In the fall of 2018, HIS 391: Introduction to Public History was offered as an opportunity to educate students on what he or she can do with a history degree. Public history is a relatively new phenomenon in the history world. The main goal of a public historian is to find exciting and unique ways to share history with the public. Therefore, most public historians work outside of the classroom. The course examined the history of public history, the fields of public history, and why history is important in our society.
Most public historians work outside of the classroom. They are consultants, museum professionals, archivists, park rangers, documentary filmmakers, preservationists, oral historians, and much, much more. It is a field that is grounded in an understanding of history, how to interpret history, and how to tell stories.
Therefore, it was important for students to get practical experience working as a public historian. For their final grade, the class was divided into groups and tasked with researching the history of famous sites around the Wingate campus. For many, this was the first time he or she researched in an archive using primary sources. The “Wingate Historic Sites” project was a great success, and you can read the results below. While there has been some editing, these articles are the result of a lot of hard work and dedication from a great group of students.
The George A. Batte Jr. Center stands as one of Wingate University's most interesting and aesthetic buildings. The Batte Center serves as an artistic focal point within Union
County due to its revolving art exhibit and various performance halls. There are numerous events year-round that are offered to Wingate University's students, faculty,
and the public.
To understand the significance of the Batte Center, we have to know the more about the name the Batte family. George A. Batte Jr. studied chemistry at Davidson College, and due to the hard times from the Great Depression, worked at the Cannon Textile Mills. During his time at the Mill, he worked his way up the company and began a partnership with the owner himself, Charles A. Cannon. Together, they opened the Cabarrus Memorial Hospital (now the Carolinas Medical Center) in 1937 and continued serving the community for more than 60 years. Along with Cannon, Batte used his shares in the Cannon Charitable Foundation to advance neighboring communities as well as cancer research in their hospital. This trust was also used to donate over $1 million towards the building of the George A. Batte Jr. Center.
Construction began in the fall of 1997 and opened its doors on October 23, 1999, on the Batte Center. At the cost of $8.3 million, the Center is 46,000 square feet, with a theater that seats 550 people, a recital hall that seats 174, backstage dressing rooms, multiple classrooms, a choral hall, three student lounges, and other minor facilities. Today, the Batte Center provides Lyceum lectures, musical concerts, and collegiate instruction.
“Write your names, my friends, by service in the hearts of men and they shall live after the pyramids have bowed their heads beneath the sands of the desert.” - C.C. Burris
Craven Cullen Burris kept Wingate College alive throughout the years of the Great Depression by his strong faith and pure determination. Burris served as the Wingate College President from 1937 to 1953. He spent much of his life involved with Wingate; first, as a student of Wingate School (1912 to 1914), and then later went on to become a teacher, coach, minister, registrar, Board of Education member, College Dean, and eventually, President of the College. His dedication to the institution shows through in the roles he played throughout his years at Wingate.
Born March 6, 1891, in Stanly County, Burris grew up on a farm with his parents and six siblings. The Burris family had a history of being heavily involved and in leadership positions in their local Baptist church; Craven was no different and was a preacher. He was forced to limit his preaching to two Sundays a month by the Wingate Board of Trustees to focus more time and effort on the school.
In 1919, Burris was elected assistant principal of Wingate School but continued teaching Latin and History. When Wingate School became Wingate Junior College, Burris taught Greek and continued teaching Latin, before he became the head of the English department.
In 1930, Burris was elected dean of the junior college; he was dean for seven years until he was elected acting president of the junior college in the spring of 1937. The next year, in May of 1938, he was selected by the Board of Trustees to become the permanent president. He remained president for the next sixteen years before resigning in 1953.
Burris’s dedication and determination to keep the doors of Wingate open was inspiring to many that passed through Wingate. In the 1960’s one of the leading academic buildings was named in honor of him and his service. The Burris academic building still stands today as one of the main academic buildings on campus.
Ron Christopher coached the Wingate baseball team for 24 seasons. In 1965, after just two years coaching at Wingate, Ron Christopher brought the team to number one in the nation and hoped that he taught his players on and off the field.
Ron Christopher briefly attended Clemson College studying engineering before graduating from Appalachian University with his Bachelor of Science in physical education in 1958. In 1961, Christopher earned his Master of physical education and later his Doctorate from Middle Tennessee University. During his time at Wingate, he suffered from many illnesses including asthma and emphysema and underwent a double lung transplant. As he was often too sick to be on the field, his wife, Beverly, would often put him in the car and park him at the top of the hill on Faculty Drive so he could watch the games.
