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December 7, Marking the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entry into World War II and a new NCpedia biography: the first service person from Western North Carolina killed

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December 7, Marking the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entry into World War II and a new NCpedia biography: the first service person from Western North Carolina killed

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on U.S. military installations at Pearl Harbor by the Japanese and the U.S.’s official entry into the war on December 8.

NCpedia recently published a new entry on a young gentleman from Yancey County named Weldon Burlison. At barely age 30, Burlison was the first reported World War II casualty from western North Carolina and one of the first reported service personnel from North Carolina who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 4, 1941.  Burlison began his military service in the Marines in 1934 and served there for four years.  Following an honorable discharge at the end of his tour in 1938, he immediately re-enlisted, this time in the Army Air Corps (today the U.S. Air Force).  At the time of the attack, Burlison was stationed at Hickam Field at Pearl Harbor.

Drawing from Weldon Burlison's August 5, 1941 letter to Elsie Edwards. From the military collection of the State Archives of North Carolina. Used with permission.

Drawing from Weldon Burlison’s August 5, 1941 letter to Elsie Edwards. From the military collection of the State Archives of North Carolina. Used with permission.

Weldon Burlison’s story, although the details we have are relatively few, came to NCpedia through the State Archives of North Carolina.  The Archives’ military archivist, Matthew Peek, received a very small collection of materials about Burlison that included primarily a few newspaper articles and his obituary in the Yancey Record along with a few letters and postcards shared between Burlison and a friend, Elsie Edwards.  One of the letters was written by Elsie Edwards just a day after the attack on Pearl Harbor and sends her heartbreaking hope that her friend is O.K. Burlison would of course never receive her letter, and it would take several weeks for the envelope and its contents to make it through the military mail, only to be returned to her marked “deceased.”  Here is an excerpt from the NCpedia entry, including her heart-rending words:

On the morning of December 8, 1941, after hearing the news about Pearl Harbor and knowing where Burlison was stationed, Elsie Edward wrote a two-page, heart-breaking letter to him, hoping he is safe and alive. Elsie began her letter by saying “Of course I have a million things on my mind these days. Right now the uppermost thought is ‘I wonder if Snook is safe, if he’s really all right’.” After noting that Americans had abandoned plans for Christmas in order to pray for those military personnel at Pearl Harbor, Edwards wrote, “And let me tell you Weldon, I am one of your many friends who is praying for you!” She would finish writing the letter by 5 focusing on information related to previous correspondence, but finished her letter saying, “I don’t know of very much to say right now. I can’t even be sure you will receive this but I hope you do.”

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Celebrating National Aviation Week: Take a Short-Hop over to NCpedia for North Carolina’s Aviation Firsts

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Celebrating National Aviation Week: Take a Short-Hop over to NCpedia for North Carolina’s Aviation Firsts

This week is National Aviation Week, built around Friday’s upcoming National Aviation Day, first proclaimed in 1939 by President Franklin Roosevelt.  Roosevelt issued the proclamation to designate the holiday to coincide with the anniversary of Orville Wright‘s birth on August 19, 1871.

And although the Wrights’ epic flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903 gave the state one of its most memorable mottos — First in Flight — there are even more flight “firsts” that contribute to that distinction.

Photograph of Belvin Maynard, William Kline, and Trixie

Photograph of Belvin Maynard – and his dog Trixie – and William Kline, ca. 1910. Republished in NCpedia courtesy of Digital Forsyth.

Here’s just a sampling of some of the “firsts”, and you can find more information by following the links to NCpedia:

  • 1873: Henry Gatling’s hand-cranked monoplane was flown near Murfreesboro; claimed to be the first plane built in the U.S.
  • 1903: The Wrights flew the first manned and powered airplane at Kitty Hawk.
  • 1903: Georgia Ann Thompson — better known as Tiny Broadwick in NCpedia — became the first woman to make a parachute jump from an airplane. Broadwick is also credited with being the first person to make a free-fall descent and for troubleshooting a near-disaster that lead to the invention of the rip-cord.
  • 1907: Luther Paul’s twin-rotor unmanned helicopter the Bumble Bee flew in Carteret County; claimed to be the first helicopter flight in the U.S.
  • 1919: Belvin Maynard, born in Sampson County, set a record for 318 consecutive loops in 67 minutes at an airfield in France. For a time Maynard was known as the “greatest pilot on earth” and has also been credited with performing the first in-flight wedding in 1922 (although this detail has not been proven!).
  • 1928: pioneering aviatrix Louise Marcellus McPhetridge Thaden flew to 20,260 feet, at the time the highest altitude reached by a woman; Thaden and her husband participated in the development of all-metal planes and later resided in High Point where they operated a plastics engineering firm.
  • 1928: The state’s first regular air mail flight by Wheeler Airlines landed at Lindley Field in Greensboro.
  • 1948: North Carolina-born aeronautical engineer Francis Rogallo patented his invention the self-inflating Rogallo Wing which became the basis for foot-launched hang-gliders. (The first glider flown using the wing was developed and made by Californian Barry Palmer in 1961.)
  • 1969: North Carolina’s Warren Hervey Wheeler became the country’s first African American to own a commercial airline, Wheeler Flying Service.
  • 1974: Dare County resident and kite-maker John Harris in NCpedia became the first person to hang glide from the peak of Grandfather Mountain.

