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North Carolina (i /ˌnɔrθ kærəˈlaɪnə/) is a state located on the Atlantic Seaboard in the Southern United States. The state borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west and Virginia to the north. North Carolina contains 100 counties. Its capital is Raleigh, and its largest city is Charlotte.
Spanish colonial forces were the first Europeans to make a permanent settlement in the area, when the Juan Pardo-led Expedition built Fort San Juan in 1567. This was sited at Joara, a Mississippian culture regional chiefdom near present-day Morganton in the western interior. This was 20 years before the English established their first colony at Roanoke Island. North Carolina became one of the English Thirteen Colonies, and was originally known as Province of Carolina.
On May 20, 1861, North Carolina was one of the last of the Confederate states to declare secession from the Union, to which it was restored on July 4, 1868. The state was the location of the first successful controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air flight, by the Wright brothers, at Kill Devil Hills, about 6.4 miles (10.3 km) from Kitty Hawk on December 17, 1903. It is a fast-growing state with an increasingly diverse economy and population. As of July 1, 2009, the population was estimated to be 9,380,884 (a 16.7% increase since April 1, 2000). Recognizing eight Native American tribes, North Carolina has the largest population of Native Americans of any state east of the Mississippi River.
North Carolina has a wide range of elevations, from sea level on the coast to 6,684 feet (2,037 m) in the mountains. The coastal plains are strongly influenced by the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the state falls in the humid subtropical zone. More than 300 miles (500 km) from the coast, the western, mountainous part of the state has a subtropical highland climate.
As of 2008, North Carolina was the third-fastest growing state in the United States and the fastest growing state east of the Mississippi River according to the 2008 Census.
North Carolina is bordered by South Carolina on the south, Georgia on the southwest, Tennessee on the west, Virginia on the north, and the Atlantic Ocean on the east. The United States Census Bureau classifies North Carolina as a southern state in the subcategory of being one of the South Atlantic States.
North Carolina consists of three main geographic sections: the coastal plain, which occupies the eastern 45% of the state; the Piedmont region, which contains the middle 35%; and the Appalachian Mountains and foothills. The extreme eastern section of the state contains the Outer Banks, a string of sandy, narrow islands which form a barrier between the Atlantic Ocean and inland waterways. The Outer Banks form two sounds—Albemarle Sound in the north and Pamlico Sound in the south. They are the two largest landlocked sounds in the United States.
Immediately inland, the coastal plain is relatively flat, with rich soils ideal for growing tobacco, soybeans, melons, and cotton. The coastal plain is North Carolina's most rural section, with few large towns or cities. Agriculture remains an important industry. The major rivers of the coastal plain: the Neuse, Tar, Pamlico, and Cape Fear, tend to be slow-moving and wide.
The coastal plain transitions to the Piedmont region along the "fall line", a line which marks the elevation at which waterfalls first appear on streams and rivers. The Piedmont region of central North Carolina is the state's most urbanized and densely populated section. It consists of gently rolling countryside frequently broken by hills or low mountain ridges. A number of small, isolated, and deeply eroded mountain ranges and peaks are located in the Piedmont, including the Sauratown Mountains, Pilot Mountain, the Uwharrie Mountains, Crowder's Mountain, King's Pinnacle, the Brushy Mountains, and the South Mountains. The Piedmont ranges from about 300–400 feet (90–120 m) elevation in the east to over 1,000 feet (300 m) in the west. Due to the rapid population growth of the Piedmont, many of the farms and much of the rural countryside in this region is being replaced by suburbanization: shopping centers, housing, and corporation offices. Agriculture is steadily declining in importance in this region. The major rivers of the Piedmont, such as the Yadkin and Catawba, tend to be fast-flowing, shallow, and narrow.
