North Carolina is a state full of “world’s greatest” and “first state to….” titles. It’s home to America’s largest privately-owned home, The Biltmore Estate, the first state-owned art museum, The North Carolina Museum of Art, and the tallest waterfall in the eastern United States, Whitewater Falls, is located in Transylvania County. And let’s not forget, Pepsi and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts both got their start here, as well. With all of these, and many more, awesome places & events stemming from our state, it’s no surprise that some pretty influential people were born and raised right here, too! When I began to really take a close look at all of the talented people the state calls natives, the list was staggering; musicians, journalists, inventors, actors, scientists….North Carolina has a little bit of everything and everyone! So, picking out just two people from the list to write about in today’s post was difficult, but I tried to choose folks who not only influenced on a national level, but ones that have also meant something to me on a personal level.
Andy Griffith 1926 – 2012
Photo Credit: www.abcnews.go.com
If there’s one show my entire family can agree on, it’s The Andy Griffith Show. Even though my brother and I weren’t even born during the show’s 8-year run (1960-1968), it’s still one of our all-time favorites. The show’s star, Andy Griffith, was born and raised in Mount Airy, NC (the show’s town, Mayberry, was said to be modeled after Mount Airy, Andy’s hometown). He attended college at UNC Chapel Hill and became involved in drama and musical theater, later graduating with a degree in music. Andy worked on the Ed Sullivan show as a guest monologist (his first big-hit monologue “What it Was, Was Football” is still one of the most popular monologues of all time), and was nominated for 2 Tony Awards for his performances in the Broadway plays “No Time for Sergeants” and “Destry Rides Again” during his time in New York.
Photo Credit: www.cbstvd.com
Then, in 1960, Griffith was offered his own sitcom, The Andy Griffith Show, alongside Don Knotts who played the hilarious deputy Barney Fife, and little Ron Howard who played Andy’s son Opie. I hate to admit that I only realized a few years ago that “little Ron Howard” had grown up to be THE Ron Howard, director of some of my favorite movies! The show was a huge hit with audiences and the re-runs are still a family-favorite today. It’s a good, clean comedy that’s actually funny (more than you can say for a lot of “comedy” shows today), that always had a strong moral message behind it. Andy, and his show, have become a beloved symbol of our state. Mount Airy has become a big tourist attraction for folks who want to “feel like they’ve stepped into the town of Mayberry”. My family and I went years ago, and I really enjoyed it. There’s the Andy Griffith Museum, with the world’s largest collection of Andy Griffith memorabilia, Andy’s homeplace, and tours given in a replica of the show’s police squad car take you to places from the show like Floyd’s Barber Shop and Wally’s Service Station. It’s definitely a trip I recommend for anyone who is a fan of Andy or the show.
On July 3rd, 2012, Andy Griffith passed away at his home in Manteo, Roanoke Island, NC, at the age of 86. Andy, just like his show, will always remain a huge part of North Carolina’s proud history and a favorite of mine!
Billy Graham 1918 – present
Photo Credit: www.billygraham.org
In 2013, Billy Graham was honored as ‘North Carolina’s Favorite Son’ by the General Assembly. Graham, who was born and raised in the queen city of Charlotte on a dairy farm, is one of the most influential preachers of our time. After hearing a sermon at a local revival meeting & being touched by the message, Graham knew what he wanted to do with his life. Graham graduated from the Florida Bible Institute with a bachelor’s degree in theology and joined a Southern Baptist Convention church, where he was ordained in 1939. He met his future wife, Ruth, at Wheaton College, where he went for further spiritual training, and the two of them were married on August 13, 1943.
Being raised a Southern Baptist, and living in the Bible Belt, Billy Graham has always been a role model in our church. His preaching has influenced churches and preachers all across the world, and I remember learning about him in many of my Sunday School classes. Folks began connecting with his heartfelt messages and the way he preached soon after he was invited to the “Christ for Greater Los Angeles” revival in 1949. Not long after, Graham’s tent meetings were overflowing and national newspapers were covering his revival meetings. Many people believe that his messages were so well-received because of the post-WWII America environment. Folks were looking for something to believe in, and his spiritual messages were just what they needed to hear. Graham eventually incorporated the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) so that he could expand his growing ministry. He had radio shows and eventually even a television program, all of which were extremely successful, and it wasn’t just “common” folks who his messages resonated with. Over the years, he has met with many famous figures, including United States presidents and famous singers, actors, activists, etc.
Graham with Martin Luther King, Jr.
Graham with President Reagan and his wife
Graham at one of his packed crusades
President Obama meets with Graham
Graham and President John F. Kennedy
*All photos credit www.billygraham.org
In 1992, Graham was diagnosed with hydrocephalus (which is similar to Parkinson’s Disease), so his son, Franklin Graham took over the BGEA responsibilities. In 2005, just two years before his wife Ruth died, Graham and his family moved back to their home in Montreat, North Carolina. Graham has obviously had a major impact around the entire world (he’s credited with preaching to more people than any other person in history), but his impact has also been great here in NC.
The Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, NC
The Billy Graham Library, located right off of Billy Graham Parkway in his hometown of Charlotte, NC, was opened in 2007. Even though he was against having a library named after him at first, the idea that it would serve as a “crusade” for future generations changed his mind. More than 550,000 people have visited the library through the years, which looks like a dairy barn, just like the one on the farm where Graham grew up. In fact, that same childhood home has been restored not far from the library and visitors can see family photos and personal items from the Graham family inside the home.
Graham turned 95 on November 7, and there was a huge birthday celebration held in his honor at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC. Over 800 people came out to celebrate with Graham, who has influenced so many people here in North Carolina and the United States as a whole. He has definitely earned the title of “America’s Pastor”.
These two men are by far not the only remarkable people to come from North Carolina, but they are two of the most well-known and well-respected men from the area, and they’ve both had an impact on my life. Andy Griffith and Billy Graham both shared similar messages; love one another, treat each other the way you want to be treated, and live your life with morals and convictions….messages I think everyone can agree on. This past Wednesday, November 13th, was National World Kindness Day, so it’s definitely fitting that our blog this week was about these two icons!
I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend!!