North Carolina is a state located on the Atlantic Seaboard in the southeastern United States. The state borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west and Virginia to the north. North Carolina contains 100 counties and its capital is Raleigh.
North Carolina was one of the original Thirteen Colonies, originally known as Carolina. Joara, a native village near present-day Morganton, was the site in 1567 of Fort San Juan, the first Spanish colonial settlement in the interior of what became the United States. The state was also the home of the Roanoke Island colony, the first attempt by the English to establish a presence in the Americas.
On May 20, 1861, North Carolina was the last of the Confederate states to secede from the Union. It was readmitted on July 4, 1868. The state was the location of the first successful controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air flight, by the Wright brothers, at Kill Devil Hills near Kitty Hawk in 1903. Today, it is a fast-growing state with an increasingly diverse economy and population. As of July 1, 2007, the population was estimated to be 9,061,032 (a 12% increase since April 1, 2000). Recognizing eight Native American tribes, North Carolina has the largest population of American Indians of any state east of the Mississippi.
North Carolina has a wide range of elevations, from sea level on the coast to almost 6,700 feet (2,042 m) in the mountains. The climate ranges widely from the coastal Tidewater and Piedmont to the western mountains. The coastal plains are strongly influenced by the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the state falls in the humid subtropical zone. More than from the coast, the western, mountainous part of the state has a humid continental climate.
North Carolina is bordered by South Carolina on the south, Georgia on the southwest, Tennessee on the west, Virginia on the north, and the Atlantic Ocean on the east. The United States Census Bureau classifies North Carolina as a southern state in the subcategory of being one of the South Atlantic States.
North Carolina consists of three main geographic sections: the coastal plain, which occupies the eastern 45% of the state; the Piedmont region, which contains the middle 35%; and the Appalachian Mountains and foothills. The extreme eastern section of the state contains the Outer Banks, a string of sandy, narrow islands which form a barrier between the Atlantic Ocean and inland waterways. The Outer Banks form two sounds—Albemarle Sound in the north and Pamlico Sound in the south. They are the two largest landlocked sounds in the United States. Immediately inland, the coastal plain is relatively flat, with rich soils ideal for growing tobacco, soybeans, melons, and cotton. The coastal plain is North Carolina's most rural section, with few large towns or cities. Agriculture remains an important industry. The major rivers of this section: the Neuse, Tar, Pamlico, and Cape Fear, tend to be slow-moving and wide.
The coastal plain transitions to the Piedmont region along the "fall line", a line which marks the elevation at which waterfalls first appear on streams and rivers. The Piedmont region of central North Carolina is the state's most urbanized and densely populated section - all five of the state's largest cities are located in the Piedmont. It consists of gently rolling countryside frequently broken by hills or low mountain ridges. A number of small, isolated, and deeply eroded mountain ranges and peaks are located in the Piedmont, including the Sauratown Mountains, Pilot Mountain, the Uwharrie Mountains, Crowder's Mountain, King's Pinnacle, the Brushy Mountains, and the South Mountains. The Piedmont ranges from about 300–400 feet (90–120 m) elevation in the east to over 1,000 feet (300 m) in the west. Due to the rapid population growth of the Piedmont, many of the farms and much of the rural countryside in this region is being replaced by suburbanization: shopping centers, housing developments, and large corporate office parks. Agriculture is steadily declining in importance in this region. The major rivers of the Piedmont, such as the Yadkin and Catawba, tend to be fast-flowing, shallow, and narrow.
The western section of the state is part of the Appalachian Mountain range. Among the subranges of the Appalachians located in the state are the Great Smoky Mountains, Blue Ridge Mountains, Great Balsam Mountains, Pisgah Mountains, and the Black Mountains. The Black Mountains are the highest in the Eastern United States, and culminate in Mount Mitchell at 6,684 feet (2,037 m). It is the highest point east of the Mississippi River. Although agriculture remains important, tourism has become the dominant industry in the mountains. One agricultural pursuit which has prospered and grown in recent decades is the growing and selling of Christmas Trees. Due to the higher altitude of the mountains, the climate often differs markedly from the rest of the state. Winters in western North Carolina typically feature significant snowfall and subfreezing temperatures more akin to a midwestern state than a southern one.
North Carolina has 17 major river basins. Five of the state's river basins: the Hiwassee, Little Tennessee, French Broad, Watauga and New, are part of the Mississippi River Basin, which drains to the Gulf of Mexico. All the others flow to the Atlantic Ocean. Of the 17 basins, 11 originate within the state of North Carolina, but only four are contained entirely within the state's borders - the Cape Fear, Neuse, White Oak and Tar-Pamlico.
The coastal plain is influenced by the Atlantic Ocean which keeps temperatures mild in winter and moderate in the summer. Daytime high temperatures on the coast average less than 89 °F (31.6 °C) during the summer. In the winter, the coast has the mildest temperatures in the state, with daytime temperatures rarely dropping below 40 °F (4.4 °C); the average daytime winter temperature in the coastal plain is usually in the mid-60's. Temperatures in the coastal plain rarely drop below freezing even at night. The coastal plain usually receives only one inch (2.5 cm) of snow and/or ice annually, and in some years there may be no snow or ice at all.
