D.G. Martin

“A Mountain Populist To The Very End”

When long-time legislator and lawyer Martin Nesbitt died last week at age 67, he was already on my mind for a column. The news of his stomach cancer, followed quickly by his death, shocked those who remembered his powerful presence as a representative and then state senator. Nesbitt was one of North Carolina’s all-time great legislative leaders. For that I admired him greatly. But we sometimes ran into difficulties back in the 1990s when I was representing the university system, and he was trying to take into account the needs of the entire state in his role as chair...

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North Carolina’s Tribal Rivalries

Have we gotten used to all the national attention on North Carolina and our tribal rivalries? Do we mind the reports of the mean-spiritedness, the rudeness, the shouts and ranting, the unsupported ugly comments about the opposition and its motives, and the hateful remarks about the leaders of the other group? Am I thinking about Republicans denouncing the Rev. William Barber and the Moral Monday marchers? Or the angry marchers condemning Governor Pat McCrory, Art Pope, and the state legislature? It could be, in some other week. But this week the reports about our tribal rivalries focus on UNC-Duke...

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Planting Native, Saving Our Diversity

“First question for you,” says UNC-TV’s Exploring North Carolina host, Tom Earnhardt, when he begins his talk to a Rotary club or other civic group, “is how many of you have spare parts somewhere in your body?” A few hands go up. “I’m not just talking about new knees or organ transplants,” he prods on. “What about cataract eye surgery? Or a tooth implant?” More hands go up, and Earnhardt continues, explaining that all those new parts have to fit in with the body’s system. They have to work with other parts of the body just like the parts...

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Documenting Down East’s Disappearing Way Of Life

“Down East” in North Carolina does not mean what you think it means. Larry Earley, former editor of “Wildlife in North Carolina” magazine and author of Looking for Longleaf: The Fall and Rise of an American Forest, moved to the community of Atlantic in 2006 to live one week a month while photographing the working boats of Core Sound. He learned from his neighbors that “‘Down East’ North Carolina refers to the wet peninsula lying east of Beaufort, in coastal Carteret County, with its broad skies, extravagant marshes, shallow sounds, and notched bays.” Earley complains, “Politicians, reporters, and TV...

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Truth In Fiction: How Bad Did The Recession Hurt?

The good news for all of us in North Carolina is that the unemployment rate is declining and the increase in economic activity is opening up new jobs to replace some of those we lost during the recession. The bad news is that some North Carolinians are never going to recover from the disruption the financial crisis caused their career paths. How do we measure that impact? How do we understand the turmoil and strain in each individual’s situation? What are these folks doing now? How did the sudden change in their lifestyles affect the rest of their lives?...

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Novel Follows An Athlete’s Rest-Of-Life

What happens to a promising young athlete’s career when it comes to an end earlier than expected or hoped? In major college athletics – football, basketball, and possibly baseball – almost every player hopes for a chance to play in the pros. Most won’t get it. Will the educational experience given in exchange for the play prepare these athletes as well or better for a life of work and service than the other alternatives available to them? Wiley Cash’s new novel gives a painful look at one case involving the life of a promising athlete who tried an alternate...

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A Richly Complex Response To A Simple Call

“Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.” These words from Isaiah 6:8 inspired the daughter of a pre-Civil-War Southern slaveholder to travel to Africa as the wife of a Baptist missionary to bring the Word of the Lord to the Yoruba people in what is now Nigeria. Those real facts are the basis of North Carolina State University Professor Elaine Neil Orr’s fictional account, A Different Sun: A Novel of Africa. Putting aside the irony of Americans from a region where millions of Africans were enslaved taking a...

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Adventure And History On A Trip Down The Cape Fear

What could you learn from a trip down the Cape Fear River? Starting, say, at a few miles below Jordan Lake where Haw River joins Deep River to form the Cape Fear, canoeing downstream and passing by Raven Rock State Park before reaching the bridge at Lillington, getting through three sets of dams and locks, all the way to Fayetteville. Then, with the rapids behind you, switching to a powerboat to follow the river as it passes by Elizabethtown, on the way to Wilmington and into the ocean beyond Bald Head Island. What would you learn on such a...

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Remembering Franklin McCain

When Franklin McCain died last week, I remembered how often his acts and his words inspired me. McCain was one of the four North Carolina A&T State University students who first sat down in 1960 at the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro and quietly asked to be served, sparking a wave of sit-ins across the country. I remembered his talk in 1998 at an event marking the 38th anniversary of those sit-ins. I expected a fiery oration, one that was totally critical of our country’s record on civil rights. But what I heard, at the beginning, was more like...

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Ninety Is The New Sixty

Famed Chapel Hill author Elizabeth Spencer has proved a North Carolina rule again. “Ninety is the new 60.” Or 50. Spencer, like academic leader William Friday and historian John Hope Franklin a few years earlier, shows that the nineties can be incredibly productive years. The evidence in Spencer’s case is her latest book of short fiction, Starting Over, which was released on January 1st. Spencer is 92. Six of the book’s nine stories were written by her in the last three years, proving that her talents and work ethic are still strong. Spencer is best known, perhaps, for her...

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