Documenting the American South Logo
Loading
Collections >> Oral Histories of the American South >> Environmental Transformations
oral histories of the American South
Environmental Transformations in North Carolina

For our pilot project, historians from the Southern Oral History Program selected 21 interviews that focus on environmental across the state of North Carolina. These oral history interviews are the stories by real people and participants in important recent events throughout the state. Individually, they offer an intimate description of the interviewee's experience; collectively they tell the s tory of a transformation of life in North Carolina.

In one set of interviews, lifelong residents of mountain communities share their concerns about, and hopes for, a new corridor of Interstate 26 that was then being constructed in their area. This section of highway, completed in 2003, stretches through Madison County, North Carolina to the Tennessee state line.

In another group of oral histories, residents and officials discuss plans for the Cane Creek reservoir. This controversial project spawned a divisive debate and pitted farmers against the Orange County Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA) in a battle over land rights and the fate of rural farming. The debate wore on for over a decade before it officially ended with the reservoir's completion in 1989.

Finally, in an especially moving group of interviews, Hurricane Floyd victims in the eastern part of North Carolina share their stories of loss and survival after the flood that came in the storm's aftermath.

1.
Taylor Barnhill, November 29, 2000. Interview K-0245.
The Fragmentation of a Rural North Carolina Community: Taylor Barnhill, an environmental activist concerned about the effects of development on communities, describes his rural childhood and its impact on his adult life.
Interviewee: Taylor Barnhill    Interviewer: Rob Amberg
Duration: 01:32:46     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 13 excerpts.
2.
Billy Ray Hall, January 20, 2000. Interview K-0509.
North Carolinians Respond to Hurricane Floyd and Its Aftermath: Billy Ray Hall, president of the Rural Economic Development Center, discusses the scope, environment and financial, of the flood damage in eastern North Carolina.
Interviewee: Billy Ray Hall    Interviewer: Charles Thompson, Charles Thompson
Duration: 00:45:25     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 11 excerpts.
3.
Steve Holland, December 16, 1999. Interview K-0510.
A Businessman's Perspective on Hurricane Floyd: Steve Holland, a Republican county commissioner and businessman in Pender County, North Carolina, describes the personal and bureaucratic struggles he faced the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd.
Interviewee: Steve Holland    Interviewer: Charles Thompson, Charles Thompson
Duration: 01:55:35     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 21 excerpts.
4.
Thomas Samuel Hudson and Elberta Pugh-Hudson, December 18, 1999. Interview K-0283.
A Religious Perspective on Hurricane Floyd: The Hudsons explain that although God used the Floyd flood to warn against materialism, He helped many escape the floodwaters and oversaw astonishing generosity afterward.
Interviewee: Thomas Samuel Hudson, Elberta Pugh-Hudson    Interviewer: Charles Thompson, Charles Thompson
Duration: 01:21:07     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 15 excerpts.
5.
Edward S. Johnson, October 28, 1985. Interview K-0012.
The Cane Creek Controversy: Edward S. Johnson describes the emergence of a coherent grassroots opposition to the Cane Creek Reservoir project and describes how the opposition worked.
Interviewee: Edward S. Johnson    Interviewer: Patricia E. Sloan
Duration: 02:11:11     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 10 excerpts.
6.
Larry and Betty Kelley, December 9, 1999. Interview K-0511.
The Decline of Farming in Eastern North Carolina: Larry Kelley shares the details of a lifetime of farming and other rural work while discussing the hardships he and others faced in the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd.
Interviewee: Larry Kelley, Betty Kelley    Interviewer: Charles Thompson, Charles Thompson
Duration: 02:07:54     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 14 excerpts.
7.
Bert Pickett, December 18, 1999. Interview K-0285.
The Devastation of Hurricane Floyd: Pentecostal pastor Bert Pickett provides a compelling description of the despair that accompanied Hurricane Floyd's devastation.
Interviewee: Bert Pickett    Interviewer: Charles Thompson, Charles Thompson
Duration: 01:00:08     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 13 excerpts.