Christopher coached baseball at Wingate while it was still a Junior College, from 1962-1972. In 1965, Wingate’s baseball team ranked number one in the nation. In 1980, he returned to coaching at Wingate College. In total, Christopher coached 24 seasons during his 31 years at Wingate, under four administrations. He had very high standards for good sportsmanship that he instilled in his players: “respect; courtesy; no profanity nor ‘trash talking’ to each other, nor to umpires, and good sportsmanship in general.”
Christopher was inducted into the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Hall of Fame in January of 1993, his final year of coaching, was the first Wingate coach to do so and was also selected as a South Atlantic Conference (SAC) coach of the year. In 1996, Christopher received a meritorious service award and was elected into the SAC Hall of Fame in 2000.
The Wingate baseball stadium was renovated in 1996 and was named after Ron Christopher. The Ron Christopher Stadium replaced the original baseball field, allowing it to become a football field. Also, he is one of the ten people featured in the Chalk Dust Chronicles 1896-1996, published for Wingate’s centennial, intended to honor master teachers. More recently, Christopher received The Order of the Long Leaf Pine for his “proven record of extraordinary service to the state.” Not long after, many of his former players raised money to have a bust of Ron Christopher created and placed at the entrance to the baseball stadium.
Windell and Judy Talley are owners of Talley Farms, which started out as a turkey farm but soon expanded to one of the biggest running farms in North Carolina. Having graduated from, at the time, Wingate Junior College, in the late 1950s both Talleys were students at Wingate. Windell Talley was a recipient of Wingate University's Honorary Alumnus Award in 2018. In 2013, in honor of his beloved wife Judy, he donated money for the building of the Judy Love Talley fountain on Wingate's Main Campus. The fountain is a pleasant break from the concentration of buildings and provides students a peaceful place to sit and take a step back from classes. On top of donating to build the fountain, the Talleys have also given to grow the Hinson Art Museum.
The famous Wingate Gate reads, “Faith, Knowledge, Service, 1896.” This motto was translated from the Roman Values, “Fides, Scientia, Pietas.” The first Gate was given to the school by a graduating class in 1924. Since then, there has been one other Gate that was built in 1942. The most recent renovation of the Gate occurred in 2012.
The first Gate was meant to symbolize the progress of Wingate College as it opened its doors to become a Junior College in 1924. The Gate once stood near what is today’s Ethel K Smith Library, right at the entrance into the school. As the school and town of Wingate, expanded, the Gate was moved to a nearby site (what is now beside Building 5 Dormitory in South Village.) The Gate, in 1942, paid tribute to Gaddy, “For her faithful and loyal services, her kindness and friendship to Wingate College and its student body, we the GATE staff dedicate the 1942 Gate to our beloved and admired, Miss Carolyn Caldwell.” The Gate was decidedly misplaced, so it was struck down and rebuilt in 2012 where it stands today.
“I often told my students that if you really want to learn something, you can find a book somewhere to show you how.” - Ethel K. Smith
Ethel K. Smith was born near Oxford, North Carolina on July 21, 1915, to Fielding and Lillie Overton Knott. Ethel was a lifelong learner; whether she was enrolled in formal education or teaching herself; if there is something she wanted to know, then she would figure it out.
On December 28, 1943, Ethel married Budd Elmon Smith; the couple met at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill when they were students. Ethel and Budd moved to Wingate in 1953 because Dr. Smith became president of Wingate College. When the Smiths first arrived at Wingate College, there were not enough faculty and staff to match with the student population. This led to Ethel becoming a professor at the beginning of Dr. Smith’s presidency.
Ethel worked at Wingate from 1953 to 1974. She was heavily involved with the construction of new buildings on campus during these years. Using books as her primary resource, Smith taught herself how to read and draw blueprints. Some of the buildings that were constructed under the advising of Ethel were: the Ethel K. Smith Library, the 1955 Cannon Dorm, the Smith Science Building, the W. T. Harris Dining Hall, the LaVerne Banquet Hall, the Roy L. Holbrook Building, the Charles Cannon Hall, and the Dickson-Palmer Center (DPC).
After serving a two-year term as an English professor, she was hired as the head librarian at Wingate College. Before moving to Wingate with Budd, Ethel gained librarianship experience first as an army librarian (1943-1944), and then as a city librarian in Ithaca, New York (1944-1945).
Ethel is best remembered today, by students and staff alike, as someone who was exceptionally dedicated to ensuring Wingate College succeeded. Her dedication to the school is why, on January 23, 1959, the Wingate College Library was dedicated and renamed the Ethel K. Smith Library.
Wingate’s library, when first built, was known as the Efird Memorial Library, which was completed in 1947. However, due to the needs of a growing student population, there was a need for a more extensive library, and the generous donation of $500,000 in 1970-71 for the addition to the building from Mr. and Mrs. Charles A. Cannon, a new facility was constructed in 1959 and named for Ethel K. Smith.
