Thursday, July 18, 2019

Clingman Webster Mitchell (1860-1921)

From the Kinston Free Press, May 10, 1916.

   A multi-term member of both houses of the North Carolina legislature, Clingman Webster Mitchell was a standout figure in the political life of Bertie County in the late 19th and early 20th century. Acknowledged by the Raleigh News Observer as one of the leading Democratic orators of his day, Mitchell again sought elective office 1916, launching a campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives. Hoping to wrest the congressional seat from Claude Kitchin (a near twenty-year incumbent), Mitchell would lose that primary race in a very lopsided contest. The son of William J. and Mary Elizabeth Winnifred Mitchell, Clingman Webster "C.W." Mitchell was born in Bertie County, North Carolina on August 16, 1860. Mitchell looks to have been given his first name in honor of Joseph Lanier Clingman (1812-1897), one of the preeminent political figures in Antebellum North Carolina and at the time of Mitchell's birth, a sitting U.S. Senator from that state. 
   In his youth, Clingman W. Mitchell studied at the Elm Grove Academy in Chowan County and from 1877-81 attended Wake Forest College. He would marry in February 1883 to Pauline Holliman, to who he was wed until his death. The couple would have five children, Herbert Hawthorne (1884-1912), Clingman Webster Jr. (1894-1979), Carrie, and two other children that died in infancy. 
  By the late 1880s, Clingman Mitchell had established himself in business at Aulander, North, Carolina, where he was the proprietor of a corn mill. The succeeding years saw him gain further prominence in that area's business sector, owning his own general merchandise store, as well as being the founder and president of the Bertie Cotton Oil Company, an extensive business that housed not only an oil mill but also a fertilizer plant and a cotton gin. Mitchell later added further business successes to his resume with his time as president of both the Aulander Live Stock and Supply Co. and the Bank of Aulander. He is further noted as having engaged in farming for a good majority of his life, as well as having lumber interests in his region. Mitchell also etched his name into local area history when he erected the first hotel in Aulander, the Choanoke, which was completed in the late 1890s and was damaged by fire decades later.
  As a leading Baptist in North Carolina, Clingman Mitchell held the post of moderator of the West Chowan Baptist Association for many years and was a delegate and former president of the Baptist State Convention. For an indeterminate length of time Mitchell served on the board of trustees of the Thomasville Baptist Orphanage, and in his hometown of Aulander was a longtime Sunday School and Bible class teacher. In addition to church work, Mitchell was heavily invested in educational matters in his state, being a trustee of both his alma mater, Wake Forest College, as well as the Chowan College in Murfreesboro. Further notice is given to Mitchell's importance to the school system in Aulander, with his 1921 obituary noting:
"His interest in education is best evidenced by the magnificent school building and equipment in his home town, due very largely to his efforts and organization."
  Clingman Mitchell's business achievements and popularity in Bertie County eventually led to calls for him to run for public office, and in 1892 he did just that, gaining the Democratic nomination for state senator from Bertie and Northampton County. He was elected that November and during the 1893-95 session was named to the senate committees on Agriculture; Banks and Currency; Enrolled Bills; Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Asylums; and Propositions and Grievances. Mitchell's first senate term proved to have a profound effect on his constituents in Northampton County, who in the 1894 election year gained the turn to elect a senator. The residents of that county were so satisfied with Mitchell's service they "insisted upon nominating Mr. Mitchell on account of his popularity and strength in the district" and was one of just five Democrats elected to the senate for the 1895-97 session. Mitchell's second term saw him sit on twelve new committees, those being Claims; Counties, Cities, and Towns; Federal Relations; Finance; Fisheries; Insurance; Military Affairs; Penal Institutions; Pensions and the Soldier's Home; Public Health; Public Roads; and Railroads and the Railroad Commission. 

Clingman W. Mitchell as he appeared in the Raleigh News and Observer, March 19, 1905.

   By 1898 Clingman Mitchell could look back on two successful senate terms, and had gained additional repute as an orator of "great power and in demand for all sorts of occasions." Following a third senate win in 1902 (serving in the 1903-05 session), Mitchell was elected to the state house of representatives from Bertie County in 1904. The 1905-07 term not only saw him chair the committee on House Expenditures but also serve on the committees on the Democratic Caucus, Finance, Fish and Fisheries, and Liquor Traffic. The Raleigh News and Observer would also take special note of Mitchell's oratorical prowess during this session, remarking:
"He was said, by many, to be the most eloquent speaker in the House. Certainly there was no speaker more effective or eloquent. He spoke only on matters of great importance, such as his powerful speech on the divorce question, on the Ward bill, for reform in criminal trials, for legislation promoting the welfare of the state. He stood for everything that would benefit the State, would make its citizens better, make it more prosperous, and he led in some of the most important fights of the session."
  Following the conclusion of his house term in 1907, Mitchell returned to the state senate for a fourth term, having won reelection in November 1906. This term saw him chair the Agriculture committee and was named to the committees on Education, Finance, and Railroads. This term would also see Mitchell pull political "double duty", as it were, as he was named to the North Carolina State Board of Agriculture in 1907, where he served until the year of his death

From the 1903-05 North Carolina Senate composite.