The western section of the state is part of the Appalachian Mountain range. Among the subranges of the Appalachians located in the state are the Great Smoky Mountains, Blue Ridge Mountains, Great Balsam Mountains, and the Black Mountains. The Black Mountains are the highest in the Eastern United States, and culminate in Mount Mitchell at 6,684 feet (2,037 m). It is the highest point east of the Mississippi River. Although agriculture remains important, tourism has become the dominant industry in the mountains. One agricultural pursuit which has prospered and grown in recent decades is the growing and selling of Christmas Trees. Due to the higher altitude of the mountains, the climate often differs markedly from the rest of the state. Winters in western North Carolina typically feature significant snowfall and subfreezing temperatures more akin to a midwestern state than a southern one.
North Carolina has 17 major river basins. Those west of the Blue Ridge Mountains flow to the Gulf of Mexico (via the Ohio and then the Mississippi River). All the others flow to the Atlantic Ocean. Of the 17 basins, 11 originate within the state of North Carolina, but only four are contained entirely within the state's borders - the Cape Fear, Neuse, White Oak and Tar-Pamlico.
The geographical divisions of North Carolina are useful when discussing the climate of the state.
The Coastal Plain is influenced by the Atlantic Ocean which keeps temperatures mild in winter and moderate in the summer. Daytime high temperatures on the coast average less than 89 °F (31.6 °C) during the summer. In the winter, the coast has the mildest temperatures in the state, with daytime temperatures rarely dropping below 40 °F (4.4 °C); the average daytime winter temperature in the coastal plain is usually in the mid-60's. Temperatures in the coastal plain rarely drop below freezing even at night. The coastal plain usually receives only one inch (2.5 cm) of snow and/or ice annually, and in some years there may be no snow or ice at all.
The Atlantic Ocean has less influence on the Piedmont region, and as a result the Piedmont has hotter summers and colder winters than the coast. Daytime highs in the Piedmont often average over 90 °F (32.2 °C) in the summer. While it is not common for temperatures to reach over 100 °F (37.8 °C) in North Carolina, when it happens, the highest temperatures are to be found in the lower areas of the Piedmont, especially around the city of Fayetteville. Additionally, the weaker influence of the Atlantic Ocean means that temperatures in the Piedmont often fluctuate more widely than the coast.
In the winter, the Piedmont is much less mild than the coast, with daytime temperatures that are usually in the mid 50's, and temperatures often drop below freezing at night. The region averages from 3–5 inches of snowfall annually in the Charlotte area to 6–8 inches in the Raleigh–Durham area. The Piedmont is especially notorious for sleet and freezing rain. It can be heavy enough in some storms to snarl traffic and collapse trees and power lines. Annual precipitation and humidity is lower in the Piedmont than either the mountains or the coast, but even at its lowest, the precipitation is a generous 40 in (102 cm) per year.
The Appalachian Mountains are the coolest area of the state, with daytime temperatures averaging in the low 40's and upper 30's for highs in the winter and often falling into the teens (−9 °C) or lower on winter nights. Relatively cool summers have temperatures rarely rising above 80 °F (26.7 °C). Snowfall in the mountains is usually 14–20 in (36–51 cm) per year, but it is often greater in the higher elevations. For example, during the Blizzard of 1993 more than 50 inches (130 cm) of snow fell on Mount Mitchell over a period of three days. Additionally, Mount Mitchell has received snow in every month of the year.
Severe weather occurs regularly in North Carolina. On average, the state receives a direct hit from a hurricane once a decade. Tropical storms arrive every 3 or 4 years. In some years, several hurricanes or tropical storms can directly strike the state or brush across the coastal areas. Only Florida and Louisiana are hit by hurricanes more often. Although many people believe that hurricanes menace only coastal areas, the rare hurricane which moves inland quickly enough can cause severe damage. In 1989 Hurricane Hugo caused heavy damage in Charlotte and even as far inland as the Blue Ridge Mountains in the northwestern part of the state. On average, North Carolina has 50 days of thunderstorm activity per year, with some storms becoming severe enough to produce hail, flash floods, and damaging winds.
