Outstanding Achievement Award

Annually the WNC Historical Association presents its trophy for Outstanding Achievement to an individual or organization which has made significant contributions to the preservation and promotion of the history of the mountain region.




The RAIL Memorial Project


We are proud to recognize The RAIL Memorial Project as the winner of our 2021 Outstanding Achievement Award for telling the story and memorializing the work and sacrifice of the thousands of incarcerated laborers who were forced to build the railroad through our region under brutal conditions.

Ann Miller Woodford

Ann Miller Woodford


Ann Miller Woodford won the 2020 award for her work preserving and promoting the history of African American people in far western North Carolina. “As an awards committee, we marveled at the work that is ongoing in Western North Carolina to offer a more complete history of our region,” said Catherine Frank, Chair of the Awards Committee. “In this rich environment, the work of Ann Miller Woodford is indeed outstanding. As an advocate, historian, and artist, Miller Woodford makes visible the stories of ‘seemingly invisible’ African American people of western North Carolina. Her work, When All God’s Children Get Together: A Celebration of the Lives and Music of African American People in Far Western North Carolina, offers an account that is personal and well-researched, offering stories that are unique and representative. She encourages all of us to record the stories of our elders and to face the complexity of our shared past.”

Rob Neufeld
Courtesy of Henry Neufeld

Rob Neufeld


Longtime Asheville Citizen-Times columnist Rob Neufeld, a highly respected local historian known for his love and respect of his adopted Western North Carolina mountains, was the recipient of the Outstanding Achievement Award for 2019. Neufeld, 65, garnered numerous awards for his research and writing, continued his “Visiting Our Past” column for the newspaper until his death from ALS on October 20, 2019.

Jim Stokley

James R. Stokely III


Jim Stokely began his career by writing brochures and handbooks for the National Park Service, then served as director of a major National Endowment for the Humanities project called “An Appalachian Experience.” Following 25 years as a Human Resources consultant and director, Jim returned to full-time writing. Jim is President and Treasurer of the Wilma Dykeman Legacy and has written and edited numerous books.

Dan Pierce and Allan Tarleton, February 2018
WNCHA Collection

Daniel S. Pierce


Dan Pierce is a Professor of History at the University of North Carolina – Asheville. He is a graduate of Western Carolina University (B.S.Ed.), the University of Alabama (M.A. History), and the University of Tennessee (Ph.D. History). At UNCA, he teaches classes in Appalachian and Southern History, the Civil War, Writing and History, and Environmental History. His research focuses on the Great Smoky Mountains, Southern Appalachian history, the history of Moonshining, and NASCAR history.

Doug Orr


Dr. Doug Orr received the award for his years of contribution to the academic and cultural welfare of Western North Carolina. For 15 years, Orr led Warren Wilson College as president. His tenure saw the construction of multiple new buildings, the completion of a $27.3 million capital campaign, record enrollment, and the creation of The Swannanoa Gathering, a summer series of folk music and dance workshops that brought more than 18,000 people to the region since it began. 

Patricia D. Beaver
Courtesy of appstate.edu

Patricia D. Beaver


Dr. Pat Beaver received the award to recognize her impressive contribution to the study of Appalachia and mountain regions around the world. Beaver worked as an anthropologist in mountain communities from Western North Carolina to China and Wales, researching the influences of gender, class and ethnicity on social structure. Beaver directed the Center for Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State University for two decades, until her retirement in 2013.

Gordon B. McKinney
Courtesy of berea.edu

Gordon B. McKinney


Dr. Gordon McKinney received the award for educating generations of students who have benefited from his clear and thorough approach to his subject and expanded the reach of Appalachian studies beyond the academic setting. McKinney has emphasized a spirit of inclusiveness throughout his career, and especially during his past service as president of the Appalachian Studies Association. Dr. McKinney advocated for including a diverse membership that embraced people of different racial, ethnic, gender and age groups, and also included health professionals, natural scientists, and environmentalists in the conversation.

McKinney is professor emeritus of history and former director of the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center at Berea College. He is the author of numerous books, including “Southern Mountain Republicans, 1865-1900” and “Zeb Vance: North Carolina’s Civil War Governor and Gilded Age Political Leader.”

