by T. Mike Childs
Bill Powell is an omnipresent figure in the study of North Carolina history. When I do my continual Internet searches and research for the NCpedia, certain names keep popping up, over and over again: Fred A. Olds, R.D.W. Connor, and… William S. Powell. Researching North Carolina history is to find that unbeknownst, Bill Powell has blazed the trail before you. When I stumbled onto the amusing story of Slow Poke the Possum and wrote it up for the NCpedia, I allowed myself to think that I had discovered a previously forgotten and unknown piece of North Carolina history, however small. Imagine my surprise when I later discovered Slow Poke mentioned in Powell’s Encyclopedia of North Carolina (opossums article)! Ole Bill had gotten there first. But if you’re investigating North Carolina history, you better get used to following in Bill’s footprints. He was there first. He’s become such a familiar presence I’ve started calling him “Uncle Bill” in my mind.
It’s an honor to be working to make a fraction of Powell’s voluminous work available online. By making available his Dictionary of North Carolina Biography and Encyclopedia of North Carolina, we are adding a solid, historical, academic foundation under our metaphorical feet. I think the NCpedia is a logical extension of Bill Powell’s enormous, ceaseless good work on the history of North Carolina, and can only grow greater.
Thanks, Uncle Bill! (And thank you, Nick Graham, for your awesome Powell biography.)
Joseph Bathanti is our state’s new Poet Laureate, assuming the mantle in a ceremony on September 20, 2012. Like many of our citizens, he is not a native, but he is a long-time resident, and has the fervor of the new convert for his state. That’s even more impressive when you consider his move to the state in 1976 dumped him straight into … prison! He came here through VISTA to do prison outreach near Charlotte. And it didn’t scare him off! He continued to work with prisoners and do literary and writing outreach his whole career. Writing his biography became an exercise in sorting a tangled multitude of seminars and talks, prizes and awards, fellowships and honors. This is definitely one poet not lolling pond-side pining themselves into immobile lassitude. He puts the “work” in his working class background. Reading some of his writings, I got a taste of his confessional, lyrical, and deeply autobiographical pieces. It’s not often you get to read first class poetry as part of your job, and I prized it. Try some yourself.