The Atlantic Ocean has less influence on the Piedmont region, and as a result the Piedmont has hotter summers and colder winters than the coast. Daytime highs in the Piedmont often average over 90 °F (32.2 °C) in the summer. While it is not common for temperatures to reach over 100 °F (37.8 °C) in North Carolina, when it happens, the highest temperatures are to be found in the lower areas of the Piedmont, especially around the city of Fayetteville. Additionally, the weaker influence of the Atlantic Ocean means that temperatures in the Piedmont often fluctuate more widely than the coast.
In the winter, the Piedmont is much less mild than the coast, with daytime temperatures that are usually in the mid 50's, and temperatures often drop below freezing at night. The region averages from 3–5 inches of snowfall annually in the Charlotte area to 6–8 inches in the Raleigh–Durham area. The Piedmont is especially notorious for sleet and freezing rain. It can be heavy enough in some storms to snarl traffic and collapse trees and power lines. Annual precipitation and humidity is lower in the Piedmont than either the mountains or the coast, but even at its lowest, the precipitation is a generous 40 in (102 cm) per year.
The Appalachian Mountains are the coolest area of the state, with daytime temperatures averaging in the low 40's and upper 30's for highs in the winter and often falling into the teens (−9 °C) or lower in winter nights. Relatively cool summers have temperatures rarely rising above 80 °F (26.7 °C). Snowfall in the mountains is usually 14–20 in (36–51 cm) per year, but it is often greater in the higher elevations. For example, during the Blizzard of 1993 more than of snow fell on Mount Mitchell.
Severe weather occurs regularly in North Carolina. On average, the state receives a direct hit from a hurricane once a decade. Tropical storms arrive every 3 or 4 years. In some years, several hurricanes or tropical storms can directly strike the state or brush across the coastal areas. Only Florida and Louisiana are hit by hurricanes more often. On average, North Carolina has 50 days of thunderstorm activity per year, with some storms becoming severe enough to produce hail and damaging winds. Although many people believe that hurricanes menace only coastal areas, the rare hurricane which moves inland quickly enough can cause severe damage. In 1989 Hurricane Hugo caused heavy damage in Charlotte and even as far inland as the Blue Ridge Mountains in the northwestern part of the state.
North Carolina averages fewer than 20 tornadoes per year. Many of these are produced by hurricanes or tropical storms along the coastal plain. Tornadoes from thunderstorms are a risk, especially in the eastern part of the state. The western piedmont is often protected by the mountains breaking storms up as they try to cross over them. The storms will often reform farther east. Also a weather feature known as "cold air damming" occurs in the western part of the state. This can also weaken storms but can also lead to major ice events in winter.
|Monthly normal high and low temperatures (Fahrenheit) for various North Carolina cities.|
Spanish explorers traveling inland encountered the last of the Mississippian culture at Joara, near present-day Morganton. Records of Hernando de Soto attested to his meeting with them in 1540. In 1567 Captain Juan Pardo led an expedition into the interior of North Carolina on a journey to claim the area for the Spanish colony, as well as establish another route to protect silver mines in Mexico (the Spanish did not realize the distances involved.) Pardo made a winter base at Joara, which he renamed Cuenca. The expedition built Fort San Juan and left 30 men, while Pardo traveled further, establishing five other forts. He returned by a different route to Santa Elena on Parris Island, South Carolina, then a center of Spanish Florida. In the spring of 1568, natives killed all the soldiers and burned the six forts in the interior, including the one at Fort San Juan. The Spanish never returned to the interior to press their colonial claim, but this marked the first European attempt at colonization of the interior of what became the United States. A journal by Pardo's scribe Bandera and archaeological findings at Joara have confirmed the settlement. In 1584, Elizabeth I, granted a charter to Sir Walter Raleigh, for whom the state capital is named, for land in present-day North Carolina (then Virginia). Raleigh established two colonies on the coast in the late 1580s, both ending in failure. It was the second American territory the British attempted to colonize. The demise of one, the "Lost Colony" of Roanoke Island, remains one of the great mysteries of American history. Virginia Dare, the first English child to be born in North America, was born on Roanoke Island on August 18, 1587. Dare County is named for her.
As early as 1650, colonists from the Virginia colony moved into the area of Albemarle Sound. By 1663, King Charles II of England granted a charter to establish a new colony on the North American continent which generally established its borders. He named it Carolina in honor of his father Charles I. By 1665, a second charter was issued to attempt to resolve territorial questions. In 1710, due to disputes over governance, the Carolina colony began to split into North Carolina and South Carolina. The latter became a crown colony in 1729.
Differences in the settlement patterns of eastern and western North Carolina, or the low country and uplands, affected the political, economic, and social life of the state from the eighteenth until the twentieth century. The Tidewater in eastern North Carolina was settled chiefly by immigrants from England and the Scottish Highlands. The upcountry of western North Carolina was settled chiefly by Scots-Irish and German Protestants, the so-called "cohee". Arriving during the mid-to-late 18th century, the Scots-Irish from Ireland were the largest immigrant group before the Revolution. During the Revolutionary War, the English and Highland Scots of eastern North Carolina tended to remain loyal to the British Crown, because of longstanding business and personal connections with Great Britain. The Scots-Irish and German settlers of western North Carolina tended to favor American independence from Britain.