Fred Chappell, 2009
Courtesy of Jerry Wolford / news-record.com

Fred Davis Chappell


Acclaimed poet and novelist Fred Chappell was born on a small farm in Canton, North Carolina. The author of numerous books of poetry, fiction, and critical prose, Chappell has received many awards for his work, including the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Bollingen Prize, the Aiken Taylor Award, an award from the National Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Best Foreign Book Prize from the Académie Française. He was named North Carolina poet laureate in 1997, a position he held until 2002.

Steve Hill, 2012
Courtesy of ashevillechamber.org

Steve Hill, Thomas Wolfe Memorial


Steve Hill began managing the Thomas Wolfe Site after serving as a building guide for a short time. During his time, Hill secured funding and oversaw construction of visitor center as well as seeing the house through reconstruction after the devastating 1998 fire. As site manager, Hill displayed unmatched personal dedication to preservation of the site and provided strong, compassionate leadership. He retired in December 2011.

Helen Wykle, UNC-Asheville Special Collections at  D. Hiden Ramsey Library 


Ramsey Library Special Collections serve the university and the community by facilitating undergraduate research related to community-based issues and engaging community collaboration and consultation. The staff provide instructional programs for faculty and students and encourage interdisciplinary and responsible use of primary source materials in the undergraduate context. Professor Helen Wykle, director from 1996-2013, initiated the digital collections program, which have opened the collection to a wider audience.

Henderson County Heritage Museum


The Henderson County Heritage Museum collects, preserves, researches, and exhibits a collection of historical and cultural artifacts. The museum, found within the Henderson County Historic Courthouse, seeks to preserve history and a sense of place. Consisting of six rooms, approximately 2000 square feet, the Museum spaces are designed for flexibility, capability, and versatility.
Courtesy of hendersoncountymuseum.com

Dr. George A. Jones


Dr. George Alexander Jones founded the Henderson County Genealogical and Historical Society in 1983. Jones, a native of Saluda, won the award in 2008 for his more than 25 years of work in promoting and preserving Henderson County history. Jones was instrumental in saving the Henderson County Historic Courthouse from demolition and in forming the Henderson County Heritage Museum that is based there. Many in the community remember Jones as an unflagging advocate for preserving the history of Henderson County for future generations.


Dr. Harley Jolley, his wife Mrs. Betty “Mama” Jolley, and their son Ben
Courtesy of Mars Hill University

Harley and Betty Jolley


Dr. Harley E. Jolley, also known as “Mr. Blue Ridge Parkway,” taught history at Mars Hill College from 1949 through 1991. His wife, Betty Jolley, came to the college in 1949 as an assistant librarian, but she quickly began teaching humanities and history courses. For over four decades, they formed the backbone of the history department of Mars Hill College, and they were integral to the life of both the college and the town of Mars Hill. Harley was a recipient of North Carolina’s Order of the Long Leaf Pine. He authored many books and articles including, “The Blue Ridge Parkway: The First 50 Years,” “That Magnificent Army of Youth and Peace: The Civilian Conservation Corps in North Carolina, 1933-1942,” and “Along the Blue Ridge Parkway.” 

Fernihurst, 2019
WNCHA Collection

Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College


The Asheville–Buncombe Technical Community College 144-acre main campus received the award for its effort to preserve and reuse historic buildings, including Fernihurst, the Smith-McDowell House, and Sunnicrest. Fernihurst, the former summer residence of Col. John Kerr, is a brick Italinate style house named after the Kerr family castle in Scotland. It is now part of the Culinary Arts Program. The Smith-McDowell house, was constructed in 1840 for James McConnell Smith. The house is the oldest brick building in Buncombe County and is included in the National Register of Historic Places. Sunnicrest is one of five (and the only remaining) Richard Sharp Smith-designed model cottages built by George Vanderbilt on Vernon Hill in what was then the town of Victoria. Sunnicrest houses the Human Resources Department. 

South Asheville Cemetery Sign
Courtesy of southashevillecemetery.net/history

South Asheville Cemetery Association


The South Asheville Cemetery is a two-acre burial ground that serves as the final resting place for approximately 2,000 African Americans. The cemetery fell into disrepair during the mid-20th century, but in the 1980s members of the St. John “A” Baptist Church community, most notably George Gibson and George Taylor, began restoration efforts on the property. It was brought back to the public’s attention over this time period when a series of oral history recordings, now housed at the UNC-Asheville Special Collections Library, documented people’s recollections of the cemetery. Over the last 30 years, thousands of volunteers have worked with members of the South Asheville Cemetery Association to improve and maintain this sacred and historical site in an effort to promote greater public awareness of African American history in Buncombe County and to honor the people buried there.

