Twentieth-Century North Carolina Timeline


1900 North Carolina Census Data
Total   1,893,810
White   1,263,603
Black   624,469
Indians   5,687
Chinese   51
Other races   not applicable


The state has 217 textile mills and 101 tobacco factories in operation.

The average wage for a family of five, with the father and four children ages 14 to 21 working in a prosperous textile mill, is $17 to $21 per week, or no more than $1,000 per year.

The North Carolina Literary and Historical Association is founded to foster growth in these fields, as well as to “engender an intelligent, healthy state pride.”

February 21: An amendment to the North Carolina Constitution is adopted that institutes a literacy test for voting. The amendment includes a grandfather clause that allows illiterate whites to vote but effectively disfranchises the state’s African American citizens.

November: Democrats regain control of the governorship and the legislature through a virulent white supremacy campaign.

Reginald Fessenden conducts successful radio experiments, during which he transmits messages from Roanoke Island to Cape Hatteras and Cape Henry, V.A.

Textile mill leaders meet in Charlotte to discuss self-regulation. More than 100 manufacturers agree to maintain a 66-hour work week and not to employ children under age 12 during the school year (with exceptions for children of widows and the disabled). The leaders pledge cooperation with state officials and call for legislative restraint in dealing with labor-management issues. Unfortunately, many mills fail to abide by the agreement.

Ransom Olds produces 1,500 Oldsmobiles, the first mass-produced automobiles in the United States.

September: President William McKinley is assassinated in Buffalo, N.Y.

The Hall of History is founded by Colonel Fred Olds in Raleigh. It will evolve into the North Carolina Museum of History.

The North Carolina Federation of Women’s Clubs is organized.

Charlotte Hawkins Brown opens Palmer Memorial Institute in Sedalia.

The state’s first automobile registration takes place in Charlotte.

The North Carolina Good Roads Association is founded to promote a highway commission to maintain roads in the state.

December 17: Orville Wright flies the first power-driven airplane at Kill Devil Hills. He stays aloft for 12 seconds on the first trip.

The North Carolina Historical Commission (now the Division of Archives and History) is established.

North Carolina passes its first child labor laws.

Booker T. Washington addresses the North Carolina Industrial Association’s annual fair. He advises African Americans to content themselves as an agrarian people, to eschew migration, and to seek the type of education that will promote community building.

The General Assembly charters Appalachian Training School (now Appalachian State University) in Boone.

Southern Power Company (now Duke Power Company) is formed.

The Bijou Theater in Wilmington opens in a tent. Two years later a building is erected, making it the first permanent movie theater in the state. The Bijou will operate until 1956, when it will be possibly the oldest continuously operated theater in the country.

The General Assembly charters Cullowhee Normal and Industrial School (now Western Carolina University) in Cullowhee.

North Carolina author Thomas Dixon Jr. publishes his book The Clansman. The book serves as the basis for D. W. Griffith’s controversial silent film The Birth of a Nation (1915).

The General Assembly enacts a compulsory school law.

R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company of Winston-Salem introduces the Camel brand of cigarettes.

James W. Cannon, taking advantage of cheap farmland along the Southern Railway, establishes the textile mill village of Kannapolis in Cabarrus County.

The General Assembly charters East Carolina Teacher Training School (now East Carolina University).

Stonewall Jackson Training School in Concord is established as a state reform school for boys.

The first cotton and corn demonstration supervised by a county agent of the North Carolina Agricultural Extension Service takes place on a farm in Iredell County.

The state’s first public sanatorium for treating tuberculosis opens in Hoke County.

Farmers organize the North Carolina Farmer’s Union as a division of the national Farmer’s Union. North Carolina farmers made up one-third of the organization’s national membership.

The second warship named USS North Carolina is commissioned. It is an armored cruiser that will see action in World War I.

May: Voters pass a statewide referendum prohibiting the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages.

October 1: Henry Ford introduces the Model T car. It costs $850.

The first 4-H club in North Carolina is organized in Ahoskie as the Corn Club.

May 30: The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is founded in New York.

1910 North Carolina Census Data
Total   2,206,287
White   1,500,511
Black   697,843
Indians   7,851
Chinese   80
Japanese   2
Other races   not applicable

The State of North Carolina takes authority for capital punishment away from individual counties. The electric chair replaces hanging as the form of execution.

The National Religious Training School and Chautauqua (now North Carolina Central University) opens in Durham. In 1923 it will become the state-supported Durham State Training School for African American teachers. Two years later the General Assembly will make the school the first state-supported liberal arts college for blacks in the United States, named the North Carolina College for Negroes.