Most of the English colonists arrived as indentured servants, hiring themselves out as laborers for a fixed period to pay for their passage. In the early years the line between indentured servants and African slaves or laborers was fluid. Some Africans were allowed to earn their freedom before slavery became a lifelong status. Most of the free colored families formed in North Carolina before the Revolution were descended from relationships or marriages between free white women and enslaved or free African or African-American men. Many had migrated or were descendants of migrants from colonial Virginia. As the flow of indentured laborers to the colony decreased with improving economic conditions in Great Britain, more slaves were imported and the state's restrictions on slavery hardened. The economy's growth and prosperity was based on slave labor, devoted first to the production of tobacco.
On April 12, 1776, the colony became the first to instruct its delegates to the Continental Congress to vote for independence from the British crown, through the Halifax Resolves passed by the North Carolina Provincial Congress. The dates of both of these independence-related events are memorialized on the state flag and state seal. Throughout the Revolutionary War, fierce guerilla warfare erupted between bands of pro-independence and pro-British colonists. In some cases the war was also an excuse to settle private grudges and rivalries. A major American victory in the war took place at King's Mountain along the North Carolina–South Carolina border. On October 7, 1780 a force of 1000 mountain men from western North Carolina (including what is today the State of Tennessee) overwhelmed a force of some 1000 British troops led by Major Patrick Ferguson. Most of the British soldiers in this battle were Carolinians who had remained loyal to the British Crown (they were called "Tories"). The American victory at Kings Mountain gave the advantage to colonists who favored American independence, and it prevented the British Army from recruiting new soldiers from the Tories.
The road to Yorktown and America's independence from Great Britain led through North Carolina. As the British Army moved north from victories in Charleston and Camden, South Carolina, the Southern Division of the Continental Army and local militia prepared to meet them. Following General Daniel Morgan's victory over the British Cavalry Commander Banastre Tarleton at the Battle of Cowpens on January 17, 1781, southern commander Nathanael Greene led British Lord Charles Cornwallis across the heartland of North Carolina, and away from Cornwallis's base of supply in Charleston, South Carolina. This campaign is known as "The Race to the Dan" or "The Race for the River."
Generals Greene and Cornwallis finally met at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in present-day Greensboro on March 15, 1781. Although the British troops held the field at the end of the battle, their casualties at the hands of the numerically superior American Army were crippling. Following this "Pyhrric victory", Cornwallis chose to move to the Virginia coastline to get reinforcements, and to allow the Royal Navy to protect his battered army. This decision would result in Cornwallis's eventual defeat at Yorktown, Virginia later in 1781. The Patriots' victory there guaranteed American independence.
In addition to slaves, there were a number of free people of color in the state. Most were descended from free African Americans who had migrated along with neighbors from Virginia during the eighteenth century. After the Revolution, Quakers and Mennonites worked to persuade slaveholders to free their slaves. Enough were inspired by their efforts and the language of men's rights, and arranged for manumission of their slaves. The number of free people of color rose in the first couple of decades after the Revolution.
On October 25, 1836 construction began on the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad to connect the port city of Wilmington with the state capital of Raleigh. In 1849 the North Carolina Railroad was created by act of the legislature to extend that railroad west to Greensboro, High Point, and Charlotte. During the Civil War the Wilmington-to-Raleigh stretch of the railroad would be vital to the Confederate war effort; supplies shipped into Wilmington would be moved by rail through Raleigh to the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia.
During the antebellum period North Carolina was an overwhelmingly rural state, even by Southern standards. In 1860 only one North Carolina town, the port city of Wilmington, had a population of more than 10,000. Raleigh, the state capital, had barely more than 5,000 residents.
While slaveholding was slightly less concentrated than in some Southern states, according to the 1860 census, more than 330,000 people, or 33% of the population of 992,622 were enslaved African Americans. They lived and worked chiefly on plantations in the eastern Tidewater. In addition, 30,463 free people of color lived in the state. They were also concentrated in the eastern coastal plain, especially at port cities such as Wilmington and New Bern where they had access to a variety of jobs. Free African Americans were allowed to vote until 1835, when the state rescinded their suffrage.
Even after secession, some North Carolinians refused to support the Confederacy. This was particularly true of non-slave-owning farmers in the state's mountains and western Piedmont region. Some of these farmers remained neutral during the war, while some covertly supported the Union cause during the conflict. Even so, Confederate troops from all parts of North Carolina served in virtually all the major battles of the Army of Northern Virginia, the Confederacy's most famous army. Five regiments from North Carolina served in the western theater in the Army of Tennessee. About two thousand North Carolinans from the western part of the state enlisted into the Union army, among the regiments they were assigned to were the 2nd and 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry regiments, and some in the 13th Tennessee Cavalry. Two other Union regiments made up of North Carolinians, the 1st and 2nd North Carolina U.S., were organized in the coastal areas of the state. The largest battle fought in North Carolina was at Bentonville, which was a futile attempt by Confederate General Joseph Johnston to slow Union General William Tecumseh Sherman's advance through the Carolinas in the spring of 1865. In April 1865 after losing the Battle of Morrisville, Johnston surrendered to Sherman at Bennett Place, in what is today Durham, North Carolina. This was the last major Confederate Army to surrender. North Carolina's port city of Wilmington was the last Confederate port to fall to the Union. It fell in the spring of 1865 after the nearby Second Battle of Fort Fisher.