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New @NCpedia: North Carolina Olympians in the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame

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Harry Williamson wearing University of North Carolina track warm-ups. Writing on the back of the photograph indicates it was taken three weeks before the try-outs for the 1936 Olympic games. Harry Williamson competed in the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin, Germany and was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1999. Photo appears in NCpedia courtesy of the High Point Historical Society, High Point, NC. Used by permission.

Harry Williamson wearing University of North Carolina track warm-ups. Writing on the back of the photograph indicates it was taken three weeks before the try-outs for the 1936 Olympic games. Harry Williamson competed in the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin, Germany and was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1999. Photo appears in NCpedia courtesy of the High Point Historical Society, High Point, NC. Used by permission.

New @NCpedia: North Carolina Olympians in the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame

The spotlight is on the Olympics in Rio this week. And North Carolina has a long history of sending athletes who have ties to the state in one way or another. This year a few dozen athletes with Tar Heel ties are competing.  Check out this recent article from WUNC Radio with links to TeamUSA.org and USAgym.org.

A North Carolinian first competed in the modern Olympics in Berlin, Germany in 1936.  That year, Harry Williamson, a former UNC-Chapel Hill track and field athlete (1932-1936), qualified for the 800 meter sprint, placing 3rd in the trials.  A native of High Point, Williamson won his heat at the Olympics but ended up placing 6th in the Olympic event, although only seconds behind the winner. In 1999, he was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.

And speaking of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame:  the SHOF is an affiliate of the North Carolina Museum of History and operates its own museum on the 3rd floor of the Museum in downtown Raleigh.  The space is a trove of North Carolina sports history, trivia, lore and artifacts.  There’s enough there to occupy many visits!  And you can visit their website to peruse a long list of inductees.

NCpedia’s most recent addition comes to us thanks to folks at the SHOF who have put together a list of 31 Tar Heels who have made it to the Olympics and into the Sports Hall of Fame. This list includes both athletes and coaches, including the first inductee into the newly organized SHOF in 1963 — track and field athlete from 1960 Olympics, Jim Beatty — along with the three famed Yow sisters. So, race on over to NCpedia to learn more!

Kelly Agan, North Carolina Government & Heritage Library

 

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New in NCpedia: North Carolina Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Timeline

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North Carolina Historically Black Colleges & Universities HBCUs. Click here for the NCpedia North Carolina HBCUs Timeline

Click here for the NCpedia North Carolina HBCUs Timeline

New in NCpedia: North Carolina Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Timeline

NCpedia has a new interactive timeline! 

Tracing the history of North Carolina’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), it brings together brief histories of North Carolina’s twelve HBCUs, developed between 1865 and 1910, and images from a range of collections and historic publications.

The timeline was developed by Christine Alston, a student in the Master of Library and Information Studies program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, during her recent graduate student field experience at the N.C. Government & Heritage Library. The timeline was created using TimeMapper. An open-source application created by Open Knowledge Labs, TimeMapper is freely available and is built on relatively simple web technologies. The timeline is generated from information entered into a simple Google spreadsheet template (provided by TimeMapper) and run on the web. Virtually anyone from professionals, to teachers, students and family historians can create visually interesting and interactive timelines. No programming experience needed!

Click here for the NCpedia North Carolina HBCUs Collection

Click here for the NCpedia North Carolina HBCUs Collection

Check out the timeline and more NCpedia resources on African American history and education in North Carolina:

 

Kelly Agan, N.C. Government & Heritage Library

 

 

This blog is a service of the State Library of North Carolina, part of the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Blog comments and posts may be subject to Public Records Law and may be disclosed to third parties.