Bluets, the first campus literary magazine, was first published in 1929, just two years after Asheville Biltmore College (UNCA’s predecessor) was founded. Over the next 90 years the campus literary magazine would go through several name changes and transformations, finally becoming Headwatersin 1997, the name it retains today.
A new exhibit on the history of UNCA’s literary magazine heritage is now in the display cabinets outside of the Special Collections and University Archives reading room on the top floor of Ramsey Library. Curated by Headwaters co-editors Morgan Fuller and Matthew Maffei in conjunction with University Archives, the exhibit includes 36 different issues from 90 years’ of UNCA’s literary magazines.
The exhibit documents the name changes our literary magazine has had over the years, including Bluets, Images, Fury, The Rag & Bone Shop, Headwaters, plus a few one-time literary publications.
The exhibit also includes free copies of recent issues of Headwaters, so stop by, take in a little UNCA literary history, and pick up a recent copy of Headwaters.
All previous issues of Headwaters, Bluets, and UNCA’s other literary magazines are available to read in Special Collections/University Archives.
It is not known exactly when the first student newspaper was published by the predecessors of UNC Asheville. In his speech to the Class of 1929, Roy Taylor mentioned a school paper, so clearly publication started within two years of the creation of Buncombe County Junior College.
The earliest edition in the University Archives is a photocopy of the May 1930 edition of TheHighlander, which was, “Published by the students of Buncombe County Junior College [and] founded by the Class of ’29.” This edition is identified as Vol. II No. 8, suggesting a monthly publication, with Vol 1 No. 1 appearing sometime during the 1928/29 academic year, which would align with Taylor’s remarks.
The first original newspaper in the Archives is TheHighlander dated May 1935, which is confusingly identified as Vol. 1 No.2. Since, Vol.1 nos. 3 and 4 are also in the Archives, and are respectively dated March 1935, and April 1935, the paper still seems to be a monthly publication, but the reason for reverting to Vol. 1, or even if a paper was published between 1930 and 1935, is not known.
The Archives have a further editions of TheHighlander through to May 21, 1938, and from the volume and issue numbers, it seems likely the paper was published sporadically. These editions reveal the paper contained college news, letters to the editor, gossip, poems, and advertisements from local businesses.
Previous blogs have described how the 1940s were lean years for Asheville-Biltmore College, and lack of students and funding may explain why the next newspaper in the Archives is from October 17, 1947. This is Vol.1 No.1 of a newspaper, “published twice monthly by the Journalism class of Asheville-Biltmore College”. It was also a newspaper without a name, appearing under the banner of, ? Asheville-Biltmore ?, but included details of a contest to name the “school scandal sheet.”
There is no record who won the naming contest, but the newspaper was called The Campus Crier by November 1, 1947 when Vol. 1 No.2 was issued.
TheCampus Crier continued through to the 1960s. The last edition in the Archives is Volume XV-R1 Number 2, dated November 1961, with the volume numbers suggesting the paper had been published regularly since 1947. Although in 1961 TheCampus Crier was still being published by journalism students, it had seen numerous changes since 1947. These included both the size and quality of the paper, the number of pages, and the inclusion, or not, of photographs, perhaps all a reflection of the college’s financial wellbeing at any given time.
Throughout its run however, TheCampus Crier was still internally focused with college news, editorials, and letters, supplemented by the local business advertisements.
Chronologically, the next newspaper in the Archives is Vol. 1 No.1 of TheRidgerunner, dated September 27, 1965. Again, it is unclear if this four year gap is due to missing copies, or because no paper was published.
Unlike TheCampus Crier, TheRidgerunner was published by the student union, but initially it still followed the same college focused editorial style of its predecessor. However, the content soon expanded to include local and national news, record and movie reviews, and political commentary.
The last Ridgerunner in the Archives is dated February 2, 1979. Again it is unclear is this was the last issue or just the last one archived, but on February 28, 1979, Vol. 1 No. 1 of The Rag & Bone Shop was published.
This was much more of a literary paper than a newspaper, with early issues having an address c/o The Ridgerunner, as though, initially at least, it was meant to supplement, rather than replace, TheRidgerunner. By the fall of 1979, the content had become news than literary but, by 1982, it changed once again, becoming much more a glossy literary journal that was published monthly.
In addition to being unsure of its content, the publication also seemed unsure of its name, with “Shop” disappearing from, and then returning to, the title.
