UNCW began as Wilmington College on September 4, 1947. It initially offered freshmen-level courses to 238 students and had 17 faculty members at the Isaac Bear Elementary School Building on Market Street. Post World War II veterans covered by the GI Bill made up 75% of the first class and it operated as a two-year college under the control of the New Hanover County Board of Education. Wilmington is very deep in history and having a college that's grown into a top notch university started by veterans returning from World War II only adds to that history.
HOW WILMINGTON WAS FORMED
The first European to view the area was when Giovanni da Verrazano born in Italy came in 1524 for France. He encountered sporadic Native Americans and they attempted settlements. Over one hundred years later the British were the first to be successful in settling the land. The city originally was named "New Carthage" before being called "Liverpool", "New Town", and "Newton" before being called "Wilmington".
The British formed the Province of North Carolina in 1689, which became a state in 1712. A subsection of North Carolina was New Hanover County which was created from Craven County in 1729 as New Hanover Precinct. It was reduced in size when the northern areas of the Precinct were made into Bladen Precinct and Onslow Precinct. All Precincts became counties in North Carolina in 1739.
The city of Wilmington incorporated the same year and was designated as the county seat of government. The city was named for Spencer Compton, the Earl of Wilmington. He served as British Speaker of the House of Commons and eventually as Prime Minister from 1742 until his death in 1743. Although there are towns named in his honor in Delaware, Massachusetts and Vermont, the largest is in North Carolina.
New Hanover County was made smaller in size in 1750 when the northern part was made Duplin County. This happened again 1764 when the southern part of the county combined with Bladen County created Brunswick County.
The American Colonies exhibited strains with the British Crown when they formed the Sons of Liberty to protest the Stamp Act in 1865.
As the move for independence was heating up Wilmington played an important role as a commercial hub and being a major port. There were plenty of outspoken political leaders that opposed the Crown. There were individuals like William Hooper, who was a member of the First Continental Congress and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. And Cornelius Harnett, a member of the Second Continental Congress and later the namesake for Harnett County in North Carolina.
In January 1781 the British captured Wilmington and General Cornwallis set up his headquarters at the Burgwin-Wright House at Third and Market Streets. His horses were stabled across the street at St. James Episcopal Church. Cornwallis left Wilmington on April 25th and had his troops march north where they would eventually be defeated over six months later by General George Washington of the Continental Army in Yorktown, Virginia.
Wilmington stayed occupied as the last major British area in North Carolina. The Crown high command decided to abandon the city once the surrender occurred at Yorktown. The site of the transports ships heading down the river could be seen on November 18, 1781 and shortly thereafter the Continental Army entered the city.
WILMINGTON DISTINGUISHED VISITS
President George Washington would visit Wilmington on April 24, 1791 as part of his Southern Tour. He was escorted into town and welcomed by large crowd where they fired heavy artillery in his honored and he was entertained for three nights. Washington stayed at a home at Front and Dock streets.
The North Carolina Constitution written earlier in 1776 required the state to support public education. That goal was accomplished with the chartering in 1789 of the University of North Carolina as the first public institution of higher learning in the nation. When it opened in 1795 at Chapel Hill, the first student was Hinton James from near Wilmington. He would eventually be elected to the NC General Assembly and mayor of Wilmington. One of the first three buildings on the UNCW campus is named for him.
Wilmington would play a small part in The War of 1812, often called the Second War for Independence against Great Britain. The city was used as a staging area for the local militia or volunteers for the surrounding counties. Britain had the world's largest Navy and they effectively put a blockade on most southern ports. The conflict ended as 1815 began and a Peace Treaty was signed.
President James Monroe visited Wilmington in 1819. He was the fifth president and the reception included reviewing the line of defenses in the area and he brought with him the Secretary of War, John C. Calhoun. They saw the salt works at Wrightsville sound and looked at the harbor. President Monroe stayed at a home at the corner of Chestnut and Mulberry, while Secretary Calhoun was nearby at Third and Market Street.
In 1835 North Carolina replaced their constitution with a new one that among things elected the governor. Edward B. Dudley from Wilmington was the first popularly elected governor in 1836 and his house stands at South Front Street and Nun Street. Governor Dudley hosted many people in his mansion, including former US Congressman and Speaker of the House Henry Clay in 1844. He was accompanied by Congressman Alexander Stephens from Georgia, a man that later became Vice President of The Confederate States of America.
Henry Clay spoke to a large crowd that gathered in Wilmington about his bid for president. James K. Polk, also a former US Congressman and Speaker of the House, was his opponent and narrowly defeated Henry Clay. Despite winning, James K. Polk loss both his birth state of North Carolina and his resident state of Tennessee.
On April 25, 1846 President Polk declared war on Mexico over the territory of Texas and the southern border. Wilmington did not play a large role but North Carolina Governor William A. Graham opposed the Mexican-American War. He raised a regiment as directed but it was politically contentious.
In 1847 Daniel Webster, the former Secretary of State under three presidents, also visited Wilmington and was hosted by Edward B. Dudley. Several Daniel Webster made an unsuccessful attempt to be the Whig Party nomination for president. He received a warm reception in Wilmington and attracted a large audience every time he was out.
The Mexican-American War ended February 3, 1848 and popular Governor Graham later became Secretary of the Navy under President Milliard Fillmore in 1850. He was the nominee for Vice President in 1852 with the Whig Party under the failed bid by Winfield Scott to be president. Before he was governor Graham was the Speaker of the House and later was elected to serve in both the Confederate States Congress and the United States Congress.
President James K. Polk visited Wilmington in 1849 on his way home. The citizens decorated Wilmington in his honor that included bells ringing and artillery firing. He stayed at Front Street and Dock Street.
