Laurinburg-Maxton Army Air Base and Glider Warfare

Laurinburg-Maxton postcard

Laurinburg-Maxton postcard. Image from the Library of Congress.

On August 28, 1942, the U.S. Army activated Laurinburg-Maxton air base in Scotland County. The facility, where glider pilots trained, played a little known role in the Allied victory in World War II.

Germany had pioneered the use of gliders, demonstrating their effectiveness in Holland and on Crete.

The individual most responsible for incorporating gliders into the U.S. military was Maj. Gen. William C. Lee, who had initiated the use of airborne forces at Fort Bragg and Camp Mackall.

Paratroopers practice at Laruinburg-Maxton Army Air Base during World War II. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

Paratroopers practice at Laruinburg-Maxton Army Air Base during World War II. Image from the
N.C. Museum of History.

The Laurinburg-Maxton Army Air Base housed the First Troop Carrier Command. The 4,600-acre base contained three 6,500-foot long runways that formed a triangle. The triangle’s center was 510 acres of Bermuda grass, the landing site for the gliders.

The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps considered the glider concept viable as well, and incorporated the craft into their own training exercises. From 1942 to 1945, thousands trained for combat in Scotland County, including troops that took part in the D-Day invasion at Normandy.

At the war’s conclusion the base was deactivated. With the advent of helicopters, the military had no further need for the glider program.

The Scotland Memorial Hospital was housed on the base’s former site from 1946 to 1951, and today the facility houses an industrial park and public airport.

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Flight of Robert Williams as Racial Tensions Rise in Monroe, 1961

A headline in the Statesville Record and Landmark announcing the

A headline in the Statesville Record and Landmark announcing the violence in Monroe. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill.

On August 27, 1961, civil rights protests in Monroe escalated into a riot, leading to local NAACP leader Robert Williams being charged with kidnapping and fleeing across state lines.

In late August 1961, Freedom Riders and members of other civil rights organizations traveled to Monroe where they hoped to assist Williams. He aimed to press charges against a Ku Klux Klansman who had assaulted him the previous year. They planned to carry out peaceful demonstrations to protest the injustice.

The FBI’s “Wanted” poster for Williams. Image from the FBI.

Despite the group’s nonviolent discipline, confrontations escalated, and on August 27, as the crowd at the courthouse grew unruly, the police line collapsed and a white mob attacked some of the activists. The remaining picketers were loaded into cars and taken into custody. Gunfire was heard around Monroe for hours, and a policeman was wounded.

Shortly thereafter, a white couple made a wrong turn onto the street where Williams lived. Williams’s supporters forcibly removed the couple from their car and took them to Williams’s house where they were held by armed individuals before being released unharmed.

Before learning of the kidnapping charges against him, Williams escaped with his family to Cuba where, by 1963, he was broadcasting a radio program called Radio Free Dixie.

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Spanish Attack on Beaufort, 1747

Aug-26-b

A 1960 re-enactment of the Spanish invasion of Beaufort.
Image from Beaufort, North Carolina History.

On August 26, 1747, Spanish privateers attacked and plundered Beaufort. The attack was one in a multi-year series of assaults by the Spanish on the largely undefended coast of North Carolina. It dramatically demonstrated the constant threat posed by the Spanish on the colony.

After three days under siege, the colony’s inhabitants fought back and drove the privateers away. From records it is clear that some Spanish captives were taken in the skirmish. What was called “the alarm” was in effect until September when it became clear that the marauders would not be returning.

The next year, however, the Spanish attacked again, temporarily driving away the inhabitants of Brunswick. As part of an inter-colonial war with the Spanish and French that had roots in Britain’s battles with the two countries, the skirmishes ended in 1748 with a treaty that was but a brief respite before the French and Indian War began in 1754.

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Little Eva and Her 1962 Classic “Loco-Motion”

On August 25, 1962, Little Eva hit the top of the charts with her recording of “The Loco-Motion.”

Eva Narcissus Boyd, fresh from her home in Belhaven, can be said to have been in the right place at the right time. In 1960, she left North Carolina and headed to New York to try to break into the music business.

