Wednesday, April 02, 2008
The influence of North Carolinians
I came across a year-old-or-so issue of The Atlantic in our breakroom the other day, and I was immediately struck by the cover: a photo of Abraham Lincoln and the headline, "The 100 Most Influential Americans of All Time." After skimming it, I quickly realized that North Carolinians -- or even those with some (possibly tenuous) connection to the Old North State -- have been major players in influencing (a broad word, admittedly) the path of America.
You can view the entire list via the link above; below are how those with N.C. ties fared (and I may have missed a couple).
1. Abraham Lincoln (The Atlantic: "He saved the Union, freed the slaves, and presided over America’s second founding.") There is compelling evidence that Lincoln was not born in Kentucky, but in very western North Carolina (around Murphy, that is).
10. Woodrow Wilson ("He made the world safe for U.S. interventionism, if not for democracy.") Wilson spent a year at Davidson College and lived for a time in Wilmington.
13. James Madison ("He fathered the Constitution and wrote the Bill of Rights.") He also married North Carolina native Dolley Madison.
18. Andrew Jackson ("The first great populist: he found America a republic and left it a democracy.") No matter what the sandlappers say, Jackson was born in North Carolina.
23. Wright Brothers ("They got us all off the ground. ") Our license plates say it all.
50. James K. Polk ("This one-term president’s Mexican War landgrab gave us California, Texas, and the Southwest. ") Polk was born in the state and educated at UNC-Chapel Hill.
No. 2 on the list, George Washington, was an invester in the Great Dismal Swamp area of North Carolina, believing it to hold great development promise, even forming the Dismal Swamp Land Company in 1763. No. 31 on the list, Henry Clay, saw his presidential hopes plummet thanks to his "Raleigh Letter," written underneath a great oak in the City of Oaks. And George Herman "Babe" Ruth's first professional home run was hit in Fayetteville and he was known to fish and hunt in Eastern N.C.
The Atlantic also compiled a list of the Top Living Influentials; two Tar Heels made the list: Billy Graham (11) and Michael Jordan (14).