John C. Calhoun died in 1850, the former Secretary of War who had bolstered the defenses of Wilmington. His funeral party with his remains left Washington on a steamer and board a train at Fredericksburg on to Richmond with a stop in Wilmington. The city leaders closed their businesses to honor Calhoun as his procession boarded a ship to Charleston and his final resting place. As part of the distinct group that led the procession that came to Wilmington was senators Mason of Virginia; Dickinson of New York; Clark of Rhode Island; Berrien of Georgia; Dodge of Iowa; and Jefferson Davis of Mississippi. Ten years later Jefferson Davis would return to Wilmington as president of The Confederate States of America.
In 1854 the President of the U.S. came to Wilmington when Millard Fillmore arrived, staying at a hotel at the corner of Market Street and Front Street. From New York, he heard first hand about the sectional tensions that had continued to grow as he said his priority was the preservation of the Union.
THE WAR BETWEEN THE STATES
The United States was made up of 34 states. The election of 1860 saw Abraham Lincoln win the presidency with 39% of the vote and 18 states. Eleven states in the South including North Carolina supported Breckinridge, three states in the mid Atlantic region were for Bell and Missouri was for Douglas.
Although Lincoln won 180 electoral votes, the nation was divided with over 60% voting against the Illinois congressman. As a result, South Carolina soon seceded. By February of 1861 seven states had formed the Confederate States of America with a capital being in Montgomery, Alabama. Virginia joined the CSA in April, after Lincoln called for volunteers and militia against those in rebellion. North Carolina did not want to fight against Southerners and soon joined the Confederate States with Tennessee soon thereafter to have eleven states. With its own currency, postage and congress, the Confederate government soon Richmond as its new capital. It also had selected Jefferson Davis as President and Alexander Stephens as Vice President.
The Federal states had a population of 22,100,00 while the South had 9,100,000. The army of the north was twice the size with most all the manufacturing there while the South had an advantage of cotton and tobacco. Although slavery around the world and in the northern states was slowly being dismantled, it became an issue to some as well. Many in the Federal states began to oppose slavery, although five states in the north had legal slavery. Lincoln's main objective was the preservation of the Union as evidenced by his quote - "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it". All Confederate States had legal slavery even though the vast majority did not own slaves.
President Davis made his second visit to Wilmington in late May of 1861 when the capital was being moved from Montgomery to Richmond. In July 1861 Vice President Alexander Stephens visited Wilmington.
The Union began to blockade all of the ports, but treacherous waters around the Cape Fear River with the defenses such as Fort Fisher made Wilmington difficult to block. Fort Fisher was often referred to the Gibraltar of the South. On January 4, 1863 President Davis returned to Wilmington and spoke to the troops. He appealed to them for civilized warfare in response to reports of Union atrocities.
Trade experts built fast vessels that could outrun Union ships called blockade runners. The port of Wilmington played a significant role with stops in Bermuda and the Bahamas that would make trade to Europe possible. Wilmington was the largest port opened and since the Confederate States lacked manufacturing, it relied on the cotton and tobacco exchange to get munitions and other supplies.
President Davis returned to Wilmington on November 5, 1863 to inspect the defenses against an invasion. He was the guest of General H.C. Whiting at his residence on Market Street.
Wilmington served as the largest city in North Carolina from 1840 to 1910. Actually it
was the 13th largest city in the South with 9,553 residents in the 1860 census, about the size of Atlanta. It also had the largest number of free blacks in the mix with many employed for their talent as carpenters and masons.
Wilmington served as a vital port to the Confederacy with trains to many areas including Richmond. The city took on an international flavor as sailors around the world descended on Wilmington. The local economy saw the infusion it had not seen before the War. With it came the infection of Yellow Fever that made many sick and took the life of many citizens.
Wilmington resident George Davis served as the Attorney General for the Confederate State of America from the beginning of 1864 until the end of the War. He had been a representative in the Confederate congress and then a senator before being named Attorney General.
General Braxton Bragg assumed command of Wilmington for the Confederate Army in October of 1864 as the Union army gained more C.S.A. territory. The U.S. Navy made several attempts to seize Fort Fisher and attacked it from the land and the sea. Finally a large Federal amphibious invasion of Fort Fisher successfully took place and on February 22, 1865. When the fort fell to the Union, it had been the largest attack by sea ever conducted and stayed that way until 1944.
A month later Wilmington was captured for the remainder of the War. General Robert E. Lee of Confederate States knew that once Fort Fisher was under control of the Federals, and the last major port to close in the Atlantic, his ability to get his troops munitions would soon end. The War soon ended in April of 1865 after Lee's surrender at Appomattox. U.S. President Lincoln was assassinated five days before the end of the War and several wanted to extract revenge. Because most military action was elsewhere, several of the homes and other buildings survived the War.
The military authorities had 15,000 troops stationed all over the city. Former prisoners coupled with those newly freed slaves in the region descended on Wilmington. Union General Sherman had sent many people down from Fayetteville and countless were malnourished. The city was in poor shape financially and food had to be rationed. Doctors were overwhelmed as between twenty and fifty died everyday. As the occupation was winding down came the period of Reconstruction. Wilmington was not immune to the carpetbaggers, scalawags and refugees that took control politically of the city.
In 1868 the North Carolina constitution was rewritten that was a major restructuring and conformed with the Reconstruction Acts that were imposed. With it the state was readmitted into the Union. The economy soon recovered in Wilmington with natural resources using the ports and rails. Cotton, turpentine, wood products, and grains leading to small boons in the 1870's.
On April 28, 1870, Robert E. Lee visited Wilmington as president of Washington College. He had attended West Point and served as Commander-in-Chief in the Confederate Army. He was the guest of George Davis, the Confederate Attorney General and Wilmington resident at Second and Walnut Streets. Citizens flooded the roads and were hanging on to balconies to show their respects.
Those that opposed Reconstruction now controlled the General Assembly. The urban areas typically voted against them so they decided consolidate that vote by creating more counties. In 1875 they carved down New Hanover County again by two-thirds.The land to the north was reduced by 870 square miles and created Pender County. After considering naming the new county for Thomas Jefferson or Alexander Lillington, a Revolutionary patriot, it was named for Confederate Army General Dorsey Pender. New Hanover was now the second smallest county at 192 square miles. By 1911 the counties of Avery, Durham, Hoke, Lee, Vance would be formed giving North Carolina 100 counties.