8.
Mattie Bell and Earl Cavenaugh, December 7, 1999. Interview K-0282.
Red Tape in the Government Response to Hurricane Floyd: Earl and Mattie Bell Cavenaugh, both over 80, express concern with the erosion of moral values and discuss their frustrations with the government after Hurricane Floyd.
Interviewee: Earl Cavenaugh, Mattie Bell Cavenaugh    Interviewer: Charles Thompson, Rob Amberg, Charles Thompson
Duration: 01:37:15     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 10 excerpts.
9.
Raymond, Eunice, Wayne, and Charles Russell English, December 8, 1999. Interview K-0280.
A Community Succeeds Where Governments Fail: Raymond and Eunice English, along with their son and nephew, worry that Hurricane Floyd may have irreparably crippled the aging Duplin County, North Carolina, farming community.
Interviewee: Raymond English, Eunice English, Charles Russell English, Wayne English
Interviewer: Charles Thompson, Rob Amberg, Charles Thompson
Duration: 02:49:38     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 24 excerpts.
10.
Darhyl Boone, December 5, 2000. Interview K-0246.
Managing Mars Hill: Mars Hill, North Carolina, town manager Darhyl Boone fondly remembers his childhood in Madison County but worries that small-town values are being eroded by development.
Interviewee: Darhyl Boone    Interviewer: Rob Amberg
Duration: 02:02:08     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 15 excerpts.
11.
Renee Lee, December 19, 1999. Interview K-0284.
A Mother and Daughter Face the Flood: Renee and Ashley Lee reminisce about life in White Stocking, North Carolina, and express frustration with the government's sluggish and bureaucracy-laden relief effort after Hurricane Floyd.
Interviewee: Renee Lee    Interviewer: Charles Thompson
Duration: 01:25:04     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 9 excerpts.
12.
Jerry Plemmons, November 10, 2000. Interview K-0506.
The Road to Change: Development in Madison County, North Carolina: Jerry Plemmons, a lifetime Madison County resident and energy conservation consultant, discusses the influence of development, particularly highway construction, on the town of Marshall, North Carolina.
Interviewee: Jerry Plemmons    Interviewer: Rob Amberg
Duration: 01:34:26     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 11 excerpts.
13.
Richard Lee Hoffman, November 8, 2000. Interview K-0505.
Fading Rural Life in Madison County: In this interview, Richard Lee Hoffman Jr., a real estate broker in Mars Hill, North Carolina, describes his response to the growth ushered in by the construction of the I-26 corridor.
Interviewee: Richard Lee Hoffman    Interviewer: Rob Amberg
Duration: 01:34:29     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 11 excerpts.
14.
Raymond Rapp, November 17, 2000. Interview K-0253.
Managing Growth in Mars Hill: Mars Hill, North Carolina, mayor Raymond Rapp outlines his vision for planned development and discusses how to find balance between the desire for a small-town feel and a big-town economy.
Interviewee: Raymond Rapp    Interviewer: Rob Amberg
Duration: 01:34:24     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 16 excerpts.
15.
Stan Hyatt, November 30, 2000. Interview K-0249.
An Insider's Look at the I-26 Corridor: Stan Hyatt, the North Carolina Department of Transportation's resident engineer on the I-26 project, misses the past but sees the corridor as a cure for Madison County's economic ills.
Interviewee: Stan Hyatt    Interviewer: Rob Amberg
Duration: 02:20:51     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 16 excerpts.
16.
Bobby Kirk, October 28, 1985. Interview K-0013.
A Farmer Responds to the Cane Creek Reservoir: Bobby Kirk, a dairy farmer living near Cane Creek and the first president of the Cane Creek Conservation Authority (CCCA), discusses his opposition to the Cane Creek reservoir.
Interviewee: Bobby Kirk    Interviewer: Karl E. Campbell
Duration: 01:08:28     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 10 excerpts.
17.
