D.G. Martin

William Powell, Dean of North Carolina History

When UNC-Chapel Hill Professor Emeritus William Powell died last week at the age of 95, North Carolina lost its dean of history. With constant help and support from his wife Virginia, he authored countless books and articles, including the preeminent history of our state, North Carolina Through Four Centuries – all 670 pages of it. Even though it is now 25 years since its publication, it is still the best. Then, there is his six-volume North Carolina Biography, with entries about almost 4000 prominent or important North Carolinians present and past. Of course, the book that every lover of UNC-Chapel...

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Five North Carolina Books

Here are five recent books, starting with a novel featuring a thinly disguised Jesse Helms, by North Carolina authors to put on your bedside reading table. What is it really like to be the top aide to a powerful North Carolina senator, one who is much loved and much hated for his strong uncompromising views on heated issues, a senator who is running for reelection against a popular governor with a full war chest of campaign funds? The Hunt-Helms race is obviously the model for the campaign chronicled in Billy Bowater, by Winston-Salem civic leader E.C. Hanes. The book’s...

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Race And Basketball: A Transformative Moment

If you just want to read about the incredible basketball game described by Scott Ellsworth in The Secret Game: A Wartime Story of Courage, Change, and Basketball’s Lost Triumph, you can skip the first 250 pages. Then you can read about that secret game played in 1944 between a team of all-white college all-stars at the Duke medical school and the North Carolina College for Negroes Eagles. But if you skip those 250 pages, you will miss a compelling story about basketball, race, and transformation. You will not learn what basketball’s inventor James Naismith, legendary University of Kansas coach...

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Where Have All The Heroes Gone?

“Were you a part of the Army that made the Indians leave their homes?” David, my five-year-old grandson, had been learning about American Indians in his preschool. He knew that I had been in the Army many years ago. So, of course, he wondered if my “many years ago” coincided with this and other incidents of ill treatment of Native Americans. When I was David’s age, the stories I learned about Native Americans emphasized the dangers on the frontier from the brutal attacks, scalping, kidnapping, and torture faced by the brave settlers. The magnitude of this shift in perspective...

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My Trip To Norlina

Come on and go to Norlina with me! Before you ask where Norlina is, and why should you want to go there, let me explain: I have agreed to write a new book for UNC Press, an expended and updated version of an earlier one I wrote several years ago, about North Carolina family-owned, home-cooking restaurants, where local people gather, but still close enough to big highways for travelers to visit without losing too much time. That is a mouthful, isn’t it? But mouthfuls are what I will be writing about. In the next couple of months, I will be...

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Four Good North Carolina Books For The Spring

If you are looking for an interesting book for springtime reading, I have four suggestions: A cookbook that will be fun to read; A book of stories from one of North Carolina’s rising stars; The story of a ’57 Chevy and its complicated, troubled and fascinating 13th owner who took it to Moyock in Currituck County for restoration; An award-winning story of a mother who writes letters to the son she gave up the day he was born. Here are some details. Even if you are a big fan of cooking and new recipes, can you imagine reading every...

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Who And What Do You Believe?

Last week, two men claimed they had been robbed of about $5 million worth of gold bars they were transporting along I-95 in Wilson County. According to their story, when they pulled over on I-95 to fix their truck or attend to an illness, three armed men appeared, took the gold, tied them up, and sped away. Do you believe them? If so, you might also believe that the legislature’s plan to carve new districts for the Wake County Board of Commissioners has nothing to do with politics, even though the likely result would change control of the board...

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Two Good Books By People Who Already Work For Us

It is a dream come true for me. A mixture of North Carolina public affairs and North Carolina books. Only rarely does a prominent North Carolina public figure write a book that promises to be a success and maybe even a bestseller. Now it is happening twice. First, there is North Carolina’s Secretary of Transportation Tony Tata. Tata, a retired U. S. Army general and former Wake County schools superintendent, writes under the name A. J. Tata. His latest, Foreign and Domestic, hit the bookstores last week. It is an international terrorist spy thriller. The action begins in Afghanistan....

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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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