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Interview with Anne Russell, June 12, 2007 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Title:
Interview with Anne Russell, June 12, 2007
Date:
June 12, 2007
Description:
Interview with Dr. Anne Russell in which she discusses her family's ties to Wilmington, her own personal and professional history, and her views on local government and public policy.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Russell, Anne Interviewer: Jones, Carroll / Malpass, Chris Date of Interview: 6/12/2007 Series: SENC Notables Length 120 minutes

Jones: I'm Carroll Jones, with Chris Malpass, for the Randall Library special collections oral history program. Our interview guest this morning is Dr. Anne Russell, a descendent of one of the founders of the Carolina Yacht Club, second oldest yacht club in the United States, and wears many hats. She is the mother of two daughters--

Russell: Four daughters.

Jones: Four daughters, sorry. That's your fault. An involved grandmother, historian, teacher, author, artist, family counselor, champion of the disadvantaged, active in the Wilmington 1898 commemoration, and more recently, a potter. Have I left anything out?

Russell: Except I'm not a potter, a sculptor.

Jones: Excuse me, a few mistakes. All right.

Russell: I've never had anything to do with pot or pots in my whole life.

Jones: Sculpting, all right. Why don't you start by telling us a little bit about your heritage in southeastern North Carolina, and how did this, if it had, any effect on your growing up?

Russell: I spent every summer of my early life here with my grandparents. My mother and dad met at New Hanover High School, and this I considered my home town, even though I was actually born in Raleigh, and Dad was with Southern Bell and AT&T, and we moved constantly many places. But the thread which ran through my life was Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach, and so I just love this place. It was, at that time, a gift to me because nobody asked me if I wanted to spend time here, I just did. And I loved it, I loved being here and when I was away during the school year, in other places, I could hardly wait for June to come and come down here. And I hated to leave the first of September to go elsewhere. I loved the, in my opinion, Wilmington has the highest quality of life in North Carolina of any city and community in North Carolina. And so, in 1981, I made a choice to come live here. We had lived in Hawaii, and some other places, and were going to come find the place we would not be moving from, my husband and I.

Jones: So, this was not as a daughter, this was as a wife.

Russell: Right, this was in 1981, and I said I know the best place on earth, and I want to live in Wilmington near Wrightsville Beach, and that's what I'm going to do, and I'm going to work out how I can do that.

Jones: [inaudible]

Russell: Well, we had been in Hawaii, we had a little stop over in Raleigh, because his mother was quite ill, and then we came on down here. And so it was my choice. First it was not a choice, it was a given for my family, and then it became my choice to be here, and I still feel this way. I still feel I wouldn't be here, that Wilmington has a marvelous quality of life and I wanted it for my children and grandchildren.

Jones: Do you think your heritage was a draw that gave you roots. You talked about growing up sort of all over the place, and maybe you had a sense that you needed some roots?

Russell: I think so, because, I know I had a huge family here, extended family. I thought I was related to everybody in Wilmington, I find I'm related to half the people. In fact when I was a little girl, as we would walk down the street, and run into people on the street, and my grandmother would say, "This is cous'n Atha [ph?], this is cous'n Bill [ph?]," and I thought everybody's first name was cous'n. Of course she meant cousin, but cous'n was how it came out. I asked how come everybody in Wilmington's first name is cous'n? She said, "Oh but these are your relatives, you're related to them." And I thought, oh my gosh. And my relatives loved the place, my grandfather in particular, and he was the...

Jones: And his name was?

Russell: Ed Wooten, Edward Wooten, and he was the Bradley [ph?] descendent from the original Wilmingtonian, Richard Bradley [ph?]. And his uncle had founded the yacht club, and...

Jones: Who was his uncle?

Russell: Richard Bradley, and we were just tied in, my family was tied in to everything. They had the sound places, and the beach places, and the town places, and they were poor aristocracy, originally in the late 1600's...

Jones: That was ______.

Russell: Yeah, you know, the first Richard Bradley who came here was a smart businessman. And he made bunches of money and bought lots of property, back when you could afford it, and...

Jones: Three generations ____got rid of.

Russell: Right, and so we would inherit this property, but we didn't have a lot of, land poor, but it was just fantastic. I just loved the whole place, I felt very comfortable here. And I still feel that way about Wilmington, or I wouldn't be here.

Jones: But you didn't come back to live here until 1981?

Russell: That's right. I started in 1980 writing a book about Wilmington, Wilmington, A Pictorial History.

Jones: I was going to ask you about that later, but that's all right.

Russell: And in doing that I just went ahead and just moved here.

Jones: When did you write that in?

Russell: I began that in 1980, and it came out in 1981, and in the process of writing it, I decided that yeah, I'm going to go ahead and move here.

Jones: In doing that book did you interview some of your relatives, where did you find the photographs?

Russell: Oh boy, as I'm sure you know about researching these things, my approach was to first go to my family archive, because that was easy to get to. And I would sit down with my aunts and other people and drag out the stuff they had in their desk drawers and so forth, and go through it and pick out what I thought was appropriate.

Jones: I hate to interrupt you. Did your family make notations on these photographs and papers?

Russell: Oh yes.

Jones: You are blessed.

Russell: Oh yes, my family was really into documentation. I found every now and then, one, or two errors. But no, and my Granddad really was-- he was an engineer, a civil engineer, Ed Wooten, but he really was a frustrated newspaper man. And so he took voluminous notes on everything that occurred. I mean he even put down if it was a photo. What we had for a meal, every item for the meal, yes. What the temperature was. What the barometric pressure was, and all that. No, it was really interesting because I had the Hurricane Hazel. He kept a journal all throughout Hurricane Hazel in his handwriting. And it was all about the approaching storm, barometric pressure and what's going on and it's just a very personal...

Jones: That's amazing. I've asked so many people who lived here during that time, and other hurricanes, what was it like? And they just sort of looked at me like well, it was just a big wind storm.

Russell: Oh no, he was very...

Jones: That's good.

Russell: And the great fire, the great fire in Wilmington, which was in the late 1800's I can't remember the date, downtown, which took out what, a third of the buildings or something, down town. And my great, was it my great aunt, great, great aunt, I can't remember which one. But she was sitting in the house down town like near Third Street, looking at the fire, as it's taking out this building and that building, you know...

Jones: She documented it?

Russell: Oh yeah.

Jones: Did you include these things in your book?

Russell: Not everything, you know, some of them.

Jones: Good, good. Well, go ahead, from 1980, '81, by this time, excuse me, in Hawaii, you had gone to the University of Hawaii?

Russell: Mm-hm. I got a Doctorate in American Studies there, and...

Jones: No mean feat.

Russell: (laughs) And anyway, I had came back with that. I first went into our family archive and from there you go to the general collections, you know, go to Chapel Hill, to the collection up there, North Carolina collection. And then you work your way through, you know, go to the library here. That was very interesting when I went to the library here, the public library. Because I had heard rumors of something of a race riot, back here, in 1898, and little tiny tidbits. This was before it became public. And I found out then that you couldn't get the materials on that from the library. It was under lock and key. And only certain people were allowed. That was censored, only certain people were allowed to see the photographs and documents, in the public library, because...

Jones: [inaudible]

Russell: No. And the librarian because-- had been told, we don't want to raise any fuss. So why upset people. Well, of course that's wrong, you shouldn't do that.

Jones: Of course that was the early '80's.

Russell: That was around 1980.

Jones: Coming on the heels on integration, and another racial, [inaudible]

Russell: And I went to the New Hanover County Museum and then you work your way to the smaller collections that people have. And then you put it all together, and the real problem doing a pictorial history, it's not finding enough photos. It's picking out the ones that you are going to use. So, and that got me going. And then, that was really the first really comprehensive history of Wilmington that brought it up to contemporary times. Now there are a lot of them, there's a bunch of them, but it opened the door. And also, I was determined. I told my publisher I will only do this history if we put black history in also. Because almost all the histories were white. And I did, and there was some little consternation about that from certain quarters. But now when they discovered there's lots of great black history here, so.

Jones: Definitely. So you enjoyed this?

Russell: I loved it and I'd done-- gosh, I did a pictorial history of other religions in North Carolina, which UNC Wilmington in fact sponsored this, the Museum of World Cultures. And it's a beautiful book. And it has a lot to do with Wilmington because this was the chief port. So this is where most of the folks came in on the ships to found the religions, and they spread out in North Carolina.

Jones: When you did your history of the religions, did you have access to some of the archives of the various churches?

Russell: Oh yeah.

Jones: And were you surprised to find the reception of some of the, I'm thinking, for example the Jewish religion, Catholic religion [inaudible]?

Russell: I was very well received, and at that time, there was no comprehensive book on religion. You could find one on the Baptists, you could find one on the Episcopalians, but you couldn't find one where you get an overview. And I wanted to see the similarities and the differences. I'm an educator because I believe in the progress of civilization, and that enlightenment knowledge is what keeps us progressing, hopefully. And so I felt that this would help us understand each other more, each other's different approach to religion. And I learned so much. If I can't learn something from work I'm doing, I don't want to do it, because if I'm bored by it, it's not going to be a good piece of work.

Jones: So many genealogists tell people just starting out, who are doing searches for families, the best, source is to go to church records.