North Carolina averages fewer than 20 tornadoes per year. Many of these are produced by hurricanes or tropical storms along the coastal plain. Tornadoes from thunderstorms are a risk, especially in the eastern part of the state. The western Piedmont is often protected by the mountains breaking storms up as they try to cross over them. The storms will often reform farther east. Also a weather feature known as "cold air damming" occurs in the western part of the state. This can also weaken storms but can also lead to major ice events in winter."
North Carolina was originally inhabited by many different prehistoric native cultures. Before 200 AD, they were building earthwork mounds, which were used for ceremonial and religious purposes. Succeeding peoples, including those of the ancient Mississippian culture established by 1000 AD in the Piedmont, continued to build or add on to such mounds. In the 500–700 years preceding European contact, the Mississippian culture built large, complex cities and maintained far flung regional trading networks. Historically documented tribes in the North Carolina region included the Carolina Algonquian-speaking tribes of the coastal areas, such as the Chowanoke, Roanoke, Pamlico, Machapunga, Coree, Cape Fear Indians, and others, who were the first encountered by the English; Iroquoian-speaking Meherrin, Cherokee and Tuscarora of the interior; and Southeastern Siouan tribes, such as the Cheraw, Waxhaw, Saponi, Waccamaw, and Catawba.
Spanish explorers' traveling inland in the 16th century met the Mississippian culture people at Joara, a regional chiefdom near present-day Morganton. Records of Hernando de Soto attested to his meeting with them in 1540. In 1567 Captain Juan Pardo led an expedition into the interior to claim the area for the Spanish colony, as well as establish another route to protect silver mines in Mexico. Pardo made a winter base at Joara, which he renamed Cuenca. The expedition built Fort San Juan and left 30 men, while Pardo traveled further, and built and staffed five other forts. He returned by a different route to Santa Elena on Parris Island, South Carolina, then a center of Spanish Florida. In the spring of 1568, natives killed all the soldiers and burned the six forts in the interior, including the one at Fort San Juan. Although the Spanish never returned to the interior, this marked the first European attempt at colonization of the interior of what became the United States. A 16th-century journal by Pardo's scribe Bandera and archaeological findings since 1986 at Joara have confirmed the settlement.
In 1584, Elizabeth I, granted a charter to Sir Walter Raleigh, for whom the state capital is named, for land in present-day North Carolina (then Virginia). Raleigh established two colonies on the coast in the late 1580s, both ending in failure. It was the second American territory the British attempted to colonize. The demise of one, the "Lost Colony" of Roanoke Island, remains one of the mysteries of American history. Virginia Dare, the first English child to be born in North America, was born on Roanoke Island on August 18, 1587. Dare County is named for her.
As early as 1650, colonists from the Virginia colony moved into the area of Albemarle Sound. By 1663, King Charles II of England granted a charter to start a new colony on the North American continent which generally established its borders. He named it Carolina in honor of his father Charles I. By 1665, a second charter was issued to attempt to resolve territorial questions. In 1710, due to disputes over governance, the Carolina colony began to split into North Carolina and South Carolina. The latter became a crown colony in 1729. Smallpox took a heavy toll in the South. The 1738 epidemic was said to have killed one-half of the Cherokee, with other tribes of the area suffering equally.
The first permanent European settlers of North Carolina after the Spanish in the 16th century were British colonists who migrated south from Virginia, following a rapid growth of the colony and the subsequent shortage of available farmland. Nathaniel Batts was documented as one of the first of these Virginian migrants. He settled south of the Chowan River and east of the Great Dismal Swamp in 1655. By 1663, this northeastern area of the Province of Carolina, known as the Albemarle Settlements, was undergoing full-scale British settlement. During the same period, the English monarch Charles II gave the province to the Lords Proprietors, a group of noblemen who had helped restore Charles to the throne in 1660. The new province of "Carolina" was named in honor and memory of King Charles I (Latin: Carolus). In 1712, North Carolina became a separate colony. Except for the Earl Granville holdings, it became a royal colony seventeen years later.
