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Acclaimed Dramatist Paul Green

paul-green

Green (left) working. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries.

On May 4, 1981, Paul Green died.

Among North Carolina’s most revered writers, Green, born in Harnett County, began study at the University of North Carolina in 1916.  After service in World War I he returned to Chapel Hill and taught there until 1944 when he resigned to devote all of his time to writing.

Plays were Green’s favorite art form but he also wrote short stories, novels and poetry. In 1927, he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for the play In Abraham’s Bosom.

His signature achievement was development of the outdoor drama (or “symphonic drama,” as he termed it).  Green’s best-known production, The Lost Colony, opened on Roanoke Island in 1937 and runs every summer.  Over time Green wrote 16 such plays, with productions staged in Florida, Virginia, Kentucky and Texas.

Green’s many honors include a designation by the General Assembly in 1979 as the state’s Dramatist Laureate. Outside the arts, Green demonstrated sympathy and compassion for African Americans and the underprivileged from an early age.  He was a lifelong champion of human rights and a dedicated opponent of war, lynching, capital punishment, chain gangs and prejudice.

His last home was “Windy Oaks,” south of Chapel Hill.

Visit: The Lost Colony is still performed each summer in Manteo. Our friends at Visit North Carolina have also put together an excellent guide to exploring outdoor dramas across the state.

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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.

The North Carolina Arts Council: Advancing the Arts Across the State

A circa 1970s billboard advertising

A circa 1970s billboard from the North Carolina Arts Council. Image from the North Carolina Arts Council.

On April 11, 1967, the North Carolina General Assembly created the North Carolina Arts Council as a statutory agency.

Established in 1964 by executive order of Governor Terry Sanford, the Arts Council began its work by documenting architecture, design, visual arts, crafts, theatre, music, dance, opera, creative writing, communications, film, concert series, school programs, statewide organizations, local arts councils and support throughout the state.

Phillip Hanes, Jr. chaired the state’s effort to advance the arts, in conjunction with the National Arts and Cultural Development Act that led to the establishment of the National Endowment for the Arts.

The state Arts Council quickly built on the 17 local arts councils and more than 200 arts organizations already working in North Carolina, organizing poetry readings throughout the state, beginning an artists-in-schools program and supporting nonprofit arts organizations and exemplary artists through grants.

Today a strong arts infrastructure provides opportunities for citizens to experience the arts in their own communities, reflecting and sharing the state’s diversity. New initiatives include literary, Blue Ridge Music and African American Music cultural tourism guides, the addition to the model arts education program, A+ Schools, and the creation of an arts-based economic development, the SmART Initiative.

In 2017, the Arts Council will celebrate 50 years of service as a statutory state agency, building on the arts to develop an economic engine that accounts for 6 percent of North Carolina’s workforce.

Audiences at arts and culture events during 2016 will have an opportunity to be surveyed in the national Arts & Economic Prosperity study, documenting the impact of the nonprofit part of the creative economy sector.

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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.

Sci-Fi and Horror Master Manly Wade Wellman

On April 5, 1986, author Manly Wade Wellman died in Chapel Hill.

Born in 1903 in the African nation of Angola where his father was a medical officer, Wellman returned to the United States with his family when he was 6. After receiving degrees from what is now Wichita State University and Columbia Law School, he moved to North Carolina in 1947.

Wellman’s prolific career as a professional writer began in 1927 when he worked as a newspaper reporter and submitted stories to pulp fiction magazines. He primarily wrote historical nonfiction focusing on the Civil War but also penned historical crime and books in other genres. His fiction included juvenile historical adventures set in the Carolinas during the American Revolution and the Civil War, mysteries and science fiction.

Wellman’s best-regarded writings are in the genres of fantasy and horror. Their inspiration was often derived from Appalachian or Native American folklore. His best-known character was Silver John, a balladeer whose wanderings in the mountains brought him into conflict with various supernatural entities.

Wellman taught creative writing at the University of North Carolina in the 1960s. He received numerous awards for both his fiction and nonfiction. Following his death Wellman was cremated and his ashes scattered in his Chapel Hill yard.

