The North Carolina Humanities Council Road Scholar Randell Jones is coming to Concord on January 20 to present "Famous and Infamous Women of NC
The program is part of the Concord Friends of the Library
’s Annual Meeting on Saturday, January 20 at the Concord branch of the Cabarrus County Public Library second floor auditorium (27 Union Street N) starting at 1:30pm.
After the program, Mr. Jones will sell and sign copies of his regional history books including Scoundrels, Rogues and Heroes of the Old North State.
The Concord Friends of the Library is a non-profit group of volunteer citizens who work together to stimulate a greater interest in and use of the Concord Public Library. Michael Eury, Immediate Past President of the Concord Friends of the Library, said, "We lend active support to our library's services and programming by assisting with programs and events, and by sponsoring special activities for readers and citizens of all ages and demographics."
January is the month of their annual membership drive, where they encourage new members to join and existing members to renew. On a Saturday each January, an annual meeting is hosted with their members, which is also open to the general public. During this annual meeting they recap their year's activities and feature a guest speaker. Previous guest speakers have included N.C. Poet Laureate Shelby Stephenson and N.C. Literary Trails author Georgann Eubanks.
This year features Randell Jones, who is one of the N.C. Humanities Council's "Road Scholar" speakers. "When our board was considering speakers for this year's annual meeting," Eury told us, "we consulted the Humanities Council's list of possible speakers and his name appeared. I said, 'Wait, I know him!'"
A photo from the CFOL annual meeting of 2017, picturing Concord FOL president Tim Foley, 2017 annual meeting and N.C. Poet Laureate Shelby Stephenson, and FOL treasurer Sara Newberry
Eury met Randell Jones a couple of years ago at a history event in Salisbury, where he was dressed like Daniel Boone
. He's done extensive research into Daniel Boone's explorations, among other subjects, and has published several history books. "I bought from him a copy of his book, Scoundrels, Rogues and Heroes of the Old North State, and was fascinated by these tales of North Carolina's most colorful citizens of yesteryear," Eury said about the meeting.
Mr. Jones's "Famous and Infamous Women of North Carolina" program immediately intrigued the Friends' board, and judging from the reactions they have been receiving from others, it's expected to be a crowd-pleaser.
When we asked Eury what he was most looking forward to, he said, "I have a tremendous interest in stories about exceptional people, and stories about exceptional things that ordinary people did. Plus, I enjoy a good tale about infamous or notorious characters. I'm not sure which famous and infamous women Randell Jones will be telling us about but can't wait to find out!"
An Interview with Randell Jones
We got in touch with Randell Jones to learn more about his passions for writing and history. Read on to find out what we can look forward to about his upcoming presentation, as well as what his goals for the future are.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Have you always had a passion for writing and history?
I’ve been writing about history for 25 years. Telling stories of our collective past has been my writing passion, but I came to writing in mid-career. I earned two engineering degrees from Georgia Tech and an MBA from UNC-Chapel Hill before I discovered that I could build a story around historical facts and entertain readers and a live audience. I was born in Arkansas, grew up in Memphis and lived in Atlanta before graduate school brought me over the Blue Ridge to North Carolina. I continue to be astonished and impressed with this place. It’s natural beauty and history are a writer’s dream. Glad to be here for 35 years now.
Tell us a little bit about your upcoming presentation at the Friends of the Library's event. What inspired it?
My talk “Famous and Infamous Women of North Carolina” comes from the book “Scoundrels, Rogues, and Heroes of the Old North State.” That book is a collection of historical anecdotes written by Dr. H.G. Jones (no relation). He is North Carolina’s premiere archivist and one of its most renowned historians. In 2002, he received the North Carolina Award, the highest honor a civilian North Carolinian can receive. He formerly served as Director of North Carolina Archives and History. From 1969 to 1986 he wrote articles which ran in newspapers across the state in his weekly column, “In Light of History.”
The stories had not been in print in 25 years and had never appeared together, I got with him in 2004 and edited selected stories into this collection. Those stories range from the coast to the mountains and they cover 400 years of North Carolina history. In 2016, the NC Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped recorded this book for their print-handicapped patrons. The NC Library submitted the audio book to the National Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, the first such audio book the NC Library had submitted for a national audience.
Everybody loves a good story, and the “Scoundrels” book has plenty of those, and especially a good number about remarkable women in our state’s history, those well known for noble accomplishments and those we might regard as notorious. Some historical characters might be familiar names and others have been hidden in the shadows of time. I’ve also learned that people love to laugh, and it seems we enjoy most laughing at ourselves—or at least that part of ourselves we see displayed so prominently in others. So, the stories of women I share in this telling are entertaining as well as inspiring and noteworthy.
What are your goals for this presentation?
I love entertaining an audience by sharing the unexpected, making them smile, and giving us all some things to think about. We are more the same than we are different, and that goes for our ancestors, too. Times change, but human nature pretty much stays the same.
What are your goals for the future?
I have enjoyed writing and publishing eight books and producing two videos during the last 15 years, including three books on Daniel Boone, prominently, “In the Footsteps of Daniel Boone.” And since 2007, I have served as an invited member of the Road Scholars Speakers Bureau of the North Carolina Humanities Council. They fund me to speak to audiences hosted by non-profit groups across the state. In fact, my talk to the Concord Friends of the Library is supported by funding from the NC Humanities Council. I look forward to continuing that relationship and to speaking to new audiences across the state.
During 2018 and 2019, I am working on a couple of projects. One is the “Personal Essay Publishing Project” collecting 750-word personal essays on “perseverance” by writers in only North Carolina and Kentucky. The theme resonates with the 250th anniversary this winter of an event in the life of Daniel Boone, who lived in North Carolina at the time and was trapped for months by an early snow fall while hunting in Kentucky. The collection of essays will be published in the spring.
A second collection on another theme will be published in 2019 in advance of the 250th anniversary of Daniel Boone’s first passage into Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap.
These collections are an opportunity to help new and unpublished writers to get something in print.
More information is available at www.DanielBooneFootsteps.com. Just click on “Classroom” and scroll down to “Personal Essay Publishing Project.” Deadline is Feb. 17.
Last November, I spoke on Daniel Boone in Statesville at the Iredell Museum where Concord artist Robert Crum is showing his exhibit, “Return to the Land of my Ancestors.” Robert is a descendant of Daniel Boone.
Any other books we should know about?
Another book and talk sponsored by the NC Humanities Council is “Before They Were Heroes at King’s Mountain.” This covers six years of Revolutionary War history in the South told from the militia side leading up to and including the Battle of Kings Mountain. I have spoken throughout the southern piedmont on this topic. As many North Carolinians already know, we are now at the beginning of a series of 250th anniversary events marking our history which led up to our struggle for independence. We will be observing and reflecting on these historic events as that series of anniversaries continues to our Declaration of Independence (in 2026) and through seven years of war. As others have noted, so much of that history is brought to mind today by our current politics.
My latest book, “From Time to Time in North Carolina” received in November a Historical Book Award from the NC Society of Historians. It is a collection of stories written as guest columns for the Winston-Salem Journal which come to mind and come to bear on current events at the time they were written. For readers who like to see our current events reflected in our history, this is a thought-provoking collection.
This free event begins at 1:30 p.m. with a coffee and dessert social, followed at 2:00 p.m. by the program. If you have questions, call 704-920-2000.