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Interview with James Rush Beeler, April 21, 2006 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with James Rush Beeler, April 21, 2006
April 21, 2006
James Rush Beeler was born in Pensacola, North Carolina, on May 27th, 1921. At Burnsville High School, he began to study the French language. From there, he attended Morris Hill College, where in his second year, he taught French grammar and conversation. Beeler graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 1942, having continued to study French but also Spanish and German. He then enlisted in the Army Air Corps and served until 1946. He earned his Master's degree and visited Paris for a year. He also received his PhD in French Literature. Before arriving at Wilmington, Beeler taught at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. In 1969, he joined the Department of Modern Languages at UNCW, retiring in 1990.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Beeler, James R. Interviewer: Riggins, Adina Date of Interview: 4/21/2006 Series: Voices of UNCW Length: 2 hours, 35 minutes

Riggins: My name is Adina Riggins. I'm the University Archivist, here at UNCW. I'm here today for an oral history interview. We have a very special guest I'm very pleased to welcome today. We have James Rush Beeler, who will be talking to us about the history of the university, as well as his department. And today is April 21st, 2006. Dr. Beeler, please again just state your name for the tape.

James R. Beeler: [laughs] I'm uh.. James Rush Beeler.

Riggins: And you go by- your preferred name is Rush, correct?

James R. Beeler: Uh.. yes, I'm called Rush.

Riggins: Okay, yes, thank you Dr. Beeler. We like to start off with some background information, just to get a sense of who you are before you came to UNCW and started as a professor here. Please give us some background information and tell me where you were born and where you grew up.

James R. Beeler: Uh.. I will be glad to do so. Uh.. [laughs] like- like David Copperfield, I was born [laughs].

Riggins: I was born.

James R. Beeler: I was born on May 27th, 1921, uh.. in a house that my grandfather owned, in a- a little village in western North Carolina called uh.. Pensacola- that wasn't its first name, that was the name that was given to it when the railroad came. Uh.. it was near the timberland that the Murchison family from Wilmington uh.. bought and denuded of the [laughs]- uh.. of the forest primeval. They made a fortune.

Riggins: Really?

James R. Beeler: Uh.. but my family had been there for some time. They- uh.. the..--. I'm related to three families, the Riddles, the Rays and the Wilsons. They all came from uh..- uh.. the northern part of England and settled there. Uh.. my..- my uh.. great-grandfather Riddle lived in uh.. a log house. It's a two-story house and uh.. it remained until about 20 years ago. I don't know- I don't know how it happened to be burned but it was.

Riggins: Really?

James R. Beeler: And that- that has been lost. Uh.. as I said, the- the little farming community that had been called Laurel Branch uh.. of the South Toe River, uh.. changed its name to Pensacola for uh..- when the railroad came to- to take away the lumber. My grandfather Beeler came from Tennessee, uh.. at that time, to supervise the buildings uh.. for the- for the Murchison uh..- uh.. Lumber business, and that- that's how I happened to be named Beeler. Uh.. I uh..- my uh.. grandparents both came from uh.. Bristol [laughs]. It- it's usually called Bristol, Virginia but it's a- uh.. a town on the state line between Virginia and Tennessee.

Riggins: Oh, okay.

James R. Beeler: Uh.. the- the Beelers came [laughs]- came from the- the West side, the Tennessee side, and the Bowlens came from uh..- had migrated from Eastern Virginia, finally, to there. But my grandparents came. By the time I came along, my grandfather had retired and he lived nearby and I usually spent the morning with him. He always read the newspaper and he uh..- he taught me to read without [laughs] realizing what he was doing.

Riggins: Really?

James R. Beeler: Uh.. he uh..- yes he finally told my father to buy a school book for me because he said, uh.. this boy can read. And so I've been reading since. That has been..

Riggins: That's great, that's fascinating.

James R. Beeler: ..uh.. one of the great pleasures of my life.

Riggins: It sounds like you know a lot about the genealogy of your family and that you were very close, having these extended family close by you.

James R. Beeler: Yes.

Riggins: That was the life then I suppose.

James R. Beeler: Yes. Well the- uhm.. my mother's family, the Rays and uh.. the Riddles, uh.. had been in the- the area for- for a very long time. The uhm.. Beelers had come down uh.. from Pennsylvania to uh..- to Eastern Tennessee [laughs] and the Western part of- part of Virginia. In the very early days, two uh.. members of the Beeler family were in the group of- called the Over the Mountain Men, who during the Revolutionary War came to Kings Mountain, which is on the- the border of North Carolina and South Carolina, and they- the British Army was defeated at uh..- at Kings Mountain. Uh.. and the- uh.. it's difficult to believe that a group came all the way from [laughs]- from Bristol, Virginia to participate in- in that battle, but they did.

Riggins: Wow.

James R. Beeler: Uh..- uhm.. my- as I said, I spent a great deal of time with my grandparents. My grandmother uh…. Well- well I started to tell you something that I inherited from her. The- the Bowlens were famous for- for going deaf. She [laughs]- she was almost stone deaf. My father was deaf [laughs], and the hearing aid that I wear doesn't do much good.

Riggins: Yes, so you might have trouble hearing me so I'll--

James R. Beeler: No, no, I- I- I can hear you perfectly.

Riggins: Oh good.

James R. Beeler: And I can read your lips [laughs].

Riggins: Really? Well I'll do my best. Well it sounds like you were up then in the mountains.

James R. Beeler: Yes.

Riggins: It was a house that had been in your family for a long time.

James R. Beeler: Oh yes, yes. Uh.. some of them are still there and uhm..- uh.. it's- uh.. it's beautiful country. But I didn't remain there for very long. Uh.. we- uh.. we moved to the county seat of Yancey County and- uh.. Burnsville, which is 10 miles from the- the place, from Pensacola, where I was born. Uh.. and uh.. we moved there when I was about uh.. 6-years-old, I think, because I started public school when I was- uh.. when I was six. Uh.. the- the high schools were new in uh..- in Burnsville at that time. There had been two private uh.. schools or colleges, as they were called; uh.. one was Baptist and the other was Presbyterian. They- uh.. it was very fortunate for Burnsville because these schools brought people from all over the place. They- uh.. the Presbyterian school brought money from the McCormack family.

Riggins: Really?

James R. Beeler: and uh..- and also a faculty from- from New England. The uh..- the Bap- Baptist school, the uh.. Yancey Collegiate Institute, as it was called- the- uh.. the other one was called College but they taught about the same thing. They- they were uh..- they tried to uh..- to give the basic uh.. instruction and that's- that's what I received first, my first year in school.

Riggins: You were at the public school though, right?

James R. Beeler: Yes, uh.. I was- it was the year of the public school, they took over- the- the public school took over the buildings of the Yancey Collegiate Institute.

Riggins: Oh, well that works out.

James R. Beeler: And- uh.. and some of the faculty. And that- that was- that was fortunate, I think. Uh.. so I was uh..- I- I was- had uhm.. elementary school and high school at Burnsville High School, which was the main building of the old Collegiate Institute. It is now- that building is now the- the Yancey County Library. Uhm.. I uh.. when it time- came time to go to the- to college, I went to a school, to- to a college that my mother had attended, which is nearby in the next county. It was uh.. Morris Hill College. It was a- a junior college.

Riggins: Morris Hill College, that's where you went?

James R. Beeler: Yes.

Riggins: Yes, I've heard of that. Well I'm from North Carolina. So that's a Baptist college too, isn't it?

James R. Beeler: Yes, yes, it- it was then [laughs].

Riggins: Okay, yes, I'm not sure now.

James R. Beeler: Certainly. Uhm.. and uh.. the uh..- the- the training was intensive in- in uh- uh.. English, History, Mathematics and some Science. I had- I had Physics and Chemistry; uh.. as well everybody had to take Biology, but I had all three.

Riggins: And foreign language?

James R. Beeler: Uh.. yes, I- I- I started French. I had had French in high school and I continued there. Uh.. the Head of the French Department was the- an old friend of my mother's; of course they had been in- she was the daughter of the uh..- of the President of the college and uh.. she was then head of the French Department, and I had courses with her. And in uh.. my second year at Morris Hill College uh.. the- uh.. one of the French teachers left- I don't know for what reason. But they needed- they needed a French teacher in a hurry and I was appointed to take her place [laughs].

Riggins: And you were a student still.

James R. Beeler: Yes, I- I- I was a 2nd-year college student. But she gave me.. uh..- as a parting gift she gave me a history of- of French Literature. It was later- uh.. it was the one that was used by all French majors in uh..- in college and in- in graduate school also. But uh.. later on I met one of the- it was a combination- uh.. one professor did the early history of French Literature and the uh.. other did the latter part. But I- I met the author of the- the first part later on; the second one had died in.. the interval, before I got to California.

Riggins: Oh.

James R. Beeler: [laughs] And uh.. but I met his widow. But uh.. it- uh.. it was wonderful to have that book, it meant- meant a great deal to me. Uh.. I went to Chapel Hill, to the University of North Carolina--

Riggins: For your second two years?

James R. Beeler: For the second two years.

Riggins: So they had to get another- a real French teacher at that point? [laughs]

James R. Beeler: [laughs] Yes, I suppose they- I suppose they found one.

Riggins: So just to ask, did you actually- you led the classes and you taught introductory French?

James R. Beeler: Yes.

Riggins: And taught literature and grammar and--. Did you like it?

James R. Beeler: Uh.. not- not literature. Uh.. this was uh..- this was entirely uh.. grammar, and some conversation- mainly grammar. And uh.. so--

Riggins: Okay. So you went to Chapel Hill for the second two years.

James R. Beeler: For- for the- for the second two years.

Riggins: That must have been a big change, from a small liberal arts or two-year college to go to UNC Chapel Hill.

James R. Beeler: Well you must remember that uh.. Chapel Hill wasn't huge in those days either.

Riggins: That's true, that's true.

James R. Beeler: I think- uh.. I think by the time I was graduated, the uh.. student body and the faculty amounted to about 4,000.

Riggins: Wow. Wow.

James R. Beeler: But it uh…. Uh.. but it was beautiful, uh.. the- the campus was beautiful then. It has changed. Unfortunately [laughs] it's--

Riggins: I bet, it must have just been so different, yeah, much different.

James R. Beeler: But I- I had- uh.. I was able to spend a great deal of time with uh.. foreign language courses. Uh.. the department uh.. was the Department of Romance Languages, and uh- uh.. I've- I've continued in French courses and uh.. Spanish and German, because in- I knew that I was- that- that I was headed for graduate school, and in those days German was- was required. So I had- I- that's what I had mainly, because I had already done most of the uh.. courses. I had some more courses in uh.. history and- but it uh.. was- was mainly in language work. And uh.. I was graduated in uhm.. 1942. Uh.. prior to that time I had signed up for the Army- everybody had- uh.. all the men had to. And I went into the Army in the late summer of uh..- of 1942 and uh.. was uh.. in the Army Air Corps until 1946. Uh.. [laughs]--

Riggins: Where were you stationed, where did you go?

James R. Beeler: Well uh.. I had my basic training [laughs] in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Riggins: Oh my goodness.

James R. Beeler: We- we did exercises on the Yankees uh- uh.. playing field.

Riggins: Really?

James R. Beeler: And uh.. we lived in hotels. [laughs] And what I remember particularly is marching through [laughs] the streets of St. Petersburg singing, "Off we go in the wild blue yonder."