The Sherman Antitrust Act forces the American Tobacco Company to split into four companies: American Tobacco, Liggett and Myers, Lorillard, and R. J. Reynolds.

Booker T. Washington calls Durham a “city of Negro enterprises.” By 1915 the city has 110 African American–owned businesses, including the Mechanics and Farmers Bank and the North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company.

Home economist Jane McKimmon initiates North Carolina’s home demonstration program.

The Pentecostal Holiness Church forms in Falcon, Cumberland County, by the consolidation of the Fire-Baptized Holiness Association and the Holiness Church.

The Greensboro city council and other southern cities pass ordinances requiring separate white and black residential areas.

Furnifold M. Simmons becomes the last United States senator from North Carolina elected by the General Assembly before the law changes to provide for senatorial election by popular vote.

Robeson County establishes the first rural health department in the United States.

Mercy Hospital, one of the first African American hospitals in the South, opens in Wilson.

North Carolinian Georgia “Tiny” Thompson becomes the first woman to parachute from an airplane.

August: World War I begins in Europe. The United States declares neutrality.

August 15: The Panama Canal opens.

Mount Mitchell becomes North Carolina’s first state park.

The North Carolina Highway Commission is established to build and maintain roads.

Soybeans are grown for the first time in the state near Elizabeth City. North Carolina is the first state to plant soybeans as a commercial commodity. Commercial processing of the crop begins at a plant in Elizabeth City.

May 7: The British steamer Lusitania, carrying munitions for Great Britain, is sunk by a German submarine, and 1,200 people drown, including 128 Americans.

North Carolina National Guard units join the United States Army in action along the American-Mexican border against the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa.

March 16: A 57-foot right whale is killed in the shallows of Cape Lookout—reportedly the last one killed by whalers on the North Carolina coast. The yield of 38 barrels of oil is apparently the last such oil procured by active shore-based whaling in the state.

July: As a result of 41 hours of continuous rainfall, several counties in western North Carolina experience devastating floods. The floods cause fatalities and massive property destruction, including extensive damage to railway lines.

April 6: The United States enters World War I by declaring war on Germany.

September 5: The Pamlico County school system puts the state’s first motorized school bus into operation.

Three military training camps are established in the state: Camp Bragg as a field artillery training center near Fayetteville, Camp Greene as an infantry training center in Charlotte, and Camp Polk as a tank training center in Raleigh. The latter two close at the end of the war, but Camp Bragg (renamed Fort Bragg) remains open and will develop into a major military base.

The United States armed forces purchase the entire production of Bull Durham roll-your-own smoking tobacco to supply troops during the war. Two 30-car trains per month transport the tobacco through the state. Each boxcar bears a large banner with a patriotic slogan such as “When our boys light up, the Huns will light out,” “The smoke that follows the flag is always good old Bull,” and “Smoking out the Kaiser!”

Henry B. Delany becomes the first African American Episcopal bishop in North Carolina.

The first dam is built on the Catawba River to provide hydroelectric power.

The North Carolina Society of Engineers organizes in Durham.

May: Congress passes the Sedition Act, making it a crime to write or say anything against the war. It is the harshest legislation restricting freedom of speech ever enacted in the United States.

August 16: The German submarine U-117 sinks the British tanker Mirlo off Cape Hatteras. Coast Guardsman Captain John A. Midgett, keeper of the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station, commands a rescue effort that saves all but 10 of the 52-member crew. In 1921 Midgett and other lifesavers receive Gold Lifesaving Medals from the British government.

September–November: An influenza epidemic overtakes the state. More than 13,000 North Carolinians die, including Edward Kidder Graham, president of the University of North Carolina.

September 29: North Carolina troops in the army’s 30th Division take part in a decisive breakthrough of German lines in France.

November 11: An armistice between Germany and the Allies is signed, ending World War I.

November 19: The United States Senate defeats the United States’s entry into the League of Nations.

1920 North Carolina Census Data
Total   2,559,123
White   1,783,779
Black   763,407
Indians   11,824
Chinese   88
Japanese   24
Other races   1

North Carolina is the second-most-industrialized state in the South, with an output of a billion dollars per year. The state’s top industrial goods are textiles, tobacco products, and furniture.

Martin Goodman of Winston-Salem invents Goody’s Headache Powders.

Lillian Exum Clement becomes the first woman elected to the North Carolina General Assembly. She is nominated by Buncombe County Democrats before passage of the 19th Amendment gives her the right to vote.

Katherine Everett becomes the first woman lawyer to argue a case before the North Carolina Supreme Court.

January 29: The 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution, enacting national prohibition of alcoholic beverages, takes effect.