TheRag & Bone Shop ended in controversy. The April 1982 edition featured a drawing of a crucified Easter bunny on the front cover, leading to protests, including the burning and confiscation of the offending issue. The magazine staff claimed first amendment rights, and produced a further edition in May 1982, but with no one willing to be the next editor, TheRag and Bone Shop ceased publication.
It was replaced by Kaleidoscope, which was first published on September 9, 1982, and marked a return to the weekly news format of TheRidgerunner.
The focus was still campus news and events, supplemented by entertainment reviews and classified advertisements.
The editorial in the first issue explained the name “Kaleidoscope was chosen because it implies something that is constantly changing and showing many different views.” Production of the newspaper was open to any student who wished to participate and it was funded through student fees paid with tuition.
The final Kaleidoscope was Volume IV, Number XIV, dated April 1984. By then, non-campus news formed about half of the items, and there was much greater use of photographs.
However, Kaleidoscope did not disappear, but simply changed its name; on September 5, 1984, TheBlue Banner Volume V, Number 1 was published, with the masthead proclaiming it was “formerly Kaleidoscope” and had been “Serving the Students of the University of North Carolina at Asheville since 1982.”
The newspaper gave several reasons for the name change. Students said kaleidoscope was “hard to spell,” faculty thought the name “artsy…unprofessional,” administrators wanted a name “that better reflected the campus,” and several Asheville businesses were called Kaleidoscope.
But why The Blue Banner?
Apparently because blue was “one of [the] school colors…and banner is a newspaper name that goes well with blue.”
Irrespective of the reason for the name, it still continues, making TheBlue Banner the longest lasting running title of all student newspapers at UNC Asheville and its predecessors.
However, the name is about the only constant at the newspaper over the last thirty-four years. Page sizes and layouts have changed, and changed back, color images and type have replaced black and white, the paper is published online as well as print, and social issues have a much higher profile than they did in the 1980s.
Throughout its existence, the quality of journalism featured in TheBlue Banner has been frequently recognized and praised. The most recent example being in February 2017, when the newspaper earned six awards at the N.C. College Media Association’s conference.
Colin Reeve, Special Collections
The above is a brief summary of “official” student newspapers. “Unofficial” publications have included The Scholastic Screamer and the UNC-A Free Press, whilst publications such as ThePaper and Bulldog Barker were published by university administration rather than the student body.
Digitized copies of most archived newspapers through to 2015 are available online at DigitalNC
The University Archives would like copies of editions of university newspapers that are not currently in the Archives. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a “missing” edition
A directive by Virginia Bryan for students in her literature class at Buncombe County Junior College to write their own philosophies in verse, prose, play, or editorial, resulted in two creations that are still evident at UNC Asheville today. The first was a Creative Writing course being added to the curriculum, the second was a literary magazine to publish the students’ work.
Bluets, was first published, we believe, in the spring of 1929, and initially contained mostly poetry. Indeed, its name, which had been chosen in a contest, came from a poem by John Charles McNeill, that was included on the flyleaf of early editions. Writing in 1977, Virginia Bryan recalled how the first edition was produced with “much encouragement and no money,” and that students “secured a few ads to pay for early publications.” In the first edition, these ads were for a life insurance company, three cafes, a Chinese restaurant, and a shirt shop.
The content soon expanded beyond poetry to include editorial comment, stories, book reviews, biographical sketches, articles about local places (e.g. Biltmore Estate, and Grove Park Inn), and interviews by the students with people such as Thomas Wolfe’s sister, and the wife of O. Henry.
Although initially described as a “Literary Magazine”, in 1935, Bluets began to be described as, “A Literary Magazine Dedicated to the Expression of Progressive Undergraduate Opinion,” probably to reflect the expanded content.
Until 1944, the cover art of each edition was different, with designs often being developed from ideas in the Creative Writing class.
Editions published during World War II included tributes to students killed in action, and, not surprisingly, wartime articles generally took on a more somber tone.
Any student at the college could submit work for inclusion, and the editorial board would decide which to accept or reject.
Many of the students who had work published, would go on to make a name for themselves after leaving college, and not always in the field of literature. For example, the first edition of Bluets included work by Gordon Greenwood who, among many other civic contributions, served in the NC House and on the board of UNC Asheville. Another contributor was Dorothy Post, who provided works to the magazine and served as Associate Editor in the mid-1930s. She subsequently trained as a pilot and was a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots during WWII. Post later wrote several books, and other Bluets literary alums include Gertrude Ramsey, who became society editor of the Asheville Citizen-Times, and writer John Ehle Jr., whose poetry and prose was published in Bluets in 1944.
