J. C. B. Ehringhaus, Governor, 1932-1936

Image from the State Archives.

On July 31, 1949, Depression-era governor John Christoph Blucher Ehringhaus, died.

Born in Elizabeth City in 1882, Ehringhaus represented Pasquotank County in the General Assembly and served as the modern-day equivalent of a district attorney before becoming governor.

Ehringhaus is probably best remembered for balancing the state’s budget during the turbulent times of the Great Depression. He improved the way the state’s public schools were managed, while ensuring no teachers lost their jobs or pay, and made certain that the schools kept functioning eight months a year with busing and textbook rentals.

Ehringhaus cut the state budget and returned the government to fiscal stability, while increasing its power with the introduction of a state sales tax to fund the public school system. He reorganized the prisons to make them self-sufficient and left the state with a $5 million surplus.

An advocate for farmers, Ehringhaus closed the state’s tobacco markerts in 1933 and traveled to Washington, D.C. to demand the federal government set higher prices for the crop. He publicly supported Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, but did little to help implement them.

Ehringhaus’s popularity declined in the mid-1930s, and he returned to his law practice in Raleigh after his term.

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Fascist Writer and Politician William Dudley Pelley Lived in Asheville

Pelley

A signed photograph of Pelley.
Image from iCollector.

On July 30, 1965, American fascist and anti-Semite William Dudley Pelley died. A writer, novelist and screenwriter from Massachusetts, he turned to politics and religion after a near-death experience.

Pelley spent the 1930s in Asheville where he developed his “Liberation Theology,” a combination of elements of Christianity, fascism, nationalism, theocracy and socialism. In Asheville, he established Galahad Press, through which he published his radical magazine New Liberator. In 1932, he founded Galahad College where he further promoted his political and economic theories.

In 1933, Pelley founded the Silver Legion of America, better known as the “Silver Shirts,” an organization modeled on Hitler’s Brown Shirts. He ran for president in 1936 as a candidate of the Christian Party.

Convicted of fraud in North Carolina, Pelley moved to Indiana in 1940. Arrested in 1942 and charged with sedition and treason, he spent the rest of the 1940s in federal prison. After his release in 1952, he lived the rest of his life in Noblesville, Indiana, developing and publishing on another religious philosophy called “Soulcraft,” which was based on UFOs and later on his reported contact with souls of famous historical figures.

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Loyalists and Patriots Clash at Alston House, 1781

A re-enactment of the skirmish at the House in the Horseshoe. Image from North Carolina Historic Sites.

A re-enactment of the skirmish at the House in the Horseshoe.
Image from North Carolina Historic Sites.

On July 29, 1781Phillip Alston and a small band of patriot militia were besieged at the Alston home by forces loyal to the king under the command of David Fanning.

The attack occurred in the early morning hours and, trapped in his house, Alston ordered his men to barricade the doors and windows. Fanning posted his men along a split rail fence outside the home and, for several hours, the men exchanged fire with no side gaining a real advantage.

As her house was being riddled by bullets, Temperance Alston, Phillip’s wife, was level-headed enough to hide her children in the chimney, standing them on a table so that their bodies were behind the brickwork. Just as Fanning was considering retreating, his men found a small wagon in Alston’s barn. He ordered it loaded with hay and set it afire with the aim of pushing it into the house.

In an effort to save the lives of everyone in the inside, Temperance cautiously stepped out and negotiated a surrender.

The Alston House, near the Moore County town of Carthage, is now known as the House in the Horseshoe and is a North Carolina State Historic Site.

Visit: House in the Horseshoe will commemorate the anniversary of the skirmish with re-enactments Saturday and Sunday.

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Confederates Repulse Union Army at Boon’s Mill, 1863

On July 28, 1863, a skirmish was fought at Boon’s Mill near Jackson. It marked the end of a Federal raid against Weldon, a major railroad hub linking the Deep South to Richmond.

The operation began three days earlier, when infantry under Maj. Gen. John G. Foster landed near Winton on the Chowan River. The next day they advanced toward Murfreesboro and defeated a Confederate force at Potecasi Creek.

The Union advance was slowed when a cavalry column under Col. Samuel P. Spear assigned to strike Weldon was delayed after losing a pontoon bridge in a storm. That, in turn, gave the Confederate military time to dispatch Brig. Gen. Matt Ransom’s brigade from Petersburg as reinforcements.