August 11: The North Carolina House of Representatives sends a telegram to the General Assembly of Tennessee, where ratification of the 19th Amendment is simultaneously being debated. The telegram, signed by a majority of the members, assures Tennessee legislators that North Carolina will not ratify the “Susan B. Anthony amendment” and pleads that they defeat it as well.

August 26: After Tennessee becomes the final state in the two-thirds majority needed for ratification, the 19th Amendment takes effect, giving women the right to vote.

November: Cameron Morrison is elected governor, largely on a campaign to improve state highways and education.


The Southern Furniture Exposition Center opens in High Point. The Piedmont region of North Carolina is recognized nationally as a leader in furniture manufacturing.

In large part because of extensive lobbying undertaken by Harriet M. Berry, the General Assembly passes a law aimed at improving North Carolina’s roads. The state begins construction of a highway system that will connect each county seat with its neighboring county seats via macadam, or blacktop, roads.

Actress Ava Gardner is born in Smithfield.

January 28: The University of North Carolina Press begins operation in Chapel Hill. It is the first university press in the South.

United States military officials observe a demonstration, commanded by General Billy Mitchell, off the shore of Cape Hatteras in which ships are sunk by airplane attacks.

North Carolina overtakes Massachusetts as the nation’s leading textile-producing state in the value of its products.

North Carolina native Annie Elizabeth (Bessie) Delany becomes the second African American woman to practice dentistry in New York City.

Trinity College in Durham is endowed by tobacco and hydroelectric-power magnate James B. Duke and renamed Duke University.

Bob Melton opens the state’s first sit-down barbecue restaurant in Rocky Mount. Melton is credited with firmly establishing so-called eastern-style barbecue.

Centered in High Point, the state’s furniture industry ranks first in the nation in the production of wooden furniture and fifth in all furniture production.

Cherokee lands are placed in trust status with the federal government.

Olive D. Campbell and Marguerite Butler establish the John C. Campbell Folk School at Brasstown in Clay County. The school specializes in teaching the traditional folk arts of North Carolina.

The first talking motion picture, The Jazz Singer, is released.

The North Carolina State Art Society is incorporated for the purpose of beginning a state art collection. In 1929 the society opens a gallery (the forerunner of the North Carolina Museum of Art) in Raleigh.

Buncombe County Junior College (now the University of North Carolina at Asheville) is established.

May: American Charles Lindbergh becomes the first person to fly an airplane alone and nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean.

Annie Wealthy Holland of Gates County forms the North Carolina Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers, the first such organization for African Americans in the state.

May 1: The first airplane to fly through North Carolina carrying mail lands at Lindley Field in Greensboro.

November: The presidential candidacy of Al Smith, who is a northerner and a Catholic, splits the Democratic Party in North Carolina, and for the first time since 1872, a Republican (Herbert Hoover) wins the state’s electoral votes.

Union agitation and a strike at Loray Mill in Gastonia lead to the deaths of the Gastonia police chief and of labor leader Ella May Wiggins.

Asheville native Thomas Wolfe publishes his first novel, Look Homeward, Angel.

One-tenth of the state’s industrial labor force is employed by three tobacco companies.

David Marshall “Carbine” Williams is released from the state prison after receiving an early pardon for the shooting death of a sheriff’s deputy during a raid on Williams’s still. In prison Williams shows great aptitude for machinery, and firearms in particular. He invents the short-stroke piston system for the M1 carbine, which revolutionizes the weapon. During his lifetime, Williams receives more than five dozen patents for improvements to firearms.

October 29: The Great Depression begins with a Wall Street stock market crash.

1930 North Carolina Census Data
Total   3,170,276
White   2,234,958
Black   918,647
Indians   16,579
Chinese   68
Japanese   17
Other races   7

The Great Depression grows worse as waves of bank closings wipe out millions of dollars in private savings.

North Carolina leads the nation in producing cotton goods and leads the South in producing knit goods.

Biltmore House, a private residence built by George W. Vanderbilt near Asheville during the 1890s, opens to the public as a museum.

The General Assembly passes an act consolidating the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina State College in Raleigh, and the Woman’s College in Greensboro into one system of higher education.

The General Assembly votes for the state to take over from the counties maintenance of all roads. Governor O. Max Gardner supports this plan as beneficial for the individual counties during the Depression.

April 1: The first regularly scheduled airline service between New York and Miami, which includes a stopover in Raleigh, is established.

The North Carolina Symphony is established.

Cotton mill workers in High Point, Rockingham, and other towns strike. The following year, employees at more than 100 additional mills go on strike.

Black Mountain College is founded in Buncombe County as a communal grouping of professors and students in a natural setting with complete intellectual freedom. It has no fixed regulations, no required courses, and no frequent examinations. The college attracts famous people from the art world.Financial problems will cause the college to close in 1957.