   In 1916 Clingman Mitchell "received the urgent request of many Democrats" to seek the Congressional seat held by popular Democratic representative and House Majority leader Claude Kitchin (1869-1923), who had served uninterrupted terms in Congress since 1901. This primary contest extended from Kitchin coming out against President Woodrow Wilson's "programme for national defense", which, in turn, soured many constituents in Kitchin's district. With news of this contest making the papers as far away as New York, Mitchell hit the stump and made note that he believed that:
"The country needs not so much fluent speakers as men who will think for and labor for a constructive legislative program conducive to the industrial progress of the South and Nation."
 On primary election day in June 1916, it was Claude Kitchin who proved successful at the polls,  besting Mitchell by a several thousand votes and even carried Mitchell's home county of Bertie. Following this defeat, Mitchell continued service on the state board of agriculture, and in 1917 took part with the other members of that board in planning for that year's state fair. Clingman Webster Mitchell died at his home in Aulander on June 20, 1921, aged 60. After his passing, Mitchell was memorialized by his friend Francis Winston, a former North Carolina Lieutenant Governor, as an outstanding figure in state politics, religious work and civic affairs, remarking:
"To some it would seem that he died young. In good done and work accomplished he lived long. Any life here, if it leads to a worse life hereafter, is too long. Any life here, if it leads to a better life hereafter, is long enough. Clingman Webster Mitchell therefore lived long enough."
  Clingman W. Mitchell was survived by his wife Pauline and two of his children, with burial occurring in Aulander in a private cemetery on the farm of his grandfather, James Mitchell.

From the Raleigh News Observer, June 22, 1921.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Mackamie Jay Harris (1874-1941)

Portrait from the 1937 Albemarle City Directory.

  Following on the heels of July 13th's profile on Stanly County, North Carolina resident Crayon Cornelius Efird, another curiously named resident of that county is accorded a write-up here, Mackamie Jay "M.J." Harris. A multi-term mayor of Albemarle, North Carolina (the Stanly County seat) Harris served over two decades as mayor of that city, and this article would not have been possible without the efforts of Lewis Bramlett, a Stanly County historian and fan of this site who graciously sent along not only several articles and photos concerning Crayon Efird, but was also kind enough to send me a 1941 obituary for Mayor Harris, as well as information regarding Harris' full dates of service. Without Lewis's input and help, this article would not have been possible!
  Born in Cabarrus County, North Carolina on March 23, 1874, MacKamie Jay Harris was the son of Mcamy and Margaret Harris (as per the 1880 census.) Recorded by period sources under the initials "M.J." or "M. Jay", Harris' first name was located via Find-a-Grave, which denotes that name as it is inscribed on his tombstone. His middle name, Jay, was revealed via the 1940 Albemarle city directory. Nothing is known of Harris' early years or education in the county of his birth, and around 1900 he removed to Albemarle in Stanly County to take work with the Cabbarus Bank and Trust Company, which had established a branch there. Harris would marry in Mecklenburg County on October 30, 1901, to Margaret Louise Caldwell (1875-1959), who survived him upon his death in 1941. The couple would have at least one son, Mackamie James, who died age two in 1910 after being afflicted with "toxine poisoning".
  A short period following his resettlement in Albemarle, M. Jay Harris was named as the assistant cashier for the Cabarrus Bank and Trust Company's Albemarle branch, a post he would continue to hold for a number of years afterward. He would later assume the post of cashier for that bank, serving in that capacity until his death in 1941. In addition to his banking interests, Harris served for a time as Secretary-Treasurer of the Albemarle Building and Loan Association and also was a 33rd degree Mason, being remarked as "the only 33rd degree Mason" residing in the city.
  M. Jay Harris entered the political life of his city in 1911 when he took office as Mayor of Albemarle. He would be continually reelected until at least 1918, when he resigned from office, shortly after a board of aldermen vote that repealed "the blue laws which had recently been placed in effect and of which the mayor was sponsor." By 1925 Harris had been reelected as mayor, and, according to the records of Lewis Bramlett and various Albemarle city directories, was continually reelected until retiring from the mayor's office in May 1941. 
  In addition to his long mayoralty, Harris was a senior elder in the First Presbyterian Church of Albemarle and in 1927 was appointed by the board of county commissioners as chairman of the board of trustees of the Stanly County Public Library, which had been established a short time prior. Just one month after stepping down as mayor M. Jay Harris died on June 17, 1941 at his Albemarle home of a heart attack, aged 68. Following burial at the Old Albemarle Cemetery, he was memorialized in the Stanly News and Press as:
"A man of high ideals, loyal to his friends and to the community. He was always in the forefront in movements designed to improve the community, and he was always held in high regard by all those who knew him."
From the Stanly News and Press, June 20, 1941. Courtesy of Mr. Lewis Bramlett.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Deems Hardy Clifton (1910-1998)