Russell: Mm-hm. Oh yes, and this...

Jones: Church records, don't rely upon, and I'm not going to name any names or websites, but, which are not reliable, or word of mouth, or whatever, and I have found that to be true.

Russell: Well, I know that you can't believe everything that you see on those websites because, how did I cover this. I had a certain relative who is a genealogist. He's wonderful, he devotes himself, but he is severely dyslexic, and he can't spell anything right. And so, I have seen misspellings of all these genealogical...

Jones: That's like some of our forebears, the further south they came, out of the mountains, they spelled the way they spoke, if they could spell at all.

Russell: So, you don't believe everything you see on those websites. So, anyway, that's kind of-- then from going from doing the non fiction history, I got interested in documenting sort of through a different means, which is writing plays, and...

Jones: I'm glad you brought that up, I want you to talk about that. One question before you go on, just keep talking about the plays. But one question, is in your plays, some of those that I've seen, I've only seen two, I have to admit, and heard you speak of others. They were message plays. They seemed to be message plays. Did you draw upon, for example, again, your family, or incidents, or those incidents related to you?

Russell: The first play came out of love, oh I get teary eyed, because I love my family. They're my family, and all a bunch of nutcases, including me, you know. (laughs) There's no such thing as a dysfunctional family, I hate that. A family is a family, you know. And the function of the family is to-- yes. Is to work out ways to know all these crazy people, you know. So anyway, I just love them so much and I wanted fix them in time and the first was called The Porch. The play was done in New York. In fact-- and it was set at the corner of 3rd and Market Street in 1946. The year after the War, World War II ended. And it's essentially my family sitting on the porch, because back before television, air conditioning, we actually talked to each other. You know? That was our entertainment. We entertained ourselves after supper by sitting on the porch until we went up to bed. And telling stories and so that's what that one was. Now I will confess something to you which is the first time that I've ever said this to anybody. Yeah, now reveal. The original version of that play, because I have always been interested in race relations-- because it seem strange to me that Wilmington to me was heaven on Earth and yet there was this whole issue of black folk not having equal accesses, et cetera. And that bothered me, my sense of justice as a child. So the first version of this play had some references to that in it. It had some references to racial issues. I realized when I wanted to have it produced that that would make it very difficult to have the play produced. It was my first play. If I were, you know, Neil Simon they would do anything I wrote. But I was an unknown play write. And so I kind of washed it a bit and got rid of that. So what it became is just a feel good, down home play, which has conflict, but it leaves that part out. I thought some times of reconstituting it they way it originally did, but I just never done it. So.

Jones: What other plays, in a way that was a message play, it was arcing back to, I guess the way people communicate and from my understanding, from what I remember too, there was a message in that...

Russell: Well the message in the play is essentially that two things-- when you are going in to a family and a place, you're given your script. Your script is youngest child. Your script is, and you pretty much have to play the role that's been given to you because the other family members are going to make it...

Jones: They learn quickly.

Russell: Yeah. And some things about that role don't sit well. And so how do you go out and claim yourself as an adult, usually around age 18? How do you go claim yourself and be who you want to be? Not who you've been forced to be. And one major way folks do is leave home. Go somewhere else. And then you establish yourself as you want. It's hard to come home again. And yet, I think there's something in the heart, in the human heart that you always yearn for the place, the home place.

Jones: Now this is interesting. You're absolutely right. But again, I can see where you were putting yourself in that play by coming home to the home you wanted and not had. You came in the summer.

Russell: Yeah, I came in the summer.

Jones: [inaudible] all of your all family, so that this was your piece...

Russell: Yeah, interestingly, I'm not as a character in the play. What I am, I am actually, I'm the little girl sitting in the corner who's seven years old watching all this panorama of relatives and recording the dialogue. And so my protagonist, the main character, is my Uncle Ned who had gone away when he was 17 in to the Air Corps. And never wanted to come back here and he tells why. And then at the end of the play, he begins to understand why his mother just loved it here and never could understand why he didn't want to come home. And so he wants to be here again.

Jones: Anne, you've done some plays that I'm sure were gratis, probably lots of them. Yes, I know.

Russell: (laughs) Never make money as a playwright.

Jones: I know. And for churches serving our [inaudible]

Russell: Oh, that was interesting. I'm glad you came to that.

Jones: And I know that you've been active in a number of groups particularly having to do with black in issues in the 1890 Commemoration I think. I want you talk about your involvement, and I'm sure it is bringing your background as willing, from a Wilmington family, trying to bring it up to date and integrate it in with those that you sort of championed. And you probably done a lot of good. Why don't you talk about that? Particularly talk about those things you feel that you have contributed to in Wilmington since. This is such a big part of your life.

Russell: It's interesting, well I'll mention something. I taught here at the University. Well, no I taught in the English Department as a, gosh, I always forget all the titles they give you. I think I was an instructor of some kind of thing, full-time, whatever. But no tenure track business, I've never understood all of that.

Jones: English and [inaudible]

Russell: English, right. I was the Journalism Department, frankly. Because they'd never had a good journalism program here and they need it desperately. And that's a whole other issue. But, I taught there and there was a misunderstanding for several years, there was a misunderstanding, there was a certain attitude that I discovered on the part of some people in the department. I couldn't understand it. And the attitude was that, that I thought I was Wilmington aristocracy. And I was, and I did not, was not, oh gosh, politically correct and there was assumptions that I was racially biased, oh yeah, this came out. And it was crazy because I was probably the most activist white woman in the county. I've even been to jail on behalf of civil rights for blacks.

Jones: You have.

Russell: Oh yeah. Well, I mean in a lot of places actually. I mean, I was an activist and my first issue was black rights and then it went into women's rights and gay rights, and so on. And so it was a complete misperception. And it all came from the fact that my family had been here for generations. And there was a perception that somehow old families here, you know, didn't have the right attitudes. And so, it took a while, I think, to dispel that. I think eventually it got dispelled. In fact, being a member of an old Wilmington family is what compelled me to be an activist on behalf of black rights.

Jones: Well I have to say that you're unusual in that respect because my perception, it's not my perception, it's what I have heard, that doesn't make sense, that many of the old Wilmington families put their head in the sand and do not do anything. And quite frankly, I have seen some of this, but I think that's not a correct assessment either.

Russell: A lot of them actually have done a great deal. The do it quietly.

Jones: They have. And I should say at this point, that many of the people I've interviewed and asked them what do you think of the influx of population and changes and what's going on downtown and roads, et cetera. And one man sat here, the most unlikely person to say this. He's says, "I'm all for it, I love it. Because when I was growing up, there was two rooms in the school. If you got sick, you had to go to Raleigh. If you wanted to shop for a suit, you went to Raleigh." He said "I think it's great." So, but this amazes me that there were some narrow minded approach from the after [inaudible] as to you and...

Russell: It stunned me. I was very hurt and actually, Dr. Hubert Eaton who was Chairman of the Board...

Jones: We talked about that.

Russell: Yes. When I was doing my Wilmington pictorial history, he was one of the first people that I interviewed for it because he was just amazing man. I knew when I was a little girl, seven years old, staying with my grandparent's house on Wrightsville Avenue, excuse me, that summer my dad kept talking about, you know, this-- and my mother and dad were not biased, racially biased at all, not at all. But my dad kept saying, you know, he loved to play tennis, "wow, I wish I could play tennis. There's this black doctor down the street. Has his own private tennis court, can you imagine that in his yard? Boy, I wish he'd invite me to play there." I didn't know who on earth this was, I just as unusual that a black person in Wilmington wouldn't have his own private tennis court. Because most white folks didn't have it. And then I meet Dr. Eaton because he is the one who had the tennis court on Orange Street. And he is the one who got Althea Gibson, she lived with him and he trained her to play tennis and so on. So I put him in my book and I was fascinated with him. Most wonderful man, he is one of the finest men that ever been in this city. He had both diplomacy and guts. He was a risk taker but he was calculated because just like he played tennis, he wanted to win. He wanted to get that point. So he wasn't going to waste himself. So he strategized. And he would figure how he would approach it and how he could best accomplish his objective. And he essentially, single handedly integrated virtually everything in this town. And he integrated the golf course, the YMCA, the schools, et cetera, et cetera.

Jones: Now that much I'm unaware of.

Russell: Yes.

Jones: [inaudible] involvement in several other issues.

Russell: Oh, yes, amazing man. And he then wrote his autobiography which I-- he and the publisher invited me actually to a kind of put the narrative to it. Because he was a physician, he wasn't a writer. And he'd done all this research and then I had access to all of his documents and began putting it together.

Jones: We have his papers.

Russell: Yeah, you're so fortunate. So, Dr. Eaton filled in a lot of my ignorance about specific things. But interestingly when I was working with Dr. Eaton and I worked with him over a period of, I don't know...

Jones: When you say working with him, you're talking about in writing?

Russell: Right, with his book and then some other projects. This would have been in the mid-'80s, he said, "Anne, I will have, serve you lunch at my house. We will not go out to eat. I hope you don't mind." He had a cook, someone who came in. And I said, "Well, why?" And he said, "Because I don't want you to be targeted by the Clan." I said, "The Clan? The Ku Klux Clan?" Mid 1980s?