March: Franklin D. Roosevelt becomes president of the United States and begins instituting his New Deal economic programs.

December 5: The 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution ends national prohibition of alcohol.

Camp John Rock, one of the nation’s first Civilian Conservation Corps camps, opens in Transylvania County. It operates through 1936.

Lake Mattamuskeet, the state’s largest natural lake, becomes a United States Wildlife Refuge.

Statewide prohibition of alcohol ends.

Construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway begins.

The North Carolina Rural Electrification Authority is established.

The General Assembly passes an act to provide for the preservation of Indian antiquities in North Carolina. Citizens are “urged” to comply. No criminal penalties for violators are set.

The Intracoastal Waterway is completed.

The Mint Museum of Art opens in Charlotte at the former United States Mint, which began operation in 1837.

The Brown Creek Soil Conservation District, the first such area in the United States, is established in Anson County.

July 4: The opening performance of The Lost Colony takes place on Roanoke Island. The play is the nation’s first and longest-running outdoor drama.

African American students in Greensboro initiate a theater boycott that spreads to other cities.

The state provides free textbooks for public school elementary grades and establishes a rental plan for high schools.

North Carolina produces more wooden household furnishings than any other state in the nation.

A law school for African American students is established at North Carolina Central College.

September: World War II begins when France and Great Britain declare war on Germany following its invasion of Poland. The United States declares neutrality.

1940 North Carolina Census Data
Total   3,571,623
White   2,567,635
Black   981,298
Indians   22,546
Chinese   83
Japanese   21
Other races   40

The Wilmington Shipyard is completed. During the war, workers will build 243 Liberty and Victory Ships there.

The Indian Normal School in Robeson County (now the University of North Carolina at Pembroke) grants its first college degree.

A leading advocate of developing an airborne American military force, North Carolina native William C. Lee is given the responsibility of developing a test platoon of paratroopers. Lee will later become a major general and receive the title “father of the Airborne.”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt moves the United States closer to war with Germany and Japan by providing ships, arms, and supplies to Great Britain and by cutting oil supplies to Japan. Over 80 percent of the American public prefers to remain neutral in the war.

June 13: The battleship USS North Carolina (the third navy ship of that name) is commissioned. It serves in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945 and is decommissioned in 1947.

September 2: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is dedicated.


Seymour Johnson Air Base in Goldsboro and Cherry Point Marine Air Station are begun.

W. J. Cash’s classic work of social criticism and history, The Mind of the South, is published. It centers on the people of the backcountry South with which Cash is most familiar. He has lived most of his life in North and South Carolina. He is a graduate of Wake Forest College and has worked for both the Charlotte News and the Charlotte Observer.

June–July: President Franklin Roosevelt freezes German, Italian, and Japanese assets in the United States and orders the United States Navy to fire on German warships.

December 7: Japanese forces attack the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The United States declares war on Japan the next day, entering World War II. Germany and Italy declare war on the United States. More than 362,000 North Carolinians serve in the armed forces during the war. More than 7,000 lose their lives, with 4,000 of them being killed in action.

German submarines sink more than 100 ships in the area of Diamond Shoals off the coast of Dare County during the “Battle of Torpedo Junction.”

Construction on Camp Lejeune, near Jacksonville, begins.

Greensboro native Edward R. Murrow gains fame as a radio correspondent covering the war in Europe.

East Carolina Indian School is established in Sampson County to serve Native Americans in seven surrounding counties. The school will close in 1965.

A committee headed by Charles S. Johnson of Fisk University issues a document that becomes known as the Durham Manifesto. It acknowledges that World War II has generated increased racial tensions. The statement demands complete voting rights for African Americans and an end to white primaries, evasions of the law, and intimidation. It insists on equal access to all jobs.

January 1: For the only time, the Rose Bowl is played away from Pasadena. Because of fear of a Japanese attack in California, Duke University hosts the game in Durham. The Duke Blue Devils lose to Oregon State 20-16.

May: A German submarine torpedoes the British patrol boat HMS Bedfordshire off the Outer Banks. The bodies of four sailors from the Bedfordshire wash ashore on Ocracoke Island. The sailors are buried on the property of Alice Williams, with services arranged by the Coast Guard. In 1976 the cemetery will be officially leased to the British government in perpetuity for one dollar.

The Greensboro Overseas Replacement Depot trains and processes more than 330,000 servicemen on their way to overseas deployment.

Because of food rationing due to the war, North Carolinians become increasingly self-sufficient. No fewer than 28 million quarts of food are canned, 30 million pounds of meat are cured, and 8 million pounds of fruit and vegetables are dried for home consumption.

