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D.G. Martin

The Battle For Political Dominance

What is the connection between U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and acclaimed U.S. tennis player John Isner? Both come from Greensboro, but it is more than that. Isner is known for his three-day 2010 Wimbledon match against French tennis player Nicholas Mahut. Isner won in the fifth and deciding set, with no tiebreaker, 70-68. As painful as Hagan’s recent loss must be to her and her supporters, it is just the latest game in a long struggle between conservative and liberal or progressive political forces in North Carolina, in which each side has won and lost many times. Until the...

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Crowther on Mencken—Don’t Miss This Treat

Hillsborough writer Hal Crowther is widely admired for his provocative columns and ability to shock us by his creative use of words, phrases, comparisons, and images as powerful weapons that can persuade or provoke us. For this rare talent and his willingness to attack the sacred cows of our generation, Crowther draws comparisons to H.L. Mencken, whose newspaper columns rocked America in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. Crowther’s long-time interest in Mencken began as a teenager, when his grandfather gave him one of Mencken’s books. For his own writing, Crowther won the Baltimore Sun’s H.L. Mencken Writing Award. Now...

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Remembering The Wise Words Of A Public Intellectual

Who are North Carolina’s public intellectuals? Over the years, we have been blessed with influential and thoughtful people whose wise commentaries about the state’s concerns often moved public opinion. Think about the late William Friday, who reminded us at every turn of the consequences of failing to address the basic needs of the state’s poorer citizens. Time after time, he warned about the increasing influence of television money on college athletics and the special treatment accorded to some athletes enrolled in universities. Last week, you could hear his voice from the grave. Sometimes editorial writers at the state’s major...

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A 60s Radical Returns, With Conservative Allies

Howard Fuller was back in North Carolina last week promoting his new book,  No Struggle, No Progress: A Warrior’s Life from Black Power to Education Reform. Fuller is a professor of education and director of the Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University. Some North Carolinians remember Fuller as a community organizer in the 1960s and 70s. He led poor people to demand fair treatment, to work together to improve their lives, and to stand up to the establishment at every turn. He led marches and founded Malcolm X Liberation University in Durham and Greensboro. His efforts...

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North Carolina’s Last Liberal 

What was the greatest political upset in North Carolina political history? Old timers will tell you that it was Kerr Scott’s victory in the Democratic primary for governor in 1948. Scott, a dairy farmer from Alamance County, beat the favored candidate of the conservative wing of the party. Once in office, he adopted a liberal program of road paving, public school improvement, and expansion of government services. Hard-working and hardheaded, plain and direct spoken, he appointed women and African Americans to government positions. He disregarded criticism of his actions. Future governors Terry Sanford and Jim Hunt were inspired by...

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Mountain Music: Where It Came From, Where It’s Going

As the International Bluegrass Music Association’s five-day “World of Bluegrass Festival” wound down in Raleigh a few days ago, some people were still asking: where did bluegrass music come from, anyway? North Carolinians have a quick and certain answer: It came out of the hills and hollows of our Appalachian region. And where did that mountain music come from? We know that much of the music of the Appalachians is, like its residents, descended from the British Isles. We know that some of the tunes and words have survived almost intact, like the famous ballad “Barbara Allen.” And we...

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A More Interesting Senate Race, In Fiction

While you are watching U.S. Senate campaign television ads, occasionally interrupted by brief segments of programming, do you ever wonder what goes on inside the candidates’ campaign organizations? For instance, what if you could take on the role as the top aide to an incumbent North Carolina U.S. senator running for reelection against a top state official who has a full war chest of campaign funds? Interesting? Challenging? A new novel, Billy Bowater, by Winston-Salem civic leader E. C. “Redge” Hanes is a fictional version of such a campaign. William Walpole Bowater III, the book’s central character, is chief...

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North Carolina’s Scottish Connection

Did North Carolinians have a stake in the outcome of last week’s referendum in Scotland? Maybe not the same kind of stake the residents of Scotland had, but our ties to that land are so close, so important, and so contemporary that perhaps we should have been entitled to vote on the question of its independence from the United Kingdom. New evidence of our enduring ties to Scotland comes in a few days with UNC Press’s release of Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia by Scotland’s Fiona Ritchie and North Carolina’s Doug Orr. Ritchie...

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New Lessons From Old Wars

At the end of a two-day conference about World War I at UNC-Chapel Hill, I asked a leading military historian what approach he would recommend to the United States to deal with the challenge of ISIS. I will tell you about his response in a minute. The World War I conference was one of a series of planned events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of that Great War and to learn what lessons might help us deal with present day challenges. There are plenty of such lessons, according to the series coordinator, UNC-CH’s Institute for the Arts and Humanities:...

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“Most Moderate” And “Kay”: Do Words Make A Difference?

First of all, a warning: I am a Democrat. You cannot trust a partisan commentator to give an objective report on a political contest such as a debate between candidates for the United States Senate. Now that you’ve been warned, here are two observations about last week’s first debate between current Senator Kay Hagan and her challenger, North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis. 1. Who is the “most moderate?” Hagan’s repeated assertion that she is the most moderate U.S. senator obviously has been a theme tested by her experts in focus groups and polls. Moderation is a good approach...

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