D.G. Martin

Trump and Buncombe

Would North Carolinians ever vote to elect Donald Trump or somebody like him? We did once. When we did, we proved that North Carolinians, like voters across America, can be attracted to tough-talking candidates who challenge the establishment, bark out simple solutions to the most complicated problems, inexplicably advocate programs far out of the mainstream, and generally be totally full of bunkum. This North Carolinian “out-Trumped” Donald Trump and was so full of bunkum that it was part of his nickname, “Buncombe Bob.” U.S. Senator Robert Rice Reynolds came from Buncombe County. An earlier legislator from that county talked...

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Major Golsteyn and General Noriega: In Headlines and Vacation Books

Headline news stories in recent few days reported the U.S. Army’s disciplining of Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, who was once seen as a hero for his service with the Special Forces in Afghanistan. Golsteyn was accused of killing an Afghani bomb-making suspect and forced out of the army. Another news story reported that the 81-year-old former dictator of Panama, Manuel Antonio Noriega, remains in prison in Panama. These stories are closely related to two of the four books I am recommending for your summer reading. The first is written by North Carolina’s Secretary of Transportation Tony Tata. Tata is a...

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The Biggest News For Me

The biggest news for me this year? Not ISIS, not Obamacare, not gay marriage, and not even the earth-shaking tragedy in Charleston. This year’s big news is that there are no more peaches at the Auman farm in West End near Pinehurst. Along with thousands of other North Carolinians, including the late UNC president William Friday, I had a summer ritual of traveling to the Aumans to buy fresh peaches. My connection, though, has been more than peaches. Watts Auman, the farm’s operator, and his brother Bob were my friends at Davidson College during the late 1950s and early...

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Memories on the Fault Lines of Race

Two people who wanted to be something else have grabbed our attention recently: Rachel Dolezal, the former NAACP chapter president in Spokane, Wash., and Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner, the 1976 Olympic decathlon champion. Dolezal, who grew up white, wanted to be black. She took every step she could think of to be a black person. Though her parents are white, she grew up with black siblings. She married a black man and has black, or mixed-race, children. She attended the historically black Howard University. Later, she worked enthusiastically and effectively to improve the lives of black people. Bruce Jenner,...

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Why We Lost: A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

“I am a United States Army general, and I lost the Global War on Terrorism.” These are the opening lines of retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger’s book, “Why We Lost: A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.” Bolger teaches military history at N.C. State. “No U.S. general has criticized the Iraq and Afghanistan wars more sharply” than Bolger, wrote reviewer Carter Malkasian in “The Washington Post.” Continuing the shocking opening words of his book, Bolger writes, “It’s like Alcoholics Anonymous; step one is admitting you have a problem. Well, I have a problem....

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A Test on Noted North Carolina Authors

Let’s see how well you are keeping up with recent books by North Carolina authors. See how many new books and authors you can identify from the following clues. Two “non-poetry” books by a former North Carolina poet laureate. A memoir of growing up in the changing South by the author of a best-selling book set in Tuscany, a book that made her famous. A compelling set of heart-wrenching stories about the heart, by an N. C. State professor, who writes about science as well as anyone in the country. A short book by North Carolina’s best political and...

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North Carolina’s “Only in America” Story

He was the most famous North Carolinian in the country, for a moment back in the late 1950s and 1960s. Today, you rarely hear his name. My children, who grew up in the 1970s a few blocks from where Harry Golden worked, do not remember him. How and why Golden became so famous and how and why that fame drifted away so completely are questions Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett seeks to answer in her new book “Carolina Israelite: How Harry Golden Made Us Care about Jews, the South, and Civil Rights.” Born in 1902, Golden grew up in a Jewish...

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Leuchtenburg rates Obama

“How will historians rate Barack Obama’s presidency?” Following up my conversation last week with historian William Leuchtenburg about the challenges Hillary Clinton faces in her campaign, I wanted him to begin to put Obama in historical perspective, a challenging task for any one, but maybe not unfair to someone whose latest book, “The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton,” will be out in early December. Leuchtenburg did not shy away from the question. “I have been thinking a lot about that. As the presidency of Barack Obama winds down, I am getting phone calls.” Over the Christmas...

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Historian Leuchtenburg on Hillary Clinton’s Challenges

Is it too early to start putting the 2016 presidential election in historical perspective? Maybe. But it is never too early to ask presidential historian and UNC-Chapel Hill emeritus history professor William Leuchtenburg to size up today’s presidential politics in light of the experiences of other presidents and presidential candidates. Leuchtenburg recently completed work on a 752-page book, The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton, scheduled for publication in December by Oxford University Press. Oxford says the book will be “an enthralling account of American presidential actions from the assassination of William McKinley in 1901 to Bill Clinton’s last...

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Surprising Heroes In A Long Struggle For Justice

Why does a moderate, progressive journalist write a book critical of his political idol, Terry Sanford, the late governor and senator, and make a hero of Republican U.S. Senator Thom Tillis? It would just be an interesting question for cocktail party talk if the subject of the book were not so serious and compelling. Winston-Salem Journal editorial page editor John Railey’s new book, Rage to Redemption in the Sterilization Age, combines a chronicle of a bleak period in our state’s history with a poignant personal memoir. This combination, along with the author’s skilled writing and good story-telling talents, make for...

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