From the 1947 North Carolina Manual.

   Sampson County, North Carolina native Deems Hardy Clifton represented his home county in the state legislature for one term and was later an unsuccessful aspirant for the state senate and state commissioner of insurance. The son of William Deems and Cora (Kornegay) Clifton, Deems Hardy Clifton's birth occurred on August 1, 1910, in Duplin County. Clifton was a student at the Faison High School in Duplin County and continued his education at the University of North Carolina from 1928-31. 
  Following graduation, Clifton began a long career as an insurance agent in Sampson County, being an owner of the Clinton Insurance Agency. A  real estate dealer in addition to his insurance business, Clifton was a longstanding member of the North Carolina Association of Insurance Agents, where he served on the committees on Rural Agents and Finance. He married in Fayetteville, North Carolina on May 17, 1934, to Gwendolyn Madge Britt (1909-2006). The couple's fifty-four-year union saw the births 0f two daughters, both of whom died in infancy. 
   At the age of just twenty-three Deems Clifton began his political ascent, being elected as a town commissioner for Clinton, North Carolina. Serving from 1933-35, Clifton went on to be named as Chairman of the Duplin County Republican Executive Committee for a two year period (1935-37), and for a decade held the chairmanship of the Third Congressional District Committee. From 1940-42 Clifton held a seat on the State Republican Executive Committee and in the year of his legislative election was a member of the Republican State Finance Committee. Elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives in November 1946, Clifton served during the 1947-49 session and was a member of the following committees: Education, Finance, Game, Mental Institutions, Insurance, Military Affairs, Unemployment Compensation, and Trustees of the State University. Clifton was also one of only 11 Republicans serving in this particular session, out of a total of 119 representatives!
   Midway through Clifton's single term in the house, he received the Republican nomination for State Commissioner of Insurance in March 1948. Despite a strong showing at the polls with 207, 092 votes, Clifton would lose that contest to Democratic incumbent William P. Hodges, who polled over 500,000 votes. Following this defeat, Clifton continued in the insurance business in Clinton and from 1953-54 held the office of chairman of the Independent Insurance Agents of North Carolina. In 1960 he again sought elected office when he entered into the race for State Insurance Commissioner in that year's primary but was dealt another loss, polling just 6, 748 votes to Democrat Charles Gold's winning total of 422, 981.

From the Duplin Times Progress Sentinel, October 24, 1968.

  In 1968 Deems Clifton was induced to reenter politics, in that year becoming a nominee for the North Carolina Senate from the 10th senatorial district. He would lose that contest in November to former state senator Stewart Bethune Warren (1916-1981), who continued to serve in the Senate until 1973. Five years following this defeat, Clifton achieved some measure of consolation when he was appointed to the Small Business Administration's District Advisory Council for the Charlotte district. Clifton's full dates of service on that council remain unknown at this time, and he continued residence in Sampson County until his death at age 87 on March 11, 1998. His wife Gwendolyn survived her husband by eight years, and after her death at age 96 in 2006 was interred alongside him at the Springvale Cemetery in Clinton.

Deems H. Clifton, from the April 4, 1966 "Piedmonter".

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Crayon Cornelius Efird (1904-1977)

Portrait from the E.S.C. Quarterly, Summer-Fall 1953.