While she sang backup in some studio sessions early on, it was not until “The Loco-Motion” that she got her big break. At the time of the song’s release, the 17-year-old Boyd was working as babysitter to songwriters Gerry Goffin and Carole King. The duo wrote “The Loco-Motion” and asked Boyd to sing on the demo with King doing the backup vocals. While they had intended the song for Dee Dee Sharp, who turned it down, producer Don Kirshner decided that the demo was fine as it was.

Little Eva had some modest success with other songs but none equaled the popularity of “The Loco-Motion.”

The song has the distinction of being one of the few to reach #1 in three different decades with three different artists. After Little Eva’s success with it in 1962, Grand Funk Railroad and Kylie Minogue had break out versions of the song in in 1974 and 1987, respectively.

Boyd died in Kinston in 2003.

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A Hex on Her Houses: Harriet Irwin of Charlotte

Irwin-Patent

An illustration from Irwin’s 1869 patent. Image from
the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

On August 24, 1869, Harriet Morrison Irwin became the first woman to patent an architectural design.

Irwin’s design was for a hexagonal house, planned in such a way that there were no hallways and no four-cornered rooms. Concerned with domestic efficiency, she theorized that her idea utilized space more effectively than a rectangular building and encouraged better airflow.

Irwin’s ideas received some attention from the press at the time and reportedly inspired at least two houses in Charlotte, though both were demolished.

Born in Mecklenburg County in 1828 to a prominent clergyman’s family, Irwin spent most of her life in and around Charlotte. Aside from her work in architecture, Irwin was an author and social commentator. She wrote primarily nonfiction articles related to history and progress but also penned one novel concerning her architectural theories in which the hero lives in a hexagonal house.

She and James Irwin had nine children, five of whom survived infancy. She died in 1897.

The original patent is available online from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

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Duke’s Sonny Jurgensen, Key Player for the Washington NFL Team

Jurgensen playing for the Washington Redskins in October 1967. Image from the National Football League.

On August 23, 1934, legendary quarterback Christian Jurgensen, was born in Wilmington. Known to the world as Sonny, the spirited and redheaded Jurgensen is considered one of the all-time best passers in pro football history.

Jurgensen was a multi-talented athlete in Wilmington during the 1940s and 1950s, playing baseball, basketball, football and tennis. He attended Duke and joined the varsity football squad in 1954 as a defensive back, becoming starting quarterback the next year and leading the team to the Orange Bowl.

He then played seven seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles after signing as a 4th round draft pick in 1957. In 1964, the Eagles traded him to the Washington Redksins, where he spent the rest of his career and helped to change the team’s fortunes and image.

Jurgensen achieved legendary status through strength and pinpoint accuracy in passing. Reluctantly forced into retirement in 1975 at age 41, he had logged more than 32,000 yards in passing, 255 touchdowns and an impressive 57% pass completion rate.

In retirement, Jurgensen began an enduring sports casting career, first with CBS, and since 1980 for Redskins Radio. He was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1971 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983.

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Connie Gay, Country Music Entrepreneur and Starmaker

On August 22, 1914, Country Music Association founder Connie Barriot Gay was born in Lizard Lick in rural Wake County.

After working on his family’s tobacco farm as a youth, Gay become an agricultural extension agent. That job led him into radio broadcasting in the 1940s when he took over the Farm Security Administration’s National Farm and Home Hour.

Gay’s interest in radio and music grew, and in 1946, he approached the program director of an Arlington, Virginia, radio station about starting a country music show called “Town and Country.” Through the show, Gay polished the image of what had been known as “hillbilly music” and he is credited with coining the term “country music”.

After his radio career ended, Gay went on to be a prime mover and shaker in the growth of the country music industry. Many of the shows he produced sold out to thousands of fans. He teamed up with the “Grand Ole Opry” for several years, planning and promoting shows for radio, the stage and TV, and in the process, discovering Patsy Cline and Jimmy Dean.

After a brief hiatus to address his alcoholism, Gay returned to the public scene to found the Country Music Association and the Country Music Foundation. By 1980, he had earned a spot in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

He died in 1989, leaving a star-studded legacy behind.

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