Riggins: Interesting.

James R. Beeler: [laughs] But I never got- I never got into that part of the- of the Air Corps. I uhm..- uh.. I'd had some physics and uh.. I was sent to the- to the Weather School in uh..- in Illinois. And I arrived in wid- mid-winter, and North Carolina winters are nothing to compare to mid-winter in the Middle- Middle West.

Riggins: I'm sure. Had you traveled much before this?

James R. Beeler: Uh.. well--

Riggins: Not really.

James R. Beeler: Not that far west.

Riggins: Right.

James R. Beeler: I uh..- I arrived in my [laughs]- in my summer uniform [laughs], and uh.. was in school there for uh..- for about six months, I think. And uh.. the- uh.. it was at Chanute Air Field which is near the University of Illinois. I used to- to go over there, uh- uh.. frequently. I- I learned to ice skate there. I had never [laughs]- I had never done anything of that kind before. But I finished school and uh..- uh.. and was uh..- was sent to uh..- to Washington, to the headquarters of the uh..

Riggins: National Weather Service or--

James R. Beeler: No, the uh.., the- the. Uh.. this was for the Air Corps and uh.. we had- our office was in the Pentagon. Uh.. I had to live in uh.. downtown Washington at first because there wasn't room for us [laughs] at uh..- at any of the adjacent fields. But uh.. I uh.. eventually was at uh..- at Bowman Field, uh.. just across the river from the Pentagon.

Riggins: Oh, okay.

James R. Beeler: Uh.. but at first I lived in- in uh.. downtown Washington, on Rhode Island Avenue, and took a- took the bus uh.. out- out to the Pentagon. And [laughs] it was all alone, out in that Virginia area. The only thing between uh.. Washington and the Pentagon was a little restaurant. But that's changed [laughs].

Riggins: I'm sure, right.

James R. Beeler: Uh.. I got to the- I got to the Pentagon in 1943 and uh.. they had not had time to- to do a lot of things with the building. Uh.. they did not have the helpful signs saying "You are Here" [laughs], you go this way or that. But uh- uh.. it was- it was interesting. Uh.. instead of stairs, uh- uh.. you had to go up a- a walkway to- to get to the 5th floor. I was- I was in the uh..- on the 5th floor, the 5th ring of the- uh.. of the Pentagon. It was- first I arrived in late summer and Washington late summer is [laughs]--

Riggins: Oh yes, it sounds like--

James R. Beeler: an ordeal. The Pentagon was air-conditioned.

Riggins: Really?

James R. Beeler: Except nobody knew how to [laughs]- how to control things. So that if- if- if it got too cold, the- the girls just opened the windows [laughs]. But we- we made the best of it and uhm.. I uh..- I worked on- I worked on maps mainly. And uh- uh.. it was interesting. Uh.. you not only had to have a- a Pentagon pass to uh.. go into the main part of the building but I had to- I had to be uh.. recognized at sight [laughs].

Riggins: What does that mean?

James R. Beeler: By the soldier who was seated uh.. outside- outside the door.

Riggins: Oh, he had to know you.

James R. Beeler: [laughs]

Riggins: What did you do with the maps? You said you worked with maps mostly.

James R. Beeler: Maps, yes.

Riggins: What were you doing? Were you mapping things?

James R. Beeler: Mapping- mapping the weather reports from all over the world. Uh.. our office [laughs] did the weather report for the invasion- European invasion. And we missed [laughs], but--. And of course--

Riggins: That's like today, I think.

James R. Beeler: We- we didn't. Well uh.. there was a bet going on all the time on the Washington weather because it's- Washington weather is very finicky. And the- the person who always won was not the- was not the man from Cal-Tech who did [laughs]- did the forecasting, but uh..- but- but the office girl who supplied us with pencils and the pens.

Riggins: She was good at it.

James R. Beeler: And so she always won.

Riggins: Interesting.

James R. Beeler: But she had- she- she grew up in Washington, so she knew what it was like.

Riggins: Right.

James R. Beeler: We- one- uh.. I worked with one man who had- who had an idea about forecasting weather. He thought that if- since we had files uh.. of- of weather, that we could tell what happened on the preceding day or the preceding week to the- to the day you were thinking about. He had the idea that if you sorted the cards--. We didn't- didn't have computers in those days, we had the card system. If you sorted the cards so that you found uh.. a day which was uh.. precisely like the- the- the following day, that if you knew everything about the preceding week, say, you ought to be able to say what would happen, because we- we had reports on all sorts of air currents and this, that and the other. It's on the clock a good- a good plan, it's uh.. the sort- the sort of thing that's done with the computer, but apparently more [laughs]- more accurately than we were. Uh.. we never could- we never could figure out the Washington uh.. [laughs]..

Riggins: Yeah, it's still--

James R. Beeler: ..forecast for a week at once.

Riggins: And it's still hard, yes- well it's like here, the weather is always changing. Did you go overseas, when you were in the Air Force?

James R. Beeler: No, no.

Riggins: Were you happy about that?

James R. Beeler: Uh.. well not particularly, I'd- I'd always wanted to go to France. And uh.. no, I didn't- did not uh.. go overseas, but I- I went uh.. various places in the United States, mainly uh.. Eastern United States. I was in Boston for uh..- a Boston suburb [laughs], the Air Drome, as it was [laughs]- as it was called.

Riggins: Yes.

James R. Beeler: The Bedford Air Drome. And uhm..- and uhm.. I was in Atlanta and in Florida so--

Riggins: Was that when you were with the military or--?

James R. Beeler: Yes, yes, yes. Yes, I was stationed at various places. And uh.. you- I think they had an idea that it was a good thing for people in the Army to be moved around, and that's what happened [laughs].

Riggins: I guess so, right.

James R. Beeler: Well, in 1946, the- the war had been over and uh.. I.. got out of the military.

Riggins: You were discharged. Were you an officer or--?

James R. Beeler: No, no.

Riggins: You were enlisted.

James R. Beeler: No, I was an enlisted man, I was a sergeant. And uh- uhm.. it was suggested that I go to- to school uh.. to be trained, officer training school. But I- I wasn't interested in it. I- I was satisfied with what I was doing. I was always in a- nearly always in an interesting place, and there was a- a great deal beyond the Army, uh.. and Boston, particularly. Uh..

Riggins: I'm sure, yeah. You got a chance to see other things and the culture.

James R. Beeler: Uh.. many, many things that I had never seen. Uh.. I decided that- oh [clears throat] rural New England was very much like my grandfather's 200-acre farm, uh.. they had- they had the same stone walls instead of fences. I don't know- I don't know who built the stone walls of my grandfather's farm because he bought it and uh..- but somebody, probably who knew about New England, had done that. Uh.. Professor Mitchell, who had been at the University of North Carolina in the very early years, came from Connecticut and they had stone walls instead of- for fences uh.. on the farms in Connecticut, and he thought that that would be nice for Chapel Hill. So he- he built the first stone walls. If you go to Chapel Hill you'll notice- you'll notice the walls. Well uh.. Professor Mitchell uh.. was responsible for that.

Riggins: Really?

James R. Beeler: He came from Connecticut and uh.. he knew about that sort of thing.

Riggins: Interesting.

James R. Beeler: He was also interested in uhm- uh.. in geography and he uh.. explored all of North Carolina, not only the Central part where Chapel Hill is located but he went west and uh..- to uh.. inspect the mountains, and uh.. he inspected the mountains in the area that I came from, and uh.. he got lost at night and fell into a river and over a waterfall, and uh.. was drowned. They named the waterfall Mitchell Fall- his name was Professor Mitchell- and they named the mountain uh.. Mount Mitchell for him also, because he had done the uh.. exploration. Uhm.. well I went to- to Chapel Hill and a strange thing happened [laughs] when I uh.. first went back to- to graduate school. Uh- uh.... I went into the uh.. Department of Romance Languages, uh.. those- those--

Riggins: You're back in Chapel Hill, and this is in 1946 or--

James R. Beeler: Forty-Forty- '46.

Riggins: Right, in the fall probably.

James R. Beeler: That- that's correct. And a strange thing happened.

Riggins: Yes?

James R. Beeler: Uh.. .they- they had a- a great influx of students and uh.. undergraduate students at that time. And they- they needed instructors. They had- they had hired an instruct- a French instructor who didn't show up.

Riggins: Oh my goodness, yes.

James R. Beeler: So one morning when I was over in the dormitory shaving [laughs] and getting ready to- to go to class, uh.. Professor Holmes came [laughs]- came over to see me to see if I wouldn't- uh.. if I wouldn't instruct a class [laughs] in elementary French.

Riggins: So that happened again, and they didn't know that you had been asked to do it once before?

James R. Beeler: [laughs] Uh.. right. Uh.. I was somehow picked for that sort of thing I guess.

Riggins: Yes.

James R. Beeler: But it was- uh.. it was wonderful. I- I learned a great deal and I hope my students learned something. But I- I did- I did uh.. grammar, composition, uh.. conversation, and uh..- and an elementary course in uh..- in French Literature. I had all sorts of students and uh- uh.. my medical doctor in Wilmington was a student of mine.

Riggins: Really?

James R. Beeler: And another student of promise is- has recently been made President of the University of North Carolina.

Riggins: Really? Was it the current President?

James R. Beeler: Yes, the new President.

Riggins: They have a new--

James R. Beeler: Uh.. Bowles.

Riggins: Oh, Erskine Bowles..

James R. Beeler: [laughs] Yes.

Riggins: ..was your student.

James R. Beeler: Yes.

Riggins: Wow. How was he as a student?

James R. Beeler: He was- he was a good student. Uh.. I was- I was a very hard teacher, in those days. Uh.. one- one of my students who was an A student complained. He said, "How did I happen to get that A minus? I said- I wrote everything that you had said." And I said, "Well that's--." He said, "Isn't that enough?" [laughs] And I said, "No, I expected something from you, and it wasn't there."

Riggins: Interesting.

James R. Beeler: The same thing was true of.. the President [laughs].

Riggins: He did everything that he was supposed to do.

James R. Beeler: He- he was a perfectly adequate B student- don't tell anybody that [laughs].

Riggins: Sure. Well maybe foreign languages wasn't his thing.

James R. Beeler: [laughs]

Riggins: I suppose you saw that a lot, that people often struggled with learning French.

James R. Beeler: Yes, yes.

Riggins: But it was not difficult for you, was it?

James R. Beeler: Uh.. I- I don't know, I don't recall if it was; it was- uh.. it was always interesting. I had a uhm..- I had a very good memory uh..

Riggins: I can see that.

James R. Beeler: If you- if you can--. I don't have it now, it's fading. But uh- uh.. I took copious notes in courses, but never looked at them before a- before the examination because I- I had that kind of memory, and uh.. it's- it's good for college work [laughs].

Riggins: Yes. Interesting. So you began your graduate studies at this time also?

James R. Beeler: Uh.. yes.

Riggins: And you were teaching as well?

James R. Beeler: Yes, uh.. Uh.. [clears throat] uh..- uh.. I got a Master's degree in uh..- in 1969 and uh.. I went to- uh.. I went to France that summer and- for the better part of a year. It was uh..- it was wonderful to uh..- to be in Paris.

Riggins: Yes.