   Another in a long line of unusually named figures who served in the North Carolina legislature during the first half of the twentieth century, Crayon Cornelius Efird is also the first political figure I've found that shares a first name with that multi-hued writing utensil we're all familiar with. Long a prominent Democrat in Stanly County, Efird would serve one term in the North Carolina state senate and three years after the completion of that term was elected to the state house of representatives, where he also served one term. Born in Stanly County on October 28, 1904, Crayon Cornelius Efird was the son of Henry Polycarp and Sallie (Braswell) Efird. Efird's early schooling took place in Albemarle, North Carolina and would graduate from the Albemarle High School. 
  In the early 1920s, Crayon Efird was the owner (along with partner C.H. McSwain) of the Albemarle city newsstand, which, in addition to newspapers and magazines, also dealt in "Cigars, Cigarettes, Candies, and Fruits." Efird continued his education at the University of North Carolina for a two year period and from 1926-27 served as a member of the state national guard. He later joined with his father in the latter's farm implement dealership, the H. P. Efird Co. Inc, a local dealer in International Harvester equipment. Crayon Efird served as its treasurer for a number of years and following his service in the legislature achieved further prominence in local business, being the president of the Albemarle Oil Co. and the Power City Bus Line. Efird would also deal in real estate and held the presidency of the Lake View Inc. real estate holding company.
  Crayon Efird made his first foray into North Carolina politics at age twenty-eight, winning election to the North Carolina Senate from the 19th senatorial district. His service during the 1933-35 session saw him as a member of the committees on the Corporation Commission; Counties, Cities, and Towns; Distribution of the Governor's Message; Education; Enrolled Bills; Institutions for the Blind; Labor and Commerce; Manufacturing; Military Affairs; Senate Expenditures; and Trustee's of the University.

From the 1933 North Carolina House of Representatives composite.

  Three years after leaving the Senate Efird announced his candidacy for the North Carolina House of Representatives, a contest he would win that November. His single term in the house extended from 1939-41 and would sit on the committees on Appropriations, Insane Asylums, Public Utilities, Roads, Salaries and Fees, and Unemployment Compensation. Efird married during his term in 1940 to Annabel Vester (1915-1999), and later had two children, Crayon Cornelius Jr. (born 1942) and Sally (born ca. 1947).
   After leaving the legislature in 1941 Efird continued in government service in the administration of Governor J. Melville Broughton, holding the post of assistant director of the North Carolina Division of Purchase and Contract from 1941-46. In 1953 Efird was named to North Carolina Employment Securities Commission for a four-year term and one year into his service on that commission was dealt tragedy with the death of his parents Henry and Sallie, who lost their lives in a car accident on September 4, 1954. The particulars of this accident were revealed in a write-up in Stanly News and Press and the Raleigh Observer (posted below) which related that Crayon Efird was driving the vehicle, with his parents in the back seat when a child ran into the road. An oncoming oil truck swerved to avoid hitting the child, and in turn, veered into the opposite lane and collided with the Efird's car. Henry and Sallie Efird were killed instantly in the crash and Crayon Efird himself survived with serious injuries, including a broken leg, an injured arm and substantial loss of blood. The driver of the truck, Horace McLawhorn, was also severely injured and was later charged with manslaughter.

From the Raleigh News and Observer, 1954. Courtesy of Mr. Lewis Bramlett.

  Despite his grievous injuries, Efird recovered and in 1957 was reappointed to the E.S.C. for another four-year term that would conclude in 1961. After leaving that commission Efird continued residence in Stanly County, North Carolina and was active in church work and fraternal groups, being a member of the Masonic lodge, the Oasis Temple of the Shrine, and the Stanly Shrine Club. Crayon Cornelius Efird died at age 72 on January 12, 1977, at the Stanly County Hospital. He was survived by his wife Annabel, and both were interred at the Fairview Memorial Park following their deaths.

Crayon C. Efird's 1939 campaign advertisement. Courtesy of Mr. Lewis Bramlett.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Lotan Alpha Corriher (1872-1955)

From the 1956 Catawba College "Sayakini" yearbook.

