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“Foxy Brown,” “Jackie Brown” Star Pam Grier

Grier in Foxy Brown. Image from the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

On May 26, 1949, actress Pam Grier was born in Winston-Salem.

Grier’s father was an Air Force mechanic, keeping the family constantly on the move, so it was in Colorado that her acting career got its start. Spotted by an agent at the Colorado state preliminary to the Miss Universe pageant, Grier accepted the agent’s offer to come to Hollywood to try to make it in the film industry.

After making her debut on the silver screen in the 1971 film Big Doll House, Grier quickly became a staple of the so-called “Blaxploitation” genre of films—films geared toward urban black audiences whose plots and characters relied heavily on black stereotypes. She played the starring role in Foxy Brown, perhaps the best-known movie of the genre.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Grier acted in several blockbuster, more mainstream movies and began working in television as well. In her later career, she is perhaps best known for playing the title character in Quentin Tarantino’s 1997 movie Jackie Brown, and she continues to work in movies and television to this day.

Grier was the first black woman to appear on the cover of Ms. magazine in August 1975, and Ebony included her on its list of the “100 Most Fascinating Women of the 20th Century.”

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.

Entombed at Sea in a Cask

Nancy Martin's grave at Oakdale Cemetery in  Wilmington. Image from the  New Hanover County Public Library.

Martin’s grave at Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington. Image from the New Hanover County Public Library.

On May 25, 1857, Nancy Adams Martin died at sea. Her body was placed in a cask of alcohol to preserve her remains until the ship reached port.

Affectionately known as “Nance” by her family, Martin was the daughter of Wilmington businessman Silas H. Martin. A captain and shipper by trade, Silas planned a trip around the world, and his eldest son John and daughter Nance accompanied him on the voyage. It would be an ill-fated journey for the Martins.

Nance took ill about three months into the trip and quickly succumbed to the sickness. The only means of preserving her body for later burial was to store it in a cask of rum. The thought of her body sloshing around in a cask was too much for her father and brother, so it was decided that a chair would be placed in the cask, nailed in place and Nance seated and tied into the chair to keep her from swishing around.

The voyage continued and tragedy struck again. John was swept overboard and lost at sea.

Upon returning to Wilmington, Silas had Nance buried. Rather than disturb the remains they buried her in the cask in the port city’s Oakdale Cemetery.

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.

Jennette’s Pier: A Nags Head Institution

An early postcard featuring Jennette's Pier. Image from the Jennette's Pier.

An early postcard featuring Jennette’s Pier. Image from the Jennette’s Pier.

On May 22, 1939, work began on Jennette’s Ocean Pier in Nags Head, the first fishing pier on the Outer Banks.

The 750-foot wooden structure was built by Elizabeth City’s Warren Jennette, Sr., who purchased the former site of Camp Weaver, a WPA transient camp that housed workers who built sand dunes in the area. Some buildings were converted into overnight accommodations for fishermen.

The pier opened for business that summer with a snack bar, bait stand, guest rooms and restrooms for the public. Located across from Sam and Omie’s restaurant and near Whalebone filling station, the pier helped establish the business district in South Nags Head.

Jennette’s Pier suffered damage from sea worms, nor’easters, hurricanes and even a wayward shipwreck, and was rebuilt a number of times. But it was Hurricane Isabel in 2003 that caused its final demise. A new 1,000-foot state-of-the-art green pier with educational exhibits, wind turbines and concrete pilings was built to replace the old pier.

The new pier was dedicated in May 2011, with Governor Beverly Perdue taking part in the opening celebration. Now a facility of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, Jennette’s Pier hosted nearly 200,000 anglers and sightseers last year.

Visit: Jennette’s Pier, now a unit of the North Carolina Aquariums system, is open to the public daily year-round.

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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.

Here’s to the Land of the Longleaf Pine

old-north-state-postcard

A 1908 postcard with language matching closely to Martin’s poem. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

On May 21, 1957, the General Assembly adopted an official state toast.

The toast was first read by the Rev. Walter W. Moore in May 1904 in Richmond at a banquet hosted by the North Carolina Society of Richmond. Moore’s toast came from “The Old North State,” a poem, written by Leonora Monteiro Martin, which was reportedly commissioned for the event.

Martin, a writer who had lived in North Carolina, was living in Richmond with her husband, Harry Culver-Martin at the time.

Beginning in May 1904, lines of the poem appeared in newspapers in accounts of tributes and toasts given at other occasions. The poem became almost instantly ubiquitous in association with patriotic and nostalgic feelings for the state, and within a few years it appeared on postcards and in anthologies.