James R. Beeler: Professor Holmes and the other professors of French had.. described things in such a minute way that I- I felt at home. You-- [laughs]

Riggins: You found it and after seeing all of--. You probably had looked at slides, like in your classes did you look at slides?

James R. Beeler: Not- not much.

Riggins: Not too much.

James R. Beeler: I'd looked- looked at photographs. We- we didn't have slides in those days.

Riggins: Okay, I guess not. I guess slides came later.

James R. Beeler: [laughs] But uh- uhm.. I lived- I lived in a- uhm.. a small hotel in Paris, on the- on the Left Bank. I learned later that it was the- the place where Hemingway and his first wife lived when they first came to Paris. It had uh.. changed its name. Uhm- uh.. it was called Hotel d'Angleterre. I think the- I think the manager of the hotel probably had been to England uh- uh.. as an au pair and he decided that it would be nice to have a- a hotel that English would come to- and they did. The thing that- that I found strange about the British was that they were terrible students of French. They didn't- they had.. terrible difficulty with French. And uh.. you would think that uh.. they're 30 or 40 miles away and that [laughs] that they- they would be--

Riggins: It would be easier. You met a number of British people there or--?

James R. Beeler: Oh yes, yes, uh.. a great many. One of them wanted me to come over to- to see him in London. He said, "My- my tailor has retired and gone to the country but I will- uh.. I will ask him to come up. You will want some uh.. jackets, of course" [laughs] thinking that Americans always did want that kind of thing. But I had helped him out. He- the help at the- the hotel did not speak English. Uhm.. the manager spoke English a little but nobody else. And uh.. so the- the- the people lots of times needed someone to help out with the interpretation. I- I knew English and uh.. was adequate in French.

Riggins: Yes, certainly.

James R. Beeler: But there were all sorts of people, interesting people who came to the hotel. The Duchess of Athol came [laughs].

Riggins: Really?

James R. Beeler: Scotch. She wore- wore a hat that looked sort of like General Marshall's [laughs]. She had come over to see her friend in- in Paris. Her friend was the wife of the- the then President of France, and uh.. I don't know what she expected to get from the visit but uh.. she stayed at- she stayed at the- the hotel. She did not like cats. Uh.. and I've heard this explanation time after time in Paris. Paris is an old city and the cats are a great help- uh.. if we hadn't cats, we would probably have something worse. But the- the Duchess [laughs]- the duchess was..

Riggins: She didn't appreciate that.

James R. Beeler: ..was afraid of cats [laughs].

Riggins: When you were staying at the hotel, you sort of traveled around and visited the sites. Did you take any courses or did you--?

James R. Beeler: I took- yes, I took uh..- I took French courses and German.

Riggins: At the Sorbonne or at--?

James R. Beeler: I- I knew that- that the German examinations were in the offing so I--. I'd had German uh.., of course, as an undergraduate. And uh.. I'll- yes, I- I- I had good German teachers, uh- uh.. at Inst- the Institute du Pontillon. Uh.. they- they taught- the taught French and German, and uh.. it was- uh.. I enjoyed the courses very much. But I- I saw everything in Paris.

Riggins: In Paris.

James R. Beeler: I'm a good walker and uh- uhm.. it- it was very interesting. I know you're tired of..

Riggins: No, no this is great.

James R. Beeler: ..of these reminiscences.

Riggins: No, it's wonderful.

James R. Beeler: Another- at another time when I was in Paris, a friend of mine from Chapel Hill who had married a French girl had come over with his wife because they wanted to have their son born in France so that he would have double uh.. citizenship. And uh- uh.. I knew that- that Walter was there but I had been over- I had lived on the Left Bank, as I think I said- I had been over to the Embassy, which is on the Right Bank, and walking up the avenue towards the Opera House, uh.. and a bus went by with uhm.. someone on the plat- back platform, of the bus, yelled to me, "Rush, do you want to go to the ballet tonight?" [laughs] It was my friend from Chapel Hill. I said, "Yes." He said, "Well meet me at the"- all- the bus moving all the time- "meet me at the Theatre de Champs Elysees." And I said I would, and I did.

Riggins: How funny, what a coincidence.

James R. Beeler: Huh. The- the- the theater, I'd never been to that theater before. It's- it's an 18th Century building- beautiful. But uh.. the interior was exactly the wrong shape for the interior of an auditorium, it was circular. And the free seats that Walter had got were in [laughs]- uh.. were upstairs and near the- near the stage but you couldn't see the stage. And I said, "Maybe we'd better try to get something else." He said, "Don't worry", he said, "I- I was here during the war and I- I knew the usherette. I know the—-." [laughs] Well about the time the thing was to start she came and took us downstairs, and they had placed a row of overstuffed armchairs in front of the first row of the audience. And so that was our seating for the- for the ballet, which was very good, uh.. except that all during the ballet there was a woman, I thought, sitting in the front row of regular seats who kept talking all the time, had a sort of Midwestern accent.

Riggins: Oh, in English.

James R. Beeler: And uh- uh.. it- it was annoying. But I didn't look round and apparently Walter didn't either. But when it was over we got up and we were walking to one side to go out- out of the building, and I was in front and Walter grabbed my jacket and said- and nodded so that I would look back at the people who were seated behind us. It wasn't a woman at all, it was a- a small boyish-looking man with two men in black shirts, one on each side, and he had been doing the chatting that I thought was..

Riggins: A woman.

James R. Beeler: ..a woman. We thought that this was strange but neither one had any idea who it was. But in a day or so I met a friend of mine from Georgia whom I'd known in the Army and he said, "Rush, didn't you know- didn't you know who that was?" I said, "I certainly didn't." I said, "I- I thought it was a- a woman from the Middle West." [laughs] Well, the person was the subject of the- the recent movie.

Riggins: What movie? 1969.

James R. Beeler: About a- a--. You know, about a- an author, an American author, from the South. [laughs]

Riggins: I give up, what movie?

James R. Beeler: Uh.. it won the award this year.

Riggins: Oh, this year? Oh Capote.

James R. Beeler: Capote, uh.. this- this was Truman Capote.

Riggins: It was Capote?

James R. Beeler: Yes. [laughs]

Riggins: Really? What a character.

James R. Beeler: But he had a high voice and uh..- and uh.. I was sure it was a woman and uh.. Walter was too. But we--. I- I suppose Stanley was right because Stanley knew everything.

Riggins: About the current scene and--

James R. Beeler: Oh, about everything, about the- about the Army, uh.. and uhm.. he had not- he didn't know everything about uh.. France, but I went with him on tours--

Riggins: Yeah, I'm sure that it very much could have been right.

James R. Beeler: [laughs]

Riggins: Well that's amazing.

James R. Beeler: Uh.. but uh.. you had all sorts of people in uh..- in Paris, in those- in those days.

Riggins: I'm sure. And you liked it very much.

James R. Beeler: I- I liked it very much and--

Riggins: Sounds like it, and you got the opportunity to go there through your graduate program or you had--?

James R. Beeler: Uh.. no, no. Uh- uh.. I had a little money, I went on my own. I went- I went on the- the- the Queen Elizabeth.

Riggins: Really?

James R. Beeler: Yes, and uh.. [laughs]- QE-1, not 2- and uh.. it- it was very interesting. The Queen Elizabeth was too big to get into the- uh.. into the uhm.. Port Le Havre, and uh- uhm.. had to go from there by train to Paris. But uh.. it- it was- uh.. it was very interesting. I uh.. met a- a- a student- a student in Paris, uh.. oh probably met him when I was uh..- I was on my way back in- on the- the Queen Elizabeth. We uh.. shared a room with somebody from California who had bright-colored shirts [laughs] and changed them about five times a day.

Riggins: Really?

James R. Beeler: [laughs] But uh- uh.. this was a- a friend of mine from uh- uh..- who came to Chapel Hill in the Fall too, when I went back to Graduate School. He came to graduate school in English, finally got an M.A. And I continued in Graduate School and then uh.. for awhile. I had not received the Doctor's Degree when I got the opportunity to go to teach French uh.. in California, at uh.. UCLA. And- but I was there for five years. It was a- a--

Riggins: Really? In the 1950s it must've been.

James R. Beeler: In the 1950s. It was very interesting. Came- came back to Chapel Hill, got my degree, uh.. went to teach at the college of William and Mary. That was a great pleasure to me because Virginia has always been interesting to me. And uh.. I was--

Riggins: Let's go back. You got your Ph.D. in French Literature?

James R. Beeler: Yes, yes.

Riggins: Yes. In the Archives we have a review or an article you wrote about Pascal.

James R. Beeler: Probably [laughs].

Riggins: Yes. What was your area of research for your dissertation?

James R. Beeler: Uh.. I- I worked on the- the French novel of the- of the 17th Century. Uh.. I guess that was a good choice because there were not- not a very great many of them [laughs].

Riggins: Oh, right, and not many people were--

James R. Beeler: In- in those days.

Riggins: Who were some of the authors?

James R. Beeler: But uh.. it- uhm.. I worked on the- the novels of a- uh.. of a female novelist. Uh.. the subject, I think, had never been treated in..

Riggins: It was a good choice.

James R. Beeler: America. Uh.. it was not- it was not great- the subject was not really all that important but I spent a lot of time.

Riggins: Spent a lot of time on it.

James R. Beeler: On it. Yes.

Riggins: And it was well written.

James R. Beeler: Uh.. at Chapel Hill and at Duke they uh.. had a good French library- at Duke also. And I had had a- I took a course or two at Duke. And uhm.. but I got the degree, went to William and Mary, and uh.. it was uh.. wonderful. Uhm.. I- I was married by that time and my wife and I had a son uh.. in Williamsburg. He always uh.. tells people that he was [laughs]- he was born in Virginia.

Riggins: Born in Williamsburg- colonial.

James R. Beeler: [laughs] Yes. And uh.. William and Mary was a delightful place.

Riggins: A beautiful campus, I'm sure.

James R. Beeler: Uh.. yes. And uh.. the students- the students uh.. were very, very good.

Riggins: I'm sure.

James R. Beeler: They- they didn't--. Most- most of them did not need- need any elementary French. They- they were ready for something else. But we- we enjoyed that uh- uh.. very much. And by that time an old friend of mine had come to Wilmington. He came to Wilmington I guess about the last year of the- of Wilmington College. He uh- uh.. came as head of the uh- uh.. Modern Languages.

Riggins: Oh, okay, was that--?

James R. Beeler: Depault.

Riggins: Lloyd Bishop, or who was your friend?

James R. Beeler: Uh.. Bishop left and Jack Sparks came. And uh.. he- the next year he asked me- well he might have been here for two years before- he asked me if I wouldn't like to come. And I said I was well situated in uh..- uh.. at William and Mary. I was, you know..- uh.. I was not yet a full professor but uh.. I was an assistant professor. And I liked- I liked everything about it, except the salary in Virginia, the- the university money goes to the University of Virginia and also to a technical- uh.. Virginia Tech.

Riggins: Oh, VPI, right. Mm-hmm.

James R. Beeler: Uh.. William and Mary has always had a hard time. Williamsburg is not a cheap place to live in, even though you have all sorts of perquisites- uh.. we did from uh.. Colonial Williamsburg and Rooten Church.

Riggins: It must have been very pleasant.

