Roy Arthur Taylor – Class of 1929

Formed in 1927 as a two year college, Buncombe County Junior College only had one class graduate during the roaring twenties.

Very little archival evidence of that first graduating class of 1929 exists, the most notable document being program from that first commencement. The program lists 29 graduates, with the majority of these being women.

However, the person chosen to be the speaker for the class of 1929 was Roy Taylor, one of the few men graduating that day. Talking with Chancellor William Highsmith in 1984, Taylor thought that being part of the college debate team led to his selection.

1929 Commencment
Part of the 1929 Commencement Program of Buncombe County Junior College [RA77.15]
To illustrate what life was like in those first two years in the life of the college, Taylor read some of his 1929 speech to Highsmith:

“Two years ago we gathered here as the first class of Buncombe County Junior College, an institution organized and supported by the citizens of Buncombe County who saw the need for furthering the process of home education.

The county, which was already in debt, was unable to support us with the modern college needs. They secured the necessary faculty members, they obtained rough rooms on the first floor of this high school building, and they left the rest to us.

Nothing was provided for athletic equipment or a coach, and we wanted both. We were determined to have a football team, a team that we were not ashamed of. We had our team, but to do it we had to go in debt $1000 during the first month of the life of our college. We wanted a school paper, and we went in debt to get it.

In various ways we had to overcome the law of inertia and play the part of pioneers in getting started.”

Taylor described how students sold season tickets, charged admission to games, had carnivals and pancake suppers, and accepted donations, enabling them to raise over $2000 in the  two years that he was at Buncombe County Junior College. In turn, this meant that the college had winning football and girls’ basketball teams – although the boys’ basketball team was not so successful – a quality literary magazine called Bluets, a literary society, and a student council.

In addition to lack of funds, the college faced other adversities. It was a very small college – only 85 students enrolled in 1927. So, although a football team formed in the fall of 1927, there were only 16 to 18 in the squad, meaning they couldn’t practice a scrimmage. Nonetheless, the $1000 debt Taylor referred in his class address does seem to have enabled the team to have a uniform.

Taylor was not native to North Carolina, having been born in Vader, Washington on January 31, 1910. However, not long after his birth, the family moved to Buncombe County, and Taylor was educated in the county’s public schools.

After Buncombe County Junior College, Taylor attended Maryville College in Tennessee. He told Highsmith that he always wanted to be a lawyer, but did think about training to be a teacher. However, whilst he was studying law at Asheville University Law School, he did teach at Black Mountain High School. After getting his J.D., he became a lawyer in private practice in Asheville.

After serving in the US Navy from 1943-1946, Taylor entered politics, and was elected to the North Carolina General Assembly in 1947.

During his time in the state legislature, Taylor helped drive the initiative leading to the 1957 Community College Act. His old alma mater, now Asheville-Biltmore College, subsequently became the first community college in North Carolina, an event that he told Highsmith was key to the college’s long term survival as it meant Asheville-Biltmore received state funding.

In the spring of 1960, North Carolina Congressman David M. Hall died while in office, and Taylor was elected to take his place. Taylor served out the term as the 12th District Representative, and was elected for eight Congresses after that as the 11th District Representative. In total, he was in the House of Representatives from June 25, 1960 until January 3, 1977, and he served on the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee, and was chairman of the National Parks and Recreation Subcommittee.

JFK and Roy Taylor
Roy Taylor and President John F. Kennedy, when the President signed Taylor’s Bill proposing a study on extending the Blue Ridge Parkway into Georgia, 1961 [RA77.15]
In recognition of his contribution to interior affairs, part of the Nantahala National Forest in Jackson County is named for Roy A. Taylor.

Despite his involvement in national politics, Taylor still had time for his former college.

In 1947, he had been named president of the alumni association, and in 1966 was part of the alumni association reorganization committee, ensuring the organization would meet the needs of a senior college, which Asheville-Biltmore had recently become.

Campus Crier, November 1947 [University Archives]
The Community College Act necessitated a change in how Asheville-Biltmore was governed. A new board of trustees was created in 1958, and Taylor was elected vice-chairman. Later that year, he was one of the first board members to view a proposed new site for the college in north Asheville, and was thus a key figure in UNC Asheville being located on its current campus.

Taylor also played a key role in the Southeastern Forest Experiment Station being located on the UNC Asheville campus, and, in 1980, was part of the groundbreaking ceremony for the station

SFES Groundbreaking 1980
The Paper, February 1980 [University Arvhives]
After he retired from Congress, Taylor started sponsorship for a public speaking contest at the UNC Asheville, and the income from the grant he donated is used for the Roy A. Taylor Public Speaking Contest, offering cash prizes to students.

In 1986, the UNC Asheville recognized Taylor’s contribution to the university when he was one of the first three people to be presented with an honorary degree.

As further recognition of Taylor’s service, each year the university presents the Roy A. Taylor Distinguished Alumnus or Alumna Award, UNC Asheville’s highest alumni award.

Roy Taylor died on March 2, 1995.

 

  • Colin Reeve, Special Collections

Bluets – A Literary Magazine

1929 flyleaf
Flyleaf, Bluets 1929

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.

Bluets, May 1933
Bluets, Spring 1929

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Bluets May 1942
Editorial. Bluets, May 1942
In Memoriam, 1944
Former Students and an Instructor are Remembered, Bluets, January 1944

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, 1944
From Bluets, January 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.

Wilma Dykeman, 1937
From Bluets, January 1937

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.

Dykeman, 1938
From Bluets, May 1938

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.

  • Colin Reeve, Special Collections