Thomas Wolfe Memorial, c1998, after fire
Courtesy of jkoa.net

Thomas Wolfe Memorial, NC Department of Cultural Resources


The NC Department of Cultural Resources (NCDCR( was honored for its restoration of Thomas Wolfe’s Old Kentucky Home following a devastating fire. They spent six years and $2.4 million rehabilitating the Queen Anne style boardinghouse where Thomas Wolfe spent much of his childhood. The house reopened in 2004 with improved accessibility, a new heating and cooling system, and a fresh coat of exterior yellow paint. Although the house was painted white at the time of the fire, historians believe it was yellow during Wolfe’s residency.  WNCHA recognized NCDCR for its commitment to thoroughness and accuracy in its restoration.

Harriet Styles
Courtesy of Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center

Harriet Styles, Swannanoa Valley Museum


In 1976, Harriet Styles created a small history exhibit for the Black Mountain Woman’s Club to celebrate the Independence Day Bicentennial. This would become one of the inspirations for a few Swannanoa Valley residents to start the Swannanoa Valley Museum. In 1989, Harriet accepted the task of putting exhibits together for the newly-formed museum. She knocked on doors, talked to neighbors and friends, and collected the very first artifacts to help tell the history of the Swannanoa Valley. She served as the museum’s curator and director, and was a member of the museum’s board for two decades. She retired from the museum board in 2010 at the age of 90. 

Cover of Historic Preservation Master Plan, 2015
Courtesy of ashevillenc.gov

Historic Resources Commission of Asheville and Buncombe County


The Historic Resources Commission of Asheville and Buncombe County is a volunteer panel appointed by the City and the County charged with preserving and protecting the cultural and architectural character of Asheville and Buncombe County. In addition to reviewing proposed projects affecting locally designated historic properties, the HRC is responsible for local district and landmark designation. The HRC functions as an educational resource within the community, and strives to foster Asheville’s unique sense of place through its preservation efforts. 

Ronald Holland, 2017
Courtesy of Mountain Xpress

J. Ronald Holland


Ron Holland served as the Manager of the Western Office of Archives & History for 23 years, assisting museums and historic sites from across a 23-county region. Holland retired in 2001, and he and other historians and organizations have been trying establish a regional history museum ever since. Such institutions, he maintains, are the best way to educate the masses, particularly students. He also served a president of the Western North Carolina Historical Association.

Museum of the Cherokee Indian
Courtesy of RomanticAsheville.com

Museum of the Cherokee Indian


Founded in 1948, the Museum of the Cherokee Indian is one of the oldest history museums in Western North Carolina and is the repository of a vast collection of artifacts that document the history and culture of the Cherokee. In 1998, the Museum boldly reinvented itself, opening a 12,000 square foot exhibit gallery that successfully integrates artifacts with state-of-the-art technology. 

OBCGS logo and Doris Cline Ward
Courtesy of obcgs.com and legacy.com

Doris Cline Ward


Doris Cline Ward received the award for her work with the Old Buncombe Genealogical Society. As a supporter of the Society, she edited its newsletter, which reaches 40 states, edited the two volume Heritage Books of Buncombe County, helped create an impressive genealogical library, served in four elected offices, and presented many programs across the region. She served as the Society’s president and a delegate to the Federation of Genealogical Societies in the USA. She also edited many family histories for individuals through her Ward Publishing Company.

Asheville Citizen, October 11, 1988

Richard S. Dillingham


Born and reared on a tobacco farm in northern Buncombe County, Richard Dillingham was a “Folk in Residence” at the Heritage Cabin and a Regional Specialist with the Southern Appalachian Center at Mars Hill College. As the former director of the center, the former director of the Rural Life Museum, and the former director of the Bailey Mountain Cloggers, Dillingham spread word of Appalachian history and culture across the United States and around the world to Austria, Northern Ireland, and Mexico. 