James R. Beeler: And uh.. but I came for money- uh.. but I- I was well pleased with what I found. They uh..- uh.. the faculty were mainly made up in those days with people from- from the college of course. But uh.. in the faculties that I knew, particularly uh.. Modern Languages and uh.. English and History, uh.. they- I thought- I- I thought the faculty was- was uh.. a superior faculty. And it uh.. I believe has continued to be. Uh.. I stayed in the department and uh.. I wanted us to have Latin and I finally managed to- to get uh.. a professor of Latin.

Riggins: Over- where was this?

James R. Beeler: Uh.. here at Wilmington.

Riggins: Oh, at the university- right.

James R. Beeler: Uh.. they had not offered Latin previously, and uh.. I- I- my- my feeling is- of course Romance Languages came from Latin- but my feeling is that everybody should have Latin.

Riggins: Interesting. Well let's take a little break because the tape needs to be switched, but I'd like to talk about your coming to UNCW and how that came about a little bit in more detail. Thank you.

James R. Beeler: Well I've enjoyed it. [tape break]

Riggins: This is Adina Riggins continuing my interview with Dr. Rush Beeler. We've had a great time so far talking about Dr. Beeler's studies and his travels. And we're just going to start talking about how you arrived at UNCW in 1969. Dr. Beeler, you said that you received a call from this friend of yours?

James R. Beeler: Yes, who- who was then the- the chairman of the department.

Riggins: And he asked you to--?

James R. Beeler: I knew something about Wilmington by that time, however, because while I was at uh.. and my first year as an instructor in French at uh.. Chapel Hill, I was in a-- uh.. we had a large room for the instructors with desks all the way round the wall. Uh.. for the- for the French instructors. And uh.. in Murphy Hall where the- where French and uh.. Spanish and German were taught. Uh.. one day I was- I was at the old typewriter in that office, and it was uh.. of World War I vintage. [laughter] And the head of the uh.. Romance Languages Department came into the room with a- a small, debonair man-- I'm not sure that he wasn't wearing gloves-- [laughs] and introduced him. He was Edward Draper Savage. They had hired him to come and teach French Conversation. He had li- lived for many, many years in France. In fact, he had gone from Wilmington, North Carolina uh.. with the army in France-- had driven a taxi, I think he said, uh.. at- at the Battle of the Marne. And he liked Paris. And uh.. he- he stayed on after they uh.. after the- after the war. He had hoped to-- he'd be an architect. And-- but, they had [laughs] told him at school that he had not had sufficient uh.. training in mathematics. He said, "I don't know uh.. I don't have to know how to measure an angle. I can look at it [laughs] and- and te-- and tell." Well that was wasn't satisfactory. So uh.. [laughter] he went into art school in- in New York.

Riggins: That was more appropriate for him.

James R. Beeler: Uh.. sculpture particularly. And uh.. he had been uh.. a student in New York for a few years be-- before-- be-- before World War I and the army. He went with the army to- to France and decided to stay after the war and be an artist in Paris. Uh.. I think perhaps his family [laughs] may have furnished him with a little bit of money, but people lived skimpily in uh.. in Paris in those days. And uh.. when I was there too. Uh.. but it uh.. must have been a wonderful place in the uh.. the 19 uh.. 20s. I don't know whether you ever-- I suppose you didn't-- read the New Yorker uh.. from when they had the- the Paris letter.

Riggins: Oh no, I'm not familiar with that.

James R. Beeler: Well, the author of the Paris letter went from the Midwest-- Oklahoma I think-- to- to Paris in the 1920s. And he made a living by writing a letter about arts and letters in uh.. in Paris for the New Yorker magazine. Uh.. her name was Janet, and so she called herself "Jeanet." Uh.. [laughs] and uh.. her-- she knew everything and everybody, and her uh.. she kept at that until sometime in the 1950s. I remember seeing her on the street in uh.. in the 1950s in uh.. in Paris. And I thought I would telephone her and talk to her because I had- I had been reading the New Yorker [laughs]..

Riggins: Wow, that's another good--

James R. Beeler: ..since uh.. since I was in- in sch--- in high school. And uh.. at Burnsville somebody had given the high school the New Yorker magazine, and that's when I start-- [laughs] started reading it. So uh.. but uh.. at any rate uh.. Edward Draper Savage uh.. studied and uh.. worked there for many- for many years until the 1930s. He uh.. he was a sculptor and uh.. he had had some success, he said, in shows in uh.. in Paris. But uh.. he had a small family-- had a- a brother who went to the Middle West uh.. to Chicago I think and died-- and had a sister who was married and remained in Wilmington in the- the Savage House downtown on 3rd Street. And he had an aunt who lived in uh.. Wilmington also-- his mother's sister-- who uh.. who had a great deal of money. And uh.. she was a great friend of the-- of the wealth, the wealthy people who came to uh.. to live in Wilmington. And she traveled around with them. She went on the- the first train down the south coast of Florida to Miami. They had- they had go-- gone about halfway, but eventually they- they built the ro-- railroad all the way to uh.. Miami. She was uh.. a great friend of the Kenan family and uh.. other people who-- monied people.

And at any rate Edward's mother decided, since she was alone, that she would come to Paris. She liked it, and she got an apartment and lived there for two or three years I think. And uh.. that interrupted Edward's work. He didn't uh.. he didn't- he didn't live with her. He uh.. had a- a room over- overlooking the-- this big studio room [inaudible] was so-- that was where he- he lived uh.. on the Left Bank in uh.. in Paris. And uh.. so he, but his mother was ill in the- in the late 30s, and he decided to bring her back to America-- I think in 19 uh.. well I don't know the date. But in the '30s uh.. or '40s. She had-- his mother had bought a house in Western North Carolina at Hendersonville. For this reason uh.. they were related-- the Savages were related uh.. Mrs. Savage is uh.. was the sister of the man who owned the big place on the Sound. Uh.. Live Oaks or whatever it's called.

Riggins: Live Oak in Wilmington or--?

James R. Beeler: It's on the Sound.

Riggins: On the Sound.

James R. Beeler: It's uh.. a beautiful house. It was uh.. designed by the Wilmington architect who designed the national uh.. at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.

Riggins: Oh, okay. Wow!

James R. Beeler: Well, uh.. Edward used to go down to his grandfather's, which was at that house. And uh.. not in that house-- they had a house on the place for the summer. And uh.. they uh.. the water was bad and they had mosquitoes, and Edward said that after two summers when he had typhoid fever [laughs] come [glitch] to Wilmington. His mother said, "I'm not going to spend another summer on the Sound." And they- they started to go to that house. She bought the house in Hendersonville and they went there for the summer. And uh.. she was ill, and E-- Edward stayed with her and built a studio of sorts and-- at Hendersonville and tried to keep working. Uh.. but the- the second war came on, and uh.. his mother died. And he left Hendersonville and went to- to Washington to the-- forgot what the agency was. It was a French-American agency, and they needed somebody who was thoroughly equipped with the French language, as well as English. And he certainly was.

Riggins: Interesting.

James R. Beeler: Uh.. he worked there for a while, and then they had a training school at Chapel Hill for uh.. for-- well it was basic training for pilots, I think. But French people came. De Gaulle's son was one of the students at uh.. Chapel Hill. And they got in touch with Edward and asked if he would come down to participate with that. He did-- for a year or two-- and then went back to-- went back to Hendersonville. And they uh.. the-- after the war, the French classes were so big that they felt they had to have someone who taught French Conversation only. And they- they had called Edward, and he was the dapper gentleman who [laughs] who came into the instructors' office. And that uh.. that was uh.. he was hired, and he had a desk with the rest of us.

Riggins: Right. That's how you first heard a lot about Wilmington, was--?

James R. Beeler: Yes. He came over one day to me and say-- said, "May I do your head?" And [laughs]-- or, "I would like to do your head," or something like that. No-- he said, "May I do your head?" And I didn't know what he was talking about. I thought I probably needed a haircut, as I usually [laughs]-- as I usually did. And I learned that he wanted me to stand for him to do my head in clay. And I did. And I learned a very great deal about Wilmington in that way because he-- Wilmingtonians talk about Wilmington. It's their-- their great subject.

Riggins: It's their passion.

James R. Beeler: It's an interesting subject. Uh.. but he said I- he said I had to talk-- I had to keep moving while he was-- while he-- while he was doing the head.

Riggins: He wanted it to be a sculpture that showed some movement I guess.

James R. Beeler: And uh.. it was eventually finished in clay, and he said uh.. and uh.. and in sculptor's clay, which is mixed with oil so that-- had that first, and then- then had the usual white clay head. And uh.. by that-- about that time, he had decided to buy an old plantation-- Moorefield's Plantation-- near uh.. near uh.. Hillsboro, on the edge of Hillsboro. And he bought it, and--

Riggins: [referring to camera equipment] Oh, it's fine. I'm just zooming. I'm just-- right, it's fine.

James R. Beeler: He bought the- the plantation and uh.. went out there to live. And from time to time in uh.. I would go out there for uh.. the evening or- or to stay over the weekend-- something of that kind. It was uh.. and uh.. as I said, I learned about Paris in uh.. in the '20s and '30s. And I learned a lot about early Wilmington as well.

Riggins: Interesting. It sounds like you were a good listener. You were a good listener.

James R. Beeler: Yes. Yes. Uh.. I uh.. sometimes would have to correct his stories [laughs].

Riggins: I'm sure. Tell some tall tales?

James R. Beeler: He mixed- he mixed things up, but that didn't happen very often. He kept- he kept teaching French conversation at uh.. Chapel Hill for a number of years. He did uh.. the head of uh.. Professor Dye who was the-- who had been uh.. chairman of the Department of Romance Languages for- for 40 years.

Riggins: There's a Dye Hall on campus I think. Yes.

James R. Beeler: Yes. And the- the head is there [laughs] in the front door. He- he just did heads.

Riggins: Really? That's-- there's some good Chapel Hill history here. UNC-- UNC history. My goodness.

James R. Beeler: And through him I knew some older people who had-- who were from Wilmington. Uh.. one was a professor of English. Uh.. and uh.. the-- there were others. Some of them had just come to Chapel Hill to live. But the- the--

Riggins: Had you been to Wilmington?

James R. Beeler: I had been to Wilmington uh.. to the beach.

Riggins: To the beach.

James R. Beeler: I- I had scarcely seen Wilmington. I-- one of the group that I came to the beach with once had had too much to drink and uh.. had- had been arrested-- and had-- was taken into Wilmington. And uh.. Jimmy Smith who uh.. I mentioned earlier, the-- from Louisiana-- his father had been the president of LSU before he was uh.. imprison- imprisoned because of the Huey Long business. I- I cannot imagine uh.. I can't imagine that he uh.. had anything to do with it, but it was something about the finances of LSU I think. But at any rate, he was of an-- the old professor finally came out of prison and I met him. And uh.. I did not go to New Orleans, but he and Mrs.-- uh.. and his wife went back to uh.. Louisiana and uh.. they had never liked Baton Rouge. The LSU is at Baton Rouge uh.. up the river. But uh.. they uh.. they had an apartment and uh.. until he died-- in New Orleans. That was what-- that was what Mrs. Smith loved. Jimmy Smith said when his sister came out that she and his mother spent the whole winter in New Orleans so that she could meet the right people.

Riggins: Oh my goodness.