Jones: In Wilmington?

Russell: Yes, ma'am. And he said, "Oh, yes." And he said, "even at this point in time." Now things have changed tremendously since then. "If you and I are sitting eating in public together, you run a risk. And I don't want to expose you to that." And that shocked me that...

Jones: That kind of shocks me.

Russell: Yeah. And I subsequently found out who some of the people in the Clan were and where they met and so forth, independently of Dr. Eaton. So that let me know that it was, the racial problem was alive and well here and still functioning.

Jones: That does surprise me.

Russell: But I tell, you Carroll, it has changed so much. So much, because my white aristocratic friends and family, their mindset has changed. They've learned. They're getting used to the idea of equality. And, you know, really and truly the problem is just dissolving here I think.

Jones: Well, Anne, let me say this. Let me ask you this. I am aware now and I can't fault, what I'm about to say is truth, I can't fault these children, but unfortunately, I'm very, very aware of the kids. I find that they're too many children who are born to people who should have no business having them. A child is a precious commodity.

Russell: Sure.

Jones: A very precious commodity. They grow up to do marvelous things or not. And they are still areas in Wilmington, surrounded by schools, schools are very well equipped, surrounded by good teachers. But these children come still from areas of primarily black, residential areas.

Russell: Single parent.

Jones: Single parents. The mother is on drugs and so forth. Little eight year olds, I'm thinking of one child particularly who walked in to the Rachel Freeman School here about six weeks ago and bragged that he had bullets in his pocket. And nobody believed him, but, they said, let's see them, eight .35 mm black bullets, and on his wrists, markings that he was proud of because he was working toward becoming a full fledged member of a gang.

Russell: Yeah, the gangs are in terrible, it's a terrible problem here.

Jones: My question is and it has been for a number of years, you try to get into working with Boys and Girls Club. Trying to do histories - history for certain periods- the black U.S. or whatever, and there are no role models in the black community right now, that are men. There are only woman.

Russell: There are very few.

Jones: You are in tune with this. Talking about Wilmington, what do we have to look forward to? When you are reaching out to the black community, trying to assimilate and you want these kids to be educated for their own good.

Russell: Well, I am going to say something that sounds peculiar. One of the major things that I think could happen to improve the quality of life-- and my goal for Wilmington. I would like to see Wilmington known internationally certainly nationally or certainly statewide as having the highest quality of life for all people, of all groups, anywhere. A city that has made an objective to have a very high quality of life for people of all strata: old people, young people, black, white, handicapped.

Jones: This is your hope, how to do you see it happening? And what are you doing [inaudible]?

Russell: Well, first of all one thing that I wish we would get real about. I hear from racially biased people in my group, fairly often, "Gee, if the black folk would work as hard as we have. If they would just work as hard, not be lazy, blah, blah, blah." The standard thing, then it's their fault blame the victim. What I say back and I say it to their face and often I am not invited back. I say, "Well, you know what it may be that they didn't inherit from a land grant from the King of England that goes back to the sixteen or seventeen hundreds, a vast property here in New Hanover County, which has been passed down from your family which you have benefited through inheritance and business which have come from that which has given you-- your children get to have summer jobs, you know, and these nice things. They don't have that." So when you tell me about how hard, you know, the nice white folks have worked as compared-- I don't see it. I am sorry. You know, I have seen black folk working themselves to death with no retirement plan, no health benefits. And they work from the time that they are 9 years old until they drop dead. And I think we need to get real about the fact that there has been a tremendous consequence to economic disparity. And one of the consequences is the fatherless families here among the black community. And I think-- I wish we would, let me mention one little thing. I belong to the Carolina Yacht Club courtesy to the fact that it's been passed down, no black folk belong to the Carolina Yacht Club. I haven't seen one in my whole life, funny about that I never seen one. There was a heritage of sailing it was founded by sailors and it's about competitive racing. We have this incredible resource here, water, water everywhere, rivers, sounds, oceans, Greenfield Lake, marvelous resource. It's mostly a resource of white folks. I almost never see black folk sailing anywhere. I don't see those owning sailboats. I don't see them in the regatta, in the races. How does this come about? Well, I know that the Carolina Yacht Club gives sailing lessons from the time children are little. They are brought up...

Jones: The members.

Russell: Well, and yeah. Members or members' friends can actually sign up for it. They are brought up in the culture of racing. Racing is about sportsmanship. It's about enjoying the natural resources and so forth. I would love to see and I tried to get the gang taskforce here to do this a couple of years. I would love to see a very conscious effort to reach out to these black kids who never been on a boat in their lives and know nothing about who live in the midst of all this water resource and are craving competition. You know, they want competition. They want some sort of structure and so on. I would love to see them reach out and make teams. And teach-- first you have to teach them how to swim because most black folk from here have not had access to swimming lessons. That most basic thing.

Jones: That brings up something else. You as someone of deep passion and long history of family here in this area and all the things that the city council and the county commissioners spend money on, two years back the issue came up that a public pool should be built. A lot of people said, "Yes" for a lot of reasons. I don't know of any other public pools. The Y is not public.

Russell: No you have to...

Jones: The clubs are not public. The beach is public but you learn to swim in a pool. In my estimations, having grown up in Southern California, you learn to swim about the same time you learn to tie your shoes. Because it's a safety factor. That could have easily have been done.

Russell: It sure could, it sure could and we could have a program in town where-- I wish...

Jones: I am not sure that a lot of people were made aware of the necessity, getting the word out at all. And another thing I want to ask you about, because Joan had the answer and I think we need to know if you got it. Back in the late 1800s the population in Wilmington was by far greater in the black community. It was greater than the whites.

Russell: Oh, yes it was a majority black.

Jones: There were black business owners and there have been black business owners. And this has happened in the white community as well in older families. Many of these businesses have been transferred to their daughters because the sons were either non-existent or they are non-existent now. And this goes back to my original question that I have heard asked over and over again. Since you want to do some good and you are in there. Where are the black male role models? Where are they? Can you name 1 or 2?

Russell: No, I know some wonderful black male leaders in town, a number of them actually. They are here but they are few and far between.

Jones: The group is highly female.

Russell: Yes.

Jones: Again you go back to education and a family structure just as [inaudible].

Russell: Mm-hm, the matriarch.

Jones: It brought you back here. It has been your focus in preserving the history because it is so close to you. There are families here that I know that have been here for generations and generations. Perhaps, your work is trying to bring a closer...

Russell: Well, I will mention leader Hollis Briggs. He is a young man, a young black man here in town. He is a caterer. I believe he does catering for Landfall or something, I am not sure exactly. He would be a wonderful black leader. I was serving on the tree commission with Hollis. In fact, I'm kind of the one that got him on there because I was on the tree commission and I looked around and said, "What's missing in this picture? Gosh we are all white. You know, don't black folk of Wilmington care about trees? Gee, maybe we should do an outreach." Hollis popped up and he served and he is wonderful in every way. He is incredibly energetic, honest, a great personality. He lights up a room. There is a leader I would like to see cultivated. I would like to see an active male black leader. But again, look at the economic reality, public service. You don't get paid a bunch of money to serve on the city council you put in a lot a hours. And most of the folk say who serve on the city council, the males have a real estate business or they are attorney or they have something that gives them a good income. And being a politician ices their cake. It increases their income because of the contacts they have. Most black folk here can't afford that. They have to get out and they have to put hours and bring home that paycheck. And they don't have time to sit in this interminable meeting down there and going to out of town trips, seriously. That's one of the major problems in getting the participation it's a basic economic reality here.

Jones: Have you seen a change in our weather bane with the influx of people coming here from the north? Are they a little more tolerant or do you find them less tolerant? Are they aware or unaware?

Russell: I think they pretty aware. And I think they have, by and large, been a great asset to the community. They certainly increase the traffic and the taxes, all that sort of thing. But I think that they are a great asset which brings me to, when I mentioned traffic, to one other thing that I think just this alone would go a long way. I even thought about how to do it. We have as you know transportation problems in Wilmington. And Wilmington has the highest accident rate in the state. My car was hit 3 times in 6 weeks and totaled the first time. And I went out-- I'll be making payments for the next five year on the new car I had to get to replace the old for which I did not get very much because it was ten years old. Within 2 weeks it was hit, my brand new car. I am almost afraid to go out on the roads here. We have a tremendous problem. I work with-- I know a lot of people. I have friends, kind of on all levels. And people who are economically kind of toward the bottom, and they are struggling to work and so on. They need healthcare and they need jobs. They need to be able to go to city council meetings. They need transportation. They can't afford cars. They cannot-- you know, an automobile is a luxury. It cost a fortune to have a car. The transportation system here, the public transit system is woefully lacking. And we need, I think to absolutely pay attention to that and as fast as we can ratchet that up so that all areas of the city and county can have to coming into downtown, to go to the governmental things, to come to the educational institutions like the community colleges, university, go to work. I know a way I think we can do that. You know, I really think that...

Jones: Would you share it with us?

Russell: Well, I just called this morning to find out how many registered vehicle in New Hanover County, 175,000 according to my source [inaudible].

Jones: The population for New Hanover County is 106,000.