   Standing large in the history of Landis, North Carolina is the figure of Lotan Alpha Corriher, for many years a leading textile industrialist in the Piedmont region of that state. Possessing a rather space-age sounding name (the planet Lotan in the galaxy of Alpha Corriher!), Corriher's influence was felt in a number of endeavors in the Catawba Valley area, as he was the founder and president of the Corriher Mill Company, a philanthropic benefactor of the Catawba College, a leading churchman, and was a baseball team founder. A man whose influence in Landis was still felt in the decades after his death, Lotan Alpha Corriher earns an article here on the site due to his service as the Mayor of Landis, an office he would hold for twenty years.
  One of nine children born to James Franklin (1841-1928) and Sarah (Beaver) Corriher, Lotan Alpha Corriher was born on December 9, 1872, in Rowan County, North Carolina. While his name is certainly curious, the origins behind the name"Lotan" remain uncertain. Several instances of "Lotan" are recorded throughout history, including a figure in the Book of Genesis, a Horite chieftain. Even stranger is the mention of "Lotan" being a giant mythic sea dragon (a servant of the sea god Yam), who was defeated by Canaanite god Baal. Whatever the origins of the name, Frank and Sarah Corriher bestowed upon their son a name worth mention!
   A student at the "old Corriher school" in Rowan County, Corriher also studied at the original Catawba College at its first location in Newton, North Carolina from 1891-92. At the conclusion of his schooling, Corriher followed the trade of bible salesman for a brief period, traversing Cabbarus and Rowan County on foot. He would later purchase a large farm with his father and for a three year period followed the career of a farmer in the China Grove area. This period saw Corriher begin planning his business fortune, and after a period of work at a mercantile firm in China Grove, he set about establishing a sawmill operation and began to purchase farmland in the southern Rowan County area, which was then emptied of its timber. Corriher later sold both the timber and the land and by the early 20th century joined with a partner, Ogatha Lockhart "O.L." Linn, with whom he purchased a brickyard. After purchasing machinery to make the brick, Corriher moved his sawmill nearby and used both of these endeavors to begin construction on the area's first textile business, the Linn Mill. Construction began on the enterprise in 1899, and after its completion two years later Corriher and others hired George Lipe to run its day to day operations. Lipe, in turn, would purchase new machinery for the mill and made a point to hire only local people as employees.
   Named in honor of area businessman and mill founder Columbus Linn, the new mill and its surrounding areas would soon blossom and become the town of Landis, which was incorporated in 1901. On May 29, 1907, Lotan A. Corriher married in Rowan County to Ida Linn (1871-1946), the daughter of Columbus Linn. The couple's near four-decade-long marriage saw the births of four sons, Hoyle Burris (1906-1936), Otho Alexander (1909-1991), Ralph Eugene (died aged two in 1912) and Joseph Frederick Corriher (1914-1997). Following Ida Corriher's death in 1946, he remarried the next year to Florence Fransioli Busby (1895-1979), who would survive him.
   Through the 1900s Lotan Corriher saw the Linn Mill burgeon into a local business powerhouse, and by 1909 had accumulated enough capital to begin construction on the textile mill that would bear his name. Completed in 1913, the Corriher Mills would initially boast of "5,000 spindles operating on double carded knitting yarns." By 1927 the mill had transformed into a "combed yarn mill" with further spindles, and a decade later had increased its spindleage to a "40,000 capacity." Corriher was later joined in this enterprise by his sons Otho Alexander (who served as company treasurer) and James Frederick, who served as the company's president following the death of his father in 1955.
   Lotan A. Corriher would later serve as president of the Corriher Mill Company until his death and also held the post of secretary-treasurer of the Linn Mill, and was a member of the board of directors of both companies. Further business success would come to Corriher through his founding of the Roselle Lighting Company and Corriher Enterprises, and during the early days of the Great Depression provided financial backing for the Merchant's and Farmer's Bank of Landis by personally guaranteeing deposits, thereby preventing the bank from closure.

From the Kannapolis Daily Independent, January 1, 1956.

  In addition to his business successes, Lotan Corriher was heavily involved in the affairs of the Independent Carolina Baseball League, being the primary figure behind the success of the Landis Cardinals, who compiled 49 league wins during their existence and in 1935 completed their season with a "five-game lead over second place Kannapolis." The Cardinals would also see two of its players, Herman Fink and Fred Archer, go on to play in the major leagues with the Philadelphia Athletics.
  Throughout the latter portion of his life, Lotan Corriher was a leading philanthropic benefactor to his alma mater, Catawba College. He would be a leading voice in the college being removed from Newton to Salisbury, North Carolina in 1925 and from 1925 until his death thirty years later sat as a member of the college board of trustees. The college would later honor Corriher by naming the Linn-Corriher Gymnasium, the Corriher-Linn-Black Library, and the Lotan A. Corriher Professorship Endowment after him, and Corriher's philanthropic gifts to the college are remarked as having amounted to over $1,000,000
   Lotan Corriher didn't enter the political field until he was over sixty years of age, being elected as the Mayor of Landis around 1935. His two-decade-long tenure in this post saw multiple improvements to the city's infrastructure, including the development of its own electric power system and a water and sewage system that was later to be acknowledged as being "one of the best water systems in North Carolina." Mayor Corriher also led the way for Landis' first fire department, as the town had previously relied on the neighboring town of China Grove in case of fire emergencies. Recognizing that Landis was in need of a fire department and fire fighting equipment, Corriher oversaw the purchase of a new American LaFrance fire engine as well as the construction of a metal building to house the fire department, its volunteers, and its equipment. 
  Active in church work in addition to business and politics, Corriher and his family were members of the Mt. Zion Reformed Church and, later, the Landis Reformed Church, where he was a trustee, deacon and church elder. In late 1955 Corriher's health began to fail and on December 30, 1955, he died aged 83 at the Rowan Memorial Hospital in Salisbury, North Carolina. Memorialized as a "great Christian gentleman", Corriher was survived by his children and second wife Florence and was interred at the Greenlawn Cemetery in China Grove, North Carolina.

