Tag Archive | Nash County

Hackney Name Synonymous with Transportation

A print of the Southern Produce Wagon produced by the Hackney Wagon Company. Image from the Wilson County Public Library.

A print of the Southern Produce Wagon produced by the Hackney Wagon Company. Image from the Wilson County Public Library.

On January 26, 1823, Willis Napoleon Hackney was born in Nash County.

Although an obituary reported that he began life with no money, Hackney would eventually enter the wagon manufacturing business in Wilson and launch a family dynasty that became synonymous with transportation in North Carolina for nearly a century.

A portrait of Hackney. Image from State Library.

Although his origins are largely unrecorded, sometime around 1854 Hackney became a partner of a Wilson carriage shop with C. L. Parker. He later developed his own business which was taken over in 1903 by his sons George and W. D. and incorporated as Hackney Wagon Company.

The Hackneys manufactured wagons and carriages from the days of wooden plank roads in the 19th century to the development of paved highways in the 20th. They supplied thousands of wagons to the U.S. military during World War I and would go on to manufacture school buses, refrigerated transportation equipment and a variety of parts.

Hackney’s sons and his grandson Thomas were involved in transportation manufacturing enterprises in Wilson and Washington, N.C., that would carry on the Hackney name in various incarnations.

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Harold Cooley, Powerful Agriculture Committee Chair

Cooley at his desk, circa 1905. Image from the Library of Congress.

Cooley at his desk, date unkown. Image from the Library of Congress.

On January 15, 1974, congressman and agricultural advocate Harold Cooley died from the effects of emphysema.

As longtime chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee, Cooley, native of Nash County, was a powerful spokesman for farmers from the New Deal to the Great Society.

Democrat Cooley, by virtue of a special election in July 1934, filled the House seat in the Fourth District vacated with the death of Edward Pou. He went on to serve 17 terms in the U.S. House. His length of service as Agriculture Committee chairman (from 1949 to 1952 and from 1955 to 1967, interrupted by the 83rd Congress when Republicans held the majority) has not been exceeded.

Cooley joined the Agriculture Committee during the height of the New Deal and was a driving force in the development of Roosevelt’s agricultural program. He backed several reforms including those that provided for allotments, price supports, rural electrification and soil conservation.

Cooley also sought to reach the world market with agricultural products, stating that “bread and butter rather than bullets and bayonets are the most powerful weapons in our arsenal.”

Cooley returned to his home in Nashville after losing his reelection campaign of 1966.

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.

Reprieve for Jim Thorpe

Jim Thorpe (far right) receives his Olympic medals from the king of Sweden.

On October 13, 1982Jim Thorpe’s medals from the 1912 Olympics were reinstated.

The famed athlete, who lived from 1888 until 1953, was born in a cabin on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma and educated at Indian boarding schools nearby. In 1904, he enrolled at the U. S. Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. While at Carlisle, Thorpe was coached by Glenn “Pop” Warner, who added him to the track team. Recognizing his talent as an athlete, Warner suggested that Thorpe train for the 1912 Olympic Games.

In 1909, Thopre played semi-professional baseball in North Carolina for the Rocky Mount Railroaders and the Fayetteville Highlanders.

At the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Thorpe won gold medals in the newly-created multi-events, the pentathlon and the decathlon. Sweden’s King Gustav V called him “the greatest athlete in the world.” A year later, after word spread that Thorpe had played semipro baseball in North Carolina, he lost his amateur status and he was forced to return his Olympic medals.

In 1982, nearly 30 years after his death, the International Olympic Committee voted unanimously to restore Thorpe’s medals.

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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.

Kay Kyser:“C’mon Chillun! Le’s Dance!”

On July 23, 1985James “Kay” Kyser, popular radio personality and bandleader, died in Chapel Hill.

Born in Rocky Mount in 1905, Kyser attended UNC where he was an exuberant head cheerleader and the class president. Also known as the “Ol’ Professor of Swing,” Kyser became one of the wildest and most grandiose bandleaders of the swing era.

