One State Association’s Search for Missing History
The North Carolina Bankers Association is sifting through historical records to uncover four portraits of North Carolina’s earliest governors in an effort to update an old poster and distribute 4,000 copies to local schools.
Quick! Name some of your home state’s former governors. Better yet—try to picture what they looked like.
Thanks to the North Carolina Bankers Association, those living in the Tar Heel state won’t have to spend much time on Google coming up with those answers in the near future.
The organization is attempting to update a 1950s poster of North Carolina’s chief executives by hunting for four portraits of North Carolina’s earliest governors who served before photography’s invention.
“This project has been a bit of a Hardy Boys mystery for us,” says Thad Woodard, the association’s president and CEO. “Through our searching, it has been enlightening to us at the NCBA to realize how fleeting power and recognition can be. These men were governors of North Carolina, early leaders of our great state, and it is shocking that their legacies have been all but forgotten in some cases. We hope that someone, somewhere, might have a photo of one of these esteemed leaders of our state, so that we might complete this project.”
Lennon Dodson, special projects coordinator for the NCBA, answered some questions about the project for Associations Now.
How did the idea of the project come about?
Earlier this year we found an old poster of the North Carolina governors in the basement of our office. The last governor portrayed on this poster was Luther Hodges, who was elected in 1954. After researching the origination of this poster, we discovered that no depiction of the governors of North Carolina had been completed since then. This inspired us to create a new poster that would show all of the North Carolina governors from Richard Caswell, elected in 1776, through Pat McCrory, elected in 2012. Upon completion of this poster, the North Carolina Bankers Association will donate copies to every public school in North Carolina.
What are some of the issues you have run into tracking down the images?
The first issue we had to tackle was how to obtain copies of photos or portraits of each of the governors. The North Carolina State Archives played a huge role in helping us to do so. They were able to provide us with depictions of all but 10 of the governors. We were then able to track down photos of the most recent governors through their campaign offices and former chiefs of staff. For earlier governors, we have contacted the courthouses in the home counties of each of the governors, submitted requests for photos to government offices and various libraries. These efforts have reduced the number of missing photos to four, though we do have a lead on a photo of Samuel Ashe. The earlier poster was missing likenesses for six total governors, so we are proud to say that our research efforts have cut this number down for the new poster.
How important has local community outreach been to your association?
Community outreach is one of the main focuses of the North Carolina Bankers Association, and North Carolina banks in general. Camp Challenge is a summer camp for high-achieving, yet low-resource, students in middle schools across North Carolina. Nearly 400 students from all over our state attend Camp Challenge each summer at no cost to their parents or organizations, other than a $10 application fee. This incredible opportunity for students is made possible by the donations of banks and other supporting institutions. This summer, Camp Challenge will celebrate 20 years of serving the future generations of our state. Camp Challenge is our association’s main community outreach endeavor, but we work on a variety of other projects as well. North Carolina is home to a large percentage of the nation’s military personnel and facilities, including the Army’s Fort Bragg, the Marines’ Camp Lejeune, and the Air Force’s Seymour Johnson. The banking industry has long considered the military to be a vital aspect of North Carolina’s economy. Highway signs were erected at key interstate highways entering North Carolina, proclaiming the state as “The nation’s most military friendly state.” This was made possible by contributions from North Carolina banks. Furthermore, the NCBA has put together multiple military appreciation events, including a “Salute to the Troops” parade in downtown Raleigh. As an association, we strive to show that bankers truly are and always have been stewards of their communities.
What other projects are you planning for the future?
We plan projects as we see a need, so we will evaluate what possibilities there are upon the completion of the poster of North Carolina’s governors.
(Ernie Smith Illustration/Associations Now)