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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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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.

Progressive Education and Fine Arts Magnet, Black Mountain College

Students at Black Mountain College.

Students at Black Mountain College. Image from the State Archives.

On August 19, 1933, Black Mountain College was established in Buncombe County by disgruntled faculty from Rollins College in Florida.

Unconventional by almost every standard, the college served as an alternative to traditional education and was one of the first schools in the nation to create an educational plan embodying the principles of progressive education. One of the major tenets of the school’s plan was to elevate the fine arts to full curricular status.

The school was based on a “whole student” concept, where students and faculty lived and worked together and there were no required courses.

Owing partly to the imbalance between the arts and sciences, Black Mountain College was never accredited. Despite that fact, many of its graduates enjoyed successful careers in the fine arts, education and letters.

Among the students or faculty were architects Buckminster Fuller and Walter Gropius; artists Josef Albers, Willem DeKooning Robert Motherwell and Robert Rauschenberg; dancers Merce Cunningham and Paul Taylor; musician John Cage; filmmaker Arthur Penn; and writers Eric Bentley, Robert Creeley, Paul Goodman, Alfred Kazin, Charles Olson, Joel Oppenheimer and Jonathan Williams.

The school fell into a period of decline following World War II, and it ceased operation in 1956.

Visit: The Western Regional Archives in Asheville holds an extensive collection of materials related to Black Mountain College. The Asheville Art Museum and Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center, both in downtown Asheville, showcase materials from the college’s people and programs.

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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 subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Wolfpack Quarterback Roman Gabriel, NFL Star for Rams and Eagles

Roman Gabriel gets ready to hike the ball while playing for N.C. State, circa 1959-61. Image from N.C. State University Library.

Roman Gabriel gets ready to hike the ball while playing for N.C. State, circa 1959-61. Image from N.C. State University Libraries.

On August 5, 1940, Roman Gabriel, Jr. was born in Wilmington.

Gabriel gained fame as the quarterback for N.C. State from 1959 to 1961, where he was a two-time All-American and a two-time ACC Player of the Year. His skill as a quarterback led him to set numerous passing records at N.C. State, and, his jersey was retired in 1962. In 1989, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

After a stellar college career, Gabriel was the No. 2 draft pick for the Los Angeles Rams in 1962. He played 16 seasons in the NFL with the Rams and Philadelphia Eagles, earning the NFL Most Valuable Player Award in 1969 and spots in the Pro Bowl four times. Gabriel retired from football in 1978 and eventually returned to his native North Carolina. For seven seasons, he was a game analyst with the Carolina Panthers Radio Network.

While playing in Los Angeles, Gabriel took advantage of his dark good looks and his proximity to the entertainment industry and had a brief career in the movies and television. His best-known role was as the adopted Indian son of John Wayne in The Undefeated.

His dark complexion led some to believe he was actually American Indian but his lineage was Filipino-American on his father’s side and Irish-American on his mother’s.

Other related resources:

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.

Sensational 1890s Murder in Winston-Salem

The Zinzendorf Hotel. Image from the Forsyth County Public Library.

On July 20, 1892, Ellen Smith was fatally shot by Peter DeGraff near the Zinzendorf Hotel in Winston-Salem. The murder became the subject of a popular turn-of-the-century ballad, “Poor Ellen Smith.”

The maid in the home of a Winston-Salem merchant, Smith became pregnant while romantically involved with DeGraff, a local ladies’ man and ne’er-do-well. The child was stillborn or died after birth during a visit to Smith’s family in Yadkin County. On that visit, Smith was allegedly accompanied by DeGraff, who denied that the child was his.

A headline in Winston paper announcing the discovery of Smith's body. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill.

A headline in Winston paper announcing the discovery of Smith’s body. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill.

DeGraff subsequently broke off the relationship and threatened to shoot Smith if she attempted to contact him again. On July 17, the two had a major quarrel at the home of Smith’s employer. Tensions cooled the next day and DeGraff sent a note Smith telling her that he loved her and asking to see her on evening of the 20th. Smith’s body was found the next morning when individuals were directed to the site by a man who was apparently DeGraff himself.

DeGraff soon fled and lived under an assumed name in Mt. Airy, but returned in June 1893 and was arrested. At the trial, the accumulated evidence pointed convincingly towards DeGraff, who pled innocence, as the killer.