Ehle was awarded an honorary degree by UNC Asheville in 1987. Appropriately, that same year, Virginia Bryan Schreiber also received an honorary degree. Ten years later, in 1997, an honorary degree was awarded to, arguably, the locally best known Bluets author, Wilma Dykeman Stokely.
During 1937 and 1938, Wilma Dykeman wrote poetry and prose for Bluets, and served as co-editor. After graduating from Asheville-Biltmore College, she went on to write radio scripts, short stories, magazine articles, and books, including The French Broad and The Tall Woman. In 1985, she received the North Carolina Award for Literature, an award that, in 1972, had also been bestowed on John Ehle.
With such talented contributors, it is no wonder that Bluets won many awards, including numerous first place certificates from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association.
The last copy of Bluets in the archives is dated fall 1962. In The University of North Carolina at Asheville: The First Sixty Years, William Highsmith wrote that “the faculty had decided to discontinue [Bluets] because of its junior college overtones” and, “in May 1967, the first copy of Images was published.” The latter comment seems incorrect however, as there are materials in the archives that indicate Images was first published in the spring of 1964.
Images was described as “The Fine Arts Magazine of Asheville-Biltmore College,” and combined artwork with poetry and short stories. It was published until the late 1970s, (The archives has copies up to 1977), before being followed by several short-lived publications, such as Fury, The Seventh Veil, and Alchemy of the Muse.
Since the late 1990s, Headwaters has been the creative arts magazine of UNC Asheville, and it is published annually.
The 1960s were a time of change, culturally, politically, and musically. The decade also saw great changes at Asheville-Biltmore College. An address at the Graduation Exercises on June 7, 1969, thought to have been given by Manley E. Wright, chair of the Board of Trustees, reflected on the changes which had taken place over the previous six years:
Changing from a two-year to a four-year college, “on the basis that there was need for an institution in the mountains which would occupy a unique place in the state systems of higher education”. An institution “stressing quality, emphasizing independent responsibility on the part of students, and stimulating the creative energies of all through effective participation”, and which subsequently gained accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Moving from a “college [that] had 500 students and a faculty composed mostly of part-time teachers from the community”, to one having “a faculty which would support our aims and purposes and….develop the curriculum, the library, and the entire institutional program.” The speaker also noted that “many of the professors came here with little more assurance than a hope that a fine program would emerge”. (In the fall of 1969, enrollment was 700 full time students, and 215 part-time. Around 40% of the 65 faculty listed in the 1969-70 catalog had doctorates.)
Building “a maintenance building, physical education building, [which was about to be doubled in size], a student center, a library, a building for the humanities, and a dormitory village”.
The “village” was Governors Dormitory Village which opened in August 1967 with seven buildings, each named for a governor who was either from Western North Carolina, or advanced higher education in the state.
In The University of North Carolina at Asheville: The First Sixty Years, William Highsmith wrote that it was the students who had played a part in the dorms being constructed, starting a campaign for their construction to “create a more collegiate atmosphere and provide for students from other areas”. Part of the student campaign was collecting “ten thousand signatures on a petition asking the General Assembly to approve the [dormitory] construction”. (The petition was returned to the college, and is now in the university archives. The number of signatures has not been verified.)
In The First Sixty Years Highsmith also wrote that on a cold night in early 1964, “a few of the hardier students erected tents on the quadrangle near the flagpole” and spent the night there, to call attention to the lack of dormitories.
But it was not just the students. In his President’s Report for 1963-4, Highsmith wrote that the college had a program to “move us into the front rank of liberal arts colleges of this area”. He went on to say that this would not happen if it served only the students of “a restricted and low population area”, and dorms “would not be aimed at eliminating local students but….provide a far richer experience for all students.”
Of the seven buildings in the dormitory village, three were men’s halls, three, women’s halls, and one, served as Social Center and also housed a dispensary. Circa 1968, room rent was $85 per 10-week term, plus a $5 health fee, and a $7 linen fee. Draperies and a linen service were provided but “necessities”, to be provided by students, included blankets, hand towels, pillow, wash cloths, laundry bag and bedspread, the latter “preferably purchased after [the student was] in residence”. A typewriter, radio, record player, iron, shoe rack, alarm clock, ash trays, metal waste basket, and rug (2 x 4 washable) were all identified as “optional”.