Daniel Okun, October 22, 1985. Interview K-0021.
A Water Expert Supports the Cane Creek Reservoir: Daniel Okun, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at the time of the interview, lays out the case for creating the Cane Creek reservoir.
Interviewee: Daniel Okun    Interviewer: Laura Drey
Duration: 01:03:22     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 9 excerpts.
18.
Joseph A. Herzenberg, November 18, 1985. Interview K-0008.
A Voice for the Cane Creek Reservoir: Joseph A. Herzenberg, a Chapel Hill politico, voices his support for the Cane Creek reservoir project.
Interviewee: Joseph A. Herzenberg    Interviewer: Mary L. Dexter
Duration: 01:35:31     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 8 excerpts.
19.
Aaron and Jenny Cavenaugh, December 8, 1999. Interview K-0281.
Rebuilding Alone: Facing the Flood with Little Help: Aaron and Jenny Cavenaugh, long-time Duplin County, North Carolina, residents, lost their antiques business and turkey farm in the flooding that accompanied Hurricane Floyd.
Interviewee: Aaron Cavenaugh, Jenny Cavenaugh    Interviewer: Charles Thompson, Charles Thompson
Duration: 01:26:24     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 14 excerpts.
20.
Johnnie and Kathleen Bratten, January 15, 2000. Interview K-0508.
In the Absence of Government Help, Churches Step In: Johnnie and Kathleen Bratten describe the extent to which church groups and other volunteers helped them after their home was destroyed in the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd.
Interviewee: Johnnie Bratten, Kathleen Bratten    Interviewer: Charles Thompson, Charles Thompson
Duration: 00:50:07     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 5 excerpts.
21.
Bernice Cavenaugh and Betsy Easter, December 8, 1999. Interview K-0279.
Confusion, Fear, and Recovery: A Mother and Daughter Face the Flood: Bernice Cavenaugh and her daughter, Betsy Easter, describe enduring Hurricane Floyd's flooding and its aftermath. They tell a story of fear, confusion, and frustration that reveals a lack of preparation, disorganized and inequitable government compensation, and significant challenges to community bonds.
Interviewee: Bernice Cavenaugh, Betsy Easter    Interviewer: Charles Thompson, Charles Thompson
Duration: 01:34:03     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 10 excerpts.
22.
Sam Crawford, October 26, 1985. Interview K-0006.
Local Activist Describes the Formation and Activities of the Cane Creek Conservation Authority: Sam Crawford describes the formation and activities of the Cane Creek Conservation Authority in their battle against the Orange Water and Sewer Authority's effort to build a reservoir on Cane Creek in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He focuses on the grassroots nature of the CCCA's actions and offers commentary about what he views as the exploitative nature of land development.
Interviewee: Sam Crawford    Interviewer: Judith Wheeler
Duration: 02:05:20     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 5 excerpts.
23.
Richard H. Moore, August 2, 2002. Interview K-0598.
The Impact of Hurricane Floyd on North Carolina and the State's Response: North Carolina State Treasurer and former Secretary of Crime Control and Public Safety Richard Moore describes the impact of Hurricane Floyd (1999) and the state government's response to the crisis. Moore describes the evolution of the Division of Emergency Management during his term and what he sees as its increasing effectiveness in responding to natural disasters.
Interviewee: Richard H. Moore    Interviewer: Leda Hartman
Duration: 00:56:47     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 6 excerpts.
24.
Florence Dillahunt, May 31, 2001. Interview K-0580.
A North Carolina Tobacco Farmer Describes the Impact of Hurricane Floyd: Florence Dillahunt describes growing up on a small tobacco farm near Grifton, North Carolina, during the 1930s and 1940s. Dillahunt's family were victims of the extensive flooding that Hurricane Floyd brought to eastern North Carolina in 1999. She describes the devastating impact on their farm and their personal lives.
Interviewee: Florence Dillahunt    Interviewer: Leda Hartman
Duration: 00:58:02     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 6 excerpts.
25.