Differences in the settlement patterns of eastern and western North Carolina, or the low country and uplands, affected the political, economic, and social life of the state from the eighteenth until the twentieth century. The Tidewater in eastern North Carolina was settled chiefly by immigrants from England and the Scottish Highlands. The upcountry of western North Carolina was settled chiefly by Scots-Irish, British and German Protestants, the so-called "cohee". Arriving during the mid-to-late 18th century, the Scots-Irish from Ireland were the largest immigrant group before the Revolution. During the Revolutionary War, the English and Highland Scots of eastern North Carolina tended to remain loyal to the British Crown, because of longstanding business and personal connections with Great Britain. The English, Welsh, Scots-Irish and German settlers of western North Carolina tended to favor American independence from Britain.
Most of the English colonists arrived as indentured servants, hiring themselves out as laborers for a fixed period to pay for their passage. In the early years the line between indentured servants and African slaves or laborers was fluid. Some Africans were allowed to earn their freedom before slavery became a lifelong status. Most of the free colored families formed in North Carolina before the Revolution were descended from unions or marriages between free white women and enslaved or free African or African-American men. Because the mothers were free, their children were born free. Many had migrated or were descendants of migrants from colonial Virginia. As the flow of indentured laborers to the colony decreased with improving economic conditions in Great Britain, more slaves were imported and the state's restrictions on slavery hardened. The economy's growth and prosperity was based on slave labor, devoted first to the production of tobacco.
On April 12, 1776, the colony became the first to instruct its delegates to the Continental Congress to vote for independence from the British crown, through the Halifax Resolves passed by the North Carolina Provincial Congress. The dates of both of these events are memorialized on the state flag and state seal. Throughout the Revolutionary War, fierce guerrilla warfare erupted between bands of pro-independence and pro-British colonists. In some cases the war was also an excuse to settle private grudges and rivalries. A major American victory in the war took place at King's Mountain along the North Carolina–South Carolina border. On October 7, 1780 a force of 1000 mountain men from western North Carolina (including what is today the State of Tennessee) overwhelmed a force of some 1000 British troops led by Major Patrick Ferguson. Most of the British soldiers in this battle were Carolinians who had remained loyal to the British Crown (they were called "Tories"). The American victory at Kings Mountain gave the advantage to colonists who favored American independence, and it prevented the British Army from recruiting new soldiers from the Tories.
The road to Yorktown and America's independence from Great Britain led through North Carolina. As the British Army moved north from victories in Charleston and Camden, South Carolina, the Southern Division of the Continental Army and local militia prepared to meet them. Following General Daniel Morgan's victory over the British Cavalry Commander Banastre Tarleton at the Battle of Cowpens on January 17, 1781, southern commander Nathanael Greene led British Lord Charles Cornwallis across the heartland of North Carolina, and away from Cornwallis's base of supply in Charleston, South Carolina. This campaign is known as "The Race to the Dan" or "The Race for the River."
Generals Greene and Cornwallis finally met at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in present-day Greensboro on March 15, 1781. Although the British troops held the field at the end of the battle, their casualties at the hands of the numerically superior American Army were crippling. Following this "Pyrrhic victory", Cornwallis chose to move to the Virginia coastline to get reinforcements, and to allow the Royal Navy to protect his battered army. This decision would result in Cornwallis's eventual defeat at Yorktown, Virginia later in 1781. The Patriots' victory there guaranteed American independence.
On November 21, 1789, North Carolina became the twelfth state to ratify the Constitution. In 1840, it completed the state capitol building in Raleigh, still standing today. Most of North Carolina's slave owners and large plantations were located in the eastern portion of the state. Although North Carolina's plantation system was smaller and less cohesive than those of Virginia, Georgia or South Carolina, there were significant numbers of planters concentrated in the counties around the port cities of Wilmington and Edenton, as well as suburban planters around the cities of Raleigh, Charlotte and Durham. Planters owning large estates wielded significant political and socio-economic power in antebellum North Carolina, placing their interests above those of the generally non-slave holding "yeoman" farmers of Western North Carolina. In mid-century, the state's rural and commercial areas were connected by the construction of a 129–mile (208 km) wooden plank road, known as a "farmer's railroad", from Fayetteville in the east to Bethania (northwest of Winston-Salem).
