6 may­ors rem­i­nisce, start city’s 150th cel­e­bra­tion

The Herald Sun - - Front Page - BY DAWN BAUMGARTNER VAUGHAN [email protected]­sob­server.com

Six may­ors of Durham — the cur­rent mayor and all five liv­ing past may­ors — came to­gether Fri­day to kick off the city’s 150th an­niver­sary.

All of the for­mer may­ors will ride on a float Satur­day (Dec. 8) dur­ing the Durham Hol­i­day Pa­rade down­town, which be­gins at 10 a.m. down­town. Cur­rent Mayor Steve Schewel and renowned jazz mu­si­cian Bran­ford Marsalis are the pa­rade mar­shals.

“We are in an amaz­ing time in Durham’s his­tory,” Schewel said. The sesqui­cen­ten­nial is a chance “to face our his­tory, good and bad.”

Schewel said there might be as many as 150 an­niver­sary events in the com­ing year. Wense Grabarek (1963-71) Wense Grabarek’s first year in of­fice was a turn­ing point.

“When I was elected mayor, the en­tire coun­try was in­volved in a state of chaos in the mat­ter of civil rights,” he said. “We should all be ex­tremely proud of Durham, be­cause for all of our di­ver­sity and tur­moil through­out the coun­try and other cities, Durham de­seg­re­gated vol­un­tar­ily.”

A 1957 law­suit by Eve­lyn McKis­sick led to the de­seg­re­ga­tion of Durham Pub­lic Schools. Sit-ins started in Durham with Royal Ice Cream in 1957, led by the Rev. Dou­glas Moore.

In the June 5, 1963, Durham Morn­ing Her­ald, Grabarek thanked busi­nesses “who de­cided “to serve all peo­ple re­gard­less of race.”

“Our di­verse to­geth­er­ness is life to the soul of the city of Durham. May it ever be so,” he said Fri­day.

Wib Gul­ley (1985-89)

Wib Gul­ley served in the Gen­eral As­sem­bly af­ter his years as mayor but re­mains a pres­ence at Durham City Hall, speak­ing to the coun­cil this week about re­zon­ing for a light-rail op­er­a­tions and main­te­nance fa­cil­ity.

Gul­ley also said down­town was in de­cline when he was mayor, and the ren­o­va­tion of the old City Hall into the Durham Arts Coun­cil’s long-term home, the con­struc­tion of the Durham Con­ven­tion Cen­ter and work on the Car­olina The­atre be­gan to turn things around.

Gul­ley said he’s proud of be­gin­ning an ef­fort of “wise growth” and the pass­ing of two af­ford­able hous­ing bonds.

“If you said to me, ‘How’s it go­ing?’ I’d say those chal­lenges are en­dur­ing,” he said.

Sylvia Ker­ck­hoff (1993-97) Sylvia Ker­ck­hoff be­came the first and only woman mayor of Durham, by “hap­pen­stance, al­most,” she said. The League of Women Vot­ers asked her to run.

“So I won, and won again, and then de­cided to re­tire,” Ker­ck­hoff said, ad­ding the job be­came more in­ter­est­ing over time.

“I will say, be­ing there and be­ing part of get­ting the ball­park was the real kick­off of down­town Durham,” she said. The Bulls be­gan play­ing at the Durham Bulls Ath­letic Park in 1995.

Nick Ten­nyson (1997-2001) In a heav­ily Demo­crat city, Nick Ten­nyson was the most re­cent Repub­li­can mayor, serv­ing two terms. He went on to be­come sec­re­tary of the N.C. Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion un­der Gov. Pat McCrory.

Ten­nyson was in of­fice when the Amer­i­can To­bacco’s re­de­vel­op­ment came to­gether and said re­vi­tal­iza­tion was the big­gest change dur­ing his ten­ure.

Political party in lo­cal gov­ern­ment was not as rel­e­vant as to­day, he said.

“When I served, it was less of a take-no-pris­on­ers world,” he said. “And the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of is­sues fac­ing lo­cal gov­ern­ment are more about con­fi­dence than credo.”

Ten­nyson said when he ar­rived in Durham in 1968 as a

Duke Univer­sity fresh­man, the city was cel­e­brat­ing its cen­ten­nial.

“It is a great city. We should all be proud of it, and it’s taken a lot of work by a lot of peo­ple to make it so,” Ten­nyson said. Bill Bell (2001-17)

Bill Bell re­tired from pub­lic of­fice last year. As mayor, he over­saw the con­tin­ued re­vi­tal­iza­tion of down­town, in­clud­ing the open­ing of the Durham Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter, which the city owns. His elected ca­reer spanned 30 years, start­ing with the Durham County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers.

“I live in Durham,” said Bell, who moved here 50 years for a job at IBM. “I tell peo­ple over and over again I’m in Durham by choice, not by chance. This is a won­der­ful place to be, and I’m so ap­pre­cia­tive of the things that have hap­pened.”

“I just re­ally hope the com­mu­nity re­ally gets in­volved in any kind of way [in the 150th an­niver­sary],” he said. “Be a part of what’s hap­pen­ing be­cause this is your com­mu­nity as well as any­one else.”


A big com­mu­nity-wide cel­e­bra­tion will be held Satur­day, April 13, the clos­est week­end to the ac­tual 150th an­niver­sary of the city’s in­cor­po­ra­tion on April 10, 1869.

There will be four themes dur­ing the Durham 150 sesqui­cen­ten­nial ob­ser­vance: his­tory and ed­u­ca­tion; arts and leisure; in­no­va­tion and en­trepreneur­ship; and so­cial eq­uity and ro­bust democ­racy. There will also be $100,000 in grant money avail­able for Durhamites who want to plan an event.

Schewel and Bell are lead­ing fundrais­ing for Durham 150, and the City Coun­cil has ap­pointed a Sesqui­cen­ten­nial Honors Com­mis­sion com­posed of Joseph Blocher, Ernest Dol­lar, Michelle Gon­za­lesGreen, John Schelp, Aya Shabu, Frances Starn and An­dre Vann.

For more in­for­ma­tion, go to Durham150.org.

CHUCK LIDDY [email protected]­sob­server.com

Durham’s sprawl­ing sky­line re­flects its abil­ity to evolve, grow and thrive dur­ing the 150 years since its in­cor­po­ra­tion.

DAWN BAUMGARTNER VAUGHAN [email protected]­ald­sun.com

Ev­ery liv­ing Durham mayor – from left, Nick Ten­nyson, Sylvia Ker­ck­hoff, Bill Bell, cur­rent Mayor Steve Schewel, Wense Grabarek and Wib Gul­ley – gath­ered Fri­day to kick off the 150th an­niver­sary of the in­cor­po­ra­tion of the city.

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