D.G. Martin

Hard to Win After Beating the Party Establishment in the Primaries

Is Donald Trump really a unique political candidate? Did North Carolina ever have anybody in politics who compares with him? When I asked that question in a column last year, I suggested U.S. Senator Robert Reynolds “out-Trumped” Trump and was so full of bunkum that it was part of his nickname, “Buncombe Bob.”  Reynolds served in the Senate for 12 years beginning in 1933. He kept people all over the country entertained and shocked by planting a big kiss on Jean Harlow, the famous movie star, right on the Capitol steps; getting married five times; snubbing the King and...

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A Word to Make Trump Immortal

He has put his mark on buildings and businesses that might last a lifetime. But could he more effectively gain immortality by adding his name to the language? That is the way, for instance, that Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry did it 200 years ago. He signed a partisan redistricting plan in which one district looked like a salamander, and he gave his name to the despicable, but constitutional, tactic known as a gerrymandering. Of course, Donald Trump would rather his name be associated with some more positive or elegant term, say Napoleonic. He might settle, should he lead his...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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