James R. Beeler: But that was long ago. I never uh.. I never uh.. I never went to New Orleans, even when I was- I was in Southern Mississippi for a while with the air force. We were closing up an airport that was no longer needed as the war was winding down. And uh.. New Orleans was fairly nearby, but I didn't go. So I-- I've uh.. I've never been to New Orleans.

Riggins: Actually, I haven't either. It certainly has had some hard times. So you had heard about Wilmington a lot from your former colleague, your fellow instructor. And you got this phone call when you were at William and Mary, and you were kind of interested because the pay was not so great at William and Mary. I'm not sure if it was great at Wilmington, but it was-- but it's--

James R. Beeler: [laughs] It was $3,000 more if- if we have to talk figures. [laughs]

Riggins: Really? That's significant.

James R. Beeler: And uh.. and we- we came to Wilmington. Uh.. my-- at that time, my son was about three years old, and he'd already been to school a while. He always went to schools uh.. I'm trying to think-- it-- uh.. he went to what was called the Naval Training School, which was uh.. at a base near- near Williamsburg. But the-- his teachers lived in Williamsburg, and they took him each morning to school. So he- he went to school there. And um.. then uh.. went to uh.. kindergarten in- in Wilmington. And uh.. and to uh.. elementary school. He went uh.. he did not go to uh.. the public school because they were-- by that time, they were rearranging the schools. And uh.. James was scheduled to go to a school miles and miles up Route 17. And I've forgotten the name of the school, but we thought that was too far for someone barely six years old. So we- we sent him to St. Mary's School, which was a- a very good thing. It was- it was excellent training.

Riggins: Yes. And it's still going strong. It's still an excellent school.

James R. Beeler: Yes. I uh.. we knew somebody who uh.. had taught Latin, and uh.. she decided that she would teach some Latin at St. Mary's. They had uh.. had St. Mary's for a while, while James was there-- but she got-- she got married and left [laughs]-- left Wilmington.

Riggins: Well, speaking of Latin-- you said that when you came to Wilming-- eventually at Wilmington you got the department to start teaching Latin. How did that come about?

James R. Beeler: Yes. Well, I kept- I kept talking about it at the-- and the uh.. members of the department were in favor of it. And uh.. Chancellor Wagoner uh.. was uh.. was very good about uh.. things that he would-- thought that uh.. add some distinction to uh.. the school. So we got a uh.. a recent graduate in Latin from Duke uh.. who had- who had been teaching-- not in-- way in the South Pacific uh.. well, at any rate she had been uh.. at an old English colony in the- in the islands of the South Pacific. And she-- but she was back in this country, and she came and uh.. taught. I don't know whether she's still teaching Latin there or not. She may have retired. But she was--

Riggins: Well, when you came, you must-- there's some faculty members that were here for a long-- well, that were here for a long time or-- for example, Mary Bellamy. She--

James R. Beeler: Oh, she was uh.. Mary Bellamy is a great friend of long standing of mine. Yes, she was-- she was here. Uh.. I met her when the dean took me around before telling me that he was going to hire me so that I could see what the department looked like. Mary was the first person I met. And uh.. yes, she's a- she's a dear friend. And uh.. and--

Riggins: Who else do you remember from your department from those early days here, right when you started?

James R. Beeler: Uh.. well, we had uh.. an interesting Spanish professor in the uh.. department from uh.. from Cuba. Uh.. a great many Cubans left uh.. on account of the- the government. And we were fortunate to- to get two. One Cuban professor has taught uh.. physics, and uh.. and the other taught uh.. taught Spanish. And for-- we were very fortunate. And from time to time we got others, uh.. a woman whose husband was in the Marines uh.. up the road uh.. was uh.. trained in Italian. So we add-- we added Italian to the department. When the- the Latin professor came, we had to change the name of the department, 'cause they had always called the department the Department of Modern Languages. They had followed-- Jefferson thought up the notion. [laughs] Uh.. and uh.. they had followed Jefferson in naming the- the department. Uh.. yes, we had uh.. and in addition to that, uh.. an old gentleman who had been president of Wilmington College for a time, but who was an organist, by the way.

Riggins: Randall?

James R. Beeler: Yes. And uh.. he- he knew-

Riggins: He knew Latin.

James R. Beeler: He knew Latin. But he also knew Arabic, and that was what he wanted to teach. And so we- we had- we had Arabic for a while.

Riggins: Wow. When were you department chair? When did that happen?

James R. Beeler: Uh.. let me think. Uh.. I was chairman for twelve years from--

Riggins: Towards the end.

James R. Beeler: Fro-- from the uh.. after Jack Sparks retired. Uh.. and I kind of-- I can't tell you exactly when that was. He uh..

Riggins: So, well yeah--

James R. Beeler: As chairman-- I became chairman. I don't remember the exact dates, but uh..

Riggins: Well, you retired in 1990, right?

James R. Beeler: Yes.

Riggins: And so, around 1978 you became chair. In the late seventies.

James R. Beeler: I- I should remember that date.

Riggins: That's all right. Dates aren't important. They're just-- 'cause we can always look that up.

James R. Beeler: I was chairman. I was chairman for twelve years. And uh.. I regret to say that I do not know who is the chairman now, because I think uh.. McNab is no longer chairman.

Riggins: Right. Right. It's Denise Dipuccio is chair. She's a Spanish professor. But James McNab-- I interviewed him recently.

James R. Beeler: Did you?

Riggins: Yes, because he's retiring. He went on--

James R. Beeler: Pr-- precious. Time passes. He seemed very young.

Riggins: When he started? Yeah. [laughs]

James R. Beeler: But I uh.. I didn't know him when he was at Duke. But uh.. I uh.. I knew one of his professors. I think his-- I think his thesis professor.

Riggins: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Right. Yes, he did his Ph.D. at Duke. But sure, he's very-- he went on and worked for the Office of International Programs and directed that.

James R. Beeler: Pierre uh.. came while I was chairman. And uh.. I think she has left. We- we were very lucky to uh.. get a Princeton uh.. graduate, and I think she had taught at Princeton. She was 16th century French. She was- she was marvelous. She came in the last year or so that I was here. I don't- I don't-- I guess she came before I uh.. left the chairmanship, but I'm not sure.

Riggins: Right. Yeah, I don't think she's still here.

James R. Beeler: But uh.. I- I was responsible for getting her.

Riggins: Oh good.

James R. Beeler: And uh.. so a good many people have, who were here when I-- while I was here-- have- have retired. In fact, I think most of them.

Riggins: Right. I need to talk to most of them still. I've talked to Mary Bellamy, but I need to talk to Joanne Mount and Terry Mount.

James R. Beeler: Yes. Yes.

Riggins: You knew them, I'm sure?

James R. Beeler: They were- they were hired by Jack Sparks. They came- they came just before I did.

Riggins: And William Lowe?

James R. Beeler: Yes. Bill Lowe wa- was here even longer. He- he came before Jack I think. Yes, Bill is a great friend of mine still.

Riggins: You see him still?

James R. Beeler: Yes.

Riggins: And his wife, was she-- she wasn't in the department?

James R. Beeler: No, no. She was uh.. she had been-- I think they both came from Chapel Hill. Uh.. he had been in- in German. She had been in the nursing school. So she went into the nursing school here.

Riggins: Okay, yeah. I knew she was in the faculty here. So you were—you were busy, you know, well UNCW was changing and growing a lot while you were here. And then--

James R. Beeler: Yes. It certainly has uh.. changed greatly. I used to come to uh.. the graduation ceremony when they did have one in the gymnasium. In fact, when I- when I first came to- to Wilmington, they could have the-- almost anything in- in the tiny gymnasium building. But uh.. always they outgrew that, and in the first years uh.. the uh.. graduation uh.. ceremonies were in uh.. in the afternoon and uh.. on the lawn. And I thought that was very nice. It was a- a little tricky though, because commencement comes in rainy weather sometimes. But I don't-- I don't remember that it ever rained. I on-- only remember a special occasion when um.. the Wilmington newspaper columnist and uh.. and radio and television man was given uh.. an honorary degree at Wilmington. It was in hot weather in that small gymnasium building. Uh.. out-- it was terrifically hot. I don't uh.. I don't remember exactly when that was.

Riggins: Was that, and now I'm forgetting the name. We have pictures in Archives. He passed away not too long ago. I'll think of it.

James R. Beeler: But I should remember. He was uh.. he was a bright man. Uh.. I- I wrote the [laughs] the formal uh.. address when-- for- for his uh.. he was made a doctor. I don't know that he- I don't know that he ever called himself that, but--

Riggins: Right. Yeah, I'll think of that name. Well, let's talk about Jerry Shinn. Well, were you involved at all with the Albert Schweitzer prizes?

James R. Beeler: Yes. Uh.. I mean I- I knew that it was going on. That was Shinn's- Shinn's work. And the- the-- one of the most interesting things that happened, I think, was-- just showed how good he was. He- he always brought someone interesting and someone who was truly distinguished. Uh.. he was a-- Shinn was a funny man. But uh.. he uh.. he was- he was good at that. Uh..

Riggins: Very energetic.

James R. Beeler: He was uh.. his students loved him 'cause he was always doing something interesting and exciting. I don't know how he made the Old Testament exciting, but I guess he did.

Riggins: He did. Yeah.

James R. Beeler: [laughs] Uh.. but uh.. at any- any rate uh.. one time-- well, he got all sorts of people to come-- actors uh.. he- he--

Riggins: Artists.

James R. Beeler: Uh.. had Mary Martin of uh.. Oklahoma to the-- to come. But he got a- a famous musician to- to come uh.. on one occasion. And that man liked Wilmington well enough I guess, but he had never been to Charleston. And he went to Charleston. And he thought it was just wonderful, and he played there and they [laughs] started a music series, which is still going on.

Riggins: The Spolito Festival.

James R. Beeler: But- but Shinn- Shinn is responsible for that.

Riggins: Is responsible-- that's a great story. You were talking about that earlier before the interview and with Sherman Hayes and myself. Yeah, this famous musician had a role in the Spolito Festival, which is a very successful and important arts festival.

James R. Beeler: We- we had-- during that time at UNC Wilmington-- it was always UNC Wilmington while I was here, because I came the year that the change was made. But uh.. Chancellor Leutze was very good about getting uh.. people with Washington connections to uh.. to come to address us at commencement. Uh.. I can't think of her name, but I see her still on the- on the television. She's an expert on money. And uh.. she came- she came to commencement one year. She's uh.. she has red hair-- a small woman uh.. whenever they talk about uh.. budgets and so on, she's always called in.

Riggins: Uh-huh. Economics expert.

James R. Beeler: But uh.. people of that caliber came. He was-- uh.. Chancellor Leutze was very good about finding that sort of person. And we- we had all of the governors of North Carolina and uh.. all of the prominent people in North Carolina politics to come here. Uh.. Chancellor Wagoner was uh.. was very good for the growth of this- of this--

Riggins: Chancellor Wagoner-- oh yeah, he was very connected with the politics and all that, wasn't he?

James R. Beeler: Uh.. he um.. he was supposed to write a history of the university uh.. during his time.

Riggins: No, that would have been great.

James R. Beeler: I don't think he ever finished it. But uh.. it was-- there was such a good beginning of uh.. with the earlier history of the college.

Riggins: Marshall Crews wrote that book.

James R. Beeler: Yes, that's what I'm talking about.

Riggins: Yeah, Marshall Crews wrote it.

James R. Beeler: Yes. And uh..