Asheville Citizen, June 15, 1988

Betty H. Sherrill


Betty Sherrill, former president of the Transylvania County Historical Society, received the award in 1996 for spearheading the drive to preserve the oldest known wood-frame house west of the Blue Ridge, the Wiliam Deaver House. Sherrill’s ties to Western North Carolina run deep. “I’m not just interested in the Deaver House or the history of Transylvania County, but the counties that touch on us.”

Unto These Hills program, 1997

Cherokee Historical Association


The Cherokee Historical Association won the 1997 award for impressive historical work done at the museum in Cherokee, with the long-running outdoor drama “Unto These Hill,” and for the Oconaluftee Indian Village, an 18th-century Indian village open since 1952.

Asheville Citizen, November 30, 1994

Waynesville Historical Society


The Waynesville Historical Society received the award in 1995 for their publication, “Heritage of Healing: A Medical History of Haywood County.”  The volume is a review of the county’s medical history from the days of Cherokee healers until 1960, and it mentions virtually everyone in the various medical fields who lived and worked in Haywood County. 

Valdese Centennial Park, June 28, 2009
Courtesy of Stanley and Terrie Howard

Historic Valdese Foundation

1993 (No award given in 1994)

The Historic Valdese Foundation won the award in 1993 for their Valdese Centennial Park project. The project design permits visitors to start at one part of a circular stone wall and read about Waldensian history from a series of ten bronze plaque situated around an 8.5-foot fountain. The town was begun by 29 French-speaking Protestant settlers from the Itailian Alps who got off a train in Burke County in 1893. 

Scrapbook page from Walter Ashe
Courtesy UNC-Asheville Special Collections

Walter F. Ashe


Retired naval lieutenant, Walter Ashe received the award in 1992 for his effort in organizing an exhibit and activities comemorating the ships that bore the name “Asheville.” Ashe, who moved to Asheville in 1983, served from 1936 to 1939 aboard the U.S.S. Asheville in China waters. During WWII, he was stationed on the battleship North Carolina. He retired from the navy in 1966. Upon arriving in Asheville he was astounded at how little his new neighbors and friends knew about the ships that bore the city’s name. He set out to recover the history of the ships, especially P.G. 21, which he had been stationed on in the 1930s and which Japanese forces sank on March 3, 1942, with the loss of 160 lives.

Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County


The Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County (PSABC) won the award in 1991 for their heritage aawareness efforts, for successful fund raising, and for their role in the campaign to save historically significant buildings in Buncombe County. PSABC was formed in 1976, with interest in preservation sparked by observance of the U. S. Bicentennial, and in response to threats to local buildings and sites posed by neglect, insensitive alteration, and large-scale transportation projects.

Junior Johnson exhibit, Appalachian Cultural Center
Charlotte Observer
, August 2, 1989

Appalachian Cultural Center


The Appalachian Cultural Center, a museum of mountain life, opened at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, in 1989. Its wide embrace included exhibits on the Land of Oz, the defunct Avery County theme park, and stock car racing legend Junior Johnson. The museum told a larger story – of commercially successful mountain musicians, middle-class families, and folk crafts that sprouted into homegrown indusitries. The Museum closed to the public in 2006.

Millie Barbee


Millie Barbee, executive director of the Historic Burke Foundation, won the award in 1989. She was recognized for her fund-raising efforts and oversight in the restoration of the Old Burke County Courthouse. She was cited for her leadership in establishing a local museum in the courthouse, the publication of an award-winning architectural inventory of Burke County, the establishment of a local Historic Properties Commission, organization of two archaeological digs and the initiation of the Quaker Meadows restoration project. 

Big Ivy Historical Village, 2019
Courtesy of Big Ivy Historical Society

Big Ivy Historical Society


The Big Ivy Historical Society won the award in 1988 for their work on reconstruction of the historic Carson Cabin as well as their publication listing and detailing 69 Big Ivy cemeteries. The group also announced plans for creating a Big Ivy Historical Village which, in addition to the Carson Cabin, was to include a caretaker’s cabin, a one-room log schoolhouse, a log church, a country store, barn , corn crib, blacksmith shop, and visitors’ center. 

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.
Courtesy of UNC-Asheville Special Collections

Roy A. Taylor


Roy A. Taylor (1910 – 1995), former representative in Congress from the 11th District and former chairman of the National Parks and Recreation Subcommittee of the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, won the award in 1987. The award paid tribute to him for his efforts on behalf of support for the national historic preservation program. 

