D.G. Martin

The ’57 Chevy: Two Stories About The Same Car

What is it about a 1957 Chevrolet? Like The New York Times offering on its store page a “1957 Bel Air 50th Anniversary Edition $99.95. Numbered, limited edition of 1,957.” Before you order, let me tell you about the North Carolina connection to the car. Make that “connections,” as there are more than one. First, a 1957 Chevy station wagon graces the cover of a recent memoir by a prominent North Carolinian, Smedes York. His record of public service and success makes us envious: basketball player at N.C. State, mayor of Raleigh, and leader of his family’s real estate,...

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A Black History Month Valentine

Each February we celebrate Valentine’s Day and Black History Month. There is an important, but seldom (if ever) mentioned, connective link. Here it is briefly: Valentine’s Day’s symbol is a heart, and an African American doctor performed the first reported open-heart surgery. That doctor’s story is the first chapter of N.C. State University professor Rob Dunn’s book, The Man Who Touched His Own Heart. In the summer of 1893, the year of the World’s Fair in Chicago, Daniel Hale Williams, “a young doctor from the rough side of town, would make the biggest decision of his life,” Dunn writes....

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Who Could Succeed Tom Ross?

Five years ago, when the University of North Carolina board of governors was searching for a candidate to replace Erskine Bowles, I wrote in this column, “The Board will be looking for the new president who has two critical qualifications: A good feel for North Carolina’s traditions and the state’s needs, and, Successful experience at the highest level of university administration.”     Even though the current board is much different from the one that selected Tom Ross, I believe these two characteristics will be important to board members. Familiarity with and experience in North Carolina politics and culture...

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30 Years Later, Ross In Friday’s Footsteps

“He’s got great job security,” someone asserted a few years ago when UNC President Tom Ross’s job first seemed to be at risk after the party affiliation of UNC’s board of governors changed. He explained, “Look, if the board fires him, he will run for governor—not something they would welcome.” Now that the board has given Ross notice, will he fulfill the prediction and run for governor? Probably not. Democrats already have two candidates headed for a Democratic primary next year. But the U.S. Senate? Maybe. The UNC presidency and U.S. Senate races have had close connections. Even more...

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Leaving Proudly, But Not With Enthusiasm

“Fired with enthusiasm.” Last week I was reminded of that quote attributed to Clark Kerr, the legendary president of the multi-campus University of California. It is what he said when, shortly after Ronald Reagan’s election as governor in 1966, university regents ousted Kerr. He joked that he left the university the same way he came in, “fired with enthusiasm.” All this is to remind us that Tom Ross is not the first state public university president to be forced out of office after a change in the state’s political leadership. In a testament to Ross’s patient consensus-building skills, the...

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Where Politics And Literature Meet

Is my weekly column supposed to be about books or about politics? I get this question sometimes from editors and readers. In fact, one newspaper editor stopped using my column about a year ago. He wrote that he enjoyed my book columns, but “when I get a column and I have to read it to see if it’s a Bookwatch column or one on politics, I find it to be a waste of time and energy. There are enough political pundits out there that I would prefer not to see my favorite book reviewer playing partisan politics… but since...

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Celebrating NC On Screen

North Carolina loves its connections to the production of movies and television programs. But our political decision-makers did not love that connection enough to appropriate sufficient funds or extend tax credits to persuade movie and television producers to site their programs in North Carolina. That decision in the last legislative session will surely be revisited this year. The difference of opinion about subsidizing the film making business makes for interesting political alliances. Anti-big-government-libertarian Republicans will join with anti-big-business Democrats to oppose such subsidies. On the other hand, community boosters and business developers in both parties will argue that government’s...

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Four Different Looks At North Carolina Life

We can’t read them all. It is what people say to me when I start talking about four important North Carolina related books that UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch will feature in January. Even so, I say, you should know something about each of them. For instance, Bookwatch kicks off its new season with one of the most important books about the connection between our musical heritage and the music of the British Isles. Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia, by Fiona Ritchie, host of National Public Radio’s popular “The Thistle & Shamrock,” and Doug...

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Remembering The Past, But Not Chained To It

They just could not bring themselves to shake hands with their former enemies. A few weeks ago on the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, we remembered earlier reunions when some American servicemen met the Japanese pilots who had attacked them so many years earlier. Some Americans shook hands with their former enemies and exchanged memories. Others just could not do it. We understood and respected their inability to make peace with the enemies who had done them such harm. But understanding their feelings did not keep the rest of us from continuing to develop connections with...

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