Ransom established a position at Boon’s Mill with the few companies that had arrived at that point. In the meantime, Spear reached Winton and headed for Weldon. Ransom and his staff were almost captured as they encountered the Federals, but raced back to their line. Spear made little effort to take the position, and the confrontation settled into an artillery duel which was ended by a storm.

Casualties were light on both sides. Spear retreated, and the railroad line was safe again for the moment.

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Homegrown Jihadists Arrested in Raleigh, 2009

Mugshots from members of the “Raleigh jihad ” group.
Image from FindLaw.

On July 27, 2009, seven men were arrested in Raleigh and accused of plotting to wage “violent jihad” outside the United States.

The alleged ringleader was Daniel Patrick Boyd, who recruited men, including two of his sons, to commit terrorist activities abroad. In the 1980s and 90s Boyd had traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan where he “received military-style training in terrorist training camps for the purpose of engaging in violent jihad.”

The men arrested were attempting to make their way to the Middle East to join a terrorist organization. They failed, and in doing so were arrested by the federal government. The men were all American citizens who had radicalized at some point in their lives. Several of the members had been talking about waging some form of Jihad for years, and many people who knew them were not surprised by the arrests.

In 2011, Boyd plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, and one count of conspiracy to commit murder, maiming and kidnapping overseas. He later testified in court against some of his co-conspirators.

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Hang Glider Adapted for Water Use, 1962

Purcell demonstrates his FlightSail technology on Lake Waccamaw. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

Purcell demonstrates his FlightSail technology on Lake Waccamaw.
Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

On July 26, 1962, Thomas Purcell Jr. demonstrated FlightSail at Lake Waccamaw.

The Columbus County flight was the first water-based use of the glider that had been adapted by Purcell from technology created by aviation pioneer Francis Rogallo. The aircraft was a single seat open cockpit parasol-winged glider with skids to facilitate water takeoffs and landings.

Purcell, who studied at North Carolina State University, got a job at Bensen Aircraft Corporation, a gyrocopter manufacturer near the Raleigh-Durham Airport after graduating. He later opened his own company, Flight Dynamics, which designed and sold plans for a variety of aircraft.

Purcell thought up his designs after reading magazine articles about glider technology invented by Rogallo, often called the “father of hand gliding.”

Purcell-Promos

A montage of promotional photographs for technologies Purcell invented.
Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

NASA, which had previously been interested in Rogallo’s work, began to take an interest in Purcell as well. Purcell visited NASA in 1961 to demonstrate the FlightSail glider, which the nation’s space agency thought could be used as a substitute for traditional parachutes for the Gemini program.

Though NASA ultimately decided to use regular parachutes for Gemini, the Flightsail system and others like it are still remembered as massive improvements in glider technology, and Purcell marketed his technology for recreation throughout the 1970s.

A model of the FlightSail Purcell flew at Lake Waccamaw is in the holdings of the North Carolina Museum of History.

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Sit-in Victory in Greensboro, 1960

Lunch Counter Sit-in, Greensboro, N.C.

N.C. A&T students sit-in at a lunch counter in Greensboro.
Image from the Library of Congress.

On July 25, 1960, Greensboro lunch counters opened to sitting customers of all races for the first time. The event was the culmination of a brief and intense desegregation campaign by black activists that sparked similar actions throughout the country.

In February of that year, four students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College began a sit-in at the lunch counter of downtown Woolworth’s, demanding equal service with white customers. The original demonstrators, Ezell Blair Jr., Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain and David Richmond, were joined on succeeding days by more and more protestors, and the campaign they began spread to other stores.

After six days, stores closed and the protesters declared a moratorium to negotiate with civic leaders. Similar protests spread throughout the South, while supporting demonstrations were launched in the North.

Negotiations failed and the demonstrations resumed in April. Stores that refused to seat black customers at their lunch counters were picketed. By the end of June, store managers gave up as the boycott hurt their businesses.

After new negotiations, it was agreed that blacks could eat at Greensboro lunch counters. The successful outcome of the campaign marked an important state and national milestone in the on-going civil rights struggle.

Visit: The International Civil Rights Center & Museum is now located on the site of Woolworth’s lunch counter where the sit-in movement began. It is open to the public Monday through Saturday.

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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.

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