Cover of A History of Mt. Mitchell and the Black Mountains, 1985

S. Kent Schwarzkopf


Asheville native S. Kent Schwarzkopf (b. 1953) won the award for 1986 for his book, A History of Mt. Mitchell and the Black Mountains: Exploration, Development, and Preservation. Schwarzkopf first became interested in the history of the Black Mountains while an employee of the North Carolina State Parks in 1976. Subjects discussed in the book include intitial habitations by scientist Elisha Mitchell’s exploration of the range, developing tourism in the 1850s, the Clingman-Mitchell highest peak controversy, and geographic explorations of Arnold Guyot, exploitation and preservation at the turn of the 20th century, and the return of tourism.

Asheville Citizen, April 18, 1984

Robert G. Fortune, Jr.


Robert Greer Fortune, Jr., Asheville historian and retired executive for Carolina Light & Power Company, was the recipient of the award in 1985 for his series of programs and slide presentations entitled “Asheville of Yesteryear,” which showed Asheville buildings, homes, and landmarks from the period 1890-1930.

Asheville Citizen, May 1, 1996

Johnny Baxter


 Johnny Franklin Baxter (1910 – 1996), a native Asheville preservationist, historian, and founding Board member of the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County, led the efforts to save, revitalize, and have the YMI Cultural Center listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. George Vanderbilt built the YMI in 1893 to serve as the equivalent of the YMCA for black men and boys who helped construct the Biltmore House during the 1890s. Many of these masons, carpenters, plasterers and laborers also built the YMI.

Asheville Citizen, May 12, 1976

Sarah G. Upchurch


Sarah G. Upchurch (c1921 – 2000), won the award for her leadership in historic preservation. She was born and raised in Asheville and taught history in Concord. Returning to Asheville in 1948, where she lived until 1993, Upchurch was active in the League of Women Voters, AAUW, local historic preservation organizations and the Preservation Society of North Carolina. She was recognized for her work in establishing the Montford Historic District. 

Harley E. Jolley


Dr. Harley E. Jolley, also known as “Mr. Blue Ridge Parkway,” taught history at Mars Hill College from 1949 through 1991. He authored many books and articles including, The Blue Ridge Parkway: The First 50 Years,” “That Magnificent Army of Youth and Peace: The Civilian Conservation Corps in North Carolina, 1933-1942,” and “Along the Blue Ridge Parkway.”

Asheville Citizen, September 20, 1976

Frances McDowell and Ruth Camblos


Under the aegis of the Western North Carolina Historical Association, a committee was formed, headed by Frances McDowell and Ruth Camblos, to wage a long and successful battle to save the Smith-McDowell House. McDowell and Camblos, assisted by many other skilled people and organizations, restored the house and led the effort to make the house into a museum.

Asheville Citizen, May 1, 1980

Bob Terrell


Bob Terrell (c1929 – 2009), columnist for the Asheville Citizen, was the 1980 recipient of the award for the historical research he did for his daily column and for his book entitled, Grandpa’s Town, which concerned Asheville during the period of 1900 to World War I. 

George Myers Stephens


George Myers Stephens (1904 – 1978) took a job appraising timber in Swain and Haywood counties after graduating from college. His rich knowledge of the area, which became a part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, enabled him to write the authoritative guidebook to the park. His experience in the outdoors led him to become an organizer in planning, conservation, and recreation. As a conservator of mountain lore and history as well as of land and communities, Stephens was active in the formation of the Western North Carolina Historical Association and the Cherokee Historical Association.

Ora Blackmun, 1977
Courtesy of Western North Carolina: Its Mountains and Its People to 1880 

Ora Blackmun


Ora Blackmun (1892 – 1984), the Asheville author of Western North Carolina: Its Mountains and Its People and A Spire in the Mountains received the award in 1978 for her publications. Published in 1977, Western North Carolina is a narrative history of the Southern Appalachian Mountains up to 1880. Ora Blackmun depicts the stories of native Cherokee and Sequoyah people and pioneers such as William Bartram, Daniel Boone, Bishops Spangenberg and Asbury, and Zeb Vance. Ora Blackmun became intensely interested in the history of Western North Carolina, and spoke, lectured, and wrote extensively about her adopted region.