Russell: Right. So of course most families have 2 or 3 cars. So 175,000 times ten bucks, that's almost 2 million bucks by my math and I am not a good mathematician. You can do a lot with public transit. And I think if people can afford a car and the associated costs they can afford an extra ten bucks a year tacked on to the car for a public transit system worth having here, which would help them because it would give us more access to parking. We would have fewer vehicles. We would have fewer accidents here, less traffic tie up. And it would enable these disenfranchise groups to have wheels. They could go to work. They could go get educated. You just-- I challenge you to spend a week without a car. Just take a vow, I will not use a car, mine or any, for one week.

Jones: I couldn't.

Russell: And you couldn't. How do you function? And then you look at these people and say, why don't you get a job? Why don't you get involved ______________? I ain't got no car man. I can't go anywhere.

Jones: Well, all right let's look at this too. I am sure you have. With the influx of all these people many of them are marvelous and I think we are fortunate in something I said earlier, many are retirees and they have been coming now for a long time. They retire early enough with good pension and they come to play. But many of them have looked after the playing gets a little tiresome at time for something to do. And I can think of about 4 or 5 as a matter of fact, I was going over this list last night. About 4 or 5 different organizations that began within the last ten years and some less than that on nothing and have full time volunteers, really.

Russell: Oh they're a tremendous source of energy.

Jones: Dealing with mostly the inner city children, older people, transportation through the churches, feeding people.

Russell: Airlie Gardens too, working volunteer.

Jones: Absolutely.

Russell: Our theatre groups in town?

Jones: They've made this their town. But there's still. There still seems to be not enough. It's not enough. Now I have a question for you. Because you began our talk today about how you loved coming back here. This was a part of you and it is. Anybody listening to you can see it. It's wonderful.

Russell: When I drive over that bridge. When I've been out of town, my heart...

Jones: You feel like you're home.

Russell: ...I get teary eyed. My heart soars. As I go over that route.

Jones: The thing is that doesn't exist anymore, except within you. And this is what I hear from some people. That how do you feel about the building that's going on, all of the roads, wait a second now, the change of the landscape down town. That yes we're getting more taxes. But with the crowds come infrastructure problems. And medical problems because there is an aging group. And you've got retirement groups. And you've got all these things. How would you like to see it? Does this bother you?

Russell: Well I have my Masters degree is in urban planning as a matter of fact.

Jones: How many degrees do you have?

Russell: I'm one of these greatly overeducated, underpaid people, you know, who doesn't make as much as a garbage collector, literally.

Jones: But was it fun going to school for you?

Russell: I just love to learn, as a matter of fact. I still go to school. You know, I'm now in the age group where I go tuition free to any state college or university.

Jones: Really?

Russell: Oh yes. And so I take-- I just took a sculpture course at Cape Fear Community College free of charge. I took a real estate course just for the heck of it, to learn something about it, there I've taken a course over here. And I recommend to everyone over 65 don't sit home and watch TV for God sake go take a class. I mean take the benefit of your tax dollars. And take a class. Gosh I got off on that subject.

Jones: No. I'm glad you did. See you're telling people.

Russell: Most folks don't know that, right. That's wonderful.

Jones: Why do you think you're here? So anyway we're talking about the changes. And someone who feels so strongly as you so tied to this history.

Russell: I would like to see a, again that quality of life. Of course all of us are motivated by our economic best interest. And we are capitalist country, we claim.

Jones: That's true, sort of.

Russell: And usually self interest is really the best motivator. But most of the-- interestingly, most of the problems coming from the great over development here, if you will, it's old families who sold off. They cashed in. They've inherited lots of property and now they can make a top dollar and they sell it. And it's development. And we go to the tax the way the tax structure is. I would like to see a change. You force-- we are forcing people who own nice tracks of land, who would prefer to keep these in the family, keep them undeveloped, keep some graceful way of living. And I think we have Airlie Gardens and other places, we're forcing them, well look at this stuff Mayfaire. That was a horse farm there. When we tax them off their property to-- you force them to have to sell to a developer and develop. And that and you cut down all the wonderful shade trees. And then you have the traffic coming and you have the proliferation of the strip malls and so forth. I would like to see us do what some wise states have done, which is along the lines of saying you will be taxed at the rate that when you first occupied the property, it will not change until that property changes hands. In other words, until you sell it and the new owner then you will have it evaluated, according to...

Jones: Well that's like rent control.

Russell: You know, and this would stave off some of this loss of-- I am a populist, if you will. You may have picked up on that. That I like-- I don't like to see lots of spoiled rich people. Paris Hilton makes me want to throw up. Lots of-- sorry. These...

Jones: She is culture humor for the masses right now.

Russell: Oh my God, isn't she.

Jones: And you know what, maybe in today's world with all the news that we don't like, this kind of takes your mind off it and you can laugh.

Russell: It does, it puts it in perspective, yeah. I agree. But I am to a point now where I drive past and I won't name names, large tracks of land that still remain here, of millionaires here. And I say, oh I hope you stay rich your entire life. And I hope that you leave this to your child who stays rich his or her entire life, so that you don't have to develop this. That I get to ride by and see a horse, see horses in the pasture or see a beautiful lawn. Or you know, because most of the folks can't afford to keep the large tracks of land anymore. And they're dropping like flies, which brings me to the tree commission and in shade trees. When are we going to understand there is point in having live oak trees? You know, they give lots of wonderful shade, when we're dying of heat stroke in the middle of summer. I would like to see New Hanover County and Wilmington embark on a deliberate program to plant live oak trees all over the place, along the public rights. Instead where cutting them down, you know. So I think it has to do with planning. It has to do with foresight. It has to do with not reacting but seeing the hand writing on the wall. We see where Wilmington is going don't we? It's no longer just a little by way that almost nobody ever heard of. You know, the trains backs into. You know, it's what it used to be when Atlantic Coast line. They backed into Wilmington. This is a destination place.

Jones: Well it is. It is a destination place. It has been. It really has been. And you talk of controls. I would imagine that there are numbers of places across this country that are feeling the same kind of thing. But how do you stop it but put up gates? You know it's a difficult situation.

Russell: I think you can...

Jones: Can it be? There is such a thing as control growth. There is such a thing and it has worked in some places. It truly has worked in some places. And that is something that even in the short time that I have lived here continuously, even though I would spend summers coming down to Wrightsville Beach with my kids, because my husband is a native. And that was fun, that was playtime.

Russell: That's right, I dated your husband one night in high school.

Jones: He told me about that. You and everybody else I believe.

Russell: I don't think that it was a highly successful date, but we did.

Jones: My first one with him wasn't either. But at any rate to come back here to live, is quite a different story. However having dived in and taking a look around us and so forth. I see indiscriminate things happening. But I think too there is a whole new group of people that have been here long enough, like I have, who have a prosperity feeling. And you can't fault people for making money. You really can't. And I know that land is always anywhere you are...

Russell: It's the only thing that I believe in actually in investing in.

Jones: ...[inaudible] lots of it, buy it. And families kept it whether it was swamps or what, bought it. Now taxes are going to go up. But those taxes that have to be thing that are used properly to. When I say to you what would you like to see here, what would you like to see happen project over the next ten years. The past ten years have rapid growth, New Hanover County is running out of spaces to live so it's ___________ right now.

Russell: Well you know, you said a while back, what did I think of the changes maybe in the landscape down town. And this got me in trouble with the Historic Preservation Commission. And I'm married to an architect and got him in a bit of trouble. I love...

Jones: Got him in trouble?

Russell: Well this issue. I love contemporary design, as does he. He's done a lot of the ren-- he did the Thalian Hall addition and some renovation and so on.

Jones: Well on that subject what do you think about doing away with that parking lot and putting a park there?

Russell: Well I think they need to expand. And I don't know what-- I haven't explored the issue in detail, because my husband's architectural firm isn't doing this addition.

Jones: No it's just out there for people to think about it.

Russell: Right. But I think they do need the space, as a matter of fact. And certainly I think Tony Rivenbark has done a wonderful job. Of getting-- it's a thriving thing, culturally there. I love seeing the-- you need to have buildings of our time, which when a hundred years will become our historic buildings of this time. That's a counterpoint to the older historic buildings. Otherwise you run the danger of being a museum. You're dead. You know you have these...

Jones: Can we pick up on this in a few minutes. Take a break and we'll change the tape. Because this is so interesting and this is more of what we want to hear.

(tape change)

Jones: Okay, we were talking about historic preservation, particularly in downtown, some of the wonderful buildings and then some of the not so wonderful buildings.

Russell: I think that contemporary design in Wilmington got a bad name back when they built the--

Jones: Monstrosity on Market Street?

Russell: Well, when they built the justice center or whatever they call it, it's like "Oh goody, we got a good deal on brick and so we're gonna just buy a lot of it and put this thing up." And a couple of other buildings downtown, which are awful examples of contemporary architecture. And it's just plain ugly. And I think it turned people off, because they had not seen good contemporary design. I happen to love the PPD [ph?] Building, which is now on the river downtown. My heart soars when I see it. I don't think it's necessarily a brilliantly designed building, but I think it looks really good there and I think it's a good counterpoint to the older structures which are around it. And that's what I like to see.

Jones: Well, it's up far enough, it's far enough up.