In the 1930s, Mary Burke Kerr, a music teacher in Sampson County, composed music for Martin’s poem, and in 1933 the General Assembly officially recognized Kerr’s composition with a resolution and requested that WPTF, a Raleigh radio station, began to play a recording to acquaint North Carolinians with it.

From that point, generations of North Carolina school children learned the song before the General Assembly officially recognized the combined creations of Martin and Kerr as the state toast in 1957.

The full text of the toast reads:

Here’s to the land of the long leaf pine,
The summer land where the sun doth shine,
Where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great,
Here’s to “Down Home,” the Old North State!

Here’s to the land of the cotton bloom white,
Where the scuppernong perfumes the breeze at night,
Where the soft southern moss and jessamine mate,
‘Neath the murmuring pines of the Old North State!

Here’s to the land where the galax grows,
Where the rhododendron’s rosette glows,
Where soars Mount Mitchell’s summit great,
In the “Land of the Sky,” in the Old North State!

Here’s to the land where maidens* are fair,
Where friends are true and cold hearts rare,
The near land, the dear land, whatever fate,
The blest land, the best land, the Old North State!

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Medical Pioneer Susan Dimock Casualty at Sea, 1875

On May 8, 1875, Susan Dimock, first female member of the North Carolina Medical Society, drowned off the coast of England. Hers was one of 336 lives lost when the SS Schiller hit rocks in heavy fog. The Washington, North Carolina, native was en route to Europe where she planned to further her education.

Born in Beaufort County in 1847, Dimock lived there through the occupation of Washington by Union troops in 1862. Her father, a native of Maine, operated the Lafayette Hotel and housed Union troops during the occupation.

From a young age Dimock associated with S. S. Satchwell, who lived across the street.  Dr. Satchwell was a strong influence on her, allowing her to attend to patients and make house calls with him, eventually inspiring her to enter the medical profession. He shepherded her honorary membership in the Medical Society.

Dimock moved to Massachusetts but attended medical school at the University of Zurich, after being rejected by Harvard. She became resident physician at one of the earliest hospitals for women, the New England Hospital for Women and Children.  There she worked as a surgeon and developed a practice in obstetrics and gynecology.

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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.

Carnival Worker Preserved, Abandoned in Laurinburg

April-28

Concippio’s grave marker

On April 28, 1911, Forenzio Concippio, also known as Concetto Farmica, died in Laurinburg.

Concippio, a musician, was murdered by a fellow carnival worker after an argument when he was hit in the head with a tent stake. The carnival and the attack took place in McColl, just over the border in South Carolina, but the injured man was taken to the hospital in nearby Laurinburg.

Doctors operated on Concippio in attempt to save him, but he died about 12 hours later. The body was removed to McDougald Funeral Home in the small Scotland County town.

The story becomes somewhat murky after that. Some say that a decision was made not to try the case due to the expense and the fact that both men were foreigners. Others say that the assailant was actually acquitted.

Regardless, Concippio’s body was left at the funeral home where it had been embalmed.

A couple of weeks after his death, a man reputed to be his father came to the funeral home and paid an installment to have his son buried and promised to send the rest.

He was not heard from again, so Concippio’s body remained in the funeral home for 61 years until it was finally buried in 1972 in Hillside Cemetery in Laurinburg.

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.

Meadowlark Lemon, Basketball’s Court Jester

Meadowlark Lemon delights entranced youngsters at Nickerson Recreation Center. in Los Angeles, circa 1972. Image from the Los Angeles Public Library.

Meadowlark Lemon delights entranced youngsters at Nickerson Recreation Center. in Los Angeles, circa 1972. Image from the Los Angeles Public Library.

On April 25, 1932, Meadow Lemon III was born in Lexington County, South Carolina. He moved to Wilmington at age 6.

A fan of basketball from an early age, Lemon used to tell the story that his first basketball ensemble was a hoop made from an onion sack and a coat hanger with a Carnation milk can as a ball. After seeing the famed Harlem Globetrotters in a movie theater newsreel, he ran home to tell his father that he planned to join the team. In 1954, he did just that.

Lemon changed his name to Meadowlark in the late 1950s, but he was also widely known as the “Clown Prince of Basketball.” Though a slick player with phenomenal ball-handling skills and a long-distance hook shot that rarely missed the hoop, it was his cheeky comedy on the court that propelled him into the spotlight.

The best-known Globetrotter, Lemon became a television star, portraying himself in television shows like Gilligan’s Island and in cartoons including Scooby Doo.

Lemon retired from the Globetrotters in 1979, became an ordained minister in 1986 and established Meadowlark Lemon Ministries in 1994.

Inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1975 and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 200, Lemon died in 2015.

Visit: Meadowlark Lemon’s Globetrotters uniform is among the hundreds of sports-related artifacts on view at the N.C. Museum of History’s North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame exhibit.

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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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