Cover of Home in Madison County, 1975

Lena Penland Purkey


Lena Lucas Penland Purkey (1904 – 1994) grew up in Madison County near Hot Springs and attended Dorland Institute and Asheville Normal School. She won the award in 1977 for her 1975 publication, Home in Madison County, an autobiography that provided a realistic and authentic description of life in the foothills of the Southern Appalachian mountains shortly after the turn of the century.

The Appalachian Consortium Press


The Appalachian Consortium Press was founded in 1973 – the first publisher devoted to Appalachia. The Press published scholarly books and reference materials, including the first contemporary and comprehensive bibliography of the region, oral histories, environmental studies, and poetry. The Appalachian Consortium Press published multidisciplinary scholarly works in history, literature, photography, music, sociology, folklore, and environmental studies that together provided a holistic view of the region. The Press dissolved in 2004, and thereafter, the works that it published were no longer marketed and sold.

Mary Myrtle Cornwell
Courtesy of sheltonhouse.org

Mary Myrtle Cornwell


Mary Myrtle Cornwell (1911 – 2001) won the award in 1975 for her leadership in the field of mountain crafts. Cornwell, a Haywood County home extension agent who held the post since 1949 when she won the award, was the founder of the Village of Yesteryear craft center at the NC State Fair in Raleigh. She was instrumental in the establishment of the NC Museum of Handicrafts on the Haywood Tech campus.

Goingback Chiltoskey


Goingback Chiltoskey (1904 – 2000), noted Cherokee woodcarver, was presented the 1974 award for his significant contributions as a craftsman, leader, and promoter of the Cherokee and their culture. His efforts enhanced the economic interests of the Qualla Reservation and the Cherokee Indians as well as the integrated society within his region. His efforts at preserving Native American lore have been meritorious. Chiltoskey is an asset to all of Western North Carolina.

Asheville Citizen, May 6, 1973

Bascom Lamar Lunsford


Bascom Lamar Lunsford (1882 – 1973), 91-year-old Buncombe County folklorist, won the 1973 award for his many years of preserving mountain folklore and music. Forty-five years previous to winning the award, Lunsford founded the Mountain Folk Festival, which is still presented annually. A former president of the North Carolina Folklore Society, Lunsford recorded more than 600 mountain ballads for the Columbia University library.

Cratis Williams
Courtesy of Appalachian State University Digital Collections

Cratis D. Williams


Dr. Cratis Dearl Williiams (1911 – 1985), dean of the graduate school at Appalachian State University, received the award in 1972 for outstanding service in the field of highland folklore. In making the award to the native Kentuckian, Dr. Williams was recognized as being a son of Appalachia, whose contributions in preserving and publishing the cultural heritage of the Southern mountaineers have been recognized many times on a national level. The Journal of American Folklore has called Williams’ thesis on the ballads and songs of Eastern Kentucky, “the most comprehensive and valuable current work on Southern highland literature.”

Asheville Citizen, May 2, 1971

 John A. Parris


John Alvis Parris, Jr. (1914 – 1999), Sylva-native and Asheville Citizen-Times columnist, won the award in 1971 for his column, “Roaming the Mountains,” which examined the social history of one of America’s most distinctive islands of culture with perception, humor, nostalgia, and understanding. In 1971, Parris had written the column for 17 years and also authored three books about Western North Carolina.

Asheville Citizen, April 27, 1970

The Carson House


The Carson House historic site project in McDowell County was presented the award in 1970 for the historical restoration project which brought fame to Western North Carolina through its significance and because of the expertise with which it was undertaken. The Carson House, which stands on US 70 three miles west of Marion, was opened in 1964 as the first project of its kind established in the mountain region under private auspices. 

Asheville Citizen, April 28, 1969

W. Clark Medford


Haywood County historian, W. Clark Medford (1882 – 1974), won the award in 1969 for his publication, “The Middle History of Haywood County with Story Supplement,” chronicling the history of the county. Medford had previously written a number of other historical books including: “The Early History of Haywood County”, (1961); “Mountain People, Mountain Times,” (1963); “Land O’ The Sky,” (1965);” “Great Smoky Mountains Stories and Sun Over Ol’ Starlin'” (1966).