June 6: Allied forces, including American troops, land on the French coast of Normandy, beginning the invasion of Europe against Nazi Germany.

Communist forces of the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin take over eastern Europe.

May 7: Nazi Germany surrenders, ending the war in Europe.

July 16: The first atomic bomb is exploded near Alamogordo, N.M., ushering in the atomic age.

August 6: The United States drops an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, followed by a second bomb on Nagasaki three days later. The Japanese surrender on August 14.

The Charlotte Center of the University of North Carolina is established. In 1949 the center becomes Charlotte College. It is renamed the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 1965.

North Carolina state government inaugurates the Good Health Program.

Kenneth R. Williams becomes the first African American candidate in the 20th-century South to defeat a white opponent in a municipal election. Williams wins a seat on the Winston-Salem Board of Aldermen.

The first Indian mayor of the town of Pembroke is elected. Previously the governor appointed the mayors, all of whom were non-Indian.

Elreta Alexander becomes the first African American woman licensed as a lawyer in North Carolina.

Wilmington College (now the University of North Carolina at Wilmington) is founded.

April: The Congress of Racial Equality tests a Supreme Court decision against segregation in interstate bus travel by sending eight African American men to ride on Greyhound and Trailways buses. Riders are arrested in Durham, Asheville, and Chapel Hill. This “Journey of Reconciliation” becomes the model for the “Freedom Ride” of 1961.

The state’s first commercial television station, WBTV, opens in Charlotte. WFMY in Greensboro also opens.

Communist forces of the Soviet Union blockade Berlin in Germany. The United States airlifts supplies into the city until the stranglehold is broken one year later.

February: Thomas H. Davis establishes Piedmont Aviation, Inc. (later Piedmont Airlines) in Winston-Salem. It becomes one of the most successful regional airlines in the nation.

Susie Sharp becomes North Carolina’s first female superior court judge.

April: The United States, Canada, and ten western European countries form the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to resist the threatened Communist takeover of Europe.

Communist forces under Mao Tse-tung take over China after a civil war and the deaths of more than 65 million people.

Texas political scientist V. O. Key Jr. establishes the mid-twentieth-century image of North Carolina for both natives and outsiders in his book Southern Politics in State and Nation. He describes the state as

“energetic and ambitious. . . . The citizens are determined and confident; they are on the move. The mood is at odds with much of the rest of the South. . . . Many see in North Carolina a closer approximation to national norms, or national expectations of performance. . . . It enjoys a reputation for progressive outlook and action in many phases of life, especially industrial development, education, and race relations.”

March: Governor W. Kerr Scott shocks many people when he appoints Frank Porter Graham to the Senate seat left vacant by the death of J. Melville Broughton. Graham is president of the University of North Carolina and one of the South’s best-known liberals.

1950 North Carolina Census Data
Total   4,061,929
White   2,983,121
Black   1,047,353
Indians   3,742
Chinese   345
Japanese   98
Other races   27,270

The Cherokee Historical Association receives funding, and the first performance of the outdoor drama Unto These Hills takes place.

June 25: Communist North Korean forces invade South Korea, starting a three-year war with United Nations troops led by the United States. The Korean War results in the deaths of nearly 1,000 North Carolinians. More than 33,000 Americans are killed in service.

A court order requires the University of North Carolina to admit African American students to its graduate and professional schools.

Tryon Palace, North Carolina’s colonial governor’s residence in New Bern, is reconstructed and opened to the public.

The State of North Carolina recognizes the Lumbee (formerly called the Cherokee of Robeson County).

In Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the United States Supreme Court orders that public schools be integrated “with all deliberate speed.” Most North Carolina schools are not fully desegregated until the late 1960s.

North Carolina ranks as the South’s industrial leader and as the twelfth-most-industrialized state in the nation.

October: Hurricane Hazel hits North Carolina, bringing terrible devastation to the eastern part of the state. Hazel causes 19 deaths and $136 million in property damage.

The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill admits its first African American freshmen: Leroy Frasier, John Lewis Brandon, and Ralph Frasier, all of Durham.

In response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, the General Assembly passes a resolution stating that “The mixing of the races in the public schools within the state cannot be accomplished and if attempted would alienate public support to such an extent that they could not be operated successfully.”

The General Assembly passes an amendment to the state constitution known as the Pearsall Plan to allow the state legally to oppose immediate desegregation of the public schools. Individual school systems are given the right to suspend operation of their schools by vote, and the legislature is authorized to provide payment for students who attend private schools because their parents do not want them to attend integrated schools. The Pearsall Plan gives the state time to begin a slow process of integration.

The North Carolina Museum of Art opens to the public in Raleigh.