In the 1930s, Kyser toured with his band, Kyser’s Kollege of Musical Knowledge, through much of the Midwest. Over the next two decades, they garnered national attention and had 11 number-one hits. Although he never learned to play an instrument, Kyser was a top-notch entertainer and went on to star in over a dozen movies, co-starring with greats of the time like Lucille Ball and John Barrymore.

In 1941, Kyser was the first person to perform live at camp shows for U.S. military personnel, predating performers such as Bob Hope. He retired suddenly in 1950, withdrawing to Chapel Hill where he remained until his death.

In 1999, he was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame.

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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.

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.

Planter and Politician Elias Carr

Image from the State Archives.

On July 22, 1900, Elias Carr, planter and former governor, died at “Bracebridge Hall,” his home in Old Sparta for most of his life.

Born in 1839 to early settlers and planters in Edgecombe and Nash Counties, Carr was orphaned with the death of his mother in 1840 and his father in 1843. He was raised by an aunt and uncle in Warren County where he received his early schooling before finishing his education at UNC and the University of Virginia.

Carr was an enlightened farmer, and his use of scientific methods in his varied agricultural endeavors made him very wealthy. In 1887, he became the first president of the North Carolina Farmer’s Association and as such he became well known throughout the state.

After gaining significant political experience with the Farmer’s Alliance, Carr was nominated for governor by the Democratic Party in 1892 and won the office. His single term in the state’s top job was marked by progressive policies and efficient management, and he advocated for many of the same things he championed before entering the political sphere, including better roads and more funding for rural schools.

After his term, Carr retired to “Bracebridge Hall,” where he died a few years later.

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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.

Susie Sharp and Her Appointments without Precedent

Chief Justice Shrap in her chambers. Image from
the N.C. Supreme Court Historical Society.

On January 2, 1975, Susie Sharp took the oath of office as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina.

Governor Kerr Scott had appointed Sharp a Superior Court judge 26 years earlier, in 1949, making her the first female judge in state history. As she rode the circuit she encountered the usual challenges, but experienced some unexpected ones, too. In Morganton, the judge’s bathroom had only a sink and a urinal. In another instance, an attorney in one of her trials once began his summation, “Gentlemen of the jury, the presence of sweet womanhood in this courtroom today rarefies the atmosphere.”

Governor Terry Sanford appointed Sharp to the state’s high bench in 1962, and she was elected by the people that fall. Twelve years later, she received 74 percent of the vote to become the first woman Chief Justice in the nation to be popularly elected.

The petite jurist, who served until 1979, was a native of Rocky Mount but lived most of her life in Reidsville. She was at once progressive, advocate for judicial reform and for humane prison conditions, but also deeply conservative, passionately arguing against the Equal Rights Amendment. Time magazine named Sharp one of twelve “women of the year” in 1975.

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P. T. Barnum Preaches in Rocky Mount, 1836

An 1897 poster for the Barnum and Bailey Circus. Image from the Library of Congress.

On November 12, 1836, Phineas Taylor “P. T.” Barnum arrived in Rocky Mount after leaving Aaron Turner’s Traveling Circus, for which he managed the sideshow acts and took tickets.  Barnum convinced some of the Turner acts to join his own traveling circus.

Their first stop was in what is now Rocky Mount. Arriving on a Saturday evening, Barnum spent the night at the Stage Coach Inn. In his autobiography, Barnum wrote that, the next morning, he accompanied the landlord to the Baptist church. Before entering the church, Barnum noticed a grove with a stand and benches. Wishing to speak to the congregation, Barnum was permitted by the preacher to speak for a half an hour after the service.

Approximately 300 people stayed to listen to Barnum preach. It was reported that the crowd was pleased the performance by Barnum, who was not yet known as the Greatest Showman on Earth.

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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.