The first Confederate soldier to be killed in the Civil War was Private Henry Wyatt, a North Carolinian. He was killed in the Battle of Big Bethel in June 1861. At the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, the 26th North Carolina Regiment participated in Pickett/Pettigrew's Charge and advanced the farthest into the Northern lines of any Confederate regiment. During the Battle of Chickamauga the 58th North Carolina Regiment advanced farther than any other regiment on Snodgrass Hill to push back the remaining Union forces from the battlefield. At Appomattox Court House in Virginia in April 1865, the 75th North Carolina Regiment, a cavalry unit, fired the last shots of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the Civil War. For many years, North Carolinians proudly boasted that they had been "First at Bethel, Farthest at Gettysburg and Chickamauga, and Last at Appomattox."
North Carolina has eight municipalities with populations of more than 100,000 (U.S. Census Bureau 2007 estimates):
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2006, North Carolina has an estimated population of 8,856,505, which is an increase of 184,046, or 2.1%, from the prior year and an increase of 810,014, or 10.0%, since the year 2000. This exceeds the rate of growth for the United States as a whole. The growth comprises a natural increase since the last census of 293,761 people (that is 749,959 births minus 456,198 deaths) and an increase due to net migration of 527,991 people into the state. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 180,986 people. Migration within the country produced a net increase of 347,005 people. Between 2005 and 2006, North Carolina passed New Jersey to become the 10th most populous state. The state's population reported as under 5 years old was 6.7%, 24.4% were under 18, and 12.0% were 65 or older. Females made up approximately 51% of the population.
In addition, large numbers of people from the Northeastern United States, Florida and even from as far away as California have moved to the state in recent years, further swelling the population. North Carolina is one of the country's fastest growing states in the 1980s and 1990s, but the growth rate subsided in the 2000s due to changed economic conditions affected the state as much it had on the country. Some locals compared the suburbs of Cary as a miniature "New Jersey" or a haven of Yankee/ West coast "yuppie" prosperity in a historically Dixie or rural "Southern" state, and the high number of European based (esp. German) businesses established American headquarters or branch offices along route I-40 from Charlotte to Greensboro to Raleigh, it's jokingly called the "American Autobahn".
|African||(21.6%) Of Total)||See African American|
|American||(13.9%)||See British American|
|English||(9.5%)||See English American|
|German||(9.5%)||See German American|
|Irish||(7.4%)||See Irish American|
|Scots-Irish||(3.2%)||See Scots-Irish American|
|Italian||(2.3%)||See Italian American|
|Scottish||(2.2%)||See Scottish American|
Until the mid-1820s, North Carolina had more small farms and fewer plantations than adjacent South Carolina and Virginia. These "yeoman" farmers were non-slave-holding (or owning few slaves), private land owners of tracts of approximately 500 acres (2 km²) or less. Relatively few blacks live in the state's mountains and rural areas of the western Piedmont. In some mountain counties, the black population has historically numbered in the few dozens at most.
Free African Americans migrated in the colonial and post-Revolutionary period to frontier areas of North Carolina from Virginia. Detailed family histories of 80% of those counted as "all other free persons" in the 1790-1810 federal census show they were descendants of African Americans free in Virginia during the colonial period. As boundaries were then more permeable, most free African families descended from unions between white women, free or servant, and African men, free, servant or slave. Indians who adopted English customs became part of free African American communities and married into the families. Some of the lighter-skinned descendants formed their own distinct communities, often identifying themselves as Indian or Portuguese to escape effects of the color line.
Events during the 1980s in Laos spurred Hmong immigration to North Carolina, as refugees fled wars and communist rule. They now number 12,000 in the state. A small Hmong farming colony can be found near Marion.
The earliest record of Asian immigration to North Carolina goes back to the mid-1800s when the first Chinese were hired as miners and agricultural workers. The famous Thai "Siamese" twins - Eng and Chang Bunker - conjoined together at their chests, settled in Wilkesboro, North Carolina in 1839. Smaller numbers of Japanese, Filipinos, and Koreans arrived to work as farmers, but many also worked in the Atlantic fishing industries in the early and mid-20th century.
North Carolinians of Scots-Irish, Scottish and English ancestry are spread across the state. Historically Scots–Irish and Northern English settled mostly in the Piedmont and backcountry. They were the last and most numerous of the immigrant groups from the Britain and Ireland before the Revolution, and settled throughout the Appalachian South, where they could continue their own culture. The Scots-Irish were fiercely independent and mostly yeoman farmers.
In the Winston-Salem area, there is a substantial population of ethnic German ancestry (from the modern area of the Czech Republic), descended from immigration of members of the Protestant Moravian Church during the mid-18th century. The Moravians of Winston-Salem are not primarily of Czech ancestry, but mostly of German descent, and members of the Moravian Church in America, a Protestant denomination takes its name from a spiritual movement that began in 15th century Moravia and nearby Bohemia.
During the early 20th century, a small group of Orthodox immigrants from Ukraine settled in Pender County. There's somewhat of a long history of Portuguese settlement along the state's Atlantic coast whose families were fishermen originated from the Azores islands and the country of Portugal, and there are over 50,000 residents of Portuguese descent. And finally, the seasonal residents known as "snowbirds" the majority are Canadians either English and French speaking live in coastal sections and beach towns every winter.
Only five states: (California, Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas), have larger Native American populations than North Carolina. The total Native American and Alaska Native population in the United States is 2,824,751, or 0.95% of the total.