For more on North Carolina writers, check out the North Carolina Literary Trails from the N.C. Arts Council.

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.

Songwriter John D. Loudermilk of Durham

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Loudermilk (second from the left) plays guitar aboard an airplane for Luther Hodges (third from the left) and others. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries.

On March 31, 1934, songwriter John D. Loudermilk was born in Durham.

Loudermilk learned to play instruments at the Salvation Army church he attended as a child, and his mother taught him to play a cigar box ukulele built by his father. At age 13, he performed on Durham radio station WTIK as Little Johnny Dee, his recording name on the Colonial label.

While working as a handyman for WTVD, the station let Loudermilk perform “A Rose and a Baby Ruth” on air. He had written the song first as a poem and later set it to music. After George Hamilton IV recorded a version in 1956, Loudermilk’s career began to take off.

Loudermilk’s star continued to rise after his 1957 recording of “Sittin’ in the Balcony” made the Top 40. The song made the Top 20 when it was covered by Eddie Cochran later that same year.

As his career progressed, he found more success as a songwriter than as a performer. He wrote country and pop music hits for the Everly Brothers, Chet Atkins, Paul Revere & the Raiders (“Indian Reservation”), The Casinos (“Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye”) and Johnny Tillotson (“Talk Back Trembling Lips”).

Loudermilk is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame.

Check out the N.C. Arts Council’s guide to the Performing Arts in North Carolina for more on experiencing authentic Tar Heel music.

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.

Ramble On, Charlie Poole

Poole (left) in 1927 with fellow North Carolina Ramblers Posey Rorer and Roy Harvey. Image from The Charlie Poole Project.

On March 22, 1892, Charlie Poole, banjoist extraordinaire and founder of the old–time music pioneers known as the North Carolina Ramblers, was born in Randolph County.

At an early age Poole moved to Spray (now Eden in Rockingham County) and, over the course of his short life, achieved near-legendary status. Although he died in 1931, before reaching age 40, his star continues to rise to this day.

Partnering with two neighbors, Poole made some of the first known country music records. His high-pitched vocal style was a hit. The Ramblers’ fan base extended from the Piedmont cotton mills all across the nation. Music historian Bill Malone concluded that

No string band in early country music equaled the Ramblers’ controlled, clean, well-patterned sound.

Poole had smashed his right hand in a childhood baseball accident, leaving his fingers curled and leading him to favor a three-finger banjo picking style. Stories about his drinking, rambling, and carousing are widespread. His style of living prefigured that of Hank Williams a generation later.

In recent years re-releases of his works, featuring songs such as “Can I Sleep in Your Barn Tonight, Mister” and “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down” have reached new audiences.

Other related resources:

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.

A Friendship Cemented at Durham Rail Station

Price and Welty together in New York, circa 1972. Image from the New York Social Diary.

On February 23, 1955, Reynolds Price met Eudora Welty on a cold, dark, railroad platform in downtown Durham.

Welty, the Mississippi-bred novelist and short-story writer, agreed to visit Duke University to give a lecture and lead a writing seminar. Price, a Duke senior English major from Warren County, was eager to meet Welty. “The world she described seemed so close to my own,” he later wrote.

Having learned Welty’s train would arrive well after midnight and knowing taxis would be unavailable that late, Price decided to chauffeur the future Pulitzer Prize-winner to her hotel in his mother’s Chrysler convertible. At the next day’s seminar, Welty read Price’s short story, “Michael Egerton.”

Afterward, she offered to send it to her agent. “Despite a 24-year-gap in our ages, a friendship was cemented on the spot,” Price wrote. That friendship lasted until Welty’s death in 2001.

By that time Price had become an award-winning writer and long-time English professor at Duke. Treatment for a cancerous spinal tumor in 1984 left him paralyzed from the waist down. Still, he continued to write and teach. His 37 volumes include poetry, short stories, novels, essays, plays and memoirs.

Price died in 2011 at age 77.

Other related resources:

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.

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, Julian’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.

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