The rules for drinking alcohol in the dorms seem to have been different for each gender. An undated list of regulations for the men’s dorms listed six typed rules and two added in pencil. These restricted open carry outside dorms, drinking in the suite living room, and included a responsibility to keep the grounds clean, with possible suspension of drinking rights for infractions of the rules.
Meanwhile, in May 1968, the women’s dorms held a secret ballot to see if beer and wine should be allowed in the dormitories at all. Thirty-three voted in favor, with twenty-two opposed, but the rules proposed for the women were much stringent than those imposed on the men. For example, women under the age of twenty-one were to get their parent’s permission to drink (the minimum legal age to drink was eighteen then), and when the student was “transporting her purchase from the parking lot to her dormitory, she must use the proper receptacle provided by the grocery store so that her purchase is at all times concealed and known only to herself.” Furtiveness was also inferred by other rules mandating that beer cans and/or wine bottles only be disposed of in the trash cans “at the bottom of the stairs in each dormitory,” and beer cans and/or wine bottles “could not be stored on the window sills in individual bedrooms”.
It needs to be stated that the proposed rules were drawn up by the women themselves, and in presenting the ballot results and proposed rules to the Dean of Women, the (female) Chairman of the Inter-Dormitory Council showed, what could be described as, lukewarm enthusiasm for allowing alcohol; her memo identifying that those opposed were “unquestionably a proportionately large percentage”, and questioning if the women would obey any regulations anyway as, “the very few rules we have at the present time are, in many in instances, neither heeded nor enforced.”
Visiting hours were also different for the sexes. Although men and women could have visitors Friday evening until curfew, and also during set hours on Saturday and Sunday, the men were allowed additional visiting hours between 7pm and 10pm on Wednesdays. Why these extra hours were needed is not recorded.
There is however a record of a request from Moore dorm, that they be allowed the basement of Scott dorm for a rec room. This would then allow the basement suite the basement of Moore to be used “for boys to wait on their dates.”
No other dorms appear have made a similar request.
The dormitory options continued to expand, with two additional halls, Hoey and Ashe, being added to Governors Village in 1969, whilst Swain, Aycock and Craig Halls were torn down in 2002 to make way for Governors Hall.
In 2011, the remaining five halls in Governors Village were renovated and, along with five other residence halls, they still provide accommodation for UNC Asheville students.
Fifty-six years ago, on the afternoon of October 8, 1961, Asheville-Biltmore College dedicated its new campus and buildings in North Asheville. The plural of buildings was just about correct, as the college did comprise two buildings: The Administration Building (now Phillips Hall) which was also the temporary home of the library, and the Science Building (now part of Rhodes-Robinson Hall), with classrooms and laboratories.
The purchase of the land for the new campus, and construction of the two buildings had been funded through a 1958 bond issue of $500,000, which had originally been intended to improve and expand the Sunset Mountain (Seely’s Castle) campus. However, when the opportunity arose for the college to obtain land in North Asheville, the funds were used to move the college to its present location.
The 1958 bond issue had not been without some controversy. Although there was general support in favor of the bond issue, there was disapproval from some members of the African-American community. In 1958, Asheville-Biltmore was still an all-white college, and, when the trustees announced plans for the bond issue, they also revealed their intentions to continue segregation of the campus. This drew opposition from the Asheville branch of the NAACP, and the Asheville-Buncombe County Citizen’s Organization, who argued that “segregation is dead”, and consequently did not support the bond issue. However, despite this opposition, the bond issue won three-to-one approval, and even precincts with a high proportion of African-Americans voted in favor by substantial majorities.
Clearly two buildings were not going to be sufficient for the college’s immediate needs, never mind any future growth, so, throughout 1960, the Board of Trustees reviewed plans for additional buildings, and how to pay for them. At the November 1960 trustees meeting, a resolution that funds be raised through a bond issued and a tax levy was approved, with the trustees stating, “the further progress, growth, and service of the College will be greatly hampered unless additional educational buildings are constructed and equipped”.
