Designer Alexander Julian and Carolina Style

Julian in his Chapel Hill store in 2013. Image from Chapel Hill Magazine.

On February 8, 1948, designer Alexander Julian was born in Chapel Hill. 

Julian’s father owned a menswear boutique, Milton’s, downtown near the UNC campus. Growing up visiting and later working in the store, young Julian took a natural career path.

Alexander often describes the moment that men’s fashion clicked with him. He’d torn the collar of his blue oxford shirt at school and stopped in at his dad’s shop to get the tailor to fix it. But instead of a mend, he asked that the collar of a yellow shirt be sewn on. He says he has been designing ever since.

Alexander’s first store was in Chapel Hill near his father’s, but he moved to New York in 1975. There he expanded into producing cloth, furniture and home goods.

In the late 1980s, Alexander designed the original, signature teal and purple uniforms for the Charlotte Hornets. In 1990, Dean Smith asked him to update the uniforms for his Tar Heel team.

At age 33, Alexander became the youngest inductee into the Fashion Hall of Fame. He has won five Coty Awards, the highest honor in the fashion industry. His furniture design garnered him the Pinnacle Award. 

Alexander recently moved his headquarters back to his hometown.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR 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 Power of Flour, Graham’s Biscuitville

On February 7, 1978, the Graham-based fast food chain Biscuitville filed to register a trademark for the first time.

Now based in Greensboro, the chain got its start as Pizzaville in 1966 when former flour salesman Maurice Jennings began selling take-out pizzas from two bread and milk stores that he owned in Burlington. The chain expanded to six stores across the Triad region and southern Virginia.

The chain first started selling biscuits to supplement its income and drive more traffic in the morning, and the first biscuit-only store opened in Danville, Virginia, in 1975. Eventually all the chain’s Pizzaville locations were converted to Biscuitville stores.

Biscuitville moved its headquarters from Graham to Greensboro in 2007, and today operates more than 50 stores in North Carolina and Virginia. It is still owned by the Jennings family. Maurice Jennings’ son Burney has been the company’s CEO since 1996.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR 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.

Long Route to Roanoke River Lighthouse

The lighthouse in 1916. Image from
North Carolina Historic Sites.

On February 6, 1832, Elizabeth City congressman William Shepard petitioned the House of Representatives for a light station to help guide sailors to safety by the mouth of the Roanoke River.

Two years later, Congress appropriated $10,000 for a lightship to operate on the Albemarle Sound. The ship operated through the Civil War, but was replaced by a screw-pile lighthouse that operated on whale oil in 1867. That structure, in turn, was damaged by fire and ice in the 1880s.

A larger lighthouse, the one that currently stands, was authorized in 1886 and finished by 1887. It was fitted with a Fresnel lens and continued to operate until 1941, when it was decommissioned by the Coast Guard.

The 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse changed hands twice in the 1950s, sold for $10 each time. Edenton businessman Emmett Wiggins moved the structure to land he owned in the Chowan County town in 1955, and he lived in the building until his death.

In 2007, the Edenton Historical Commission purchased the lighthouse and restored it in cooperation with the state of North Carolina. The restored lighthouse opened to the public as part of Historic Edenton State Historic Site in 2012.

Visit: The lighthouse is open every day of the week just steps from downtown Edenton.

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR 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.

Dunn Favorite Son, General William C. Lee

Lee receives an honorary degree from N.C. State University in 1945.
Image from NCSU Libraries.

On February 5, 1944, William Carey Lee, the “Father of the Airborne,” suffered a heart attack that ended his military career.

Born in Dunn in 1895, Lee volunteered for the United States Army during World War I. After the war, he remained in the army and, in 1939, was assigned to the Chief of the Army’s office in Washington, D.C. There he became part of a maverick group of army officers advocating for the development of an airborne army infantry force.

The Army authorized the development of a test platoon of paratroopers, and placed Lee in charge. When the Amy raised two airborne divisions, Lee received command of the 101st. He oversaw its development and training and was instrumental in getting airborne and glider operations going at Camp Mackall and Laurinburg-Maxton Army Air Base.

The inclusion of the airborne divisions in the Normandy Invasion in June 1944 was a direct result of Lee’s work. Nevertheless, he was unable to participate due to the heart attack. However, the members of the 101st Division, the Screaming Eagles, were ordered to yell the name “Bill Lee” as they departed their transports over France in the early morning hours of D-Day.