Convicted, DeGraff’s execution was held in 1894. He confessed to the murder in front of the large crowd of onlookers right before he was executed.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Linville Caverns: McDowell County’s “Wondrous Splendors” Open to the Public

linville-caverns

Visitors at Linville Caverns, circa September 1966.
Image from UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries.

On July 1, 1939, Linville Caverns, North Carolina’s only show cave, opened to the public. The caverns became an overnight success, as their development coincided with construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway in McDowell and Avery Counties in 1938.

The natural limestone cave sits at the base of Humpback Mountain and showcases colorful mineral formations resulting from the effects of acidic water as it has moved through the shady dolomite for millions of years. Development of the site, led by Marion businessman by J.G. Gilkey, began in 1937, and electric lights were installed to illuminate the features that continue to change in the active cavern.

In 1859, young Fayetteville naturalist and school teacher Henry Colton published one of the earliest accounts of exploration of the cave.  He wrote of the “wondrous splendors of that hidden world” that could be found in the caverns, from the arctic cold water, to the formations, which he called the “grandest of nature’s stony tapestry.”  He noted the caverns’ inhabitants included bats, mice and a “perfect grasshopper, petrified and covered with a crust of lime.”

Linville Caverns has operated as a private enterprise since 1939 and remains open to the public today.

Visit: Linville Caverns, located near Marion in McDowell County, is open to the public daily March through December and on weekends in January and February.

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.

“Moonlight” Graham and His Place in Baseball Lore

The 1905 New York Giants. Image from the Library of Congress.

On June 29, 1905, Cumberland County native “Moonlight” Graham played in his first and only Major League Baseball game. His story came to national attention after being incorporated into the 1989 hit film Field of Dreams.

Born Archibald Wright Graham in Fayetteville in 1879, Graham was raised there and in Charlotte, where he honed his baseball skills, playing with family and friends. He went on to a stellar career playing baseball at UNC, and began playing with a Charlotte minor league team while still studying medicine in Chapel Hill.

“Moonlight” Graham, when he was on 1900 UNC baseball team. Image from the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill.

After stints with several minor league teams in North Carolina and New Hampshire, Graham signed with New York Giants in February 1905, while at the same time taking more medical courses at the University of Maryland.

In his only major league appearance, Graham played two innings as a right fielder. A ball was never hit in his direction, and he was on deck to bat when the game ended. Graham returned to the minor league shortly after that June 1905 game, and he moved to Chilsholm, Minnesota, for a job as a doctor in 1911, staying there until his death in 1965.

A decade later, author W. P. Kinsella happened to notice Graham’s story in The Baseball Encyclopedia, and included it in his 1982 novel Shoeless Joe, on which the movie Field of Dreams was based.

Other related resources:

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.

“Brad’s Drink,” now Pepsi-Cola, Stirred Up (in) New Bern

A 1953 ad for Pepsi. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

A 1953 ad for Pepsi. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

On June 16, 1903, the U.S. Patent Office registered the trademark of New Bern, pharmacist Caleb Bradham’s new soft drink, Pepsi-Cola.

Fond of concocting fresh syrup flavors to mix with soda water at his drugstore’s soda fountain, Bradham had developed the formula for his new beverage in 1893. His friends initially dubbed it “Brad’s Drink,” but Bradham renamed his product “Pepsi-Cola” in August 1898, combining the names of two of the drink’s ingredients: pepsin, a digestive enzyme, and kola nut extract. Other ingredients were sugar, vanilla and “rare oils.”

Caleb Bradham. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

Working in his pharmacy’s back room, Bradham launched the Pepsi-Cola Company and incorporated it in 1902. He first applied to register “Pepsi-Cola” as a trademark on September 23 of that year. The application, approved in 1903, described his product as “flavoring syrup for soda water.”

At first, he mixed the syrup and sold it exclusively to soda fountains. Then, realizing that a ready-to-drink beverage might appeal to more people, he began bottling and franchising Pepsi-Cola in 1905. In April of that year, he applied for a second Pepsi-Cola trademark for a “tonic beverage.” Registered a year later, that trademark was renewed and is currently owned by the multinational corporation, PepsiCo, Inc., of Purchase, N.Y.

Visit: The Birthplace of Pepsi in downtown New Bern preserves the site of Bradham’s pharmacy where Pepsi was invented in 1898.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

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