Besides slaves, there were a number of free people of color in the state. Most were descended from free African Americans who had migrated along with neighbors from Virginia during the eighteenth century. After the Revolution, Quakers and Mennonites worked to persuade slaveholders to free their slaves. Some were inspired by their efforts and the language of men's rights, to arrange for manumission of their slaves. The number of free people of color rose markedly in the first couple of decades after the Revolution.
On October 25, 1836 construction began on the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad to connect the port city of Wilmington with the state capital of Raleigh. In 1849 the North Carolina Railroad was created by act of the legislature to extend that railroad west to Greensboro, High Point, and Charlotte. During the Civil War the Wilmington-to-Raleigh stretch of the railroad would be vital to the Confederate war effort; supplies shipped into Wilmington would be moved by rail through Raleigh to the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia.
During the antebellum period, North Carolina was an overwhelmingly rural state, even by Southern standards. In 1860 only one North Carolina town, the port city of Wilmington, had a population of more than 10,000. Raleigh, the state capital, had barely more than 5,000 residents.
While slaveholding was slightly less concentrated than in some Southern states, according to the 1860 census, more than 330,000 people, or 33% of the population of 992,622 were enslaved African-Americans. They lived and worked chiefly on plantations in the eastern Tidewater. In addition, 30,463 free people of color lived in the state. They were also concentrated in the eastern coastal plain, especially at port cities such as Wilmington and New Bern where they had access to a variety of jobs. Free African Americans were allowed to vote until 1835, when the state rescinded their suffrage.
In 1860, North Carolina was a slave state, in which about one-third of the population of 992,622 were enslaved African Americans. This was a smaller proportion than many Southern states. In addition, the state had just over 30,000 Free Negroes. The state did not vote to join the Confederacy until President Abraham Lincoln called on it to invade its sister-state, South Carolina, becoming the last or second to last state to officially join the Confederacy. The title of "last to join the Confederacy" has been disputed because Tennessee informally seceded on May 7, 1861, making North Carolina the last to secede on May 20, 1861. However, the Tennessee legislature did not formally vote to secede until June 8, 1861.
North Carolina was the site of few battles, but it provided at least 125,000 troops to the Confederacy— far more than any other state. Approximately 40,000 of those troops never returned home, dying of disease, battlefield wounds, and starvation. North Carolina also supplied about 15,000 Union troops. Elected in 1862, Governor Zebulon Baird Vance tried to maintain state autonomy against Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Richmond.
Even after secession, some North Carolinians refused to support the Confederacy. This was particularly true of non-slave-owning farmers in the state's mountains and western Piedmont region. Some of these farmers remained neutral during the war, while some covertly supported the Union cause during the conflict. Approximately 2,000 North Carolinians from western North Carolina enlisted in the Union Army and fought for the North in the war, and two additional Union Army regiments were raised in the coastal areas of the state that were occupied by Union forces in 1862 and 1863. Even so, Confederate troops from all parts of North Carolina served in virtually all the major battles of the Army of Northern Virginia, the Confederacy's most famous army. The largest battle fought in North Carolina was at Bentonville, which was a futile attempt by Confederate General Joseph Johnston to slow Union General William Tecumseh Sherman's advance through the Carolinas in the spring of 1865. In April 1865 after losing the Battle of Morrisville, Johnston surrendered to Sherman at Bennett Place, in what is today Durham, North Carolina. This was the last major Confederate Army to surrender. North Carolina's port city of Wilmington was the last Confederate port to fall to the Union. It fell in the spring of 1865 after the nearby Second Battle of Fort Fisher.