Wake Forest College moves to a new campus in Winston-Salem, where it will become Wake Forest University in 1967. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary takes over the school’s old campus in Wake Forest.

Congress passes the “Lumbee Bill,” which recognizes the Lumbee as an Indian tribe but denies them services from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The Research Triangle Park opens in Durham County.

Wilmington native Charles B. Kuralt begins working for CBS.

Small numbers of African American students enroll in previously all-white public schools in Greensboro, Charlotte, and Winston-Salem, beginning a period of token integration in North Carolina.

Under Governor Luther H. Hodges, the state’s biennial budget tops $1 billion for the first time.

Seven black activists led by the Reverend Douglas E. Moore seek service in the white section of an ice-cream parlor in Durham. They are arrested and convicted of trespassing, but their sit-in presages a decade of conflict and social revolution.

October 4: The Soviet Union launches Sputnik, the first rocket-powered satellite to orbit Earth.

The United States launches Explorer I, the first American satellite. Congress creates the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for space exploration.

January 18: A large group of Lumbee, angered by racist agitation and threats of cross burnings, descend on a Ku Klux Klan rally near Maxton. Their war whoops and gunfire scatter the Klan members, two of whom are later indicted on charges of incitement to riot.

February: The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. visits North Carolina. He delivers speeches in Raleigh and Greensboro.

Communist forces under Fidel Castro take over the island of Cuba, 90 miles south of Florida.

North Carolina becomes the first state to require polio vaccinations.

Two Durham African American families successfully sue to have their daughters admitted to the city’s predominantly white high school.

Panty hose, called Panti-Legs and made at Glen Raven Mills near Burlington, go on sale for the first time.

1960 North Carolina Census Data
Total   4,556,155
White   3,399,285
Black   1,116,021
Indians   38,129
Chinese   404
Japanese   1,265
Filipino   343
Other races   708

The Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, an organization promoting peaceful means of protesting racial inequality, forms in Raleigh.

Governor Terry Sanford’s quality-education program (named Go Forward) starts.

The Charlotte Motor Speedway is built.

February 1: The nation’s first lunch counter sit-in begins in Greensboro when four students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College (now North Carolina A&T State University) are refused service at a Woolworth’s counter. The mode of protest used by Ezell Blair, Franklin McCain, David Richmond, and Joseph McNeil quickly spreads across the South.


The battleship USS North Carolina is berthed at Wilmington and opens as a museum and war memorial.

January 24: A B-52 bomber from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base crashes near Goldsboro while carrying two nuclear warheads. Department of Defense reports released in 1980 will indicate that one of the weapons snagged in a tree and was only a final safety catch away from detonation. The bomb was 1,800 times as powerful as the one dropped on Hiroshima.

April 12: Yury Gagarin of the Soviet Union becomes the first person to enter outer space when he completes one orbit of Earth. On May 5 of this year, Alan Shepard becomes the first American in space, and on February 20, 1962, John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit Earth.

Susie Sharp becomes first woman to serve on the North Carolina Supreme Court.

National Geographic labels North Carolina the “Dixie Dynamo” for the state’s progressive social and economic atmosphere.

October: The United States and the Soviet Union near global nuclear war after atomic warheads are placed in Communist Cuba. The Soviet Union finally agrees to remove the missiles, ending the immediate threat.

The General Assembly passes a controversial bill in the last few hours of its session. The so-called Speaker Ban Law, intended primarily to prohibit Communist speakers, sets limits on who can receive permission to speak on state-supported university campuses.

The North Carolina community college system is established.

February 6: The General Assembly convenes for the first session in its new Legislative Building.

November 22: President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Tex.


Congress passes a Civil Rights Act giving African Americans equal access to public accommodations.

The homes of Charlotte civil rights activists Kelly Alexander, Fred Alexander, Julius Chambers, and Reginald Hawkins are bombed.

The Haliwa receive state recognition as an Indian tribe.

Samuel S. Mitchell becomes the first African American judge in North Carolina.

August: Following reports that Communist North Vietnamese forces have attacked United States warships in the Gulf of Tonkin, President Lyndon Johnson asks Congress to send American troops to South Vietnam. In the succeeding 10 years of war, 1,500 North Carolinians are among the more than 53,000 Americans killed in service.

Congress passes a Voting Rights Act prohibiting discrimination against African Americans and their right to vote.

The North Carolina School of the Arts opens as the first state-supported residential school for the performing arts in the United States.

Congress passes a Civil Rights Act prohibiting discrimination against African Americans in the sale or rental of housing.

Greensboro attorney McNeil Smith argues against the Speaker Ban Law before a federal court, which declares the law unconstitutional.

Reginald A. Hawkins becomes the first African American candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in North Carolina.