Russell: Yeah. I'd like to see the, and I think Charleston is a good example, Charleston has done a wonderful job of preserving the old historic buildings and allowing wonderful new contemporary design to come in, which fits in very, very well downtown with the old structures. That's something, an example we should emulate I think, the way Charleston has done it. So I think if Wilmington would celebrate the history we had and certainly as a writer of histories, I care about it, some of the best downtown of the old homes and buildings, including the poorer ones, and at the same time allow new contemporary structures to come in down there, which are well designed as a counterpoint. You have a vibrant, that way you have a vibrant landscape and streetscape instead of feeling like you've stepped into a museum, you know, that you're just in this, you know, all I can call it is a museum. That's not vibrant, that's dead. I don't think the preservation commission has come nearly far enough to appreciate that.

Jones: Well, the preservation committee is made up of somebody from down there. [inaudible]

Russell: Well, I will be specific, the residents of old Wilmington.

Jones: Some of the others, it's six of one and half a dozen of the others.

Russell: The residents of old Wilmington, the ROW, have essentially controlled the downtown, and a lot of them, most of them in fact, aren't from here, they are Yankees who came down here and they kind of, in my opinion, want to recapture Gone With The Wind or something, they think they're stepping back and want the old way of being and they made a huge contribution because they have put a lot of dollars into preserving many of these houses. It would drive me crazy to have to, you know, restructure these old buildings the way they have and put the money into it. However, they have held back progress too. What I want to say to these people is, that Gone With The Wind never existed here, it's an illusion. We had whorehouses downtown for the seamen coming off the boats, (laughs) we have slave whipping posts downtown, we had cockfights and gambling out in the streets. It was a live, vibrant place, it wasn't just a little picture postcard kind of pretty little place.

Jones: When did they take down the market that was down there?

Russell: You know, I should know and I don't. I've got a picture of it in my book.

Jones: It's too bad that doesn't still exist. It could be a marvelous--

Russell: It could be very, and another thing was the farmer's market downtown, which they now put another one in, but that was a vibrant place. So, the other aspect of this, and I haven't heard other people talk about this, you talk about getting the black community involved, you know what, if I were black, and I'm thinking back all those lovely, beautiful, old homes and structures that were there before the Civil War, they represented segregation to me. I had to go to the back door. My relatives had to go into the back door to sell their shelled peas and buttered beans to the nice white folks. We couldn't come in the front door. Those houses were designed a certain way in large measure they had the cook's room, they had the maid's room, you know, they were segregated structures. And so when the nice white folks sit on their lovely porch with the columns and things and they dream of the days back when we had this gracious life, I think the black folks had the kind of memories maybe of it, so why do they want to preserve it is my thought.

Jones: I'm on your side. There is, I think, a section that could easily be preserved, it was almost totally black, where black businesses and doctor's offices did thrive.

Russell: Right, but were renting them out because they don't have the money, you know, the gentrification. An example is Castle Street. When they came in and I was glad that they were trying to expand historic preservation all the way over to Castle, but the powers that be with the city who were trying to do that were kind of wanting to imitate the old nice white areas downtown of the historic district. Castle Street has a whole other history and a whole other need and there's a great opportunity to have that a lively place, you know, a vibrant kind of place where it's happening man, you know.

Jones: Are you talking about Castle Street being a happening place strictly with black history or both?

Russell: I mean for our whole community here.

Jones: It is becoming, Michael Moore and a few others have really worked hard on it.

Russell: Yes they have, oh yes they have.

Jones: And it is, and of course now they're selling condominium spaces and they've progressed that far.

Russell: Mm-hmm, yeah, I think they've begun getting in the right mode.

Jones: I've noticed going up and down Castle Street, the reconstruction rather than new construction of housing. It's bringing it more, and of course not too far from Gregory School, not too far from Williston School, so there is something happening there, but there's also that north end and some of the housing over there should be preserved.

Russell: Well you know, also this resistance to building across the river, building tall buildings across the river and all this talk from the ________ about "Oh, you're gonna ruin our view." Your view of what? Your view of scraggly trees over there and the swamp that's over there and, you know, that's not some gorgeous landscape over there.

Jones: How can you build these tall buildings on that swamp land? It shifts constantly.

Russell: Well, that's their problem and not mine, of the investors, they can do it, and I think it's a wonderful counterpoint. You have the low level buildings on this side of the river in the historic district and then over there you've got the now, the what's happening now.

Jones: There is a movement right now, it's not quite public, semi-public, a group of people have gotten together pushing for-- The North Carolina, the battleship, has to be moved because it's sunk in the mud.

Russell: I didn't realize that.

Jones: Yeah. Well, that place over there is too shallow . It shouldn't be over there.

Russell: Oh, I didn't realize that.

Jones: But it's just sitting on mud and it's been there for how long? Since the '60s. It needs to have a complete overhaul, has to be towed out and there are other spots that they're looking for to possibly put it, but even if they don't, something can be done with dredging or something. Now you've got the Corps of Engineers involved. There's been a big movement on running boats from downtown Wilmington across to the other side and making that plaza there more of a museum, you know, like they have in Alabama and everywhere else.

Russell: Be wonderful.

Jones: And having dinner spots along the way.

Russell: Sure, of course, it's wonderful.

Jones: So that you'd have ferry taxi service back and forth.

Russell: Yeah, water taxis, yeah, absolutely.

Jones: And run them even from PPD [ph?] running that. How do you feel about that?

Russell: Yes. Oh, I've been for 20 years saying they should do that. In fact, my husband and I canoe sometimes-- I ride, he canoes-- and we will in the evening sometimes take the canoe down to the river and canoe along the river. And we will look back at the city and the little restaurants and the people walking and it's just charming. I think it would be wonderful to develop that side.

Jones: How do you feel about a convention center?

Russell: I have been all for it. Pat Delair [ph?] is someone that I actually pushed to run for council and I support. I do not support everything she's for, but she actually and I disagreed on it because she has been against that, apparently with good cause in certain regards, but I think Wilmington has suffered in terms of getting business here. I see the Bar Association, the AMA, these groups that could bring bunches of money into Wilmington, tourist dollars, go elsewhere, to Myrtle Beach, to Charleston.

Jones: Well, all right, the Myrtle Beach situation, you go to Myrtle Beach to see the shows.

Russell: Well, I think a lot of going to Myrtle Beach is they have the capacity to deal with the--

Jones: That's what I'm saying. There wouldn't be a convention center making money down there if they didn't have an entertainment package.

Russell: Something going on. Well, this is, all right now, you mention.

Jones: We have an entertainment package here on a different level.

Russell: Well, all right, I'm glad you mentioned that, because as a theater person, as a playwright, I see the arts just thriving in Wilmington.

Jones: They are now. [inaudible]

Russell: I see tremendous potential. I have seen the theater companies, it's hard to make a dollar, it's not a profit-making venture, theater is very expensive to produce and you can't raise the ticket price high enough to pay for it, and yet it is such a contribution to the life of a community. So the various theater companies have been competing with each other to get that theater dollar. I would love to see packages made, tourism packages where the restaurants and the theater companies cooperate and say for a certain price you can come to Wilmington to a convention or for some other thing and you can choose among dinner at this restaurant, this one or this one along with an evening of theater at this, this and this and what that would do is it would guarantee a base, you know, and it would give entertainment for these people coming here, and it's, again, it's a matter of organization and cooperation. Why compete for the dollar? Why not cooperate for that theater dollar?

Jones: Wilmington has become a destination spot for artists, as you probably know.

Russell: Mm-hmm. And the movie business has contributed a lot.

Jones: Well, the art community is amazing in that there's so many different groups that they kind of work together. There used to be an art council, now they have an art league and they have an art whatever, and they work so well together and they're bringing people in from overseas and from other parts of the country, and every summer Bald Head Island of course they have that community that's out there and each style is different, and I asked two of the artists I've talked to what makes this such a magnet. Amazing, amazing answer, so that I then asked it from others who were from here. The light, the light.

Russell: Interesting.

Jones: And they can do plein air and it is, they said that when they relax, people leave them alone, they feel free to go and see other works, and that you can have whatever you want without feeling that you're being stared at. It's a freedom type thing. And they all point this out, which I said, "Oh well, that's a plus when you think about a convention center." I asked all of these people. Most of them say they want it because it's a vehicle that can be used all year round.

Russell: That's right.

Jones: Dr. Ruth Funk had been put in charge of raising $8 million for a concert hall. She said if we had a convention center, that $8 million could be a part of it ________.

Russell: Mm-hmm, right.

Jones: Do you feel that way?

Russell: I would be very supportive of a convention center. What I wouldn't want to see if a Mickey Mouse, watered-down design. I think if we're going to do things like a new bridge down in the southern part, look at the new bridge in Charleston. God, the attention. Look at the _______ Bridge.

Jones: It got attention because you know what the old bridge looked like. [inaudible]

Russell: Oh my lord, oh yes, and it draws people just to come get to walk over that bridge.

Jones: Well, they have Patriot's Point as well as the Battery and they've got the old slave market, which is a fun place to go.