Lee died in 1948, and is buried in Dunn.

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR 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.

Tar Heel New Dealer, Annie O’Berry

O’Berry (back row, far right) with other members of the 1925 executive board
of the North Carolina Federation of Women’s Clubs. Image from
UNC-Chapel Hill Public Libraries.

On February 4, 1944, Annie Land O’Berry, administrator of the North Carolina Emergency Relief Administration, or NCERA, and president of the Rural Rehabilitation Corporation, died while undergoing treatment for an illness.

Born in Edgecombe County in 1885, O’Berry lived on her family’s farm until she was sent to live with her sister in Littleton after her parents’ deaths.

After graduating first in her class from what is now William Peace University in Raleigh, O’Berry went to live with her brother in Kinston. Active in civic organizations and the North Carolina Federation of Women’s Clubs, she demonstrated leadership that garnered the attention of Governor Angus McLean, who appointed her to the Commission to Study County Government and the North Carolina Historical Commission.

In 1930, O’Berry was named vice-chair of the state executive committee of the Democratic Party.

In 1933, O’Berry was tapped to serve as head of the NCERA. She was one of the few women to administer a state emergency relief agency. As head of NCERA, she helped provide relief to many citizens through direct aid and employment.

She remained in charge of the off-shoot Rural Rehabilitation Corporation, which provided loans to farmers, until her death.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR 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.

Steamboat “Mountain Lily” Plied the French Broad

The Mountain Lilly, abandoned in the French Broad River, circa 1880-1885, near Hendersonville. Image from UNC-Asheville.

The Mountain Lilly, abandoned in the French Broad River, circa 1880-1885, near Hendersonville. Image from UNC-Asheville.

On February 3, 1881, entrepreneurs chartered the French Broad Steamboat Company, with the objective of ferrying passengers and freight along the river from Asheville to Horse Shoe to Brevard.

Six months later, they christened the frame, 90-foot-long, two-deck excursion boat the Mountain Lily. Like its eastern North Carolina counterpart, the CSS Neuse, the Mountain Lily met its fate not far from where it was constructed after a few years.

Many at the time and since have regarded the venture as folly. The French Broad is a low-volume river that can barely float low draft vessels in any season. In the years before the launch, federal funds had permitted the removal of debris and stumps, which helped make the project more viable.

On August 2, a champagne bottle was broken on the prow of the steamboat, gleaming white with green trim and sporting two staterooms each with a capacity of 100. Supporting the vessel were two 12-horsepower motors. The crowd and brass band enjoyed a barbecue. The captain rang the ship’s bell in celebration.

The dream was to be short-lived. Four years later the ship ran aground and was abandoned. Salvagers used the lumber to construct Riverside Baptist Church in Horse Shoe where they installed the bell. The two engines were re-purposed to serve local sawmills.

Visit: The N.C. Maritime Museums in Beaufort, Hatteras and Southport, and the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer all tell the story of water-based transportation across North Carolina.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR 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.

Illinois Soldiers Overrun Thomas’s Legion, 1864

“Cherokees of the Thomas Legion” by Andy Thomas

On February 2, 1864, Union Maj. Francis M. Davidson and the 14th Illinois Cavalry engaged in a skirmish with Thomas’s Legion, a Confederate company of Cherokees led by Col. William Holland Thomas, on Deep Creek near Quallatown in Haywood County.

Accounts differ as to what exactly occurred that morning, but Union forces apparently surprised the Confederates and overran them. On the Union side, two men were killed and another six were wounded, while Thomas most likely lost 10 killed and 32 captured.

Eighteen Confederate Cherokees were taken prisoner. The captives were imprisoned in Knoxville, then Union control, where all of the Cherokees took the oath of allegiance to the United States in early March. The event was a turning point in Cherokee allegiance to the Confederacy.

The affair at Deep Creek undermined Thomas’s recruiting efforts among the Cherokees. The event coincided with internal conflicts, skyrocketing food prices due to inflation, a harsh winter and an increase in starvation among Indian families.

Thomas attempted to assuage the food shortages by purchasing grain from South Carolina, but the raids into western North Carolina, such as that at Deep Creek, led to the desertion of the Eastern Band from the Confederate cause.

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR 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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