The first Confederate soldier to be killed in the Civil War was Private Henry Wyatt, a North Carolinian. He was killed in the Battle of Big Bethel in June 1861. At the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, the 26th North Carolina Regiment participated in Pickett/Pettigrew's Charge and advanced the farthest into the Northern lines of any Confederate regiment. During the Battle of Chickamauga the 58th North Carolina Regiment advanced farther than any other regiment on Snodgrass Hill to push back the remaining Union forces from the battlefield. At Appomattox Court House in Virginia in April 1865, the 75th North Carolina Regiment, a cavalry unit, fired the last shots of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the Civil War. For many years, North Carolinians proudly boasted that they had been "First at Bethel, Farthest at Gettysburg and Chickamauga, and Last at Appomattox."
Center of Population in between Seagrove and Cheeks, NC
The United States Census Bureau, as of July 1, 2009, estimated North Carolina's population at 9,380,884 which represents an increase of 1,340,334, or 16.7%, since the last census in 2000. This exceeds the rate of growth for the United States as a whole. The growth comprises a natural increase since the last census of 412,906 people (that is 1,015,065 births minus 602,159 deaths) and an increase due to net migration of 783,382 people into the state. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 192,099 people, and migration within the country produced a net gain of 591,283 people. Between 2005 and 2006, North Carolina passed New Jersey to become the 10th most populous state. The state's population reported as under 5 years old was 6.7%, 24.4% were under 18, and 12.0% were 65 or older. Females made up approximately 51% of the population.
North Carolina has three major Metropolitan Combined Statistical Areas with populations of more than 1 million (U.S. Census Bureau 2008 estimates):
North Carolina has nine municipalities with populations of more than 100,000 (U.S. Census Bureau 2008 estimates):
In 2007, the U.S. Census estimated that the racial makeup of North Carolina was as follows: 70% White American, 25.3% African-American, and 1.2% American Indian; 6.5% were Hispanic or Latino (of any race). North Carolina has historically been a rural state, with most of the population living on farms or in small towns. However, over the last 30 years the state has undergone rapid urbanization, and today most of North Carolina's residents live in urban and suburban areas, as in most of the United States. In particular, the cities of Charlotte and Raleigh have become major urban centers, with large, diverse, mainly affluent and rapidly growing populations. The state has received considerable immigration from Latin America, India, and Southeast Asia.
African-Americans make up nearly a quarter of North Carolina's population. The number of middle-class African-Americans has increased since the 1970s. African-Americans are concentrated in the state's eastern Coastal Plain and in parts of the Piedmont Plateau, where they had historically worked and where the most new job opportunities are. African-American communities number by the hundreds in rural counties in the south-central and northeast, and in predominantly African neighborhoods in the cities: Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro, Fayetteville, Wilmington and Winston-Salem.
The state has a rapidly growing proportion of Asian Americans, specifically those of Indian, Vietnamese descent; these groups nearly quintupled and tripled, respectively, between 1990 and 2002, as people arrived in the state for new jobs in the growing economy. Recent estimates suggest that the state's Asian-American population has increased significantly since 2000.
Settled first, the coastal region attracted primarily English immigrants of the early migrations, including indentured servants transported to the colonies and descendants of English who migrated from Virginia. In addition, there were waves of Protestant European immigration, including the British, many Scots Irish, French Huguenots, and Swiss Germans who settled New Bern; many Pennsylvania Germans came down the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia on the Great Wagon Road and settled in the western Piedmont and the foothills of the Blue Ridge. There is a high concentration of Scots-Irish in western North Carolina. A concentration of Welsh (usually included with others from Britain and Ireland) settled east of present Fayetteville in the 18th century. For a long time the wealthier, educated planters of the coastal region dominated state government.
Since 1990 the state has seen an increase in the number of Hispanics/Latinos. Once chiefly employed as migrant labor, Hispanic residents of the 1990s and early 2000s have been attracted to low-skilled jobs. As a result, growing numbers of Hispanic immigrants are settling in the state.[clarification needed]
North Carolina has the largest American Indian population of any state on the East Coast. The estimated population figures for Native Americans in North Carolina (as of 2004) is 110,198. To date, North Carolina recognizes eight Native American tribal nations within its state borders. Those tribes are the Coharie, Eastern Band of the Cherokee, Haliwa-Saponi, Lumbee, Meherrin, Sappony, Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation and Waccamaw-Siouan.