Subsequently, in February 1961, a special county-wide election was held, with voters being asked to decide on two issues:
A $750,000 bond issue (with matching state funds) to construct five additional buildings
A tax levy to pay the college operating costs, again with matching funds from the state
Campaign committees were organized in the city and county, and a speakers bureau created, with speakers appearing before civic organizations and PTAs to outline the need for additional funding, and the benefits that an expanded college would bring to Asheville and Buncombe County. Many letters supporting the bond issue were printed in the Asheville newspapers and, in an editorial, the Asheville Citizen supported the bond request “with confidence and enthusiasm”.
Unlike 1958, there is no record of any opposition to the bond issue from the African-American community. This may well have been because the college already had plans to integrate; the first two African-American students enrolled at Asheville-Biltmore in the fall of 1961, so it seems likely that this opportunity would have been known in February.
A key part of the bond campaign was emphasizing the affordability of Asheville-Biltmore. Campaigners highlighted that tuition at the college cost $245 per year, compared to approximately $1,250 at Chapel Hill. Students and parents would be able to achieve this $1,000 saving for “just $4.16 extra per year”, that being the cost of the bond issue and 4% tax to a taxpayer.
The other financial carrot (or possibly stick), was the $250,000 being offered by the state if Asheville-Biltmore could match that amount by March 1, 1961. If they didn’t, the state funds would go to either Charlotte or Wilmington College, or both.
The campaign was a success, and the result was an overwhelming endorsement of Asheville-Biltmore. There were 7200 votes for the bond issue, and only 2713 against, whilst 6345 voted for the additional tax levy, with 2820 opposed.
On the day after the vote, Asheville-Biltmore President Glenn Bushey wrote an editorial in which he described the vote as “giant step forward” for the citizens of Asheville and Buncombe County. He went on to say, “All too often, the Southeast is regarded as lagging behind other areas of the country in extending the benefits of education. It may be true that we cannot afford as much. But this vote has demonstrated that we do believe in education and will support it to the best of our ability”.
Within a few months of the October 1961 dedication, work was underway to construct the library, a maintenance building (since demolished), the student union building (now Lipinsky Hall), and physical education building (now the Justice Center).
In October 1997, UNC Asheville celebrated its 70th anniversary with the first Founders Day, described by Founders Day committee chair Arnold Wengrow as, “a tribute to the pioneering students, staff and faculty of UNCA, and its predecessor institutions”. One pioneer that received special recognition on that first Founders Day was Glenn L. Bushey, president of Asheville-Biltmore College from 1947 to 1962.
Dr. Bushey was honored by a bench and terrace area near Founders Hall being dedicated to him and, in January 1998, Bushey wrote to Chancellor Patsy Reed, thanking her for the honor bestowed upon him. His letter also included memories of his time in Asheville, and a description of Asheville-Biltmore College when he arrived in September 1947, to “face the greatest challenge of my professional career”.
The challenge included: “securing a permanent campus for the college; improving the library and other academic facilities, especially laboratories; upgrading a dedicated faculty with emphasis on raising the percentage holding graduate degrees; revising the curriculum to more successfully meet the needs of undergraduates as well as the business and professional needs of the community; instituting more effective admissions and counseling programs; expanding the public relations activities; developing adequate financial resources including increased local support and securing state aid; and attaining regional accreditation”.
Bushey described the task as “formidable”, which seems like an understatement, especially when you realize that the college was perennially in dire financial straits, and in 1947 was “receiving only about $5,000 from outside sources”. The previous blog mentioned how the lack of money created a mythology about the college, and Glenn Bushey echoed that, writing how “marvelous cooperation from…trustees, faculty, students, alumni, county and city officials, business and professional groups, the media, and the general public” ensured that “brighter days appeared” for the college.
One innovation that helped improved the financial situation was the establishment of an evening college, which not only allowed the college to provide programs for many sections of the community, but was also a boon to WWII veterans wanting to take advantage of the GI Bill. In a letter written in March 1998 to Tom Byers, then Special Assistant to the Chancellor, Dr. Bushey said that the evening classes put more emphasis on adult education, and that this was broadened by offering classes to benefit employees of specific firms, such as American Enka, Dave Steel, and the National Weather Records Center, as well as law enforcement officers of Asheville and Buncombe County.
The first item on Bushey’s list of challenges, “Securing a permanent campus”, was achieved in 1949, when Asheville-Biltmore moved to Overlook (aka Seely’s) Castle on Sunset Mountain. Bushey recalled how, after initially securing larger gifts, the fund raising campaign then contacted the general public in a concentrated three day effort, with no gift being seen as too small.