Riggins: Yeah, in the From These Beginnings.

James R. Beeler: It- it has not-- so far as I know, it has not been done for the Wagoner period or the Leu-- or the Leut—Leutze period.

Riggins: No. It was just for Wilmington College-- that book. So-- no.

James R. Beeler: Uh.. it ought to be done, because people will forget [overlapping conversation]. And what you're-- what you're doing is for the, really, from that purpose.

Riggins: Definitely. You know, it's like, I might not have time to write a book, but I'm gathering interviews and they will be helpful to somebody who does write a book about the history of the university. Did you know Marshall Crews?

James R. Beeler: Oh, yes. Yes. I- I knew all of the old faculty. We-- uh.. we were col-- collegial-- I think that's what they call it.

Riggins: That's the word. Yeah. You saw them around, and I guess that when you started your office it was with the foreign languages division, but there were other departments there as well, right?

James R. Beeler: Uh.. yes. We were- we were in Kenan Hall-- not the auditorium. That- that was finished after uh.. about the- the time I came. But uh.. there was no cafeteria or-- at first. Everybody had to bring a lunch or eat at what the students called The Pub, which was very nice. And uh.. it was uh.. it was quite- quite interesting in those days.

Riggins: Yeah, it was-- did you like the feel of the college? It was much smaller than William and Mary, I'm sure.

James R. Beeler: Yes. Uh.. well, it was about the same size. Uh.. William and Mary always said that they would stay at uh.. at 5,000 and not one student more. I don't know whether they've ever changed.

Riggins: But we never have put a limit and we keep growing.

James R. Beeler: I know. It's uh.. in- in every way-- I never- I never thought of sports uh.. at Wilmington College and UNC Wilmington ever amounting to- to what they've become today. And uh.. the- the work uh.. on coastal features and that kind of thing that's done and uh.. we don't have a medical school, but uh.. we have studies done here for that sort of thing.

Riggins: Oh, sure. Research.

James R. Beeler: I- I say we-- I- I've retired at the age-- when I reached the age of 70 in 1991. But-- and I kept coming to commencement for a number of years because uh.. I had a-- at Chapel Hill, my thesis advisor was the uh.. was in charge of faculty marching at uh.. at commencement. And uh.. when he died his wife gave me his cap and gown. And uh.. at William and Mary I helped out with the uh.. arrangements for commencement. And uh.. I did that here for years uh.. arranged how people were to be seated on the platform and so on. And uh.. but it-- and uh.. so it was uh.. was very interesting to me. I enjoyed doing that. But I- I stopped coming when the commencement was divided into two parts.

Riggins: Right. Right. Then it got the--

James R. Beeler: I don't know uh.. whether you're looking for donors to give money to build-- or build a bigger building for that sort of thing or not.

Riggins: Well, I don't know. I think they keep the commencement together now. I think it's back to being together, but they don't have a speaker, because they want everybody-- every student wants his name called-- his or her name called. So--

James R. Beeler: Yes. Oh, that's true. Yes.

Riggins: Yeah. So I think it's back to one, but there was a time-- certainly, you would think it would be divided. Well, what about having some of the native speakers in the department? Isn't that really-- did the students like that? Or did that--?

James R. Beeler: Oh, yes. I'm sure they did. Um.. [laughs] sometimes I had difficulty understanding them, but uh.. yes they- they added greatly to the year and to the department.

Riggins: Well, who else do you think I should talk to? I may or may not have talked to them yet, but-- not necessarily from your department, but from the campus. Who are some good people for me to interview?

James R. Beeler: Let- let me think about that. I'll-- I will uh.. I'll send you a note, because uh.. I've- and you can see whether you have been in touch with them or not.

Riggins: Certainly. Yeah, I would appreciate that.

James R. Beeler: Uh.. I will be-- I will be very glad to do it because I- I knew everybody in the faculty. 'Cause I- I said we were uh.. a college.

Riggins: Like a family really. And you saw them at faculty meetings and--

James R. Beeler: Went to their- their funerals and [laughs] weddings and this, that and the other.

Riggins: It was very different. You knew people over in business and in--

James R. Beeler: As I remember, when Mary Bellamy retired, she was- she was the first um.. who had been in the original department I think. Others had retired, but they had not been here all- all along. And uh.. we hired um.. a boat to take a boat trip and uh.. had- had dinner on the boat. It was small-- it was that small boat on the river.

Riggins: That's nice.

James R. Beeler: And uh.. we didn't tell Mary what was going on. And Haywood [laughs] brought her and uh.. I told her that we were to-- we were tired and we had decided to sell her down the river. [laughter] But it was very pleasant and uh.. we've uh.. we've, my wife and I, have known the Bellamys uh.. really intimately-- the children and so on since, since we were here. And uh.. they're still very good friends of ours.

Riggins: That's nice.

James R. Beeler: They uh.. very good citi-- citizens. They have a-- I don't know whether you've been to their house or not-- but they have one of the- the good, really old houses from the early 19th century.

Riggins: Oh, yes. And it had been her house, or she had lived there-- it had been in her family, and then they bought it back. Yeah. That's neat.

James R. Beeler: And they are giving it to- to Wilmington.

Riggins: Really?

James R. Beeler: Yes.

Riggins: I didn't know that.

James R. Beeler: I-- well, people do that kind of thing. Uh.. it allows you to li-- keep on living in the house, and I don't know whether you still pay taxes or not. I don't know all the details, but I'm-- it means that the house will be preserved.

Riggins: Oh, yeah. That's beautiful location and great view. So that's nice.

James R. Beeler: And it's interesting. One of- one of her ancestors was uh.. in the shipping business. And uh.. he apparently bought a- a curved staircase in England, North England and uh.. installed it in this house uh.. a- a Wilmington house of that period but not with that kind of staircase.

Riggins: I'm glad it's going to be kept. That's nice because I can see, you know, a developer wanting to tear it down and build a high-rise condo, 'cause it's a beautiful location.

James R. Beeler: Absolutely. It's uh.. I saw that constantly when I- when I first came to uh.. to Wilmington. It uh.. stores were being sold or-- so that-- or moved rather to someplace uh.. on the outskirts. And uh.. the building would be destroyed or burned or-- and when I- when I first came to Wilmington, the- the railroad buildings were still here. And they're- they're gone uh.. the railroad hotel, the Wilmington Hotel, was--

Riggins: Let's talk about your-- you've been retired for a long time then. You've been for 15 years-- and it seems you obviously have a real knack for history. And you've gotten involved with some preservation and working with the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society. Can you tell us a little about that?

James R. Beeler: Well um.. I'm a member of the foundation and uh.. that's how I learned about the house. Uh.. and I joined the historical society when I- when I came to Wilmington in 1969. Uh.. Jack was-- live-- Jack lived downtown, and he was involved with- with it. And so I became a member and have been a member since that time. I um.. I knew most of the old members. Um.. I knew the first president of the historical society because uh.. we bought a house on Market Street that was next to this house of Mr. Hargrove Bellamy. And uh.. but he was no longer president of the society. He had a quarrel with the uh.. with the society. He wanted it to be a society for research uh.. and history and sponsoring of lectures on the history of uh.. of the early Cape Fear-- that sort of thing. But the members of the society thought that the society needed a place to store things, and that's true. And a uh.. a 19th century house, which had been the home of one family since the time it was built, came for sale at a price that the society could afford. And over the protests of the first president, the- the Latimer house was bought.

Riggins: Right. So that's how that came about. Hmm.

James R. Beeler: And uh.. he- he was angry. Mr. Bellamy was angry.

Riggins: Is this the same Mr. Bellamy who was married to Mary? Is this Haywood Bellamy?

James R. Beeler: No, no, no-- the- the-- not even the same family.

Riggins: Okay. Oh, this is Bellamy as in--?

James R. Beeler: They're-- but they all came from South Carolina, but from different parts.

Riggins: This is Bellamy as in Bellamy Mansion or--?

James R. Beeler: Yes. That's-- there's--

Riggins: Yeah, okay-- different Bellamy altogether. Okay.

James R. Beeler: Uh.. yes, Hargrove Bellamy was born in a house that- that burned. His grandfather's house burned, and his father's house on Market Street was being used by some organization-- it burned. And I think some of the members of the Bellamy family were still living at 602 uh.. when that house was set fire. It was during uh.. a difficult period in Wilmington. And ultimately um.. the Bellamy heiress who lived in the-- in that-- in 602-- was at the beach. It burned during the summer. But it was-- it- it was a house with a-- an addition-- with a dome that looked like a German helmet. I don't know if you've ever seen a picture of it. It was something to see. It was downtown, at 602 Market.

Riggins: You were saying-- so the historical society bought the Latimer house. And did they intend for it to be a museum?

James R. Beeler: Uh.. well, that came about. Uh.. they thought of it fir-- at first-- simply as a place for storage of the archives. And uh.. but then there was a member of the society who was president at that time I guess-- who said, "Here we have an authentic house, an authentic 19th century house with much of the furniture, original furniture. Why can we not show the house to the public?" And that did happen occasionally, that the society would have meetings uh.. open meetings there, or membership meetings there in the parlors. And uh.. but um.. then um.. Mr. McMillan, Henry McMillan, who was president of the society, was uh.. an artist and was uh.. interested in furniture. I think his interest may have come about since when his mother was president of the Colonial Dames. They decided to furnish, to buy furni-- proper furniture, period furniture, for the uh.. for the- the house-- the Berquim House. It was called the Cornwallis House in those days, though it's doubtful that Cornwallis ever was there. But at any rate, that was the legend. And uh.. but Henry went to England and uh.. stayed for a while and came back with almost a boatload of furniture, much of it-- he wa-- he's very expert in that subject. And so the furniture-- the old, the old, the old furniture is- is very- very, very good uh.. old English furniture. Well, they tried to furnish it as it would have been furnished in the late 18th century. But they have uh.. they uh..

At first the Colonial Dames did the same thing that the- the historical society had done. They had a house only for meetings, and occasionally they would open the house and allow people, a few people, to be taken through. But they decided- they- they decided to have docents-- members, usually, of the organization-- and someone to manage the house and have the house open on certain days. And people in the society said, "Why not- why not do the same thing?" Members of the society had given or lent old furniture for the house. And uh.. it was beautifully furnished-- the Latimer House was beautifully furnished. And why not allow people to use it? Well, they used it for a while for weddings, and then eventually they decided to have uh.. a house manager and uh.. a um.. and I don't think then-- I think members of the society uh.. usually showed people through the house, or the house manager and her secretary did that for a while.

Riggins: Excuse me just a moment. I'm going to turn off the tape. I don't want to run out of tape, but well I'd like to just get a few more thoughts about this too. So hold on just a moment. [tape off]

[audio begins abruptly]

Riggins: ..with Dr. Beeler and he's talking about his time of service with the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society. You were saying that when you were president back in '71/'72, you were trying some new things, for them.

James R. Beeler: Yes. Yes, uh.. a meeting place for the uh.. Society officers. There was a room in the- that had been a downstairs dining room, uh.. at the Latimer House. I think it must have been useful in the summer because it was cool, and there was [laughs] no way- no way in those days to- to cool a house. Uhm.. the- the- the basement dining room must've been a- a boon for the- for the family. But at any rate we uhm..--. Uh.. Mrs. Kellum who was uh.. secretary, I guess, at the time, found some secondhand chairs and we put them around the table in the- in that room. So we had a meeting room. Another thing that the Society wanted to do to encourage uh.. writers to write and speak on historical subjects was to- uh.. at the- at the- the annual meeting of the Society to give an award to someone who had produced the- the most successful uh.. historical work during the- during the year, publishing a book or something of that type.

