D.G. Martin

Chang and Eng: Chapter Two

Sometimes a simple newspaper column can take its writer to surprising places. For instance, after my column on the Siamese Twins was published last month, I got a call from Henry Bunker who lives in Mebane. His brother, Fred, read the column and passed it to Henry. “We’re descendants of the twins,” Henry said, “and if you’d like to learn more, you ought to come to the Bunker family’s reunion in Mount Airy on the last weekend in July. I can invite you.” I couldn’t resist. I still had lots of questions. The chance to be with hundreds of...

Read More

Take a Break From Politics; Read Books

Do you need relief from two weeks of over-the-top contentious politics? Here are four books that could give both Trump and Clinton supporters a break from worrying about our political future. One is the paperback edition of a poignant memoir by one of North Carolina’s most important novelists. It hit bookstore shelves this week. Another book won a prestigious Agatha award for the first novel by a native North Carolinian. A third book profiles a bestselling and controversial Charlotte author and gives us a look back at life in the 1950s and 60s. And finally a respected writer turned-award-winning...

Read More

Our two great Robert Morgans

North Carolinians of my generation have been blessed with two important Robert Morgans. One is the mountain-born-and-raised and acclaimed writer who is featured this week on North Carolina Bookwatch for his latest novel, “Chasing the North Star.” The other, the former U.S. senator, died on Saturday. My dream had been that author Morgan would write a book about Sen. Morgan. Author Morgan has shown he can write beautifully and authoritatively about historical figures.  Remember, for example, “Boone,” his wonderful biography of Daniel Boone, and “Lions of the West,” his collection of studies about Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, John “Johnny...

Read More

Clinton needs Biden: So Do We

For her sake, and for ours, I hope Hillary Clinton asks Joe Biden to run for a third vice presidential term this fall. There are several important reasons; the most important one is at the end of this column. She needs help in dampening the appeal of Donald Trump to white workingmen in key battleground states like Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Writing about a planned Clinton-Biden campaign trip into Pennsylvania last week, The New York Times correspondent Carl Hulse wrote, “Mrs. Clinton could not have picked a better traveling companion than Mr. Biden. A native son of Scranton, he...

Read More

Our two most famous citizens

If I asked you to name our state’s best-known citizen, living or dead, whom would you suggest? Hint: What if I said to think of people of who lived in Mount Airy? I bet you would then say Andy Griffith. After all, his still popular TV show was set in Mayberry, which was based on his hometown, Mount Airy. But, long before Griffith was born, long before television, two world-famous men moved to Surry County farms near Mount Airy. They were known all over the world as Chang and Eng, the Siamese Twins. Still, today, more than 140 years...

Read More

Sealing family ties with dripping red wax

On the second weekend of June, people in Louisville, Kentucky, laid to rest two leading citizens. One of them, of course, was Muhammad Ali, buried on June 10. The other, my cousin Boyce F. Martin Jr., was buried the next day. Recently retired, he was for many years chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which covers Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, and Tennessee. He died of brain cancer on June 1. He wrote hundreds of important opinions on topics such as the death penalty, abortion, and the Affordable Care Act. And affirmative action, as last...

Read More

Books for summer: Mountains and Military

If you want some more tips for good summer reading from recent books by North Carolina authors, I have four suggestions, two set in the mountains, two about our military. An obvious choice if you are planning a trip to the mountains is Randy Johnson’s book, “Grandfather Mountain: The History and Guide to an Appalachian Icon” published this month by UNC Press. It is a superb history and collection of photos that capture the majesty of this national treasure. North Carolina is blessed with a host of wonderful and beautiful mountains. Grandfather, though not the highest, is the most...

Read More

Voting for the devil?

“You would vote for the devil if he were a Democrat, wouldn’t you?” Thus begins an old story that makes fun of an old-time party-loyal, “yellow-dog” Democrat. His friend was teasing him about his unwillingness ever to stray from his party’s candidates even if they were obviously unsuited to hold public office. “Well,” the yellow-dog responded after thinking it over, “I wouldn’t vote for the devil in the primary.” That yellow-dog faced a dilemma, choosing between party loyalty and a moral obligation to withhold support from his party’s unworthy candidate. He justified his reluctant decision to vote for the...

Read More

Putting Trump aside; remembering Ali and Patt Derian

The death of Muhammad Ali last week took away Donald Trump’s monopoly of television news coverage, at least for a time. There was some irony, of course, as the “I am the greatest” clips from Ali replaced similar campaign assertions by Trump. Ali and Trump are certainly the two most unapologetic and unabashed public proclaimers of their own superiority in my lifetime. Ali was an extraordinary boxing champion, almost as great as he said he was. However, what made him an historical figure and earned our enduring respect was not his talk or boxing. It was his courageous confrontation...

Read More

A jackass or a carpenter?

“Any jackass can kick a barn down, but it takes a carpenter to build one.” Using a saying from UNC President Margaret Spellings’s native Texas, one attributed to Sam Rayburn, the long-time speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Tom Lambeth was beginning his tribute to Spellings’s predecessor, Tom Ross. In an evening filled with irony, Spellings and the UNC Board of Governors, with genuine grace, hosted a dinner last Thursday honoring Ross with the university’s highest award, the University Award. The words describing Ross’s leadership and demeanor as a judge, foundation executive, and higher education leader contrasted profoundly...

Read More
Translate »