In his letter to Tom Byers, Bushey described the fund raising to purchase the castle as a “milestone”, and something that generated a feeling that Asheville-Biltmore was the community’s college.
A strengthened academic program and a permanent home contributed to the college being able to attain regional accreditation, which further increased its base of support. Support that was was to prove important in subsequent bond campaigns by the college and, more importantly, in the attainment of 4-year college status and acceptance into the UNC system.
In his letter to Chancellor Reed, Bushey wrote that his time at Asheville-Biltmore was “one of the most exciting a rewarding experiences of my life”, and acknowledged students, alumni, faculty and community members who “were almost like family”. Among those he identified for praise was A. C. Reynolds, “the founder of the college…an able administrator with remarkable vision”.
He closed his letter by writing, “It is most gratifying to me to have lived long enough to witness a very small college which struggled for existence for more than twenty years after its founding develop into a great university. This I view of somewhat of an educational miracle”.
In 1998, UNC Asheville further recognized Glenn Bushey’s part in founding the “miracle” by awarding him an honorary doctor of humane letters.
Dr. Bushey died in Chattanooga, TN on November 16, 2006. He was 101 years old.
UNC Asheville can trace its roots back to 1927, and that same year, Joseph R. (“Joe”) Bly was born in Washington, DC. The Bly family subsequently moved to Asheville and, in 1945, Joe enrolled as a new student at Asheville-Biltmore College. He arrived as the recipient of the A C Reynolds Founders Award Scholarship which, as he recalled in a 1984 interview with former Chancellor Bill Highsmith, was worth $50, and for that he was expected to sweep the library, help paint the typing room, and haul cinders for the driveway!
Bly had been class president at Haw Creek High School, and through this role had been identified for the scholarship by Mary Cordell Nesbitt. (Nesbitt was herself an alum of the college having graduated, as Mary Cordell, from Buncombe County Junior College in 1930. She would go on to serve in the NC House of Representatives.) As he would later tell Highsmith, Bly’s family had little money, so the scholarship ensured that he could continue his education and he would not be “consigned to manual labor”.
At the time Joe Bly enrolled, the college was located in a former children’s home on Merrimon Avenue, at the corner of Gracelyn Aveune, on the site of what is now Grace Covenant Presbyterian church, and was already well known in the local community.
It had established a solid reputation for drama and for English (especially through Bluets, its award winning literary magazine), but as was the case for much of its life, the college was short of money. However, rather than seeing lack of money being a negative, Bly told Highsmith that it actually pulled the students together, and created what he described as a “mythology” about the college. Around the time Bly started at Asheville-Biltmore, the college’s enrollment and, more importantly, its income were starting to be boosted by servicemen (and they were mainly men) returning from WWII. Many of the ex GI’s were part of a Refresher Class, “aimed at the student who had been out of college for quite some time…to prepare the student…for full admission to the Freshman class of college”.
In his final year at Asheville-Biltmore, Joe Bly was president of the Student Council and, as such, was actively involved in events when President Clarence N. Gilbert suddenly left the college. Although Gilbert ostensibly resigned because the trustees had re-elected some faculty members without Gilbert’s recommendation, many thought he had been ousted because he was running against the chairman of the Board of Trustees in a City primary. Certainly the latter scenario is what the students thought, and they organized protests and published flyers in support of Gilbert.
Bly was subsequently asked to meet trustee Martin Nesbitt in Pack Square, where Nesbitt requested that Bly “cool things down”. As Bly somewhat wryly noted to Bill Highsmith, it was probably not a coincidence that the trustee’s representative sent to influence Bly, was the husband of the person who was instrumental in obtaining the scholarship that had got him to Asheville-Biltmore.
After graduating from Asheville-Biltmore in 1947, Joe Bly worked for the Post Office. By 1973 he was manager of manpower development for western North Carolina, responsible for developing a program for pre-supervisory training in postal management. For this he decided to take some classes at UNC Asheville, and he “got the student bug again”. So although he initially only planned to take a few management classes to help his career, and set an example for postal employees, (“If they could go to school at night, I could go to school at night”), with no real intention to graduate, in May 1977 Joseph Raymond Bly did graduate from UNC Asheville with a BS and a Distinction in Management.