In many rural counties the Southern Baptists remain the dominant Christian church. The second-largest Protestant church in North Carolina are the Methodists, who are strong in the northern Piedmont, and especially in populous Guilford County. There are also substantial numbers of Quakers in Guilford County, and northeastern North Carolina.
The Presbyterians, historically Scots-Irish, have had a strong presence in Charlotte, the state's largest city, and in Scotland County. The current religious affiliations of the people of North Carolina are shown below:
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the state's 2006 total gross state product was $375 billion. Its 2005 per capita personal income was $31,029, 36th in the nation. North Carolina's agricultural outputs include poultry and eggs, tobacco, hogs, milk, nursery stock, cattle, sweet potatoes, and soybeans. However, North Carolina has recently been affected by offshoring and industrial growth in countries like China; one in five manufacturing jobs in the state has been lost to overseas competition. There has been a distinct difference in the economic growth of North Carolina's urban and rural areas. While large cities such as Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, and others have experienced rapid population and economic growth over the last thirty years, many of the state's small towns have suffered from loss of jobs and population. Most of North Carolina's small towns historically developed around textile and furniture factories. As these factories closed and moved to low-wage markets in Asia and Latin America, the small towns that depended upon them have suffered.
The first gold nugget found in the U.S. was found in Cabarrus County in 1799. The first gold dollar minted in the U.S. was minted at the Bechtler Mint in Rutherford County.
Charlotte, North Carolina's largest city, continues to experience rapid growth, in large part due to the banking & finance industry. Charlotte is now the second largest banking center in the United States (after New York), and is home to Bank of America and Wachovia. The Charlotte metro area is also home to 5 other Fortune 500 companies.
BB&T (Branch Banking & Trust), one of America's largest banks, was founded in Wilson, NC in 1872. Today, BB&T's headquarters is in Winston-Salem, although some operations still take place in Wilson.
The information and biotechnology industries have been steadily on the rise since the creation of the Research Triangle Park (RTP) in the 1950s. Located between Raleigh and Durham (mostly in Durham County), its proximity to local research universities has no doubt helped to fuel growth.
The North Carolina Research Campus underway in Kannapolis (approx. northeast of Charlotte) promises to enrich and bolster the Charlotte area in the same way that RTP changed the Raleigh-Durham region. Encompassing , the complex is a collaborative project involving Duke University, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and N.C. State University, along with private and corporate investors and developers. The facility incorporates corporate, academic, commercial and residential space, oriented toward research and development (R&D) and biotechnology. Similarly, in downtown Winston-Salem, the Piedmont Triad Research Park is undergoing an expansion. Approximately thirty miles to the east of Winston Salem's research park, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and North Carolina A&T State University have joined forces to create the Gateway University Research Park, a technology-based research entity which will focus its efforts on areas such as nanotechnology, biotechnology & biochemistry, environmental sciences, and genetics among other science-based disciplines.
The School of Filmmaking at the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem is a unique arts conservatory that combines rigorous professional training with unparalleled facilities, equipment and resources. All Second, Third and Fourth Year productions are entered into film and video festivals worldwide, and several have won major awards, including the Student Academy Award, the Angelus Award and the Cine Eagle Award. The best Fourth Year productions are also screened on film in front of large industry audiences at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles in June each year. School of the Arts alumni have performed in or behind the scenes of Broadway shows, film, television and regional theatre, and are members of the world’s finest symphony orchestras and opera and dance companies. They have won or been nominated for all of the major awards in the entertainment industry, including Tony, Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and others. Some well-known alumni of the NCSA School of Drama are Jada Pinkett Smith, Mary-Louise Parker, Catherine Dent, and Tom Hulce.
Several cities are served by mass transit systems. The Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) operates historical trolleys, express shuttles and bus service serving Charlotte and its immediate suburbs. In 2007 it opened the LYNX light rail line connecting Charlotte with suburban Pineville. There are future plans to expand LYNX Light Rail as well as implementation of Commuter Rail and Streetcar.
The Fayetteville Area System of Transit (FAST) serves the city with ten bus routes and two shuttle routes.
Within Raleigh, the Capital Area Transit system operates 27 bus routes. The Triangle Transit Authority operates buses that serve the region and connect to municipal bus systems in Durham and Chapel Hill; efforts for the city of Raleigh to build a light rail from the downtown areas of Raleigh to the downtown area of Durham failed as TTA's projected ridership did not meet federal standards. The Durham Area Transit Authority (DATA) bus system runs within Durham. The Triangle Transit Authority operates buses that serve the region and connect to municipal bus systems in Raleigh and Chapel Hill, which has its own entirely fare-free bus service, Chapel Hill Transit.
Greensboro is serviced by the Greensboro Transit Authority (GTA), which operates 14 bus routes. Additionally, the Higher Education Area Transit (HEAT) system provides service to students who attend the following institutions: Bennett College, Elon University School of Law, Greensboro College, Guilford College, Guilford Technical Community College, North Carolina A&T State University, and The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The HEAT service provides transportation between campuses and various other destinations, including downtown Greensboro.
Winston-Salem Transit Authority (WSTA) operates 30 bus routes around the city of Winston-Salem; additionally, WSTA recently completed construction of a central downtown mult-modal transportation center with 16 covered bus bays adjacent to a large enclosed lobby/waiting area. There are future plans being discussed for a $52 million streetcar system connecting Piedmont Triad Research Park/Downtown with Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.
Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation (PART) is the Triad's 10-county regional organization with the goal of enhancing all forms of transportation through regional cooperation. PART Express Bus provides express shuttle service to each major Triad city from Piedmont Triad International Airport, while Connections Express connects the Triad to Duke and UNC Medical Centers. PART is also administering and developing several rail service studies that include both commuter and intercity rail.
Wilmington's Wave Transit operates six bus lines within the city as well as five shuttles to nearby areas and a downtown trolley.
In July 2008, Western Piedmont Regional Transit Authority began serving Burke, Caldwell, Catawba and Alexander counties in the region just west of Charlotte.
The governor, lieutenant governor, and eight elected executive department heads form the Council of State. Ten other executive department heads appointed by the governor form the North Carolina Cabinet. The state's current governor is Democrat Mike Easley. The North Carolina General Assembly, or Legislature, consists of two houses: a 50-member Senate and a 120-member House of Representatives. For the 2007–2008 session, the current President Pro Tempore of the Senate is Democrat Marc Basnight (the Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina is the President of the Senate); The House Speaker is Democrat Joe Hackney.
The Supreme Court of North Carolina is the state's highest appellate court; it numbers seven justices. The North Carolina Court of Appeals is the only intermediate appellate court in the state; it consists of fifteen judges who rule in rotating panels of three. Together, the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals constitute the appellate division of the court system. The trial division includes the Superior Court and the District Court. All felony criminal cases, civil cases involving more than $10,000 and misdemeanor and infraction appeals from District Court are tried in Superior Court. A jury of 12 hears the criminal cases. Civil cases—such as divorce, custody, child support, and cases involving less than $10,000—are heard in District Court, along with criminal cases involving misdemeanors and lesser infractions. The trial of a criminal case in District Court is always without a jury. The District Court also hears juvenile cases involving children under the age of 16 who are delinquent and children under the age of 18 who are undisciplined, dependent, neglected, or abused. Magistrates accept guilty pleas for minor misdemeanors, accept guilty pleas for traffic violations, and accept waivers of trial for worthless-check cases among other things. In civil cases, the magistrate is authorized to try small claims involving up to $4,000 including landlord eviction cases. Magistrates also perform civil marriages.
North Carolina has had three constitutions:
North Carolina is politically dominated by the Democratic and Republican political parties. Since the 19th century, third parties, such as the Green Party and Libertarian Party, have had difficulty making inroads in state politics. They have both run candidates for office with neither party's winning a state office. After engaging in a lawsuit with the state over ballot access, the Libertarian Party qualified to be on the ballot after submitting more than 70,000 petition signatures
Historically, North Carolina was politically divided between the eastern and western parts of the state. Before the Civil War, the eastern half of North Carolina supported the Democratic Party, primarily because the region contained most of the state's planter slaveholders who profited from large cash crops. Yeomen farmers in the western Piedmont and mountains were not slaveholders and tended to support the Whig party, seen as more moderate on slavery and more supportive of business interests.
Following the Civil War, Republicans, including newly enfranchised freedmen, controlled the state government during Reconstruction. When federal troops were removed in the national compromise of 1877, the Democratic Party gained control of the state government, partly through white paramilitary groups conducting a campaign of violence against blacks to discourage them from voting, especially in the Piedmont counties. Despite that, the number of black officeholders peaked in the 1880s as they were elected to local offices in black-majority districts.
Following a downturn in food prices, in 1892 many of the nation's farmers created the Populist Party to represent their interests. The party was strengthened by the Panic of 1893 and subsequent nationwide economic depression. In North Carolina, the Republican and Populist parties formed an interracial alliance, called an electoral fusion, in 1894 which resulted in control of the state legislature. In 1896 the Republican-Populist alliance took control of the governorship and many state offices. In response, many white Democrats began efforts to reduce voter rolls and turnout. During the late 1890s, white Democrats began to pass legislation to restrict voter registration and reduce voting by blacks and poor whites.
With the first step accomplished in 1896 by making registration more complicated and reducing black voter turnout, in 1898 the state's Democratic Party regained control of the state government. Contemporary observers described the election as a "contest unquestionably accompanied by violence, intimidation and fraud - to what extent we do not know - in the securing of a majority of 60,000 for the new arrangement". Using the slogan, "White Supremacy", and backed by influential newspapers such as the Raleigh News and Observer under publisher Josephus Daniels, the Democrats ousted the Populist-Republican majority.
Encouraged by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld the Mississippi disfranchising constitution in Williams v. Mississippi (1898), North Carolina legislators passed similar provisions in 1900, as did eight other states. Provisions included imposition of poll taxes, residency requirements, and literacy tests. Initially the grandfather clause was used to exempt illiterate whites from the literacy test, but many were gradually disfranchised as well. By these efforts, by 1904 white Democratic legislators had completely eliminated black voter turnout in North Carolina. Although African Americans mounted litigation and the U.S. Supreme Court began to find specific provisions unconstitutional (as in Guinn v. United States (1915) which struck down the grandfather clause), state legislatures responded with new mechanisms for restricting voter registration. Disfranchisement lasted until the mid-1960s.
With some notable exceptions, North Carolina then became a part of the "Solid Democratic South". The Solid South was based on disfranchisement of most African Americans and tens of thousands of poor whites. Southern states managed to keep Congressional apportionment based on total population, despite having deprived about half the citizens of the power to vote.