North Carolina, as other Southern states, has traditionally been overwhelmingly Protestant, mostly with denominations of British or American origin. The eighteenth-century Moravian settlements in the western Piedmont have provided an interesting variation, as has the late-nineteenth-century Italian Protestant Waldensian settlement in Valdese. By the late nineteenth century, the largest Protestant denomination was the Southern Baptists.
The rapid influx of northerners, people from Florida and immigrants from Latin America, which began in the late twentieth century, is steadily increasing the number of Roman Catholics and Jews in the state, and refugees and other recent immigrants from Asia have brought Buddhism with them. The Baptists do remain the single largest denomination in the state, however.
The religious affiliations of the people of North Carolina, as of 2007, are shown in the chart.
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the state's 2008 total gross state product was $400.2 billion, it is the ninth wealthiest state in terms of gross domestic product. Its 2007 per capita personal income was $33,735, placing 36th in the nation. North Carolina's agricultural outputs include poultry and eggs, tobacco, hogs, milk, nursery stock, cattle, sweet potatoes, and soybeans. However, North Carolina has recently been affected by offshoring and industrial growth in countries like China; one in five manufacturing jobs in the state has been lost to overseas competition. There has been a distinct difference in the economic growth of North Carolina's urban and rural areas. While large cities such as Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, and others have experienced rapid population and economic growth over the last thirty years, many of the state's small towns have suffered from loss of jobs and population. Most of North Carolina's small towns historically developed around textile and furniture factories. As these factories closed and moved to low-wage markets in Asia and Latin America, the small towns that depended upon them have suffered.
The first gold nugget found in the U.S. was found in Cabarrus County in 1799. The first gold dollar minted in the U.S. was minted at the Bechtler Mint in Rutherford County.
Over the past century, North Carolina has grown to become a national leader in agriculture, financial services, and manufacturing. The state's industrial output—mainly textiles, chemicals, electrical equipment, paper and pulp and paper products—ranked eighth in the nation in the early 1990s. The textile industry, which was once a mainstay of the state's economy, has been steadily losing jobs to producers in Latin America and Asia for the past 25 years, though the state remains the largest textile employer in the United States. Over the past few years, another important Carolina industry, furniture production, has also been hard hit by jobs moving to Asia (especially China). North Carolina is the leading producer of tobacco in the country. As one of North Carolina's earliest sources of revenue, it remains vital to the local economy, although concerns about whether the federal government will continue to support subsidies for tobacco farmers has led some growers to switch to other crops like grapes for wine or leave farming altogether. Agriculture in the western counties of North Carolina (particularly Buncombe and surrounding counties) is presently experiencing a revitalization coupled with a shift to niche marketing, fueled by the growing demand for organic and local products.
The furniture, clothing, and tobacco industries experienced a rapid and sharp decline after the North American Free Trade Agreement. Employment rate increased and stabilized as residents found lower paying jobs. NC is an at-will employment State -employees in the private sector may be dismissed without prior notice or reason and Unions are strongly discouraged by citizens.
Since the Free Trade Agreement of the 1990s, companies positioned their losses to a minimum by eliminating pension plans, health care, and other benefits for employees as inflation from other States was inadvertently and effectively exported to North Carolina.
There are 16 colleges within the University of North Carolina system and 58 community colleges for a population of 9.3 million. The constant flow of highly educated youth from the university and college system, the collapse of industries: furniture, clothing, and tobacco, the depressed property values, combined with the fear of Unions have created the prime environment for future business partners who may capitalize on highly educated low-wage earners.
As of January 2010, the state's unemployment rate is 11.1%.
Charlotte, North Carolina's largest city, continues to experience rapid growth, in large part due to the banking & finance industry. Charlotte is now the second largest banking center in the United States (after New York), and is home to Bank of America and Wells Fargo subsidiary, Wachovia. The Charlotte metro area is also home to 5 other Fortune 500 companies.