Margaret Taylor Harper runs for lieutenant governor. She is the first woman to run for statewide office in North Carolina.

Henry E. Frye is elected to the General Assembly. He is the first African American elected to the state house of representatives in the twentieth century.

Howard Lee is elected mayor of Chapel Hill. He is the first African American to serve as mayor of a predominantly white southern city.

Elreta Alexander becomes the first African American elected judge in North Carolina.

July 20: American Neil Armstrong becomes the first man to set foot on the moon.

Durham resident Warren Wheeler founds Wheeler Airlines, the only African American–owned airline in the state. Wheeler Airlines is based at the Raleigh-Durham Airport.

Police and National Guardsmen fire on demonstrators at North Carolina A&T State University. One student is killed and five police officers are injured.

1970 North Carolina Census Data
Total   5,082,059
White   3,901,767
Black   1,126,478
Indians   44,406
Chinese   1,255
Japanese   2,104
Filipino   905
Other races   5,144

Kannapolis, the mill “village” owned primarily by Charles A. Cannon, is the nation’s largest unincorporated municipality.

A federal court in Charlotte orders busing to enforce school integration. Public schools across the nation are forced to follow suit.

A grocery store in Wilmington is firebombed, sparking racial violence. The “Wilmington 10,” a group of mainly African American citizens, are convicted of arson and other charges. A federal court will overturn their convictions in 1980.

The third North Carolina state constitution is enacted.

The state recognizes the Coharie and Waccamaw-Siouan tribes.

The General Assembly establishes the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs.

The Lumbee Bank is established in Pembroke. It is the first Indian-owned and -operated bank in the United States.

June 30: The 26th Amendment to the United States Constitution grants 18-year-olds the right to vote.

October 30: The General Assembly merges all state-supported senior institutions of higher education into the University of North Carolina, resulting in a statewide multicampus system of 16 constituent institutions. The changes take effect on July 1, 1972.

James E. Holshouser becomes the first Republican elected governor of North Carolina in the twentieth century.

Jesse Helms is elected to the United States Senate for the first time.

The Carolina Indian Voice, an Indian-owned newspaper, begins operation.

United States senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina is chosen as chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities. The committee investigates the Watergate break-in, in which associates of Republican president Richard Nixon burgled the Democratic National Committee headquarters.

January 27: The United States signs a peace treaty in Paris, ending American military involvement in Vietnam.

The United States Supreme Court rules in Roe v. Wade that a woman has the legal right to have an abortion.

Henry Ward Oxendine, a Lumbee from Robeson County, becomes the first Indian elected to the General Assembly.

The North Carolina Zoo opens to the public in Asheboro.

Susie Sharp becomes the first woman elected chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, and the first popularly elected female chief justice in the nation.

August 9: Faced with impeachment, Richard Nixon resigns as president of the United States.

The capture of Saigon by the Communist North Vietnamese army brings the Vietnam War to an end. Many Vietnamese flee their country and start a new life in the United States. Some settle in North Carolina.

Tobacco and tourism each bring in $1 billion to the state’s economy. Recent industrial development in the state amounts to $1 billion as well.

The United States lands the Viking I and Viking II space probes on Mars.

The North Carolina General Assembly refuses to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. The amendment fails national ratification.

Isabella Cannon is elected mayor of Raleigh. She is the first female mayor of a major North Carolina city.

Iranian militants capture American diplomats in the embassy at Tehran and hold them hostage; a rescue attempt six months later fails. The Americans are not released until 1981, after 444 days of captivity.

Members of the Communist Party and the Ku Klux Klan clash in Greensboro during an anti-Klan rally. Gunfire is exchanged, and Klan members kill five Communist supporters. A year later a court clears the Klan members of all charges.

1980 North Carolina Census Data
Total   5,881,766
White   4,457,507
Black   1,318,857
American Indian   64,536
Eskimo   57
Aleutian   59
Japanese   3,186
Chinese   3,176
Filipino   2,542
Korean   3,518
Asian Indian   4,720
Vietnamese   2,391
Hawaiian   839
Guamanian   500
Samoan   241
Other races   19,574

After both the General Assembly and a popular vote approve a constitutional amendment allowing a governor to serve consecutive terms, James B. Hunt becomes the first North Carolina chief executive to succeed himself in office.

Wilmington native and journalist David Brinkley retires from NBC after 24 years.

The North Carolina Film Office is created to promote North Carolina as a site for the filmmaking industry.