Reconstruction finally ended with the election of Rutherford B. Hayes as President in 1876. He soon withdrew troops from the South as there was growing tension with
the corruption and fraud that was discovered with Reconstruction. Zebulon Vance, who had been popular as governor in the War, was elected again as governor.
In 1879 the town of Carolina Beach was incorporated as the 2nd municipality in New Hanover County.
In 1883 the area experience a major hurricane that was damaging and saw many deaths from shipwrecks that occurred.
Higher Education benefited from the industrial revolution and the original Morrill Land-Grant Act that sold federal government owned property for agriculture and mechanical colleges. In 1887 the North Carolina General Assembly selected Raleigh that had someone donate land for the campus over Charlotte who had submitted plans to locate the college there.
The North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts was created in Raleigh, later named North Carolina State University and holding their first class in 1889. Since most limited the Morrill Land-Grant Act institutions to only white students, a Second Morrill Act of 1890 was created for black students and established North Carolina Agriculture and Technology College, later called North Carolina A & T State University. The cities of Durham, Greensboro, Mebane, Raleigh, Winston-Salem and Wilmington also made applications. The Board of Trustees chose Greensboro as its location.
Wilmington saw several textile mills started that employed many citizens as had been the case in all of North Carolina. For recreation many saw golf as the rage in the city and on March 21, 1996 Cape Fear Country Club became the first private country club formed in North Carolina when it started.
On May 18, 1896 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Plessy versus Ferguson that "separate but equal" was constitutional under the Equal Protection Clause. Therefore as long as the states provided equal services that it was upholding the law.
THE SPANISH-AMERICAN WAR
1898 was the year the Spanish-American War took place and President William McKinley called on troops following the sinking of the USS Maine in Cuba. The war only lasted from April 21 until August 13, 1898 but the defeat damaged the national pride of the Spanish Empire.
North Carolina needed to provide two voluntary militia regiments and ended up giving three instead. The troops were still segregated as many in the first two units were sons of Confederate veterans who were anxious to show their Southern pride as they demonstrated Patriotism for the United States. The Second Infantry was from the Wilmington region. The third was an all black fighting force ready to represent their nation against Spain. The First Regiment was the only one that was sent overseas and it did duty outside Havana. Only two individuals from North Carolina loss their lives in the war. But the Spanish-American war effort brought many people together as one.
As the largest city in the state in 1898 Wilmington had experienced differences between the factions of Democrats, Republicans, Fusionist and Populous for control that was leftover from Reconstruction. This came to a head in the election and some rioting that took place immediately following the election.
In 1899 the town of Wrightsville Beach became the third municipality to incorporate in New Hanover County.
THE 19TH CENTURY ENDS
Between 1900 and 1930 the nation went through a change that started toward the end of the previous century, from a predominately rural to a urban society at a rapid pace. Utilities and transportation systems grew more attractive and in Wilmington there was talk of how a college would make area more appealing.
As the first state to hold a statewide referendum, 62% of the voters support North Carolina outlawing alcohol on May 26, 1909 with the help of the Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian churches and opposed by the Episcopal, Lutheran and Catholic churches. Wilmington had anywhere from forty to sixty saloons operated mostly by German immigrants that had a prosperous beer business. When it became the law of North Carolina, many residents would travel to neighboring states to get there alcohol and some adapted their cars and outran the authorities which eventually led to race car driving. The 18th Amendment of Prohibition passed enough state legislatures in 1919 and became the law of the land. Although alcohol was made illegal it was allowed for "medicinal" purposes and corruption became widespread.
The next distinguished visit was by President William Howard Taft when he came on November 9, 1909 following a journey across the country. Wilmington became one of his last stops before returning to Washington and included a trIp to Fort Caswell at the entrance of the Cape Fear River and an automobile tour of the city.
On March 4, 1913 Woodrow Wilson was sworn-in as President. He lived in Wilmington from 1874 to 1882 as his father was the minister of First Presbyterian Church on Third Street.
A few weeks later, Wilmington saw big-league action when on March 20, 1913 the Baltimore Orioles played the Philadelphia Phillies in front of two thousand fans near Sunset Park. The Phillies won the baseball game 5-1. They wanted either one to relocate to Wilmington and hold their training camp. The Phillies held their spring training in Southern Pines while the Orioles were in Fayetteville. The mayor, members of the Chamber of Commerce and dignitaries met after the game and succeeded in convincing the Phillies to move their camp to Wilmington. They did so the following year. They arrived in a snowstorm in February and the citizens never warmed up to them and often pulled for the other team. That with logistical problems eventually led them to St. Petersburg, Florida.
In 1914 Edwin Anderson was award the Congressional Medal-of-Honor for his brave attack in Vera Cruz, Mexico. He was born in Wilmington in 1860 and served in the Navy.
WORLD WAR I
On February 28, 1917 President Wilson would declare war on Germany that was often called "The war to end all wars". The coastline was swarming with German U-boats that threatened the area as it became more active than in a half-century.
Most of the fighting took place in Belgium and France and the British Army being in the center of it. The war saw around fifty thousand U.S. citizens die and New Hanover County would have 37 of those lives lost.
Through contracts the Navy employed around four thousand that produced 10 steel-hull cargo ships in the Wilmington shipyard. In the smaller yards they created the new type concrete-hulled ships and the last of the large wooden ships. None actually saw action before the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918 which ended the war. It morph into a national U.S. holiday that became Veterans Day in 1954. The end of the war saw ship construction reduced and those that were employed looking for other work.
President Wilson also saw the "Spanish Flu" take its toll in 1918 that took the lives of over 20 million worldwide and around 650,000 Americans. One-third of the world was infected by this disease before it ended by the summer of 1919.