Edith Warren, August 28, 2002. Interview K-0601.
Facing Flooding: Pitt County after Hurricane Floyd: State representative Edith Warren describes the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd in Pitt County, North Carolina.
Interviewee: Edith Warren    Interviewer: Leda Hartman
Duration: 01:07:08     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 8 excerpts.
26.
Leslie Thorbs, May 30, 2001. Interview K-0589.
A North Carolinian Describes Tenant Farming, Family Life, and the Devastation of Hurricane Floyd: Leslie Thorbs describes growing up in a tenant farming family in eastern North Carolina, during the 1920s and 1930s. Thorbs describes his experiences with poverty, farming, factory work, race relations, and family life. He concludes the interview by discussing the devastating impact of Hurricane Floyd's flooding on his family and his community.
Interviewee: Leslie Thorbs    Interviewer: Leda Hartman
Duration: 01:04:04     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 7 excerpts.
27.
James W. (Jim) Connor, December 19, 1999. Interview K-0818.
A Hog Farmer and an Environmentalist: Hog farmer Jim Connor describes the impact of Hurricane Floyd and the details of his business, and emphasizes his concern for the environment.
Interviewee: James W. (Jim) Connor    Interviewer: Charles Thompson
Duration: 01:38:04     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 8 excerpts.
28.
Charles D. Thompson, October 15, 1990. Interview K-0810.
North Carolina Farmer Recounts His Career in Agriculture: Charles D. Thompson describes his career as a small farmer in North Carolina. Though he found financial success in farming, he was not able to recapture the feel of the farming community of his youth.
Interviewee: Charles D. Thompson    Interviewer: Jun Wang
Duration: 01:02:19     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 5 excerpts.
29.
Clyda Coward and Debra Coward, May 30, 2001. Interview K-0833.
A Distant Past and an Uncertain Future: Tick Bite, North Carolina, Before and After Hurricane Floyd: Clyda Coward, joined by her daughter Debra and other family members, reflects on her childhood in rural North Carolina and the state of the small community of Tick Bite in the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd.
Interviewee: Clyda Coward, Debra Coward    Interviewer: Leda Hartman
Duration: 01:21:19     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 7 excerpts.
30.
Dorothy Royster Burwell, May 29, 1996. Interview Q-0011.
The Water Comes to Soudan, Virginia: A Government Dam Washes Away a Small Community: Dorothy Royster Burwell describes her family history and remembers the devastating effect of "the water," in the form of a government-built lake, that wiped away her community of Soudan, Virginia.
Interviewee: Dorothy Royster Burwell    Interviewer: Eddie McCoy
Duration: 00:46:44     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 3 excerpts.
31.
J. D. Thomas and Lela Rigsby Thomas, November 14, 2000. Interview K-0507.
Change Comes to Sprinkle Creek: Growth and Development in a Rural Community: J. D. Thomas and his wife, Lela Rigsby Thomas, remember the Madison County, North Carolina, of their youth and describe the changes that have transformed the area since then.
Interviewee: J. D. Thomas, Lela Rigsby Thomas    Interviewer: Rob Amberg
Duration: 01:34:00     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 9 excerpts.
32.
James Perry, May 25, 2006. Interview U-0251.
Fair Housing Advocate Discusses the Impact of Hurricane Katrina on the Housing Market: James Perry, executive director of the New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center in New Orleans, argues that Hurricane Katrina exacerbated and highlighted existing racial and economic tensions in that city. He discusses the fair housing efforts in the area and offers his views on civil rights activities in post-Katrina New Orleans.
Interviewee: James Perry    Interviewer: Andy Horowitz
Duration: 01:17:31     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 1 excerpts.
33.
Malik Rahim, May 23, 2006. Interview U-0252.
Political Activist Discusses Racism in New Orleans: Malik Rahim addresses the view of New Orleans that news organizations broadcast after Katrina devastated that city. He discusses his political activism and assesses the city's social and economic future after the storm.