Asheville Citizen, May 5, 1968

William E. Bird


Dr. William E. Bird (1890 – 1975), president emeritus and longtime dean of Western Carolina University at Cullowhee, was presented the award in 1968 for his service to the organization, including being a charter member and its first president when it was founded in 1952. Dr. Bird, a native of the Qualla community of Jackson County, served as dean of the college for 35 years and retired from that post in 1957, but continued to be active in adult education. Bird wrote a number of historical articles and poems on Western North Carolina. Bird was also commended for his efforts to raise funds to help finance the writing of a new history of Western North Carolina.

Asheville Citizen, April 24, 1967

Myra Champion, NC Collection at Pack Memorial Library


Myra Champion (1905 – 1988), librarian at the North Carolina Collection in Pack Memorial Library of Asheville received the award in 1967 for her efforts over the previous decade to grow the collection to approximately 10,000 cataloged pieces, all related to North Carolina. “The collection is the depository of most of the valued manuscripts of the library. In it are early accounts of the Carolinas going back to 1590; significant North Caroliniana from the presses of the state dating from 1752; old maps; pictures, handwritten diaries, hundreds of Civil War letters, autographs and a host of other items that make it one of the most distinguished collections of North Caroliniana in existence. Scholars come from afar for research there, especially with reference to the leading writer of Western North Carolina, Thomas Wolfe.”

Vance Brithplace, 1936
Courtesy of North Carolina Museum of History

Florence Harrison Dunlop


Florence Leftwich Harrison Dunlop (1901 – 1979) was an educator and historian who won the award in 1966 for her work in furnishing the newly-rebuilt Zebulon B. Vance birthplace. “She delved tirelessly into the history of the WNC region and made many contributions to its preservation.”

Asheville Citizen, April 26, 1965

Paul A. Rockwell


Col. Paul Ayres Rockwell (1889 – 1985), a past president of WNCHA, was presented the award in 1965 for his role in commemorating the Battle of Asheville, fought near the end of the Civil War on April 6, 1865. In August 1914, Paul Ayres Rockwell and his brother, Kiffin Yates Rockwell, Americans of French extraction, volunteered to fight for France in the coming war (World War I).

Asheville Citizen, July 11, 1973

Cordelia Camp


Dr. Cordelia Camp (1884 – 1973) of Asheville, retired educator, received the award in 1964 for authoring books on the life of two North Carolina governors: Zebulon Baird Vance and David Lowry Swain, and for her contributions to the teaching of North Carolina history in the schools. Camp, a native of Rutherford County, was a former member of the Western Carolina College faculty and served as secretary-treasurer of the WNC Historical Association beginning in 1959.

Samuel E. Beck


Samuel Edmund Beck (1898 – 1966) of Asheville, businessman, historian, and author, received the 1963 award in recognition of his work in the field of Western North Carolina history, particularly in the preservation of Cherokee Indian materials, and his work on the Civil War postal service. He accumulated a significant collection of Cherokee artifacts, which formed the basis of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. After serving in WWI, he moved from Quallatown Precinct, Jackson County, NC, to Asheville and began serving in a number of historical organizations.

Asheville Citizen, April 29, 1962

The Vetust Study Club


The Vetust Study Club of Asheville received the award in 1962 for its work in carefully selecting pioneer treasures in furnishing the Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace in Buncombe County. The committee did a “thorough, original work of research in seeking out and choosing the pioneer treasures made and used in a mountain cabin from 1790 to 1830. In placing these furnishings appropriately in the five rooms of the Vance Birthplace, the club has helped to preserve these historic objects for the instruction and inspiration of future generations.”

Asheville Citizen, April 23, 1961

Asheville Citizen-Times


Departing from its usual custom of presenting the award to an individual, the award in 1961 went to the Asheville Citizen-Times for historical articles in last year’s 90th Anniversary issue. Terming the special edition a “monumental undertaking,” WNCHA representatives said: “Especially noteworthy were the numerous original articles of a historical nature that showed a capacity for painstaking research and discriminating judgment. This large edition is not only outstanding: its articles and pictures constitute a contribution of permanent value to Western North Carolina.”

Hiram C. Wilburn


Hiram Coleman Wilburn (1880 – 1967) of Waynesville received the award in 1960 for his distinguished work in Cherokee history. A native of South Carolina and a graduate of Clemson College, Wilburn worked as a land surveyor for the North Carolina Park Commission before being employed by the Civilian Conservation Corps as a trial foreman. When the CCC dissolved in 1942, Wilburn’s official work with the park ended. Wilburn then became the unofficial historian of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Wilburn spent time identifying historic structures, collecting artifacts, and researching local history. He is credited with curating the earliest collections that would form the nucleus of the park’s museum.