However, some counties in North Carolina's western Piedmont and Appalachian Mountains continued to vote Republican, continuing a tradition that dated from their yeoman culture and opposition to secession before the Civil War. In 1952, aided by the presidential candidacy of popular war hero Dwight Eisenhower, the Republicans were successful in electing a U.S. Congressman, Charles R. Jonas.
In the mid-20th century Republicans began to attract white voters in North Carolina and other Southern states. This was after passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 under Democratic President Lyndon Johnson, which extended Federal protection and enforcement of civil rights for all American citizens. Because the Democratic Party had supported civil rights at the national level, most black voters (just under 25% of North Carolina's population in the 1960 census) initially aligned with the Democrats when they regained their franchise. In 1972, aided by the landslide re-election of Richard Nixon, Republicans in North Carolina elected their first governor and U.S. senator of the twentieth century.
Senator Jesse Helms played a major role in renewing the Republican Party and turning North Carolina into a two-party state. Under his banner, many conservative white Democrats in the central and eastern parts of North Carolina began to vote Republican, at least in national elections. In part, this was due to dissatisfaction with the national Democratic Party's stance on issues of civil rights and racial integration. In later decades, conservatives rallied to Republicans over social issues such as prayer in school, gun rights, abortion rights, and gay rights.
Except for regional son Jimmy Carter's election in 1976, from 1968–2004 North Carolina has voted Republican in every presidential election. At the state level, however, the Democrats still control most of the elected offices. State and local elections have become highly competitive compared to the previous one-party decades of the 20th century. For example, eastern North Carolina routinely elects numerous Republican sheriffs and county commissioners, a shift that did not happen until the 1980s. The Republicans hold both U.S. Senate seats, but the Democrats retain the governorship, majorities in both houses of the state legislature, state supreme court, and a 7–6 majority of U.S. House seats, as of January 2007.
Modern North Carolina politics center less around the old east-west geographical split, and more on a growing urban-suburban-rural divide. Many of the state's rural and small-town areas are now heavily Republican, while growing urban centers such as Charlotte, Asheville, Raleigh, Durham and Greensboro are increasingly Democratic. The suburban areas around the cities usually hold the power, and vote both ways.
Two Presidents of the United States were born and raised in North Carolina, but both men began their political careers in neighboring Tennessee, and were elected President from that state. The two men were James K. Polk and Andrew Johnson. A third U.S. President, Andrew Jackson, may also have been born in North Carolina. However, as he was born almost precisely on the state line with South Carolina, both states claim him as a native son, and historians have debated for decades over the precise site of Jackson's birthplace. On the grounds of the old state capitol building in Raleigh is a statue dedicated to the Presidents who were born in the state; Jackson is included in the statue. Jackson himself stated that he was born in what later became South Carolina, but at the time of his birth, the line between the states had not been surveyed.
North Carolina remains a control state. This is probably due to the state's strongly conservative Protestant heritage. Four of the state's counties - Clay, Graham, Mitchell, and Yancey, which are all located in rural areas - remain "dry" (the sale of alcoholic beverages is illegal). However, the remaining 96 North Carolina counties allow the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages, as is the case in most of the United States. Even in rural areas, the opposition to selling and drinking alcoholic beverages is declining, as the decreasing number of "dry" counties indicates.
North Carolina is one of the 12 states to decriminalize marijuana. In 1997 Marijuana and Tetrahydrocannabinols were moved from a schedule I to schedule IV . Transfer of less than 5 grams is not considered sale, and up to 1 1/2 ounces is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine or community service, at the judge's discretion, rather than imprisonment or a felony charge.
In 2005, following substantial political maneuvering, the state legislature voted to implement a state lottery, thus altering North Carolina's reputation as the "anti-lottery" state, where owning a lottery ticket from another state was once a felony. By 2005, every state surrounding North Carolina had a lottery in operation. The North Carolina Education Lottery began selling tickets on March 31, 2006. The lottery has had unexpectedly low sales since its inception.
Some of North Carolina's most prestigious private universities and colleges include: Belmont Abbey College, Campbell University, Shaw University,Davidson College, Duke University, Guilford College, Elon University, Gardner-Webb University, High Point University, and Wake Forest University.
Despite having over nine million people, North Carolina's population being spread out over three major metropolitan areas precluded attracting any major professional sports league teams until 1974, when the New York Stars of the World Football League was relocated to Charlotte in the middle of the season and renamed the Charlotte Hornets (although the team was referred to as the Charlotte Stars for the first game in Charlotte).
Prior to that, the Carolina Cougars of the American Basketball Association played in various North Carolina cites (playing in the ABA for five seasons, ending in the Spring of 1974). Current Charlotte Bobcats coach Larry Brown started his coaching career as head coach of the Cougars.
The first successful franchise from a major professional sports league to be created in North Carolina were the Charlotte Hornets of the National Basketball Association (NBA), which began play in the 1987–88 season. The state remains without a Major League Baseball franchise despite numerous efforts to attract a team (including the 2006 push to relocate the Florida Marlins to Charlotte).