Interviewee: Malik Rahim    Interviewer: Pamela Hamilton
Duration: 03:06:21     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 1 excerpts.
34.
Lee Boe, June 2, 2006. Interview U-0224.
St. Bernard Parish Resident's Experience with Hurricane Katrina: Lee Boe offers a detailed account of the arrival and effects of Hurricane Katrina on St. Bernard Parish. He describes the role of the federal government and local agencies in the process of recovery post-Katrina. He also discusses his hopes for the future of New Orleans.
Interviewee: Lee Boe    Interviewer: Elizabeth Shelborne
Duration: 01:20:06     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 1 excerpts.
35.
Jacquelyn Clarkson, June 9, 2006. Interview U-0228.
Staying with her city: Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson shares her vision for New Orleans: Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson, a former real estate agent and a councilwoman of New Orleans and Louisiana legislator, remained in New Orleans during Katrina, working with the mayor from his headquarters in the Hyatt Hotel. She expresses her concerns development issues and historic preservation post-Katrina, and she does not believe that the city is doing enough to help residents return.
Interviewee: Jacquelyn Clarkson    Interviewer: Pamela Hamilton
Duration: 00:48:19     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 1 excerpts.
36.
Rhonda Lind, June 4, 2006. Interview U-0240.
"Kind of a makeshift life": Rhonda Lind adjusts to living in St. Bernard Parish post-Hurricane Katrina: Rhonda Lind was raised in the Ninth Ward and moved to St. Bernard Parish in 1973. Hurricane Katrina changed everything about her life, but the biggest losses have been the irreplaceable items such as photographs. She resented the fact that the news media never reported what was happening in St. Bernard Parish, and she says even the rescuers ignored her parish.
Interviewee: Rhonda Lind    Interviewer: Elizabeth Shelbourne
Duration: 02:05:29     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 1 excerpts.
37.
Pamela Mahogany, June 4, 2006. Interview U-0243.
A Firsthand Account Living through the Eye of Storm: Pamela Mahogany describes her family's and friends' harrowing escape from the floodwaters in post-Katrina New Orleans. She also discusses her attempts to get low-income public housing residents to return to New Orleans.
Interviewee: Pamela Mahogany    Interviewer: Joshua Guild
Duration: 00:36:48     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 1 excerpts.
38.
Ira Padnos and Shmuela Padnos, May 30, 2006. Interview U-0249.
Cultural and civic life in New Orleans before and after Hurricane Katrina: Ira and Shmuela Padnos are not hopeful the city will ever return to what it was, but they do hope that the residents will return so that the depth of the culture will return. For that to happen, they say, issues such as affordable housing must be addressed. Ira discusses his work with the Mystic Knights of Mau Mau, a secret society dedicated to bringing attention to roots music.
Interviewee: Ira Padnos, Shmuela Padnos    Interviewer: Megan Pugh
Duration: 01:32:30     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 1 excerpts.
39.
Jerry Washington Ward Jr., June 2, 2006. Interview U-0261.
"At least I could see my house": Professor Jerry Washington Ward Jr. describes Dillard University before and after Katrina: English professor Jerry Washington Ward Jr. describes Dillard University before Hurricane Katrina. He discusses the deal Dillard administrators made with Hilton Hotels to use their buildings, enabling them to return to New Orleans.
Interviewee: Jerry Washington Ward    Interviewer: Joshua Guild
Duration: 01:40:58     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 1 excerpts.
40.
Kalamu ya Salaam, June 5, 2006. Interview U-0264.
Telling a city's story: Kalamu ya Salaam discusses his work in New Orleans: Journalist Kalamu ya Salaam has lived in New Orleans all of his life and has long been a part of the cultural life of the city. Currently, he works at The Center, a writing program in the public schools. His goal is to produce students who will have learned how to think about the problems facing New Orleans and the United States.
Interviewee: Kalamu ya Salaam    Interviewer: Joshua Guild
Duration: 00:56:47     Annotated Excerpts: Listen to and read all 1 excerpts.