From the January 1, 1956, Kannapolis Daily Record.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Chatham Calhoun Lyon (1850-1931), Chatham Calhoun Clark (1908-1983)

From the Lumberton Robesonian, June 1, 1931.

   A standout figure in the judicial and political history of Bladen County, North Carolina, Chatham Calhoun Lyon was for over thirty years a practicing attorney in Bladen County before winning election as County Solicitor, an office he would fill for four years. He would later be elevated to the State Superior Court of North Carolina, where he logged sixteen years on the bench. The son of Joseph and Mary Jane (Lucas) Lyon, Chatham Calhoun Lyon was born on August 4, 1850, in Elizabethtown. In his youth, Lyon resided at the home of an uncle, J.J.D. Lucas, in Whitehall, North Carolina and attended the Maysville High School in his native county of Bladen.
  Deciding to follow his older brother Robert's example of a career in law, Chatham C. Lyon began reading law under his brother and in 1872 was admitted to the state bar. He joined his brother in practice shortly thereafter and over the next three decades practiced in Elizabethtown and surrounding areas, "handling some of the most important legal interests in Bladen County." 
  Chatham C. Lyon wed his first wife, Margaret P. Richardson (1859-1897), sometime in the mid-1870s and was married until her passing in July 1897. The couple would have five children, John Richardson (died 1879), Homer LeGrand (1878-1956), Martha Terry (1881-1974), Joseph Alden (1883-1926) and Terry Alexander (1885-1957).  Of these children, Homer LeGrand Lyon followed his father into public service, being admitted to the state bar in 1900. He would later be a Democratic National Convention delegate, solicitor for North Carolina's 8th judicial district (1913-20) and later was elected to four consecutive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives (1921-29) before returning to his law practice. 
  In 1902 Chatham Lyon made his first run at public office when he won election as Solicitor for North Carolina's 7th judicial district, serving until 1906. In that year Lyon was elected judge of the Superior Court of North Carolina's Ninth judicial district, and would continually be reelected until his retirement in 1922.  Lyon's career on the bench was later profiled in the 1919 History of North Carolina, which lauded him as having:
"Brought long experience, secure prestige, and has served as a digified and impartial judge. Such public service on the part of such a man must necessarily mean self sacrifice. He gave up to a large extent his profitable law practice in order to attend to his duties on the bench."
  Following his retirement in 1922 Lyon continued to serve his state as an emergency judge until February 1931, when ill health compelled him to give up his judicial duties. A farmer in addition to his judgeship, Lyon owned and operated two farms in Bladen County, where he raised not only crops but Berkshire hogs. Sometime after his first wife's passing in 1897 Lyon remarried to Mary Eliza (Robinson) Stedman (1849-1914), who he also survived. After many years of service to Bladen County and his state, Chatham Calhoun Lyon died at his home in Elizabethtown on May 29, 1931, aged 81. He was later interred at the Elizabethtown City Cemetery, the same resting place as that of his wives. In an intriguing historical tidbit, Lyon would have a Liberty ship (manufactured by the North Carolina Shipbuilding Co.), named in his honor. The SS Chatham S. Lyon was one of over two thousand specialty cargo ships built for use during WWII, with each being named in honor of a distinguished deceased figure from American history.

From the Lumberton Robesonian, June 1, 1931.

From the 1967 North Carolina State Manual.

