Historical Highlights Of North Carolina


A constitutional convention was held in 1835, and among several changes made in the constitution was the method of electing the governor. After this change, the governor was elected by the people for a term of two years, instead of being elected by the legislature for one year. Edward Bishop Dudley was the first governor elected by the people.

In 1868, a second constitution, which drastically altered North Carolina government, was adopted. For the first time, all major state officers were elected by the people. The governor and other executive officers were elected to four-year terms, while the justices of the supreme court and judges of the superior court were elected to eight-year terms. The members of the General Assembly continued to be elected for two-year terms. Between 1868 and 1970 numerous amendments were incorporated into the 1868 constitution, so that, in 1970, the people voted to adopt a completely new constitution. Since then, several amendments have been ratified, but one in particular is a break from the past. In 1977, the people voted to allow the governor and lieutenant governor to run for reelection successively for an additional term.

North Carolina has had two permanent capitals, New Bern and Raleigh, and there have been three capitol buildings. Tryon Palace in New Bern was constructed in the period 1767-1770, and the main building was destroyed by fire February 27, 1798. The first capitol in Raleigh was completed in 1794 and was destroyed by fire on June 21, 1831. The present capitol building was completed in 1840.

In 1790, North Carolina ceded her western lands which included Washington, Davidson, Hawkins, Greene, Sullivan, Sumner, and Tennessee counties, to the federal government. Between 1790 and 1796 the territory was known as Tennessee Territory, but in 1796 it became simply Tennessee, the fifteenth state in the Union.

During the years between the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, North Carolina developed a system of state and local government to meet the needs of its people. During this same period, two North Carolina natives were elected to the presidency of the United States: Andrew Jackson, the seventh president (1829-1837), and James K. Polk, the eleventh president (1845-1849).

Although there was much division in the state concerning secession, North Carolina did secede on May 20, 1861. North Carolina was not considered a wealthy state, but during the Civil War North Carolina supplied more men and materials to the Confederate cause than any other state. The state also suffered the largest number of losses than any other Confederate state during the war. General Joseph Johnston surrendered the last major Confederate Army to General William Sherman near Durham on April 26, 1865.

North Carolina was readmitted to the Union in 1868. Serving as president during much of the difficult period of Reconstruction was Andrew Johnson, the seventeenth president (1865-1869), another North Carolina native. The years of reconstruction and the decades following were characterized by courageous readjustments.

The Twentieth Century

In 1901 Governor Charles B. Aycock introduced a far-reaching program of education throughout the state, an event which marked an important turning point in the history of North Carolina.

In 1903 the Wright Brothers made the first successful powered flight by man at Kill Devil Hill near Kitty Hawk. The Wright Memorial at Kitty Hawks now commemorates their achievement.

In the 1920's a pioneer road building program was instituted which ultimately caused the state to be known as the "Good Roads State."

In recent years the state has emphasized education, industry, and agricultural technology and in each area has achieved many notable successes. Established in 1959 to enhance North Carolina's economic growth, the Research Triangle Park is a unique complex for organizations engaged in institutional, governmental, and industrial research. Three major research universities--Duke University in Durham, North Carolina State University in Raleigh, and the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill--are both the base and the capstone of the Research Triangle Park.

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