Russell: Well, you know, I think that a convention center, if they design it right and say we want something that "Wow, look at the convention center on the river, man, that's fantastic, boy that's a landmark, you know, that appears in photos of Wilmington." I think that would be tremendously exciting. I think if they nit-pick over every little thing.

Jones: One of the things a lot of people think convention center, we've got enough conventions. The convention center could be used all year round. Think of all the high school graduations and the prom parties.

Russell: And think of the business it would channel into downtown Wilmington also. So I think Wilmington is.

Jones: So in spite of the fact that your heart is sitting on the front porch, you have enough vision to say this should be happening if it's controlled and done right.

Russell: Mm-hmm. I want to see Wilmington alive. I do have certain views architecturally, because I'm married to an architect and he's educated me, but I'm going to say something about Mayfair. I think this obsession with trying to imitate the old historic preservation has resulted in some very poor contemporary design, and Mayfair is an example. I drive through there, and obviously it's thriving, it has a reason to be because Lord, where does the money come for people to buy all that stuff in all those stores and so on, and all those condos-- but that is right near the beach. Does it look like beach architecture to you? Does it have any relevance, any relationship to the beach? No. Good gosh, who approved that kind of design. Well, they did it that way because they wanted to fulfill this idea of fitting in with the old historic blah-bitty, blah-bitty, blah, blah, blah. I think we need to have. Charles Boney, I wish I could just anoint him the king of architecture here in Wilmington and let him make all the decisions, because I think he's very wise about those things. He appreciates the old and the new.

Jones: Speaking of the beach, I bet you spend a good bit of time down there in the summer.

Russell: Obviously, yes.

Jones: The beach properties have become prohibitive.

Russell: Mm-hmm.

Jones: The Blockade Runner is selling off rooms, not adjoining rooms but rooms as condos.

Russell: Right.

Jones: They've done some re-nourishment down by Shell Island but it's only a matter of time. Who are the people coming there and buying these properties? What's happening? That place is, you can't enjoy it anymore, you can't _______.

Russell: I know, I know.

Jones: Not everybody belongs to the yacht club circle.

Russell: I know, we're constantly saying we don't know what we want to do if we didn't belong to the yacht club because we get parking.

Jones: It's a jewel. It was meant to be a family-oriented, safe place to relax in.

Russell: Well for one thing, Carroll, you remember the old cottages, beach cottages were beach cottages. They didn't build something like Forest Hills with air conditioning and all the carpet and the fancy stuff.

Jones: I grew up going to a beach cottage down in Santa Monica when it was still good, and you could walk in with sand dripping off and wet towel.

Russell: Right, your wet bathing suit and sit down, right, sweep the sand between the cracks.

Jones: There was old furniture.

Russell: Exactly.

Jones: It just got aired out and you closed up the house and _______.

Russell: And if a storm knocked it down, you just put up some more stilts, rebuilt the thing.

Jones: That's right.

Russell: Well now you have this tremendous investment of dollars in it, which makes the insurance go sky-high, and all these other things, and ordinary people can't even begin to have a place at the beach. I would like to see, I think back and actually I wasn't alive then, thank you I'm not quite that old, but my mother was, when the trolleys, the only transportation on the beach was trolleys, they didn't have cars on the beach. There were no cars.

Jones: And there was a station one.

Russell: There was a trolley, yeah, station one, station two, station three, and you jump on the trolley and you could jump on it at the foot of Market downtown and go all the way to the beach.

Jones: And the wooden fishing pier.

Russell: I would like to see them get rid of the cars at the beach. I would like to see, they'd have to have passes for certain, you know, like commercial vehicles who come to do some maintenance or deliveries or something, people who own the property down there would be entitled I think to one or two parking passes depending on what size the property, hotels would have to be able to have some vehicles, but of the most part you do away with this massive automobile traffic at the beach, which takes up so much of the area in parking and in endless lines of people seeking a place to park and put in public transit again, you know, where you could have the little jitney buses, the way, you know, Bald Head Island, they don't allow vehicles over there, they have another way of dealing with it. Put in little buses, people can jump on and jump off. It's possible. It could work. And I just think it would make a huge difference.

Jones: I was down at SunSpree the other night for their thing, whatever, and there were a number of out of town guests who came for this particular event. I said, "What are you paying for a night here?" and this one man said, "Well, I'm paying $360 a night." And he had he and his wife and he had a son, daughter-in-law, two children. I said, "They're paying their way?" He said, "They can't afford to." I said, "So you're picking up the tab? Do you get breakfast, like a continental breakfast or anything?" "No." I said, "What do you pay to have your car parked underground?" He said, "Twenty-five dollars."

Russell: Mm-hmm. Well, that keeps certain classes of people off the beach, doesn't it? Even though they have the right of public access.

Jones: Where's the free beach for a coastal town?

Russell: And we've had to fight to keep what we've got, haven't we? I mean I thank God, I think it's a federal law, for the federal law which says that the public owns the beach, right of access up to the high tide line. Thank God, because if we didn't have that law, it would be only the people who had a bunch of money could afford to put a building there would have the right to use the beach. And of course there's loopholes, there's ways of getting around that public access, and people use that, but at least we still do have that. We still have the right to access.

Jones: Southern California permits no parking. You have to take the bus. Just those two so-called public beach in Santa Monica, which is quite long. Malibu is all private, all private. Zuma is all private. You go down south to Laguna and you can't get near a beach. I'm thinking this is God's creation.

Russell: It's a tragedy.

Jones: And look what's happening here.

Russell: It's a tragedy. And if I lived there.

Jones: Well it's happening here. Look at Thompson [ph?].

Russell: At my great age, if I had the strength to be an activist again.

Jones: Would you be one? I thought you were one?

Russell: Well, I sort of haven't been to jail lately. I would lead a mass kind of demonstration where you just took the beach back, where ordinary people just took it back. Sorry folks, you know, this is God's beach, God's land, which brings me to the Fort Fisher Hermit, you know.

Jones: Oh, you've got to talk about that because you interviewed him and wrote a book, didn't you, or wrote something?

Russell: Well, I wrote a screenplay, which never again do I want to get involved in the making of films, but anyway I spent four years with these folks who talked me into writing this screenplay and rewriting it and rewriting it, and ostensibly it's out in Hollywood somewhere floating around to get someone to.

Jones: You probably won't ever see it again.

Russell: No, I'll be dead before, but at any rate it was an interesting experience, and what I love about the Hermit, the Fort Fisher Hermit, who people can Google "Fort Fisher Hermit" and they can read all about him, and another bunch of guys here, wonderful guys made a documentary. My film was a, you know, feature film thing.

Jones: The documentary, was it not shown at one of these festivals _______ or something.

Russell: And over public TV and so forth. The Hermit was this wonderful little man, he was a little man, who had a mood disorder, probably manic depressive, or probably bipolar, highly intelligent fellow and he just, he's from the western part of the state, he would come in his glory days when he was married to his childhood sweetheart and he had their four sons and they would pack in a little jitney car, come down and they'd camp out down near Fort Fisher for their vacation. They didn't have much money and he just loved that site. Well, he discovered that it was un-owned, it was un-claimed, no one owned that.

Jones: Really?

Russell: Oh yes, it's a fascinating story. So when things got really tough for him up in the western part of the state.

Jones: The state owned it.

Russell: No, no one owned it, no, nobody, no one had ever taken claim to it. Because the land had built up over the decades and, you know, ________. And so he just began living on it. He knew about squatter's rights, which I think take 20--

Jones: After seven years he owned it.

Russell: And so he just began living on it and he began using it as his place to survive and he would teach people how to fish and all these sorts of things. They'd pay him a little bit of money and he ran what he called a "school for common sense" and people would show. Ava Gardner came down one dawn and danced with him on the beach, and a Russian representative from the USSR came over here and I mean it's very just drawn to this man, and he appreciated, and if you read his statements, he was very quotable, very entertaining. He kept saying, "This is God's beach, this is God's ocean, this is God's sand, and we all have a right to enjoy it." And he fought against that idea of the private ownership of that particular wonderful part of our landscape. I think we all-- I love democracy, it works if we practice it, and yeah, you have to fight to keep it. The people have the power in our country, thank God. We have to fight to keep that to be true. And I think we have to keep standing up and being counted to claim these things or else we're going to lose them, and I think the public beach access is one of the things, and I will say something, it may be the last activist thing I did here, some years back when they were up at the north end of Wrightsville Beach when they were filling in the inlet or whatever the heck, and I was very upset over that, the whole approach to that, and they were bringing bulldozers in and I walked out there one day, it's where I love to walk, and the sand dune, the wonderful sand dune which nature had built up to protect that part of the beach, these development folks for Shell Island had bulldozers and they were taking out the sand so they could use the sand over here to add on over here. Well, darn it, that's my sand dune. I own that dadgum sand dune up to the high water mark, and I just went and lay down on the sand dune and I said, "Over my dead body," essentially, "you're not gonna take out the dunes." You have to keep, you know, hanging in there.

Jones: Is this while you were teaching at UNCW?

Russell: No, fortunately at that time I had reached a point in my life where no one controls me but me, and I answer to myself, and there's a financial price to be paid for that, but it's worth it to me, and I don't worry over offending anyone who has power of the purse or the job, I just do according to my own conscience and let the chips fall.