Riggins: And that started a long time ago? Did you start doing that a long time ago or--?

James R. Beeler: Yes, they- they uh..- the Society had decided to buy a silver punchbowl and to- to inscribe the name of the annual winner on the punchbowl. Well they hadn't bought the punchbowl because there- there- there were all sorts of difficulties about the house that had to be taken care of. Uh.. and the punchbowl had not been bought. They- they thought that they could buy a silver punchbowl- it seems to me they said 150 dollars, maybe it was 500. But at any rate they were not prepared to do anything about it. So I said, "I think..

Riggins: That's a problem.

James R. Beeler: "..the off- officers who've thought this up should show their interest in it, so I'm going to ask each one of you to give 25 dollars to start off the punchbowl." [laughs]

Riggins: Well that's a good idea. If they're going to suggest it then..

James R. Beeler: It was some--

Riggins: ..they might as well put their money where their mouth is.

James R. Beeler: It was some complaining [laughs].

Riggins: Yes.

James R. Beeler: But uh.. eventually uh- uhm.. one of the uh..- one of the members, uhm- uh.. oh, offered to lend her punchbowl. She said, "Oh, I will let the- let the Society have it except that I will want to use it uh- uh.. occasionally." Well that- that kind of thing doesn't work.

Riggins: No.

James R. Beeler: So her nephew uh..- uh.. went about getting money. He's a- he's uh.. a- a- a prominent Wilmington businessman and he knew how to- to find some money. So the [laughs]- the- the 25 cent [laughs] uh.. donations were put in with some other donations, and Mrs. Genwine- uh.. I don't know whether you knew Mrs. Genwine or not- she was the Wilmington antiques dealer for many, many years.

Riggins: No, I didn't.

James R. Beeler: She helped them with the furniture of the Latimer House and just about everything else that you can think of. She- she uh..- she died about a month ago, but- uh.. and she's certainly missed. Well Mrs. Genwine uh.. stepped in and she got [laughs]- got the silver punchbowl for a low price. And since that time the Society has had- has had the names of the persons who were uh.. given the award engraved on the Society punchbowl- it's still there. And the Society also has had to do--. Even though the Latimers had lived in the house for years, uh.. when you live in an old house, things happen to it. Uh.. the house I live in is only 100 years old but it [laughs]- it- it needs a lot of help. And the Society had to spend a great deal of money in that way. So they decided- they rented the house for special occasions and uh.., of course, they had furnished parlors where things could take place- wedding receptions and that kind of thing, went on for years. And eventually they uhm.. decided to have uh.. regular docents for the house and uh.. have a- a manager of the house who was interested in making arrangements for all that. And that has been going on very successfully, I think, for the whole Society.

Riggins: Well you've been involved so long over there.

James R. Beeler: Yes.

Riggins: And you're also very involved in the Archives there.

James R. Beeler: Well after I retired I.. uh.. asked if I couldn't- if I couldn't come uhm.. a- a couple of days a week and do whatever was needed to do in the- in the Archives. Uh.. it was used a great deal, at first, uh.. but they- people usually go to uhm.. the Public Library. Uh.. the- the- their Archives and their resources for doing uh.. research in genealogy are- are very good; they're also free because from time to time [laughs] they get- they uh.. begin to charge at uh..- at the- the Latimer House. I think that should not happen but it does. Uh.. I- I don't have quite the authority that I've had in years past [laughs], at the Society. But I'm- uh.. all of us who have been there for a long time are very proud of it. I think uh.. Mr. Bellamy must have been- although he wouldn't have said so- he had a- a very short temper. He uh..- he was a- he was quite an amusing man, uh.. although he was something of a recluse in his last years. And I used to uh.. clear his walks because he and Mrs. Bellamy were infirm and their- their cook was very old [laughs] and I thought an accident might happen on the walks whenever we'd- on the occasions we had snow. Uh- uhm.. both were delightful people although, as I said, he was- he was short-tempered. He said he thought the uh..- the purpose of the Historical Society was history, not- not real estate [laughs].

Riggins: Well everybody has their opinion, and I guess it's interesting that it happened despite that.

James R. Beeler: I- I have a story uh.. about Mr. Bellamy that I don't know that I ought to tell but I'm going to tell it anyway.

Riggins: Sure, yeah.

James R. Beeler: We- people live to grow very old in my neighborhood on Market Street. Uhm.. when one of our neighbors was only- I think she was only 80-years-old at the time; she died at what?- nearly 102.

Riggins: Oh my goodness.

James R. Beeler: But uh- uh.. she thought that her uhm.. contemporaries were too old for an evening party, so she- she had a- a birthday dinner at the [laughs]- a noonday dinner at uh.. the- the Cape Fear Club. And uh.. I went. And uh.. we knew the Jameses very well- and uh- uh.. I encountered Mr. Bellamy in the- the bar and he said, "You know, I've been- been.. sick and I haven't had a- I hadn't had a drink for four months and I'm- now I'm having one for each month." [laughs] Well, the- the din- the midday dinner took place and uh.. with all the- the spe- funny speeches and so on. And uh- uh.. it was time to go home. We got home and uh.. shortly after we arrived, uh.. an ambulance drew up in front of the Bellamys', next door, and almost at once Dr. Graham [laughs] came and- and Mr. Bellamy was carried upstairs to his bedroom.

Riggins: I guess he had a few.

James R. Beeler: Well he was an elderly man and I think he did- probably had done what he said he was going to do.

Riggins: That's a good story.

James R. Beeler: [laughs] Well there are many Wilmington stories of that time.

Riggins: And you've adopted it as your home, even though you are not from here, of course. You came here--

James R. Beeler: Yes, that's, uh.. right.

Riggins: But you definitely feel like it's your home and you know the history and--

James R. Beeler: Well we were--. Uhm.. James went to school here, uh.. at St. Mary's, as I mentioned, and then uhm.. he went to boarding school, to- to high school, at Christ School in- uhm.. near Asheville, in western North Carolina, and then to- to Chapel Hill. He was accepted at- uh.. he was not accepted to uh.. Yale. Uh.. the Dean said we should- we should have brought him to- to Yale so that they could look at him. Uh.. his- James' mother was a descendant of one of the early presidents of Yale University.

Riggins: Really?

James R. Beeler: A 18th Cen- a early 19th Century president. And uh.. so we- he didn't go there. He was accepted at Virginia and at Chapel Hill and some other places. But he- uh.. he came down to look at Chapel Hill at Halloween and everything, the trees were in color with colored leaves, uh.. everything was beautiful [laughs] and Chapel Hill was a charming place. And uh.. that's where he wanted to- to come, and that's where he..

Riggins: He went.

James R. Beeler: ..came to school. And uhm.. through a friend of his at Chapel Hill who somehow was connected with someone in New York, he- he got a job, uh- uh.. his first job, in New York, uhm.. and he's stayed uh.. in New York doing one thing and another since that- since that time.

Riggins: Ever since. Well he might not come back then.

James R. Beeler: Uh.. I don't know. Uh.. I don't- I don't know how he will..- how he will feel about--. See we have a- we have this old house and a lot of old furniture, and I don't know- I don't- I really don't know how he- how he feels.

Riggins: Antiques.

James R. Beeler: And one good thing is.. uh.. that he got a- we got a book that had belonged to his grandfather. Nan- Nancy's father was a writer and had an enormous library, because people, his friends, writer friends and so on, that he out- outlived [laughs], uh.. left libraries to him. We- we uh..- we sold enough of his books to uh.. a man who was going to open a bookstore in Newport, Rhode Island, uh.. for enough- it was a couple of thousand volumes- for him to start [laughs]- to start his shop. But we- we kept some- we kept a number of things and one was this uh.. Shakespeare. He had written a number of books on Shakespeare and writers of that period. And uh.. this was uhm.. a copy of the uh..- of the first folio of Shakespeare's plays. It was very, very successfully done, and uh.. they gave him uhm.., Mr. Norman, a- a copy of the- of the folio. I think the folio was sold for 125 or 150 dollars. Uh.. it was beautifully done and uh.. ea- uh.. it's easy to read. And uh.. Nancy's been giving, or- or selling, old books. I gave- I gave several volumes of 16th Century writers to the library here.

Riggins: Yes.

James R. Beeler: Uhm.. and I'm going to give more. Uh.. but she asked James when he was down here from New York uh.. if he would like that or did- did he want us to put it away or- or--? He said no, that he would take it with him, and he did.

Riggins: Well yeah, he- that's--.

James R. Beeler: So I think that's a good- that's a good thing.

Riggins: That's a good sign, yes. Oh he might certainly be interested in the house and antiques.

James R. Beeler: Well the way he lives- the way he lives in New York.

Riggins: There's not a lot of room.

James R. Beeler: Uh.. in a small apartment, there's not much room for folio volumes, but he kept it nevertheless.

Riggins: That's nice, that's good.

James R. Beeler: [chuckles]

Riggins: Well I'm sure you have a very interesting collection of books and--

James R. Beeler: Well uhm.. yes, because I- I was able to buy books at exactly the right time, in the uh..- in the post World War II period, in uh..- in France and England, and those are the- those are the subjects that uh.. interested me, mainly. And I have been able to make a collection of books that have interest to me. I have- I have uh.. ten volumes of uh..- uhm.. books published by Aldus Manutius, uh.. ten- ten that were- oh, I think they were all published before about 16- about 1515. Uh.. no- not a single Incunabulum, but I- I do have the oldest, I think, uh.. Those two volumes were published, I believe, uh.. in uh.. 1505, uh.. and they were uhm.. owned by a- an English publisher in- in the 18th Century and early 19th Century, was Byron's publisher also. So they're nicely bound and in good condition. Wilmington has not been the very best place--

Riggins: To buy books.

James R. Beeler: For- for old books. Oh, you can find them here.

Riggins: Oh, storing.

James R. Beeler: But uh.. to keep them, the climate is not very good.

Riggins: Right. Oh yeah.

James R. Beeler: It's damp and- uh.. and the air-conditioning is dry and uh..

Riggins: Well if you ever want to talk about books, Sherman Hayes is interested- not just donating but he likes to talk about old books and- and--

James R. Beeler: Well I'd be glad for him to see mine, sometime.

Riggins: Yes.

James R. Beeler: They're- uh.. they're mainly Latin and uh..- and French.

Riggins: Interesting.

James R. Beeler: Oh yeah, he'd be- he just enjoys that and he does a lot of- when we get gifts for the library, sometimes he has to look through them himself because there's no one else available and he knows- he knows old books, so he's glad to do it.

James R. Beeler: Yeah, yes, well that- that's- that's- that's good. Uhm.. I- I did--. They- they- they had enough confidence in me to allow me to select uh.. books, uhm.. many of the books for the French Department.

Riggins: Oh, for the library?

James R. Beeler: Yes.

Riggins: Yes. Mm-hmm.

James R. Beeler: And the- oh one of the 19th Century publishers was still in business when I started and I- they..- they did the best editions of- of the early French writers, and I- I- I bought as many of those as I could. And they went out of business.

Riggins: Really?