The Nineteenth Amendment took effect that guaranteed women the right to vote.
With World War I and the Spanish Flu over, the balance of the 1920's saw good times and Wilmington experienced spending and expansion as did the rest of the country. In 1925 renown golf course architect Donald Ross was creating the golf course for Cape Fear Country Club when a second course designed by him was being planned. Wilmington purchased 143 acres in November to build a quality championship course that was affordable and designed by Donald Ross. By 1929 Wilmington had the 18 hole public course was completed and called it Wilmington Municipal Golf Course.
THE GREAT DEPRESSION
That came to a halt by October 1929 when the stock market crashed. It destroyed wealth, bankruptcies soared and many families lost their life savings overnight. More than 9,000 banks in the United States failed in a economic disaster that would shake the world. People could be seen walking around the banks in Wilmington as they shut down. Consumers had to curtail spending that led to massive layoffs and the unemployment rate stayed around 25%. There were hungry people that went door-to-door looking for food and it lasted until World War II.
In 1931 the state formed the consolidated University of North Carolina System with one board of trustees and one president with three campuses. The University of North Carolina, later named the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; joined the Women's College at Greensboro, established as the State Normal and Industrial School in 1891, later named the University of North Carolina at Greensboro; and North Carolina State College at Raleigh, founded in 1887 as North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, later named North Carolina State University.
On March 4, 1933 Franklin D. Roosevelt became President he declared a bank holiday after his inauguration. Congress passed the Emergency Banking Act which contained the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. This provided some safeguards for the deposits and restored confidence in the banks. By March 18 there were 222 banks in North Carolina that had returned.
Roosevelt also started the New Deal program designed to jump start the economy. A initiative called the Works Progress Administration or WPA had created thousands of jobs in New Hanover County where the unemployed were paid for doing jobs that ranged from clerical to manual labor. Some of the projects included building the National Guard Armory on Market Street; they cut the underbrush, landscaped and put a road around Greenfield Lake; dug canals for shipping to ensure safe passage from the German U-boats; built roads in Carolina Beach and boardwalks in Wrightsville Beach; and constructed a bridge on Chestnut Street to name a few. By 1938 the Works Progress Administration in North Carolina peaked at 55,000 workers but was facing criticism from a growing number of leaders that it was wrought with corruption. Roosevelt essentially ended it with World War II threatening and companies once again hiring.
Although North Carolina opposed it, the 21st Amendment passed that repealed the Prohibition Amendment that banned alcohol on December 5, 1933 and it was once again allowed. Two years later North Carolina set up the Alcohol Beverage Control system that allowed each county to decide whether to allow alcohol.
With city being one of largest municipalities in North Carolina, attempts were made for many years to try and lure a college to locate in Wilmington. The chairman of the New Hanover County Board of Education was John T. Hoggard and he led a discussion with the school board about adding a higher education center but with the war on the the horizon that consideration was postponed.
WORLD WAR II
President Franklin D. Roosevelt began his speech to congress by saying, "Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy" on which he declared war on the Empire of Japan and three days later Germany and Italy declared war on the United States.
Wilmington played a significant role during the war and evolved into a boomtown as it became known as "The Defense Capital of the State". All five branches of the Armed Forces trained in the Wilmington area and it wasn't uncommon to hear exercises six days a week. A new shipyard was built that was the largest employer in the state at 23,000 that constructed 243 cargo vessels named Liberty ships and a smaller number of C2-Hulled craft starting in 1941. The U.S.S. Zebulon B. Vance was the first ship produced and it got its name from the popular governor of the North Carolina during the War Between the States and again during Reconstruction.
Wilmington was also the headquarters of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and saw lots of troops as they were being transported. The population in Wilmington more than doubled and over five thousand housing units were constructed. This put a stress on everything including the food and medical supplies as well as the school system.
The port played a major role for the U.S Allies as they were supplied war material from our defense industries. The army constructed Shipyard Boulevard and Military Cutoff Roads to get supplies to the port quicker. Bluethenthal Army Air Base, now Wilmington International Airport, served as the training base for the P-47 Thunderbolt fighter plane. Even the city took on an international feeling as the British anti-submarine vessels operated out of Wilmington. There were also drives for war bonds and over forty million was collected from New Hanover County. It also made around one million shirts locally for the military and Wilmington had civilian defense drills, blackouts and rationing that were visible.
On July 25, 1943 a German U-boat surfaced near Kure Beach and fired three shells that missed at the Ethyl-Dow chemical plant that makes an aviation-fuel component. A U.S. aircraft sank a U-boat days later about 20 miles offshore. It would have been the only time the Germans attacked the U.S. on the East Coast.
New Hanover County also held German prisoners as they stayed at three camps after the invasion of North Africa in 1943. The prisoners were held at the Carolina Beach Road and Shipyard Boulevard camp that became overcrowded and was eventually closed. The second opened between 8th and Ann Streets in a four-block area. A smaller group of prisoners were at the third site at Bluethenthal Army Air Base. There were a total of 552 prisoners in New Hanover County and some helped the officers or locals farmers by doing menial duties. On April 12, 1946 and with Germany surrendering, the prisoners of war started heading home and were all gone by the end of May.
Troops came to downtown Wilmington in their spare time as the largest city in the region. They would play golf, horseshoes and volleyball to pass the time away and boxing matches would attract a large contingent of spectators. Even popular boxing champ Joe Louis even came to Wilmington for a visit in January of 1944.
As soldiers started to return to Wilmington they'd bring the disease polio and the outbreak of the infection started ravaging the area. Polio stayed until a vaccine was developed in the late 1950's.
Troops that had been segregated by race saw those barriers begin to break down during the war even though the official policy of the U.S. Armed Forces was one that disallowed it. White instructors were slowly being replaced by black ones and they started to see a rise in the ranks.
