the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery on UNC’s campus.

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Heroine of the American Revolution Martha Bell

A monument honoring Bell at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

On September 9, 1820, Martha McFarlane McGee Bell, heroine of the American Revolution, died at her home in Randolph County. The wife of a Deep River gristmill owner, Bell and her husband were ardent supporters of American independence, and their mill became a gathering place for local patriots during the war. There is also evidence that the Continental Army used the mill to store supplies.

Bell’s credit as heroine, though, stems from an incident following the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. British General Charles Cornwallis camped at the Bells’ Mill for two days, needing to grind corn for his troops and time to rest and treat the wounded. Bell treated the British hospitably and nursed the injured in return for Cornwallis’s promise that his troops would do her property no harm. The British left without incident.

When American General “Lighthorse” Harry Lee arrived at the mill shortly after the British departed, he encouraged Bell to visit Cornwallis at his next camp on a ruse related to property damage. Bell acted as a spy for the patriots, noting details as to Cornwallis’ troops and supplies.

A monument on the grounds of Guilford Courthouse National Military Park honors Bell.

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Jordan Lake’s Namesake Served in U.S. Senate

A 1957 "Vote for Jordan" poster from the N.C. Museum of History's collection

A 1957 “Vote for Jordan” poster from the
N.C. Museum of History‘s collection

On September 8, 1896, B. Everett Jordan was born in Ramseur. Before being appointed to fill the vacant seat of Senator Kerr Scott in 1958, he was a successful textile executive who had worked his way up the ladder in one company since the 1920s.

Although several newspapers at the time considered him to have been placed in the Senate as a “seat warmer” for Luther Hodges who was then governor and popular politically, Jordan was reelected in 1960 and 1966.

His work in the Senate focused on Agriculture and Forestry, Public Works and Senate Rules and Administration. He introduced the tobacco “acreage-poundage” legislation that changed the way tobacco was marketed and valued. He also helped the state to acquire federal funds for water resources and harbor improvements.

Jordan’s age and health were key factors in the 1972 Democratic primary race for his Senate seat. At that time, he was defeated by Nick Galifianakis, who in turn lost the general election to Republican Jesse Helms.

The Chatham County New Hope Lake project, authorized in 1963, was renamed in honor of Jordan in 1973.

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Georgia Poet Sidney Lanier Died in Polk County

On September 7, 1881, Sidney Lanier, widely-acclaimed poet, author and musician, died at his home in Polk County.

A Georgia native, Lanier spent time in North Carolina during the Civil War when his unit was assigned to help construct Fort Fisher. While there he wrote some of his earliest poetry. After transferring to the Confederate Signal Corps, Lanier was assigned to a fleet of blockade runners that operated out of the lower Cape Fear River. In 1864, he was captured just off Fort Fisher by the Union Navy. While confined at Point Lookout, Maryland, he translated several literary works and reflected on his wartime experiences. His 1867 novel, Tiger-Lilies, was based in part on his Civil War service.

Lanier contracted tuberculosis after his release in 1865 and, from then on struggled through intermittent bouts of disease. He moved to Asheville in 1881, shortly before moving again to Lynn in Polk County. It was in Lynn where he wrote his last poems and succumbed to his illness.

The house Lanier occupied in Lynn still stands, along with a library that bears his name in nearby Tryon. He was immortalized in stone at Duke Chapel in Durham, as one of the three “Great Men of the South.”

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