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One on One: More and more famous North Carolinians

By D.G. Martin

A couple of weeks ago I shared with readers a list of famous North Carolinians published in the 2019 “The World Almanac and Book of Facts.”

I invited readers to suggest other people they thought should be on the Almanac’s list of our state’s famous people.

Here are some of the folks who responded along with their suggestions.

Former state budget director Lee Roberts: C.D. Spangler, the late Charlotte business community leader and UNC System president; Jim Goodnight, Triangle business and civic leader; Julian Robertson, Salisbury native and New York-based investment genius; Hugh McColl, former Bank of America CEO who led the effort to make Charlotte a national financial and banking powerhouse; John Mack, Mooresville native who ran Morgan Stanley; Rocky Mount native Bill Harrison, former leader of J.P. Morgan Chase; and Raleigh natives Zack Bacon III and his brother Louis, the hedge fund manager, philanthropist, and conservationist.

Sanford Mayor Pro-Tem Sam Gaskins: Roman Gabriel and Sonny Jurgensen from Wilmington, and Walt Bellamy from New Bern.  Due to the era, Bellamy was forced to play major college basketball out of state.  Otherwise he would have achieved Michael Jordan notoriety.  His timing was unfortunate in the NBA as well, but he was outstanding there.

Newspaper publisher Eric Millsaps: Kannapolis-born George Clinton, a highly influential funk musician whose work is sampled even today by pop and hip-hop artists. “He is the musical brain behind both Parliament and Funkadelic bands. Rolling Stone says he made one of the top 500 albums.  In the late 1970s, his music could even get a shy fellow from Statesville to get out on the dance floor.”

Salisbury civic leader Deedee Wright: Mrs. Elizabeth Duncan Koontz, the first African American to lead the National Education Association (NEA) and the first African American female to lead the women’s bureau appointed by President Richard Nixon. She also served under Gov. Hunt as assistant superintendent for public instruction.

Laurinburg Exchange editor William Vincent: Hertford native Jim “Catfish” Hunter, the baseball Hall of Fame pitcher for Kansas City and Oakland Athletics, and New York Yankees.

NCEast Alliance CEO John Chaffee: Billy Taylor, jazz pianist from Greenville, an artistic director for Kennedy Center, and CBS Sunday Morning’s interim host; Kinston natives Parker Brothers (Maceo and Melvin) from Kinston who performed with James Brown and then had a falling out with him; Bill Friday, first president of UNC System and a lion in higher education leadership; John Motley Morehead III of Union Carbide and Morehead Scholarship fame, but also mayor of Rye, New York and ambassador to Sweden

Scotland County local historian Beacham McDougald: John Charles McNeill (1874-1907). “We revere him down here on the Lumbee River.”

Retired furniture executive Edward Phifer: Billy Joe Patton: legendary amateur golfer from Morganton who regularly beat the best of the pros.

Murril Howe:   T. Johnston Pettigrew, one of the best of the Confederate generals; Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice, the great UNC-Chapel Hill football player; and beloved outdoor and adventure writer, Robert Ruark

Ginger Finley: Her grandfather, Robert Lee Doughton, a powerful Congressman from 1911 to 1953 who was a strong supporter of Social Security and the North Carolina route for the Blue Ridge Parkway

Pam Pickert: Etta Baker, a Piedmont blues guitarist and singer who died in Morganton

Kelly Faulk: “Founding father (of the US and UNC) William Richardson Davie, Revolutionary War hero and first state governor Richard Caswell, U.S. Supreme Court Justice James Iredell, and Civil War hero and governor Zeb Vance.  From music, how about Marshville’s Randy Travis, Wilmington’s Charlie Daniels, and Black Mountain’s Roberta Flack?  From sports, there’s Catfish Hunter, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Charlie ‘Choo Choo’ Justice.  Have you detected my N.C. native, Colonial American history, and UNC bias?”

My conclusion: North Carolina has a bountiful supply of famous people.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” Sunday 11 a.m. and Tuesday at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. The program also airs on the North Carolina Channel Tuesday at 8 p.m. and other times.

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