Wilmington would see the city population in the 1940 census that was almost 35,000 swell to over 100,000 during the war. By the end of World War II thousands from New Hanover County would served in all capacities such as airmen, artillerymen, bomber pilots, frogmen, fighters, nurses, physicians, riflemen, shipmates and volunteers to name a few. By the time World War II ended up to sixty million people had died and the U.S. had lost over four hundred thousand. New Hanover County also had many wounded and 248 gave their lives to defend America.
On April 12, 1945 President Franklin D. Roosevelt died from a stroke while vacationing in Warm Springs, Georgia. His successor was President Harry S. Truman. The U.S. was Allied partners with Russia and Joseph Stalin as their leader and Britain with their leader Winston Churchill. May 8, 1945 became known as V-E day with the defeat of the Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany.
On July 26, 1945 the Allies asked for an unconditional surrender of Japan at the Potsdam Conference. When they refused President Truman dropped a nuclear bomb on the city of Hiroshima August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9 on Nagasaki to save the lives of the Allied troops that would have had to invade the Pacific islands and Japan. The Imperial Japanese Army finally surrendered and September 2, 1945 is known as V-J Day in the U.S. as it commemorates when there was a victory over Japan.
While many from Wilmington received decorations for valor, William D. Halyburton, Jr and Charles P. Murray, Jr both were awarded the Congressional Medal-of-Honor. The two were memorialized as New Hanover County named a park for Halyburton and a Middle School for Murray.
Higher education during World War II was heavily transformed where it saw steadfast growth before the war, experienced a enormous drop in enrollment as many men left college to serve the military. To alleviate their financial circumstances many colleges started admitting women to what were all-male colleges and other measures were made in order to survive.
AFTER THE WAR
In the aftermath of World War II in 1945, the Liberty Shipyard became the North Carolina State Ports Authority by the North Carolina General Assembly. The legislature also allowed a resolution to pass for a referendum on adding a junior college to Wilmington that would be locally supported and housed by the school system. Although the Board of Education was required to take the first initiative, the County Commissioners rejected the idea of any tax levy.
When veterans began to return home there was a surge in marriages, births and those that wanted to attend college. Higher education had to be prepared for the influx of new students overnight. The over-crowded colleges now required entrance exams and minimum standards to stay enrolled. All-females colleges started admitting males to accommodate the increase of veterans returning. In 1946 Governor Gregg Cherry ask the college presidents to form a committee and make suggestions on the impending college crisis. Superintendent of the local schools H.M. Roland said Bluethenthal Airfield had hospital surplus that would be used and the airport could house the college. The New Hanover County Commission then set a date for the registered voters to go to the polls and have a referendum.
The University of North Carolina Extension Division opened up fourteen temporary evening college centers in 1946 in various communities around the state. Each extension center had a requirement of at least thirty students enrolled and Wilmington was selected to meet that criteria. White and black students would be instructed separately with the prevailing segregation laws. For one year the students were taught by departments at UNC-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State College at New Hanover High School for the white students, and by Fayetteville State Teachers College at Williston Industrial High School for the black students.
At a rally for a permanent college in front of 250 citizens, a legislator from Fayetteville remarked how Wilmington was the only city in the North Carolina of stature that didn't have a college. The expectation was there would be around 150 to take the classes, however 212 showed up at New Hanover and 26 at Williston that exceeded that prognostication. This set the stage for a favorable view of having a college.
On March 25, 1947 the residents of New Hanover County went to the polls and 74% approved a special tax of five-cent per one-hundred tax value and raised $36,500 for an operation of a junior college in Wilmington. The campaign highlighted the advantages of having a local college and the curriculum would include both academic and vocational courses. On May 26, 1947 the new junior college in Wilmington was formally accepted by the Board of Education. T.T. Hamilton was selected as the new president and the name would be Wilmington College, intentionally omitting the word "junior" from the official name. The academic track was taught at New Hanover High School and vocational classes at the airport for the white students and for the he Williston College, a unit of Wilmington College, at Williston Industrial High School for black students.
In April of 1947 the town of Kure Beach incorporated as the 4th and final municipality of New Hanover County.
On September 4, 1947 at 4 pm Wilmington College opened the doors at Isaac Bear Elementary School on Market Street with access to the library across the street at New Hanover High School. With seventeen faculty and 238 students enrolled of which 75% of them were veterans that were taking advantage of the he In addition to accounting, business administration and four-year college prep courses, the college also offered classes in airplane maintenance, refrigerator and plumbing to name a few. To represent the independence of the college, students chose the mascot the Seahawk and had their first basketball team participate in a league. That squad finished 6-2 in the conference and played home games at both New Hanover High School and Chestnut Street School.
The Azalea Festival in the spring was started in Wilmington in 1948 and has become the largest annual celebration in North Carolina.
To help with growth, Wilmington College could teach morning classes at the Isaac Bear building for the 1948-49 year and chemistry professor John Charlton was named head basketball coach for the upcoming season.
President Harry S. Truman on July 26, 1948 issued an Executive Order that established a committee on the equal treatment and opportunity of the U.S. military regardless of race.
The Seahawk Newspaper first appeared in the each semester on a monthly basis for Wilmington College and it earned it's first accreditation from the North Carolina College Conference. North Carolina began closing the state education extensions across the state.
Wilmington held a Professional Golf Association or PGA sanctioned event in 1949 that became known as the Azalea Open at Cape Fear Country Club. The course was one of two in the city designed by famous architect Donald Ross. For many years the spring tournament was played the weekend before the The Masters in Augusta, Georgia.
In their third year, Wilmington College hired William J. Brooks as the athletic director of the public institution. The Fledging was chosen as the name of the first yearbook and it was printed in 1950.
North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950 and the United States became heavily involved. The Wilmington shipyard was reactivated and the federal government ordered the opening of draft boards.