The portion of North Carolina’s workforce employed in industry has increased to 33 percent from 29 percent in 1950. Agriculture, which employed one-fourth of the state’s population in 1950, now employs only 3.6 percent of the workforce. The number of family farms has decreased from 288,508 to 93,000 during the same period. Despite a reduction in the number of acres farmed—from 19,317,937 to 11,700,000—the average size of individual farms has increased from 67 to 126 acres as agriculture in the state has become more of a business and less of a family affair.


The estimated total value of manufactured products in the state reaches $60 billion.

The General Assembly passes the Unmarked Human Burial and Human Skeletal Remains Protection Act and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act. Criminal penalties for violations are set, and the involvement of Indian communities in decisions concerning the treatment, analysis, and disposition of Native American remains is mandated.

March: President Ronald W. Reagan survives an assassination attempt in Washington, D.C., in which he is shot twice in the chest.

Fortune magazine survey of top executives ranks North Carolina second in the nation (behind Texas) as a location for companies wanting to build new plants.

Henry Frye becomes the first African American to sit on the North Carolina Supreme Court.

October 25: Troops from North Carolina military bases assist in the expulsion of Communist forces from the Caribbean island of Grenada.

July 4: Richard Petty wins his 200th NASCAR victory at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida, with President Ronald Reagan in attendance.

January 21: The temperature on Mount Mitchell reaches minus 34 degrees Fahrenheit—the lowest temperature ever recorded in North Carolina.

January 28: The space shuttle Challenger explodes shortly after liftoff, killing all seven people on board, including pilot Michael Smith, a native of Beaufort, and Ron Erwin McNair, a 1971 graduate of North Carolina A&T State University.

March: Film legend George Randolph Scott dies and is buried in Charlotte, his family home. Scott starred in 96 motion pictures and was famous for his westerns, including his last film in 1962, Ride the High Country.

April: Charlotte is selected as the location for a National Basketball Association franchise. The Charlotte Hornets begin playing the next year.

Gertrude B. Elion and George H. Hitchings win the Nobel Prize in medicine. Both formerly worked at the Research Triangle Park.

1990 North Carolina Census Data
Total   6,628,637
White   5,008,491
Black   1,456,323
American Indian, Eskimo, or Aleutian   80,155
Asian or Pacific Islander   52,166
Other races   31,502

The United States fights the Persian Gulf War. The North Carolina Army National Guard mobilizes 19 units and more than 2,000 personnel in response to the crisis.

East Carolina University’s medical school pioneers modern telemedicine.

Dan Blue becomes the first African American to serve as speaker of the house in the General Assembly.

Troops from North Carolina military bases assist in the expulsion of Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

November: Eva Clayton becomes the first woman elected to Congress from North Carolina.

January 1: The Soviet Union is officially declared dead after several years of economic collapse and the secession of its former republics, which reject Communism and establish independent nations.

November: James B. Hunt becomes the first North Carolina governor elected to a third four-year term. Four years later he will be elected to a fourth term in office.

October 26: National Football League team owners vote unanimously to place a team in the Carolinas. The Carolina Panthers begin playing in 1995.

North Carolina natives Sadie and Bessie Delany, at ages 104 and 102, publish the book Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years. The sisters, daughters of Episcopal bishop Henry B. Delany, turn into celebrities, and their story becomes a successful Broadway play.

North Carolina resident Martin Rodbell wins the Nobel Prize for discoveries about how proteins trigger basic body functions.

April: The North Carolina Museum of History opens its new facility to the public in Raleigh.

North Carolina has approximately 9.3 million hogs, making it the second-largest pork producer in the nation. Most farms are in 20 eastern counties.

September: Hurricane Fran hits North Carolina, causing more than $5 billion in damage, primarily in the eastern part of the state.

North Carolina gains its third major-league sports franchise when the Hartford Whalers (now the Carolina Hurricanes) of the National Hockey League relocate to the state.

December: President Bill Clinton is impeached in the United States House of Representatives, becoming the second president impeached by Congress (the first was Andrew Johnson, in 1868). The Senate votes not to remove Clinton from office.

January 13: North Carolinian Michael Jordan retires from the National Basketball Association after 13 seasons, six NBA championships, 10 scoring titles, and five Most Valuable Player awards.

September: Hurricane Floyd causes widespread and devastating flooding in the eastern portion of North Carolina.

April: The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences opens its new facility to the public in Raleigh.

2000 North Carolina Census Data
Total   8,049,313
White   5,804,656
Black   1,737,545
American Indian and Alaska Native   99,551
Asian   113,689
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander   3,983
Hispanic or Latino   378,963
Other races   186,629


November: Elizabeth Dole becomes the first woman to represent North Carolina in the United States Senate.

North Carolina Senator John Edwards runs for vice president. He and running mate Senator John Kerry are narrowly defeated by incumbent President George Bush.