Glenn Tucker


Glenn Irving Tucker (1892 – 1976), author and historian, of Flat Rock received the award in 1959 for his book, “High Tide at Gettysburg.” In 1948, Tucker retired from careers in journalism and advertising and moved to Flat Rock, N.C., where he grew apples and began to research the popular histories he had always wanted to write. In the ensuing twenty-eight years he was the author of 14 books, beginning with “Poltroons and Patriots: A Popular Account of the War of 1812” (1954).

Courtesy of Cherokee County Historical Museum

Margaret W. Freel


Historian Margaret Walker Freel (1895 – 1982) of Andrews, received the award in 1958 for her history of Cherokee County, “Our Heritage: The People of Cherokee County, North Carolina, 1540-1955.” The award is given for an historical work or service judged outstanding.

Asheville Citizen, April 28, 1957

Owen H. Gudger


Owen Gudger (1880 – 1959), a lifelong resident of Buncombe County, won the award in 1957 for his work towards the preservation of history during the previous year. Owen Gudger, judge, newspaperman, lawyer, and historian, also served as Asheville’s postmaster from 1913-1921. “It was often said of him that he knew more biographical and regular facts about Western North Carolina and its people than any of his contemporaries.”

Clarence W. Griffin


Clarence Wilbur Griffin (1902 – 1958), managing editor of the Forest City Courier, received the award in 1956 for numerous services in the field of state and local history. Griffin was a member of the executive board of the NC Department of Archives and History, president of the WNC Historical Association, and a former vice president of the NC Literary and Historical Association. He was the author of numerous pamphlets and other works on the history of the western part of the state, including, “History of Old Tryon and Rutherford Counties: 1930-1956” (1937) and “History of Rutherford County: 1937 – 1951” (1957).

Asheville Citizen, February 12, 1962

George W. McCoy


George William McCoy (1901-1962), newspaper editor, won the award in 1955 for his numerous historical articles, which were recognized as being reference works used by his newspaper colleagues as well as other North Carolina historians. McCoy became managing editor of The Asheville Citizen in 1947 and continued his efforts to enrich the life of mountain people and write about their heritage. The award paid tribute to McCoy as “a pioneer in the small regional group which realized the importance of prosecuting detailed research and as a leader in collecting facts and data which would provide this important area of North Carolina with a true history of its development in every phase and along every line.” One of his achievements while working with WNCHA was the initiation of the successful movement for the preservation of the Zebulon Vance Birthplace on Reems Creek. He was also one of the organizers and served as secretary of the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Association, Inc. He originated the movement for a museum and collection for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Asheville Citizen, April 25, 1954

Sadie Smathers Patton


Sadie Smathers Patton (1886 – 1975) of Hendersonville won the first annual award in 1954 for her contributions in the preservation of the history of this part of the state. “For more than a quarter of a century, Mrs. Sadie Smathers Patton has been a tireless and discriminating student of the history of Western North Carolina. Her researches have been extensive, painstaking and accurate and have resulted in the accumulation of a vast amount of truly invaluable information about the past of this section. She has incorporated some of the fruits of her scholarly quests in published volumes of genuine and permanent worth as local histories. Her unpublished writings contain much material which will be of inestimable value to other historians. Mrs. Patton’s most important published work is perhaps “The Story of Henderson County.” It is a vivid, moving and scholarly story of her county from its earliest days. Only less important is “Sketches of Polk County.” In both of these county histories, she has written with genuine admiration for the people whose stories she recounts and with a deep knowledge of their pasts. Mrs. Patton has never been willing to restrict her interests and energies to pouring over musty records. For many years, she has been an active member of the State Department of Archives and History, highly respected by her associates for her sound counsel and for her achievements as a historian. Through the many patriotic and other organizations with which she has been associated, she has interested herself in fostering a deeper knowledge of the history of this section and in seeing to it that places of historical importance were appropriately marked. She has been an interested and influential director of the WNCHA. In both quality and scope, Mrs. Patton’s contributions to the preservation of the history of Western North Caroiln have been truly outstanding and fully deserve signal recognition by the WNCHA.