The Ethel K. Smith Library continues to symbolize the continuous commitment to service, involvement, and quality of education presented at Wingate.
“My father always taught us that those who were fortunate enough to possess or earn wealth had a special responsibility to both use it wisely and to share it with those less fortunate. If you don’t take care of this generation, the next one won’t be worth shooting. My advice is to throw the
roses where you can smell them. Don’t wait until you’re dead and gone. Do it now.” - Irwin Belk
Like other institutions of higher learning in the Charlotte area, Wingate University would not be the place it is today without the many contributions of Irwin “Ike” Belk. A Charlotte native, Irwin was born on April 4th, 1922 to William Henry Belk, Sr., and his wife, Mary Irwin Belk. As part of the Belk family, Irwin found himself in a powerful and wealthy position, a position he felt would be best utilized to help others. In this pursuit, Belk served his country in the 491st Bomber Group in World War II and served his local community by introducing legislation that created
UNC Charlotte, donating funds for the new campus and several other universities including Wingate University.
In a gesture of gratitude for his contributions, Wingate University dedicated its track and field stadium to Irwin Belk on May 8th, 2013 by naming it the Irwin Belk Stadium. The track facility was the 41st one of its kind to be funded by Belk. Belk had a strong love for athletics, mainly track and field, providing funding across the state for stadiums like the Irwin Belk Stadium in other colleges and universities. His passion for athletics even earned him an Olympic Order from the International Olympic Committee. A bust in Belk's image was also erected before the stadium to commemorate the man who helped fund it. Belk passed away on February 24th, 2018.
"I believe in Wingate College, and I believe in these young people. It will be my continuing purpose to follow closely your progress and be of service when I can." - Charles Cannon
Son of Cannon Mills Company founder James William Cannon, Charles A. Cannon would become the elected chairman of the Board of Governors of the American Cotton Manufacturers Association for which he served until post-WWII. In 2003, his father's company would go bankrupt because of the effects of outsourcing. Despite difficult times and the loss of his son during WWII, he found the passion for giving in his heart. He started off by giving to Cabarrus County, in the form of a hospital in the memory of his son. He then expanded his aid to places all over North Carolina. Wingate was fortunate enough to receive the love of Cannon. This love translated to donations that mainly turned into several buildings around campus. The first building was the Ruth Coltrane Cannon Dormitory, which was finished in 1955. After that, he helped to donate to structures such as the Ethel K. Smith Library, the Budd E. Smith Science Building, W.T. Harris Dining Hall and LaVerne Banquet Hall, the Roy L. Holbrook Administration Building, the Charles A. Cannon Hall, and the Dickson-Palmer Student Center. In 1986, Wingate decided to reciprocate that love by naming the Cannon Complex in his honor, which was built in 1986. In regards to Wingate University, he stated, "I am deeply interested in Wingate College. I like the attitude of the people here. I like the philosophy of education here. I like the contribution this institution is making to the lives of our fine young people who have the privilege of furthering their formal education here. I know that Wingate College will do its share and then some in whatever task it sets for itself which is for the advancement of the common good."
The Cannon Foundation founded in 1943 by Cannon continues to help organizations in the human services, higher education, and healthcare industry and continues to donate to Wingate today.
Today the Efird Library is home to several faculty offices on Wingate University’s thriving campus. It previously served as the University’s first library and later the university archives and is designated a historic property by the Union County Historic Preservation Commission.
J.B. Efird was able to make the sizeable donation because he owned and operated several successful retail stores with his two brothers in downtown Charlotte. After taking over the first store from his brother Hugh Martin (opened in 1909), Efird made an immensely beneficial decision to expand the store into a chain of multiple branches across the Carolinas and Virginia, totaling to over 50 shops.
The Efird Department stores were known for the number of retail items available to the public and competed with the likes of Belk, J.C. Penney, and Sears. During the 1920s, Efird’s stores were so advanced that they were the only businesses in the South to have an escalator. Efird also became one of the first businessmen to offer pensions and insurance for his employees, a practice that was considered ahead of its time. Eventually, J.B. Efird merged the company with the Belk brothers and then later completely sold it to them.
A majority of the members of the Efird family attended Wingate School at one time or another, including J.B. Efird. Efird studied at Wingate Junior College for two years and developed a love and sense of pride for his alma mater. Later, he served on Wingate’s Board of Trustees and became a grand donor for the school's welfare. Efird wanted the library to be constructed in honor of his parents: Mr. and Mrs. John Emory Efird and donated $10,000 towards the Efird Library Building Fund in 1946 and it officially opened in 1947. As Wingate grew, there was a need for a more extensive library. It was ultimately replaced in 1959 with the Ethel K. Smith Library, which currently serves as the university’s reference center and library.