  Another North Carolina based "Chatham" that entered into public service was Chatham Calhoun Clark, the maternal grandson of Chatham Calhoun Lyon. A leading business leader and political figure in Bladen County, Clark is the first CIA official to warrant a write-up here, and in addition to his being a radio station executive and banker, entered into politics when he was appointed to fill a vacancy in the North Carolina Senate. In 1966 he won election as a state representative and served one term. The son of John Marvin Clark and the former Martha Terry Lyon (the daughter of Chatham C. Lyon), Chatham Calhoun Clark's birth occurred in Elizabethtown on August 15, 1908.
  A student in schools local to Bladen County, Clark later enrolled at the Davidson College, where he earned his bachelors degree in 1929. Clark continued his studies at Yale University in 1945, where he took Japanese language classes, and for a time flirted with a diplomatic career, studying at the School for Far East Affairs in connection with the American Foreign ServiceA veteran of the U.S. Air Force during World War II, Clark's time in that branch extended from 1942-46 and attained the rank of Major. During wartime, Clark remained in New Bern, North Carolina, where he was affiliated with the Emergency Relief Administration.  
  After the conclusion of WWII, Chatham Clark worked in government service in connection with the then-nascent Central Intelligence Agency, the full extent of his duties and tenure being unknown at this time. Following his return to Bladen County Clark established the county's first radio station, WBLA, which signed on in 1956. He would serve the station as its general manager and secretary-treasurer, and later held the post of president of the Bladen Broadcasting Corporation. In addition to his stewardship of WBLA, Clark went on to hold the directorship of the Bank of Elizabethtown and was a member of the Elizabethtown Chamber of Commerce.
  Chatham C. Clark entered local politics with his service on the Elizabeth town board and later was mayor pro tem and town commissioner. In 1961 was appointed to the North Carolina State Senate due to the resignation of Edward Breeden Clark (1916-2000), who had been elevated to the State Superior Court. Clark would serve out the remainder of his term and in 1966 won a term of his own in the state legislature, this time as a state representative from Bladen and Sampson County. Clark's service in the 1967-69 session saw him named to the following committees: Appropriations; Conservation and Development; Higher Education; Local Government; Military and Veterans Affairs; and Propositions and Grievances.
  Active in the Bladen County Historical Society prior to and after his service in the legislature, Clark's membership in that organization saw him author two books, including a biography on Bladen County's namesake, British colonial politician Martin Bladen (1680-1746). A lifelong bachelor, Chatham Calhoun Clark died on October 18, 1983, aged 75. He was later interred at the same cemetery as his grandfather, Chatham Calhoun Lyon.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Offie Almon Barbour (1882-1955)

Portrait from the Smithfield Herald, September 23, 1910

  Our month-long journey through the Old Dominion State continues with the political exploits of a man named Offie--an unusual first name for sure! Despite being a well-known lawyer and former Mayor of Benson, North Carolina (not to mention serving two consecutive terms in the state senate), there is an extreme dearth of resources regarding Offie Almon Barbour. Even his 1911 North Carolina Manual legislative biography amounts to just two skimpy lines! Despite this lack of resources, the editors of the 1913 legislative manual rectified their earlier mistake and allotted Barbour several more lines of biography, which helped significantly when it came to compiling this profile!
  The son of Robert C. and Louenza Lassiter Barbour, Offie Almon Barbour was born in Johnston County, North Carolina on April 1, 1882. Raised on a farm in Johnston County, Barbour would attend the local high school from 1898-99 and from 1900-02 was a student at the Turlington Institute in Smithfield. He would go on to attend the University of North Carolina from 1903-04 and in the last named year earned his law degree. 
  Soon after receiving his law degree Barbour established his practice in Benson and within a few years time had been elected to his first political office, that of Mayor of Benson. He would serve from 1909-11 and in 1910 was nominated for the North Carolina Senate from the 15th senatorial district. In a September 1910 write-up profiling his candidacy, the Smithfield Herald took note of his being a lifelong Democrat, his being mayor of Benson, and his "sturdy character", while also remarking:
"Ever ready to go where his services are required, or where his party's interests called him, his nomination by the Democrats for the State Senate is but a fitting recognition for his devotion to duty. No stronger man could have been nominated to represent Johnston, Sampson, and Harnett Counties in the State Senate. Strong and clean ''in public life and private thinking,'' he will conduct a campaign worthy of one of Johnston County's most scholarly sons."
  In November 1910 Barbour won his Senate seat and at the opening of the 1911-13 session was named to the committees on Appropriations; Corporations; Distribution of the Governor's Message; Education; Institution for the Blind; Internal Improvements; Legislative Apportionment; Mining; Public Roads; Revisals; and Shellfish. He would also chair the committee on Senate Expenditures during this term.
   In 1912 Offie Barbour won his second term in the state senate,  and from 1913-15 held seats on the following committees: Banking and Currency; Constitutional Amendments; Counties, Cities, and Towns; Education; Fish and Fisheries; Game Law; Immigration; Insane Asylums; Judiciary No. 1; Salaries and Fees (chairman); and Trustees of the University. Barbour married during his term in October 1914 to Emily Canaday (1888-1979), who survived him upon his death in 1955. The couple later had two sons, Offie Almon Jr. (1916-1986) and William Woodall (1920-2011). 
   Nothing is known of Barbour's life following his second Senate term, excepting notice of his death in a Smithfield, North Carolina hospital on November 28/29, 1955, at age 73. Both he and his wife Emily were interred at the Benson City Cemetery following their deaths. 