In 1952 the Presbyterian Synod of North Carolina started a two-year study to increase competition for the eight colleges under the authority of the Presbyterian church and formed the Committee of Educational Institutions. Wilmington as well as Fayetteville and communities in southeastern North Carolina were all in consideration and it involved mergers of Flora Macdonald College in Red Springs, Peace Junior College in Raleigh, and Presbyterian Junior College in Maxton to create a co-educational four-year institution at a new location.
In November the election of Dwight D. Eisenhower as President of the U.S. happened.
In 1953 a bill was defeated in the legislature that would recognized community colleges in Buncombe, Mecklenburg and New Hanover counties. The bill was opposed by the state board of education.
On May 17, 1954 the Supreme Court ruled in the case Brown versus Board of Education of Topeka that overruled "separate but equal" in the Plessy versus Ferguson case of 1896.
The fighting between North Korea and South Korea officially ended on July 27, 1953 when an agreement was signed. It created the Korean Demilitarized Zone to separate the two nations and they exchanged prisoners. The U.S. would lose over 36,000 and North Carolina would have close to 800 who died in the conflict.
In the fall the region was hit by a category 4 storm when Hurricane Hazel on October 15, 1954. The area received a direct blow that destroyed many beaches and had an effect inland. Soon the region received more bad news as largest employer announced it was leaving when Atlantic Coast Line Railroad declared it was moving to Florida that especially impacted the downtown area.
Wilmington was left out of the final selection by the Presbyterian Synod and the committee recommended Laurinburg to build what became St. Andrews College. Peace Junior College was not involved in the merger after lobbying to be left out.
The 1955 General Assembly approved $5500 for three community colleges in Buncombe, Mecklenburg and New Hanover counties as those areas joined forces. In June of that year as demand began to decrease, Williston Industrial High School quit offering classes through Williston College and Fayetteville State.
The Isaac Bear Building was used entirely by Wilmington College by 1956 and classes were offered all through the day. Athletics was advertising to those with one or two classes in order to finish high school, could be admitted to Wilmington College and take that subject at nearby New Hanover High School. That rule would remain in effect until 1961.
President Eisenhower started the Interstate Highway System with the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. That changed how motorist view highway travel.
In 1957 famed golfer Arnold Palmer won the Azalea Open held at Cape Fear Country Club. It was also the year the legislature passed the first Community College Act and funding to be spent and divided at Asheville-Biltmore College, Charlotte College and Wilmington College. With it came how the trustees at Wilmington College would be appointed. Four trustees would come from the New Hanover County School Board, two by the New Hanover Commission, two by the Wilmington City Council, four by the governor of which two must come from adjoining counties.
Wilmington College was seeing some change and in September of 1957 the class had 432 students. Only 92 were veterans and 31 counties outside New Hanover had someone enrolled. There were 17 other states represented and two countries while the enrollment was 70% male.
The Azalea Festival gained more traction and attracted movie star Andy Griffith as the Festival Emcee in the spring.
The country was experiencing extreme growth and the architecture reflected the change that was taking place. There was an enormous housing shortage and more were moving to the suburbs with most having cars so transportation was no longer an issue. New homes were being constructed to meet that demand and shopping centers began to spring up. Downtown areas started to see empty buildings and Wilmington was no different as people did not need to park their cars and walk. Modernism architectural style was the flavor of the day and some of the features include flat roofs, ribbon windows and terrazzo floors.
To offer vocation classes in the area, in April of 1958 the charter of the Wilmington Industrial Education Center was created, later named Cape Fear Community College.
Ronald Reagan was chosen to serve as the emcee for the Azalea Festival in 1958.
The Wilmington College Seahawks started a baseball program in 1958 and William "Bill" J. Brooks served as their coach. The Seahawks won the conference title in its first year and finished 4th in the nation
On May 31, 1958 the citizens again voted in favor of issuing bonds to build a growing Wilmington College campus and match up to $600,000 the Community College Act required by the General Assembly.
With the bond passage, the location of the new campus would have to be determined. The board considered both the Municipal Golf Course and Hugh MacRae Park, but public controversy caused both sites to be rejected. On September 18, 1958 the trustees selected over 650 acres on highway 132 or Monkey Junction-Castle Hayne Road as the property.
Alaska became the 49th state on January 3, 1959 to start the year.
On February 21, 1959 the Wilmington College Seahawks basketball team won the first title when they were crowned conference champions in Brogden Hall at New Hanover High School with over 3,000 jubilant fans in attendance.
Hawaii became the 50th state on August 21, 1959 and the flag reflected 50 stars the following July 1st.
On September 15, 1959 Wilmington College trustee Frederick Graham who chaired the Building & Grounds Committee, convinced others to design the new campus in a modified Georgian architecture style to reflect the prevalent design in Wilmington rather than the Modernistic architecture being proposed and popular at the time.
Coach Brooks started clearing the athletic fields of the new campus where a meteor crater had landed and filled the swamp with soil.
The Wilmington College trustees decided on March 21, 1960 to begin the campus with three buildings for a total of $1,149,588. On April 1, 1960 expansion on the new campus was under way and Governor Luther Hodges was on hand for the groundbreaking ceremony. He attended a luncheon at the historic Cape Fear Club immediately following.
Atlantic Coastline Railroad officially moved into it's new headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida and the move left many buildings in downtown Wilmington deserted.
Some wanted Wilmington College to delay adding the third and fourth year to make it a senior college but trustee Frederick Graham objected to postponing the measure and the trustees officially endorsed the plan on November 16, 1960 for becoming a four-year college. On February 1, 1961 Wilmington College joined forces with Charlotte College to both expand to four-year colleges and get the legislature to support their change financially.
In 1961 Wilmington College won the National Junior College Championship in baseball held at Grande Junction, Colorado after their fourth straight Virginia-Carolina Conference title.
Wilmington College moved in time for summer school 1961 from the Isaac Bear Building on Market Street.
Four campuses in North Carolina were under construction in 1961 and all had their official opening by the fall term. In addition to Wilmington College, Asheville-Biltmore College, Charlotte College and St. Andrews Presbyterian College.