On June 19, 2006, the Carolina Hurricanes, a National Hockey League (NHL) franchise based in Raleigh, won the Stanley Cup. The Hurricanes, who call the RBC Center home, are the first professional sports team from North Carolina to win their sport's highest championship. The National Football League (NFL) is represented by the Carolina Panthers, who began play in 1995, and call Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium home. In 2004, the NBA returned to the state with the Charlotte Bobcats who play their home games in Time Warner Cable Arena. The Carolina RailHawks are a men's professional soccer team in the United Soccer Leagues, and their home field is the WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary. The American Indoor Football Association (AIFA) is represented by the Fayetteville Guard who plays at Crown Coliseum. North Carolina was home to the Charlotte Rage and the Carolina Cobras of the Arena Football League.
The state is also a center of American motorsports, with more than 80% of NASCAR racing teams and related industries located in the Piedmont region. The largest race track in North Carolina is Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord where the Sprint Cup Series holds three major races each year. The NASCAR Hall of Fame, located in Charlotte, is due to open in 2010. Many of NASCAR's most famous driver dynasties, the Pettys, Earnhardts, Allisons, Jarretts and Waltrips all live within an hour of Charlotte.
In off-road motocycle racing, the Grand National Cross Country series makes two stops in North Carolina, Morganton and Yadkinville; the only other state to host two GNCC events is Ohio. For sport amateurs, the state holds the State Games of North Carolina each year.
From the 1930s to the early 1990s, the Mid Atlantic Championship Wrestling professional wrestling promotion, under the Crockett family, operated almost entirely out of Charlotte. Mid Atlantic was a long-time member of the National Wrestling Alliance and many of their top stars appeared on national television on NWA and later WCW events. Many retired or still-current wrestlers live in the Charlotte/Lake Norman area, including Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, Matt and Jeff Hardy, Stan Lane, and Shannon Moore.
North Carolina has become a hot bed for professional bull riding (PBR). It is the home of the 1995 PRCA World Champion Bull Rider Jerome Davis. It is also home to several professional stock contractors and bull owners including Thomas Teague of Teague Bucking Bulls. The Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association SEBRA headquarters are located in Archdale.
North Carolina is a state known for minor league sports, notably the setting of the 1987 comedy Bull Durham about the Durham Bulls of the Carolina League. The state boasts over 30 minor league baseball teams in six different minor leagues, including the Triple-A International League teams in Charlotte and Durham. There is a number of indoor football, indoor soccer, minor league basketball, and minor league ice hockey teams throughout the state. North Carolina has become a top golf destination for players across the nation, notably in Pinehurst, and the community of Southern Pines of Moore County which is home to over 50 golf courses.
Although North Carolina did not have a major-league professional sports franchise until the 1980s, the state has long been known as a hotbed of college basketball. Since the formation of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in 1953, the conference's North Carolina member schools have excelled in conference play. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), Duke University, and North Carolina State University are all located within of one another, creating fierce rivalries. Wake Forest University, another ACC member, is located less than to the west of these schools in Winston-Salem. UNC has won four NCAA national championships in basketball, Duke has won three NCAA championships, and NC State has won two. The Duke-UNC basketball rivalry has been called one of the best rivalries in college sports, and the two schools are often contenders for the national title. In addition to the ACC schools, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte went to the NCAA's Final Four in 1977, and Davidson College near Charlotte went to the NCAA's "Elite Eight" in 1968, 1969, and 2008. In 2007 Barton College in Wilson won the NCAA Division II championship in men's basketball. Although basketball remains the dominant college sport in North Carolina, several schools have also enjoyed success in football and other sports. In 2005, 2006, and 2007 Appalachian State University won the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision championship; they are the first university to win the Division I Football Championship Subdivision championship three times in a row. Furthermore, Wake Forest University won a total of twenty NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision games over the 2006 and 2007 seasons, to include the 2006 ACC Championship Game and the 2007 Meineke Car Care Bowl. The Demon Deacons also participated in the 2007 Orange Bowl. This was the first major bowl berth for a North Carolina-based team since Duke defeated Arkansas in the 1961 Cotton Bowl (game).
Due to geography, rich history, and growing industry, North Carolina provides a large range of recreational activities from swimming at the beach to skiing in the mountains. North Carolina offers fall colors, freshwater and saltwater fishing, hunting, birdwatching, agritourism, ATV trails, ballooning, rock climbing, biking, hiking, skiing, boating and sailing, camping, canoeing, caving (spelunking), gardens, and arboretums. North Carolina has theme parks, aquariums, zoos, museums, historic sites, lighthouses, elegant theaters, concert halls, and fine dining.
North Carolina is the birthplace of Pepsi-Cola, first produced in 1890 in New Bern. Regional soft drinks created and still based in the state are Sun Drop and Cheerwine. Krispy Kreme, a popular chain of doughnut stores, was started in North Carolina; the company's headquarters are in Winston-Salem. Despite its name, the hot sauce Texas Pete was created in North Carolina; its headquarters are also in Winston-Salem. The Hardees fast-food chain was started in Rocky Mount. Another fast-food chain, Bojangles', was started in Charlotte, and has its corporate headquarters there. A popular North Carolina restaurant chain is Golden Corral. Started in 1973, the chain was founded in Fayetteville. Popular pickle brand Mount Olive Pickle Company was founded in Mount Olive in 1926. Cook Out, a popular fast food chain featuring burgers, hot dogs, and milkshakes in a wide variety of flavors, was founded in Greensboro in 1989 and operates exclusively in North Carolina.