After graduating (for the second time), Bly went on to manage the downtown post office in Asheville.
Although this post is essentially about Joe Bly’s connection to UNC Asheville, it would be remiss not to briefly mention his other “careers”. For many years he was emcee for Asheville’s Mountain Dance and Folk Festival and Shindig on the Green, he was also manager of the Blue Ridge Mountain Dancers, and he was a long time ambassador for the arts, culture and music of North Carolina.
Standing in the front row of the photo of 1930 graduates of Buncombe County Junior College is a young man named Gordon Greenwood. He is the rightmost of the three boys, and at the time would have been almost twenty-one years old, having been born in Black Mountain, NC, on July 3, 1909.
After junior college, Gordon would continue his education at the University of Illinois (where he got a degree in journalism), and the University of London. He would serve as a psychologist in the US Army during WWII, marry his wife Garnet after the war, and they would then own and operate the Black Mountain News for over twenty years. He would be director of admissions and assistant to the president at Montreat College, an assistant professor of journalism at Boston University, and serve on the board of both Asheville-Buncombe County Technical College and UNC Asheville, as well as giving service to numerous civic, business and veterans organizations. If all that wasn’t enough, he served as a member of the NC House of Representatives from 1959 to 1966, and from 1972 to 1992, introducing the bill that created the State’s community college system. After his death on February 16, 1997, the NC Senate passed a joint resolution honoring the life and memory of Gordon Hicks Greenwood, and in doing so, provided the basis for this brief biography.
But what about the junior college student that would go on to do all these things? What do we know about him? The answer is quite a bit, thanks to materials in the university archives.
By their very nature, the university archives are more institutional than personal, but among the few personal items that we have are two small scrapbooks created by Gordon Greenwood when he was a student, that give not only an insight into Gordon’s time at Buncombe County Junior College, but also background on the college itself.
Many of the clippings in the scrapbook cover athletics games, for both Buncombe County Junior, and Barnardsville High School, which Greenwood attended prior to college. From these clippings we learn that Gordon excelled at football but also played basketball and baseball for the college. Given the size of the student body, the 1930 class had only around 70 graduates, one can image that anyone with a semblance of skills would be drafted to play, but Gordon does seem to have genuine skills, especially at football. He was also a young man who clearly loved to see his name in the paper, to the extent that he underlined the passages that mentioned him, even if they were slightly derogatory, such as the one shown above where he was described as “the rolly-poly guard”. Presumably by the time he became a Representative he had stopped underlining items about himself, but you never know.
The clippings also tell us that the college, only in the third year or so of its life, held its own in the sporting arenas, and that local rivalries had already been established. But the clippings also reveal some things about the name of the college. In The University of North Carolina at Asheville: the First Sixty Years, William Highsmith wrote that the name change from Buncombe County Junior College to Biltmore Junior College occurred in 1930, a statement seemingly borne out by the invitation to the 1930 commencement exercises being issued under the Buncombe County Junior College nomenclature.
However, many of the clippings and documents in Gordon Greenwood’s scrapbooks refer to Biltmore Junior College prior to 1930, and as shown below, the 1929 football schedule is for Biltmore Junior College, and not Buncombe County Junior College. Why is something of a mystery.
In August 1984, Bill Highsmith interviewed Gordon Greenwood as part of a series of recordings forming an oral history of the university. They talked about Gordon’s time at the college, including how he traveled from Grace, where he lived, on the streetcar, before walking to final mile and a half to the college. (The special school fare was a nickel a day, substantially more than college fees, which at the time were free.) Highsmith also asked about the college name, and Greenwood thought that the name changed after he graduated (as the invitation shown above would suggest) but that his class ring, which he got at graduation, was from Biltmore Junior College. He also noted that sports stories, as his scrapbooks confirm, used Biltmore Junior College. All very mysterious.
One item that might clarify things, or not, would be a 1930 diploma, but unfortunately we do not have one of those, or even a commencement program from 1930, in the archives so the mystery of the name change continues.
In 1985, Chancellor David Brown established the Chancellor’s Medallion with a replica of the Medallion being given each year to an individual whose life and service have “demonstrated the deepest commitment to the enhancement of UNC Asheville”.
Gordon Greenwood received the Chancellor’s Medallion in May 1986, and in November 1986, the new university playing field complex was dedicated as the Gordon H. Greenwood Recreational Fields. Why that was should not be a mystery.