Wilmington College selected the modified Georgian architecture to build the new campus. Asheville-Biltmore College which had moved to their North Asheville location had the first two buildings reflected the and the entire campus in a Modernistic style. Charlotte College, with their new campus under construction north of the city and St. Andrews Presbyterian College, which was being built in Laurinburg, both selected the same firm to design their campuses and some of the Charlotte College leaders accused the firm of designing the first two buildings as being similar to the ten buildings that St. Andrews Presbyterian College opened with in a Modernist style.
On October 2, 1961 the area benefited from the U.S.S. North Carolina being moored across from the waterfront in downtown Wilmington. The battleship now serves as a memorial to the veterans served the military. She had her kneel laid in October of 1937 in New York and was the first battleship built in sixteen years. The ship participated in every major battle in the Pacific and won fifteen battle stars. The battleship lost ten men in action and had 67 wounded. It was decommissioned on June 27, 1947. In 1958 they announced her scrapping which led to a successful campaign to save the battleship and bring her home.
Wilmington College new campus was dedicated on November 19, 1961 in a special ceremony that featured Governor Terry Sanford and William C. Friday, president of the Consolidated System of the University of North Carolina. The trustees were asked to donate land for an elementary school and a hospital but elected to use the land for the expansion of the college. They opened three buildings that were named for Edwin A. Alderman, president of UNCCH from 1806 to 1900 and was asked to give the memorial address to congress when his friend President Woodrow Wilson died; John T. Hoggard, who conceived the first thought of Wilmington College, served in the Spanish-American War and World War I and practice medicine in Wilmington, was chairman of the New Hanover County Board of Education from 1935 to 1951, the second president of Wilmington College from 1952 until 1958 and a trustee; Hinton P. James, the first student to enroll at UNCCH in 1795, he was from New Hanover County. Hinton James Hall would house "The Good Wood Tavern" or Pub where the students would hold gatherings and beverages such as beer were served. The wood to construct the benches and counter came from a tobacco barn.
On Election Day in November of 1961 the citizens went to the polls and approved a statewide bond that built many structures including Wilmington College at $1.4 million.
After winning the Virginia~Carolina conference championship in March of 1962, the Seahawks basketball team was invited to play for the National Junior College Tournament finals in Hutchinson, Kansas.
On May 26, 1962 the citizens went to the polls and approved an additional tax levy of 5 cents to add year three and four and make Wilmington College a senior institution.
The Wilmington College Seahawks 1962 baseball team finished runner-up for the National Junior College Championship in Grande Junction, Colorado.
Beginning in September of 1962 the black students could attend Wilmington College that was made by a "gentleman's agreement". Dr. Hubert Eaton, a civil rights leader and local physician, referred to Dr. John T. Hoggard as the founder of Wilmington College, they shook hands and had no paperwork. Hoggard had the backing of the other trustees of Wilmington College and the Williston unit was closed two years later. Afterwards Eaton had Hoggard come speak to several other individuals gathered at his office.
The United States has sent military advisors to serve in Vietnam but troops had been steadily increasing in that conflict.
On June 3, 1963 the baseball team for the Wilmington College Seahawks won their second National Junior College Championship in Grande Junction, Colorado.
The legislature endorsed Asheville-Biltmore College, Charlotte College and Wilmington College all becoming a senior colleges on July 1, 1963 offering a four-year curriculum and a bachelor's degree.
On September 26, 1963 a groundbreaking commemoration took place for the new gym that added the fourth building to the new campus.
On November 22, 1963 President John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas and Lyndon Johnson became President. He escalated the troop level that was fighting in Vietnam.
By 1964 the public schools that provided "freedom of choice" now had been fully integrated.
In 1965 former Wilmington College Seahawk basketball player Ken McIntyre was the tournament Most-Valuable-Player for St. John's as they won the N.I.T.
Charlotte College became the fourth campus of the UNC system on July 1, 1965 when it became UNC Charlotte.
Dr. John T. Hoggard passes away in August of 1965 and many that supported the college mourn his death.
On February 22, 1966 the Wilmington College gym was dedicated and named Hanover Hall to honor the citizens of New Hanover County who started the college. The physical education center served as the home court for the Seahawk basketball team.
Even though the college would soon become known for Marine Biology, James Walker Hospital School of Nursing transferred their degree program that included faculty and students to Wilmington College. It was founded in 1901 and once serve as the largest nursing program in North Carolina. James Walker Hospital closed a year later when it was replaced by New Hanover Memorial Hospital.
Effective July 1, 1967 North Carolina created a university system made up of regional universities to go along with the Consolidated University system. The General Assembly approved the system and it was opposed by Governor Dan K. Moore.
Extension of the campus continued when two new buildings were started in July of 1967. One would house the library and the other would be the chemistry and physics building.
On March 31, 1968 President Johnson said he would not run again after facing growing domestic tension and the Vietnam war. Four days later civil rights leader Reverend Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis after a changed of plans. King was suppose to speak at Williston High School in Wilmington on the same day he was shot to death at a hotel in Tennessee.
Sarah Graham Kenan gave her house on Market Street and 17th Street that has served as the residence for the president of Wilmington College. Jesse Kenan Wise donated his house next door that was renovated and eventually became the alumni house.
On July 1, 1968 William Madison Randall handed the reigns of Wilmington College over to William H. Wagoner and the Superintendent of the New Hanover County schools became the fourth president. His primary charge was to make Wilmington College part of the Consolidated System of UNC. In December of 1968 the trustees of the UNC system approved Asheville-Biltmore College and Wilmington College becoming part their organization 80-3 on the recommendation of a committee report. The Wilmington College trustees endorsed that decision on December 10, 1968.
With the General Assembly affirming the decision and on June 9, 1969 the last graduating class of Wilmington College was presented. On July 1, 1969 it became the University of North Carolina at Wilmington or UNCW. North Caroline Governor Robert Scott came to Wilmington and declared it "university day".