“History’s alive. You can’t know where you are or where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been.” - Carolyn C. Gaddy
For forty-three years, Carolyn C. Gaddy dedicated her intellect to inspiring students at Wingate University. She served one of the longest tenures at the University, taught during the Great Depression without pay and during WWII and was known for her unwavering dedication and service to the college.
Carolyn C. Gaddy graduated from Winthrop College, with a Bachelor of Arts and Masters Degree. She was also a graduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke, Appalachian State, and Sophia University in Tokyo.
Carolyn C. Gaddy began working for Wingate University during the Great Depression in 1932 when most Wingate employees went without a paycheck. Throughout her forty-three years, Gaddy held many positions. She taught history, government, economics, sociology, Latin, and home economics and was the Dean of Women from 1937-1947. Gaddy also served under five different administrations and was even the Dean of Administration during World War II.
On May 9, 1975, Gaddy was recognized during a Wingate College Trustee/Faculty-Staff Dinner for her faithful service of Wingate University. Between 1988 and 1990, Gaddy actively fought against the name change from Wingate to Cannon University. After retiring from Wingate University, Gaddy continued to be involved on campus. In 1992, Gaddy took a pottery class: the last class taught at Wingate University by Douglas Helms.
Gaddy continues to impact the lives of students at Wingate University through scholarships in her name and honor. The Carolyn Caldwell Gaddy Teacher Education Award is presented annually to recognize excellence in major fields. There is also the Samuel and Carolyn Caldwell Gaddy Scholarship in honor of her husband and herself.
A bust of Carolyn C. Gaddy was erected on Wingate’s campus on October 3, 2001. The dedication ceremony began with a prayer spoken from Dr. G. Byrns Coleman. President Jerry McGee and Dr. Sylvia Little Sweat also spoke at this ceremony. The plaque underneath her bust reads, “Mrs. Gaddy embodied the ideals of faith, knowledge, and service. Wingate University is better because of Professor Gaddy’s strength, courage, and leadership.” Also, it’s rumored that Gaddy’s bust is haunted and she continues to look over Wingate today.
The Cannon family, partly because of their humanitarian work, has buildings all over the central Piedmont region have been named in their honor, and Wingate University is no exception. Charles A. Cannon was a successful businessman and philanthropist who donated a lot of his money to hospitals and private schools in North Carolina. Cannon’s passion for giving left a positive impact on his daughter, Marian C. Hayes, and instilled in her the same philanthropic attitude.
The Cannon textile fortune was left to Mariam Cannon Hayes, and she used her inheritance to continue the communal uplift her father preached and practiced. Born January 22, 1916, in Cabarrus County, Hayes grew up immersed in her father's world and was an advocate for advancing and promoting many of his causes. After his death, Mariam took over as president of the Cannon Foundation. She chose to support several causes, most notably a $10 million gift to Appalachian State University’s music department.
Mariam Cannon Hayes was a champion of people and programs devoted to education, health services, historic preservation, and the arts. Mrs. Hayes was a loving and supportive wife of Robert G. Hayes and mother of Congressman Robert C. "Robin" Hayes. As the President and Director of The Cannon Foundation and Trustee of the Charles A. Cannon Charitable Trust, she was a successful and respected business leader. Through this trust, over $3 million was donated towards the construction of the Cannon Athletic Complex. As well as having a building named after her, Mariam C. Hayes also has a bust dedicated to her that is currently located outside the Ethel K. Smith Library.
“On Saturday before the second Sabbath November 12, 2016, this beautiful fountain was dedicated to all who have met here in the past and to all who will return in the future to this meeting place.” - The Old Wellspring Fountain Dedication plaque, Carole Flowers Williams and Thomas Earl Williams, Jr.
Symbolizing a spring of knowledge through the university campus, the Old Wellspring Fountain is a popular campus attraction. Constructed began in 2015 and dedicated on November 12, 2016. The Wellspring has a rich history dating back to before Wingate School existed and the land was a part of Meadow Branch Baptist Church.
Over the years, as Wingate grew, the Wellspring became a hub of social life and went through several transformations. Eventually, the school decided to build a theatre building called Laney Hall, constructed in 1967, overtop of the wellspring area. Laney Hall was a fine arts building that hosted many performances until the building was taken and replaced with the current structure. The Old Wellspring Fountain was built in honor of Wingate school transforming from school (1896), to junior college (1923), then to college (1977), and finally into a university (1995).