Jones: And if you do offend somebody, it probably you don't care.

Russell: Well, we all like to be loved. I love to be loved and appreciated but if they're obviously wrong and I'm right, then I just feel sorry for them, they're unenlightened and, you know, probably not a person I want to invite to a dinner party. Although I will tell you that back to Dr. Eaton, when Althea Gibson came to visit here.

Jones: Well she lived with him.

Russell: Yeah, and she came about 20 years ago before she died to visit Dr. Eaton, and so I think she had a star put on the sidewalk downtown or something, and so I had them to brunch at my house and because I felt so honored to have her in my home and have photographs of her teaching my daughter how to play tennis, you know, in my living room.

Jones: Oh really?

Russell: Oh yeah. I deliberately invited some of my neighbors who shall be nameless who are from some of the extremely old families.

Jones: You can tell who some of them are.

Russell: And whose families were part of the oppressive 1898 and blah, blah, blah, and they have sort of only slowly been coming into the now about race relations. They needed to have a little bit more exposure to reality, and so I invited them to have brunch with us, and Althea and Dr. Eaton in my home, and someone said, "Well, they're never gonna come, I mean they wouldn't be caught dead." I said, "Oh, they'll come. They're not about to not participate in that." And they showed up, and they enjoyed themselves, and I think it took them a notch further, you know, they came to understand that Althea Gibson is just a delightful person and Dr. Eaton and so on. I think we need more of that kind of thing, you know.

Jones: I think sometimes that can happen. It's happened [inaudible].

Russell: Oh yeah, mm-hmm.

Jones: What are you involved in now, anything?

Russell: Survival, trying to get over this cold. I have 10 grandchildren, I do a lot of "Mama, please, can you come?"

Jones: You have 10 grandchildren?

Russell: Yeah, we had number 10.

Jones: Oh, you're like Old Mother Hubbard.

Russell: She's six months old, and it's you know, "God, please mom, I've gotta get out, please come." I do a lot of that. I have a little space downtown, an art space, well, it's 2,000 square feet actually, but I got it very, very cheap.

Jones: That's more than a little.

Russell: Very cheap, because that's all I can afford. It's actually Pat Delair's building back behind her.

Jones: I thought it might be ________.

Russell: Mm-hmm, and it's a wonderful space and I'm doing sculpture, not very good, I'm not, you know, I'm not greatly talented, but I'm feeling very free to do some stuff there with some other artists who are in there. I'm working on another play, yeah.

Jones: I was going to ask you if you were doing any writing.

Russell: Uh-huh. I have a novel I wrote, which is set at Wrightsville Beach, which when I went back to school here in '99, and got an MFA in creative writing, I wrote a novel. Up to then I'd always written nonfiction and plays and journalism but never a novel. It's called Tropical Depression, which is set at Wrightsville Beach, and it's a beach read, it's never gonna win the Pulitzer Prize or something. I never did bother trying to market it.

Jones: You should.

Russell: Oh yeah, it's good, you'd like it. You should read a copy. So I'm trying to get back and get that published and stuff like that, just you know. I teach a course, I teach one course.

Jones: What are you teaching?

Russell: Excuse me. At UNCW in the Masters of Liberal Arts program, thank you Michael Wentworth for hiring me to do this when he was director of the program, but each semester I teach one course. I taught one in eminent domain, I'm teaching one in the fall secret societies.

Jones: Really?

Russell: Mm-hmm.

Jones: Our local secret societies?

Russell: No, this is international secret societies, but it includes local because it includes the Ku Klux Klan, it includes Gimghoul Castle the Order of Gimghoul at Chapel Hill, it includes the Yale Skull and Bones.

Jones: That had to be on the list.

Russell: Oh yes. It's a fascinating subject.

Jones: And how did you get enough information to be able to write a book and be somewhat authoritative on the subject?

Russell: Well, you just research. I mean you research.

Jones: But some of these are so, like Skull and Bones.

Russell: Well, there's a lot of material out there, you'd be surprised. I mean once you get into something, you find lots of avenues in this. I certainly won't be the world authority on it because you can either call me a dilettante or call me interdisciplinary, which ever one you want. My graduate degrees are mostly interdisciplinary.

Jones: Do you have anything on the Bohemian Club?

Russell: Oh yes, that's interesting, and she's from California, you're from California.

Jones: I know some people who are members.

Russell: Interesting.

Jones: Yes. It evolved into what it is now. It did not start _______.

Russell: Well then I'll interview, but you can come.

Jones: I don't know anything about it except what little that I've heard.

Russell: Well, maybe you can join in our discussion on the night we talk about the Bohemian.

Jones: Well, I'd love to do that.

Russell: That would be fun, to have a living person who actually knows a little bit more.

Jones: Oh yeah.

Russell: Oh yeah, it's exciting, that's an exciting, in fact I think we're full already with students who signed up for the course.

Jones: Amazing.

Russell: Then I'm teaching one in the fall and then I'm teaching one called Altruism in America, and I'm exploring philanthropy and you know, from an interdisciplinary perspective, so I try to kind of create a different course each semester.

Jones: That sounds interesting.

Russell: And that's, I love the liberal studies program. I know it gets some criticism because it may not be as narrow as people want, but it gives a great opportunity for people to go back to school, get a graduate degree, pursue interests they ordinarily would not have had a chance to do and you have an opportunity to teach lots of things that you would not be able to teach.

Jones: They would not be on that kind of a, yeah. Interesting.

Russell: Yeah, it's a good program.

Jones: So you are doing a lot of research in different areas then [inaudible].

Russell: Yeah, mm-hmm, and it's just your own. You'll like this, Carroll, your intellectual curiosity. I get bored easy.

Jones: I don't have time to be bored.

Russell: Well, I don't think there's any excuse to be bored. Well that's the point, you're not bored.

Jones: I think people who say "I'm bored" are vacant in the head.

Russell: But you pursue these interests because the thing is you get bored and so you do something about it, you begin uh, uh and then you go out and you make something happen and you learn something new, and that's what propels me I think. One of the reasons I have never been a good administrator, I had been one on various levels, city and county in _____________. I was Raleigh's first arts director for the city of Raleigh. I never lasted more than two years at these jobs because to have to sit in windowless rooms for hours on end and listen to stupidity put forth, I go crazy, I can't stand it, and so I've always kind of pursued a new interest here and new one there and they all connected, you know, all of these things end up being connected.

Jones: Do you have the time to do all the things you want to do or are interested in? I don't.

Russell: No, I don't have the time or the money. It does take some money, I mean even research takes money.

Jones: [inaudible]

Russell: Mm-hmm, I know, I know. But my husband's very orderly, he's an architect, he's obsessive-compulsive, sorry Howard.

Jones: Oh, I know that type, very well.

Russell: And everything in his life is just extremely ordered.

Jones: Time.

Russell: Which is great. In his own way he is extremely productive, but I can't bear that and so one reason I can do a lot of things is I kind of spontaneously do things, you know, if I see oh, there's someone speaking at UNCW tomorrow night, oh they had some wonderful guy back in the spring who came, Carlos whatever his name was, I just go. I don't sit there and plan out my year and on Thursday, February the 14th I'm gonna go to this and that, I just kind of live and then what turns me on.

Jones: Would you consider yourself as what used to be called a blithe spirit?

Russell: A free spirit. I pretend I am.

Jones: Okay.

Russell: I put on a good pretense. I wish I really were. I am to a degree. Now you're getting into a bit deeper thing. But my mother was a free spirit and my dad was an engineer so he was ahhh, and I'm half and half, I'm half dad, half mom. Oh, it's always at war with each other. I try to be a free spirit, I try to live that way, I'm perceived that way. I cannot stand people controlling me, I cannot stand it. You know, if you want to get the best out of me, if you hire me, tell me what you want done, leave me alone and you'll get the best job you ever had. If you stand over me and tell me this and that, the heck, I'll quit, I'm not gonna do it that way. So I guess I am by nature more a free spirit, but I do like a certain amount of bedrock foundation, structure, and this is something when I work with my graduate students and they're doing their final project, as they call it in liberal studies, which is essentially a thesis, a lot of times I don't understand this, I did not understand until I got processed why you have to go through this protocol, why you need to document in a certain way, go to certain sources, you need to present in a certain way, because they're all excited with the idea, "ooh, I think I'm just gonna make a movie about...." No, you really need a foundation. You have to have a jumping off, because if you don't you have a mess, usually you end up with a mess. And it's like you're doing this. I mean sure, you could just get up every day and call up somebody and say "Hey, I want to interview you, can I just show up?" Well, that could be very entertaining and you might get a lot of good material or it could be a mess.

Jones: Well not really.

Russell: Of course. So you think it through, you know.

Jones: My people are all hand picked.

Russell: Oh, I'm honored. Am I hand picked?

Jones: You are hand picked.

Russell: I won't ask why.

Jones: No, I will tell you. I've interviewed just, and I'm sure that this is the only way it can work and in the things you want to do, the things you have done, I'm sure that you look at a broad spectrum, and that's what we've done. It could be artists, educators, doctors, musicians, restaurant owners, theater people, teachers like you, writers, whatever, business owners, the one have to in concrete criteria is that they must have done something to contribute to the quality of life in southeastern North Carolina. Note I say southeastern not just Wilmington, because we are now looking at a wide space.