James R. Beeler: And uh.. [laughs] several others came- came available. Uh.. the- the series is- is called The Great Writers. And they end with the early 19th Century because they- that's when the publication started.

Riggins: Interesting.

James R. Beeler: But uh.. we- uh.. I think I will be bold enough to say that we have by far the best collection uh.. in French, in eastern North Carolina.

Riggins: On that topic, and in this library and it's because- thanks to you.

James R. Beeler: Uh-hum, yes, that- that's what- that what I--. Oh, not- not entirely because uh.. there was a library when I came, uh.. and people have been very generous in Wilmington, have been very generous to the library.

Riggins: Yes. Oh yes. Did you know Helen Hagan?

James R. Beeler: Very well.

Riggins: Yes, really? What was she like?

James R. Beeler: She--. Well she was uh..- she was- she was very- very good. She uh..- she gave--. Uh.. I believe she gave some rare books to- to a- a rare- uh.. a selection of rarities- and uh.. Mark Twain I think. And uh- uh.. she- she was- she was very good. And in fact I always managed to get along with the librarians. They were interested in the same things that I was interested in.

Riggins: Sure. You probably knew Louise Jackson.

James R. Beeler: Oh yes. Oh, she was indispensable, absolutely.

Riggins: That's what I've heard. We interviewed her.

James R. Beeler: She just retired I guess.

Riggins: She did retire, oh probably about five years ago now.

James R. Beeler: For goodness sake.

Riggins: Yes, but she came back and worked some, part-time and temporary, so I did get to work with her some.

James R. Beeler: Oh, she- she was--.

Riggins: Everyone has wonderful things to say about her and she really represented the library so well for so long.

James R. Beeler: Uh-hum. Well the- oh, I'm sure the- the librarians treated other faculty members as they treated me, uh.. about the selection of books and areas, catalogues. And uh- uh.. it's- uh.. it's not a huge library but it's a good one, I'm- I think.

Riggins: Right. right.

James R. Beeler: I've never failed to find what I was looking for, when I would come- come searching [laughs].

Riggins: Good, good, that's a good sign. Yeah, you probably worked a lot with acquisitions- Ron Johnson, did you know--?

James R. Beeler: Yes, oh yes, yes.

Riggins: And he probably was glad to help you. We had an amazingly strong start for our library.

James R. Beeler: I have- have seen him in recent years at the uh.. lunch- the old faculty luncheons. But uh- uh.. for some reason or other I have missed the last two and uhm.. I'm sorry to miss them because they are- they are very interesting.

Riggins: Yes, it's good to catch up.

James R. Beeler: Catch up and to uh.. occasionally to meet new people.

Riggins: Meet new people. Mm-hmm.

James R. Beeler: But the old- the old hands still show up.

Riggins: Yes, Bob Appleton.

James R. Beeler: Yes [laughs].

Riggins: He's a nice guy.

James R. Beeler: Yes, I- I knew him well, from the very beginning.

Riggins: Really?

James R. Beeler: Yes, he lived- he lived in our neighborhood, uh.. for- for awhile. He and uh.. what's his name? Uh.. chemistry- uh..

Riggins: Jack Levy.

James R. Beeler: Jack Levy. They bought houses together and uh.. they- they both lived in our neighborhood and then went to greener pastures, I guess.

Riggins: Literally I guess- yes.

James R. Beeler: [chuckles] Uh.. yes uh.. but I..- we didn't know exactly where to live when we came to- to Wilmington. Uh.. Jack and Vivian, his wife, lived on Front Street, downtown, and there was a house down there that I liked very much that was for sale, and cheap, because in- when I came, uh..- uh.. the- the road- the railroad had left and everything was leaving downtown.

Riggins: Leaving downtown.

James R. Beeler: And lots of- lots of houses were for sale, very- very good houses. And uh- uh.. Jack owned one and I thought--. So but Nancy had--. Nancy's father had- father- step-father had been uh.. in Wilmington for awhile during World War II and Nancy and her mother came down and lived in Wilmington for about a year, I think. And Wilmin- she knew something about Wilmington, from childhood, uh.. and she- uh.. every time I took her to see the house that appealed to me, I found a drunk sitting on the front [laughs] steps. Something uh.. like that happened all the time. And uh.. the- uh.. the uh.. restoration hadn't really caught on downtown, but it was certainly a good time to buy houses. And uh- uhm.. the uhm.. man who bought the house that I liked, uh.. not at once but very soon he got it, and has continued to live in it since. And it has a- it's Victorian looking on the outside but has uh.. a uh..- it has a beautiful curved staircase.

Riggins: Great, yes.

James R. Beeler: Uh.. I would like to talk about one more uh.. person. Uh.. an old friend who- from Georgia, Army friend, came to Paris once while I was there and he said, "You know, I've met someone from North Carolina that I think- I think you ought to get to know. Do you know Claude Howell?"

Riggins: Oh my goodness.

James R. Beeler: I said, "I do not know him but I believe he's illustrated a- a book, uh.. that someone wrote about the- the beach, uh.. in eastern North Carolina. And uh.. I said, "I would like to meet him." He said, "Well we'll go." He uh.. lived in a- an old hotel on uh.. the Left Bank, uh.. in uh.. Rue Messieurs du Prince uh.. and.. uh- uh.. an old hotel, that was what- the name of the hotel as well as the uh.. street. It was near the old Medical School at the University of Paris. Uh.. so [laughs] it- it was sort of like the buildings in- in downtown. Uh.. we went into the hotel and Claude's apartment was at a far corner of the building. So we bought- uh.. we had to walk down a hall to get to- to- to get to the- the- I guess his living apartment. And there were paintings on each side of the uh..- the stair hall- the hall. And uh.. very curious. Of course, I'd been in Paris and everybody was drawing a picture of the Eiffel Tower or the South Recur or something like that. And that's what I expected Claude to do- be doing. What did I see? People hauling in fish or [laughs] plant- planting tobacco or--. It was all North Carolina..

Riggins: Art that he was doing in Paris.

James R. Beeler: In- in Paris. And uh.. I didn't- I didn't see uh.. Claude again. I..- I- I seem to remember that he was blonde at the time, and but..- well he- he says that I- that I was wrong. When uh..- when I next saw him, he was in Wilmington. He- he had long hair all right, but it [laughs]- it was getting grey. But uh.. that- that's how I happened to- to- to know Claude.

Riggins: So you saw him again when you were with--

James R. Beeler: And uh.. he was a- he was a very good friend, uhm..

Riggins: Right, well you were both on the faculty here.

James R. Beeler: Yes.

Riggins: And you--

James R. Beeler: And- and in the same building.

Riggins: Oh.

James R. Beeler: They uh..- they had put- put things wherever there was a place for them. Uh.. this was in- in Kenan Hall, where we uh.. had all sorts of.. people in there- the education classes and the- the Drama Department and I don't know what all. But we had French and Spanish in one corner of the building. And- but at the very end of the building was the Art Department with Claude, and he had- he kept complete control of all of that, all day long. Somebody was telling me, who had paint- painting lessons that uh.. he finally learned how to manage a tube of toothpaste. He said Claude was so stingy and kept emphasizing the colors, the tubes of [laughs] color paint were so expensive [laughs] that they had to be carefully wrapped from the bottom.

Riggins: Interesting, wow.

James R. Beeler: [laughs] But that was the- that was Claude's- that was Claude's way. He was--

Riggins: When he was here and you knew him, he was quite famous- right?

James R. Beeler: Yeah.

Riggins: Yes, yeah.

James R. Beeler: Uh.. and- but he uh..- he worked hard, uh.. always, and uh.. he did a great deal of his painting here in- in the studio room when he was not having classes. And he taught- and he taught not only painting and everything that goes with that, but he did art appreciation also. And uh.. he- he was- he was- he was extremely good, I think, at everything- at everything he did. But we- uh.. we saw a great deal of- of uh.. Claude. He was--

Riggins: That's great, that's a great story.

James R. Beeler: And Nan- Nancy was fond of him, as I was. And uh.. in fact in his last days when uh.. he was ill and I think he saw the end coming, he sent for me to come and uh.. he was in- he was in bad shape then, but cheerful.

Riggins: Wow, that's amazing.

James R. Beeler: But uhm.- uh.. I used to- uh.. I came back and forth on the bus to uh..- eventually to the campus, and- but at first I used to- to ride back downtown with- with Claude. So we had- had a lot of conversations. And we- we knew lots of the same people, and uh.. yeah, he- he knew another generation of Wilmingtonians. So he was not young, and- and not old. I had- I had met the- the old generation before I came to Wilmington, because they- most of them came to uh.. Chapel Hill at some time or other and uh.. I met people who- uh.. from Wilmington who lived in Chapel Hill and they entertained people from- from Wilmington.

Riggins: Right, sure.

James R. Beeler: Uh.. so I heard a lot of the stories before I- I got here.

Riggins: Before you even got here. So you were well prepared.

James R. Beeler: Well uh..- oh informed. Uh.. [laughs] because Wilmingtonians in those days, I don't know about now, but in those days they- felt- felt that it was their place to inform you about Wilmington.

Riggins: About their city.

James R. Beeler: And I was glad to learn. I- I learned a very great deal about Wilmington and- and its history in these- in this anecdotal history. It would- uh.. and oh, I can't- I.. can't tell you how many- many Wilmington people were living in Chapel Hill at the time.

Riggins: Oh yeah, well it sounds like--

James R. Beeler: Members of the faculty and- and others, just up there.

Riggins: And students.

James R. Beeler: Because in those days it was a nice place to live and not too expensive. It- uh.. the former president of the university bought an old house that had been owned by the Phillips family, uh.. and had been used as the Presbyterian Rectory for some time, and they had given it up, thought it was too small. Uh.. out- out of feeling for the history of Chapel Hill [laughs], he bought it, he paid a million dollars for it.

Riggins: I remember hearing that- yes, I was surprised.

James R. Beeler: [laughs] He was- he was a very nice man and I was- I was fond of him. He came down to- to Wilmington frequently.

Riggins: Well I think we've covered quite a bit.

James R. Beeler: [laughs]

Riggins: This was wonderful.

James R. Beeler: Are you- are you--? You're- you're not bored?

Riggins: No, no. This was great.

James R. Beeler: I- I must have learned the Wilmington way because I- I have informed you.

Riggins: You have informed me a great deal.

James R. Beeler: [laughs]

Riggins: And I appreciate that.

James R. Beeler: I hope everything is correct and--

Riggins: It is always correct in oral history. That's the importance of it. And I thank you very much, and I will be in touch with you.

James R. Beeler: Well uh.. I meant to tell you that after retirement I asked if I couldn't come to uh- uh.. the Latimer House Archives for a couple of days, uh.. a- week. That was- that was my first job in the Historical Society. But I didn't do anything because there were two women who had already done everything. So- but they're both dead now, and uh..

Riggins: And you're still there.

James R. Beeler: And uh.. their work has come into the collection, which is- is quite large. We from time to time have people there who know how to organize Archives- Merrill Chamberlain, for instance, and others. Uhm.. but uhm.. I have a good memory for- for where things are.

Riggins: That's good. I know LuAnn says you're very important, because you've been there so you just remember where things are.

James R. Beeler: Oh yes. And uh..- and I- I remember people's names.

Riggins: You have an excellent memory.

James R. Beeler: Usually.

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