From the Carolina Alumni.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Ama Riah McPhail (1883-1928)

From the Raleigh News Observer, March 29, 1913.

   Rockingham, North Carolina resident Ama Riah McPhail is another obscure one-term Old Dominion State legislator,  and despite his lack of years (he died aged 44 in 1928) carved a notable career for himself in his home county of Richmond.  The son of Joseph Richard and Martha Ann (Westbrook) McPhail, Ama Riah McPhail was born March 2, 1883, in Sampson County, North Carolina. McPhail's youth saw him as a student at the Horner's Military School in Oxford, North Carolina, and he would later attend the Trinity College from 1903-07. After deciding to pursue a career in law McPhail enrolled at the University of North Carolina, where he received his bachelor of laws degree in 1908.
  McPhail married in May 1909 to Lily Elizabeth Lyon (1890-1986), with whom he had two children, Frances Small and Lily Elizabeth (1914-1951). He began the practice of law in Rockingham and would specialize in "civil cases and land litigation." In November 1912 he was elected as Richmond County's representative to the North Carolina legislature and during the 1913-15 session his "principal efforts were toward eliminating and preventing useless and superfluous measures being passed." He would also serve on the committees on Claims; Corporations; Counties, Cities, Towns and Townships; Expenditures of the House; Internal Improvements; Judiciary No. 2; and Propositions and Grievances.
  Following his term, McPhail continued with his law practice and also held memberships in several local fraternal groups, including the Elks Lodge, the Independent Order of Odd-Fellows, the Masonic order, and the Modern Woodmen of America. On February 1, 1928, Ama Riah McPhail died in Charlotte, North Carolina hospital at the age of just 44, his cause of death being attributed to bronchial pneumonia and acute myocarditis (as per his death certificate.) He was survived by both of his parents, his wife, and two children. Following her death at age 96 in 1986, Lilly Lyon McPhail was interred alongside her husband at the Eastside Cemetery in Rockingham.

From the Wilson Daily Times, February 2, 1928.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Lillias Burdette Chapin (1864-1920)

From the Raleigh Daily Tribune, March 7, 1897.

  Hailing from Harnett County in North Carolina, Lillias Burdette Chapin is one in a long line of unusually named men who peopled the North Carolina legislature from the late 19th into the mid 20th century. A one-term representative from the above-mentioned county, Chapin was an attorney and farmer who had served as county examiner until his election to the legislature. Born on January 21, 1864, in Beaufort County, North Carolina, Lillias Burdette Chapin was the son of Dr. Ansil Burdette Chapin (1832-1911) and the former Argent Elizabeth Thompson
  Little is known of Chapin's early years, excepting his enrollment at the University of North Carolina in the early 1880s. He studied law from 1886-1887 and afterwards was admitted to the state bar. He would remove to Harnett County around 1888 and began his political career at the local level, winning election as Harnett County examiner, a post he would hold until being elected to the legislature. Chapin married in June 1888 to Fannie McKay (1861-1938), to who he was wed until his death. The couple would have three children, Neill McKay (1889-1961), Francis Burdette (1890-1968) and Isabelle "Belle" McKay Chapin Beckwith (1892-1949).
  Elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives in November 1896 "by a majority of 105 votes", Chapin's near decade long residency in Harnett County was profiled in the March 7, 1897 edition of the Raleigh Daily Tribune, which described him as:
"He is a gentleman who has bright possibilities before him should he take care to take advantage of them. He is one who has the rare knack of winning friends; and what's more, he knows how to keep them. To such men success is easy to reach."
  Lillias Chapin's single term in the legislature extended from 1897-99 and during this session chaired the committee on Federal Relations and also served on the committees on Enrolled Bills, the Judiciary, Immigration, Military Affairs, and Private Bills. Nothing could be found on Chapin's life after the conclusion of his term, excepting notice of his death in Lillington, North Carolina sometime in 1920, when he would have been around 55 years of age. A burial location for Chapin remains unknown at this time, but most likely is at the Summerville Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Lillington, the resting place of his wife Fannie.