Russell: Well we're the center of southeastern North Carolina.

Jones: Yeah, from Jacksonville to the South Carolina border is going to be one big bedroom community.

Russell: Well, it's part of Wilmington because the military is based up there, that's part of the life of Wilmington, yeah, and I'm glad that you're doing it that way.

Jones: And I'm going to share with you something that I have. I've started keeping data on this because it's turning out to be fascinating. The one thing almost everybody agrees on, two things that they agree upon, they all love it here but they want controlled growth, and they're very accepting of new families.

Russell: Well it's like Topsail, you know, Wilmington in the beginning, well in the earliest day it was a thriving community and then it went into kind of a decline. And you know, when the Atlantic Coastline left and so forth, and it was like Wilmington was desperate to try to get a few dollars in here, attract some type of, we sold ourselves cheap.

Jones: Well, the ________ came and tried to infuse a little blood and branch out the economy.

Russell: Right, but you know, I think we and then all of a sudden we became known, and a lot of people blame me and my book because it really has been used as a kind of a tool to get businesses here.

Jones: Well, I thank you for it.

Russell: Thank you. But now the word is out and people are realizing this is a great place to be. Will you look at it. The weather. I mean where else are you gonna get such a wonderful variety of weather. We get snowflakes, a few in the wintertime, we get a nice long season of warm weather where you can swim in the ocean.

Jones: Has the Chamber of Commerce ever taped you?

Russell: (laughs) Well actually, that's the place that marketed my Wilmington Pictorial History the first 10 or 20 years, because it's in the 6th edition now. We have the best recreational facilities, we've got the university came here. I remember when it was Wilmington College downtown in the basement of a building.

Jones: This has been an amazing place [ph?] for growth.

Russell: Oh, what it's brought here.

Jones: It's no longer a school just to go to the beach.

Russell: Right, and we have the best beach, I mean clean surf, clean beach, if we can just keep it that way, family beach. The river, all of that. The movie business, the movie industry here does interesting things.

Jones: Commerce.

Russell: We're just an hour and 50 minutes from the capital, Raleigh. We're just a little over three hours from Charleston, you know, it's got a real interesting bunch of resources here that you don't find anywhere else.

Jones: You are aware I know that we have the highest concentration of retired mid and upper level CEOs from Fortune 500 companies.

Russell: I didn't realize that, I didn't realize that.

Jones: Anywhere in the country. Now, I'll break that down just a little bit further. That is a fact. Some of them may not live here 12 months out of the year, but they own properties so they pay taxes. But we do have a huge concentration of these people who have retired wealth, brought their resources.

Russell: And energy.

Jones: And energy and are trying to focus on [inaudible].

Russell: Oh yeah, oh I appreciate these people. That's what I love about this place is there's this mix, you know, it's just got all kinda folk here.

Jones: Yeah.

Russell: Yeah, and college students, I mean just think what they add to this.

Jones: Anne, I'm gonna try to wrap up in a minute, but I want to ask you a couple of things. Who do you admire? I know you have admired, you mentioned Dr. Eaton, some people you've admired. Who do you admire?

Russell: Hannah Block.

Jones: Yeah.

Russell: Gosh, wonderful woman.

Jones: All right, I was going to say, and why?

Russell: Ahead of her time.

Jones: Very.

Russell: Oh my gosh, this wonderful, liberated woman, and she didn't even consciously think of it that way, Jewish, comes here, becomes what, Mayor Pro-Tem of Wilmington, was a lifeguard back when you didn't have female lifeguards at Wrightsville Beach or Carolina Beach, Carolina Beach.

Jones: She trained them.

Russell: In the arts, she plays the piano, she had children, raised a family, she's a smart businesswoman. She owns her own life. She runs her own life. Oh man, I just think Hannah Block has just hung the moon. I think the world of that woman. I think Linda, oh Lord, the actress, Linda Lavin, I'm so glad she chose to live here. I think she's a wonderful asset to this community. Want me to speak of new people who come here?

Jones: Mm-hmm.

Russell: I know, well, there's a woman whose name you don't hear, she's very private, Alice Sisson [ph?].

Jones: I know who that is.

Russell: Mm-hmm.

Jones: I know Alice slightly.

Russell: She's part of the family of the folks who developed Harbor Island and is so much a part of Wrightsville Beach, and she, behind the scenes, she's a woman with enough money, she wouldn't have had to work a day and she works in social services to try to help people here as a regular job. She has done that for a long, long time. I don't know if she's still doing it. She gives nice sums of money behind the scenes to worthy causes.

Jones: Like Ivan [ph?] McCatherine [ph?] used to do.

Russell: Right. So, gosh, there are just so many people.

Jones: You named all women, any men?

Russell: Well no, the first one's Dr. Eaton.

Jones: I'm sorry.

Russell: Yeah, I admire him greatly. My grandfather, Ed Wooton who never could afford to actually buy a house that he and his wife owned for their five children, they always lived in whatever rental property wasn't being used by someone new in the family had kind of moved from it. He was an engineer with the oil company. He's in my play, I have in my play. He is who made me love men. I've had some rather poor experiences with some men, as I guess haven't we all.

Jones: This is not the time for that.

Russell: All right, and he was one, he loved children, he loved his wife and he loved Wilmington and he wrote letters to the editor every week, there's a letter to the editor, letter to the editor. He loved this community. He involved himself. He didn't have a bunch of money to give but he put his blood, sweat and tears into this community. I'm trying to think. Charles Burney I think very highly of. I think very highly of Pat Delair, who's on the city council and who is a thorn in the side of some people. She's a "outsider" who came here about six years ago and invested her money here in the community, and she stirs the pot. She makes things debate forward in the public. I think Harper Peterson, although he created a lot of ill will and a lot of things I wanted to smack his face for doing, you know.

Jones: He likes to do that though.

Russell: But Harper gave a lot of himself and still does to this community.

Jones: He makes money for this community not just through his restaurant.

Russell: Oh yeah, mm-hmm, that's right.

Jones: And not just through his wife's store, but through his now Will Lee Stocker [ph?] that comes here to Wilmington.

Russell: Rosemary DePaolo, I'm so grateful to have her here, to have a female chancellor. I think that is symbolic. We equal.

Jones: Are you grateful because she's a female?

Russell: Absolutely.

Jones: Or because she's doing a good job?

Russell: I think she does a very good job and I don't think she does a perfect job, but I think she does as good a job as Dr. Leutze ever did or, you know, her four predecessors. I think she walks the line fairly well. I could never have her job, I would be fired instantly or hung, and she has diplomacy, which I haven't got. And I think for her to be the first female is a very important thing to have happen here. Gosh, there's just so many people here, so many members of the black community. Oh, Rhonda Bellamy, she's been in a couple of my plays and she.

Jones: Rhonda's a good friend.

Russell: Oh, Rhonda's a smart woman, talented.

Jones: Rhonda is a smart gal, and what she came from initially to where she is now is amazing.

Russell: Mm-hmm, absolutely. And she puts heart and soul into this community. Harvard Jennings I think does a marvelous job with his talk radio program. He manages to be cutting edge at the same time to be reasonable and respectful. I mention Tony Rivenbark, I think he's done a masterful job administering the Thalian and keeping it viable, keeping it a happening place. I mean of course Mary Mosely [ph?] God bless her, the bottom neighborhood and her husband actually, Wilbur Jones.

Jones: Really?

Russell: Yes.

Jones: He is a very hard-working man.

Russell: Well, I think the best interest for everyone usually is when you follow your own interest, because that's where the verve comes from, the energy, and he is interested in military history.

Jones: It's not just military is it, it's how it's affected life.

Russell: Right, right, uh-huh, right.

Jones: But he has a vision and he has managed in the ten years he has come back to so far get every one of those things across except there's several outstanding but he's working on it.

Russell: But he's excited people about that when people weren't, you know, being excited.

Jones: Probably has annoyed a few too.

Russell: Well of course, you have to. If you accomplish anything, you're going to make enemies.

Jones: He's a very structured person.

Russell: Yeah, he and I are very different. (laughs) We each do things, there's not one way to skin a cat. Right?

Jones: That's my feeling.

Russell: That's mine too. There's a lot of ways to get to Heaven and you, you know.

Jones: We're good for one another.

Russell: Oh, I think you and he are symbiotic.

Jones: We handle each other.

Russell: I think you give him the challenge. I don't think he gets bored with you.

Jones: No.

Russell: No, uh-uh. I don't think so.

Jones: No, and he's the kind of person who needs to have someone like that to tweak him every once in awhile.

Russell: And you're supportive of him too.

Jones: Yes I am.

Russell: Yeah, but you're not the quiet, little spouse standing there, "Oh," you know.

Jones: No, no, I didn't stay home and bake chocolate chip cookies all my life. Anyway, Anne, this has been fun. I'm so glad that in spite of your cough.

Russell: Sorry.

Jones: Well, it happens, that you decided to come out and spend some time with us and there's a lot to be learned from what you experienced and how you feel and it's important, so thanks again.

Russell: Well thank you very much. I'm glad you're doing the project.

Jones: Good.

Russell: Okay.

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