Although a few nations tried, the United States landed the first man on the moon on July 20, 1969 when American spacecraft Apollo 11 touchdown.
Eugene Ashley, Jr was awarded the Congressional Medal-of-Honor on December 2, 1969 for his bravery during the Vietnam War. He was born in Wilmington in 1930 and served in the Army. He also saw action in the Korean conflict and a high school in Wilmington was named for him.
1971 the General Assembly approved a law that brought the nine remaining universities that were senior institutions under the fold of the Consolidated University system. They were Appalachian State University, East Carolina University, Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, North Carolina Central University, Pembroke State University, Western Carolina University, and Winston-Salem State University. It also brought in the North Carolina School of the Arts. They would be overseen by the UNC Board of Governors and each campus would have board of trustees that would have extensive authority over the operation of that campus delegated by the Board of Governors. Each university would have a chancellor chosen by the Board of Governors who would also have responsibility for the president of the UNC system.
In 1971 many riots broke out in the city to protest the draft imposed for Vietnam War and civil rights issues. On July 1, 1971 the 26th Amendment took effect that allowed 18 year olds to vote.
By January of 1973 the Paris Peace Accords were signed which brought the end of the Vietnam War and the gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops.
On August 9, 1974 President Nixon resigned that elevated Vice President Gerald Ford to president.
The 1975 Wilmington College Seahawks baseball team qualified for the NAIA College World Series that was in St. Joseph, Missouri and baseball coach Bill Brooks is named Coach-of-the-Year.
In 1977 UNCW was authorized to offer graduate programs at the master's level.
Trask Coliseum was officially dedicated on Nov. 26, 1977, when the Seahawk basketball team came close to upsetting nationally-ranked Wake Forest before a sellout crowd of 6,000.
Brunswick Community College was created in 1978 as the 58th and last community college in North Carolina.
In 1979 New Hanover county went to the polls and approved Liquor-by-the-Drink that allowed liquor to be served for establishments that had the proper license.
Hurricane Diana struck September 13, 1984 and as a category 3 disturbance it was the first major storm to hit the area since Hurricane Hazel.
The Azalea Festival selected Phylicia Rashad to be the Queen in 1985. She was an actress and television star on The Cosby Show that became popular. It was the year that the NC School of Science and Mathematics was brought in as an affiliated school of the Consolidated UNC system.
Trask Coliseum was the location of the first Colonial Athletic Association win as the Seahawks defeated George Mason 66-64 on January 5, 1985.
On September 1, 1986 the legal drinking age was raised to 21 years of age.
In 1989 Cape Fear Technical Institute began offering two-year college transfer classes and changed the name to Cape Fear Community College.
President H. W. Bush oversaw the Gulf War or Operation Desert Storm started August 2, 1990 and Iraq was pushed back from Kuwait by the coalition troops mostly led by the U.S. with assistance from the United Kingdom and France. The war ended on February 28, 1991 with a victory and restored the Kuwaiti empire.
The Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union and President Reagan earlier building up the military. The Soviet Union flag was lowered on December 26, 1991 and replaced by the Russian flag.
Like most downtowns the areas Wilmington was slowly starting to see people move back in and repair historic buildings that had been abandoned. Restaurants were beginning to open and shops and hotels soon followed their lead.
1993 they chose Kelly Ripa to be the Azalea Festival Queen. She became a recognized name on television and hosted a daytime talk show.
The area experienced twin storms in the season when Hurricane Bertha arrived in July of 1996 that caused a lot of damage and had Hurricane Fran as a category 3 storm land September of 1996.
The UNCW basketball team was invited to play in the 1998 National Invitation Tournament.
The pattern continued when in September of 1999 the region would experience another hurricane. It had been downgraded to a category 2 storm when it landed that was named Hurricane Floyd. It caused a significant amount of flooding that took the lives of 51 in North Carolina.
The Seahawk basketball team won the Colonial Athletic Association tournament and became a candidate for the NCAA tournament.
The Seahawk basketball team was the 2001 CAA tournament champions and beat highly regarded Southern California before losing to Indiana in the NCAA tournament.
What became known as 9/11 occurred September 11, 2001 and Wilmington saw a major change as the airport had a buffer put around it and airlines halted service for a few weeks.
In 2002 UNCW basketball team was invited to play in the National Invitation Tournament.
On March 20, 2003 the U.S. began bombing Iraq and their capital of Baghdad was captured on April 9. The war soon ended with troops left to secure the area. The basketball team won the CAA and played in the NCAA tournament in 2003. The same year the baseball team was selected at-large to participate in the NCAA tournament.
The UNCW basketball team won the CAA and was invited to play in the 2004 NCAA tournament. The baseball team also won the CAA and played in the NCAA tournament.
In 2006 the baseball team won the CAA tournament and represented the conference in the NCAA.
The baseball team was selected at-large to play in the NCAA tournament.
On April 28, 2008 Barack Obama held a town hall meeting on the campus of UNCW at Trask Coliseum before a standing room crowd. The primary was on May 6, 2008 and he eventually Obama became president. His opponent was John McCain and he would visit downtown on October 13, 2008.
The baseball team won the CAA tournament in 2012 and played in the NCAA tourney.
In 2015 the baseball team won the CAA tournament and represented the league in the NCAA tournament.
The 2016 basketball team won the CAA tournament and the baseball team was selected at-large to play in the NCAA tournament.
UNCW had their first Azalea Festival Queen when they chose Anna Kooiman in 2016 from FOX News. She was a member of the sorority Alpha Delta Pi.
On August 9, 2016 Donald J. Trump had a rally before a full house at Trask Coliseum. He became president of the U.S. in November.
The UNCW basketball team won the CAA and played in the NCAA tournament in 2017.
For the first time since 1970 the PGA sponsored an event in Wilmington in 2017 when they selected the Eagle Point Country Club to hold the tournament.
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