BB&T (Branch Banking & Trust), one of America's largest banks, was founded in Wilson, North Carolina in 1872. Today, BB&T's headquarters is in Winston-Salem, although some operations still take place in Wilson.
The information and biotechnology industries have been steadily on the rise since the creation of the Research Triangle Park (RTP) in the 1950s. Located between Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill (mostly in Durham County), it is a globally prominent research center home to over 170 companies and federal agencies and is the largest and oldest continuously operating research and science park in the United States. Anchored by UNC (Chapel Hill), Duke (Durham), and NC State (Raleigh), the park's proximity to these research universities has no doubt helped to fuel growth.
The North Carolina Research Campus underway in Kannapolis (approx. 30 miles (48 km) northeast of Charlotte) aims to enrich and bolster the Charlotte area in the same way that RTP changed the Raleigh-Durham region. Encompassing 5,800,000 square feet (539,000 m2), the complex is a collaborative project involving Duke University, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and N.C. State University, along with private and corporate investors and developers. The facility incorporates corporate, academic, commercial and residential space, oriented toward research and development (R&D) and biotechnology. Similarly, in downtown Winston-Salem, the Piedmont Triad Research Park is undergoing an expansion. Approximately thirty miles to the east of Winston Salem's research park, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and North Carolina A&T State University have joined forces to create the Gateway University Research Park, a technology-based research entity which will focus its efforts on areas such as nanotechnology, biotechnology & biochemistry, environmental sciences, and genetics among other science-based disciplines.
Film studios are located in Shelby, Raleigh, Durham, Charlotte, Asheville, Wilmington, and Winston-Salem. Some of the best-known films and television shows filmed in the state include: All the Real Girls, The Secret Life of Bees, Being There, Blue Velvet, Bull Durham, A Walk to Remember, Glory, The Color Purple, Cabin Fever, Super Mario Bros., Cape Fear, Children of the Corn, The Crow, Cyborg (film), Dawson's Creek, Dirty Dancing, Evil Dead 2, The Fugitive, The Green Mile, Hannibal, The Last of the Mohicans, Nell, One Tree Hill, Patch Adams, Shallow Hal, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3, Leatherheads, Nights in Rodanthe and 28 Days. Half of Steven King's movies were filmed in North Carolina. The television show most associated with North Carolina is The Andy Griffith Show, which aired on CBS-TV from 1960 to 1968. The series is set in the fictional small town of Mayberry, North Carolina, and was based on the real-life town of Mount Airy, North Carolina, although it was filmed in California. Mount Airy is the hometown of actor Andy Griffith. The show is still popular in reruns and is frequently shown in syndication around the nation. North Carolina is also home to some of the Southeast's biggest film festivals, including the National Black Theatre Festival and the RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem, and the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, North Carolina.
Tourism destinations in the state include amusement parks, golf, wineries, beaches, meetings and conventions and sports venues. The North Carolina tourism industry employs more than 190,000 people. The state is the 6th most visited in the country (preceded by Florida, California, New York, Nevada and Pennsylvania). The North Carolina Department of Commerce maintains a Tourism Services providing matching funds and consultation for development tourism in the state including rural tourism.
North Carolina personal income tax is slightly progressive, with four incremental brackets ranging from 6.0% to 8.25%. The base state sales tax is 4.25%. Most taxable sales or purchases are subject to the state tax as well as the 2.5% local tax rate levied by all counties, for a combined 6.75%. Mecklenburg County has an additional 0.5% local tax for public transportation, bringing sales taxes there to a total 7.25%. The total local rate of tax in Dare County is 3.5%, producing a combined state and local rate there of 7.75%. In addition, there is a 30.2¢ tax per gallon of gas, a 30¢ tax per pack of cigarettes, a 79¢ tax on wine, and a 48¢ tax on beer. There are also additional taxes levied against food and prepared foods, normally totaling 2% and 8% respectively. The property tax in North Carolina is locally assessed and collected by the counties. The three main elements of the property tax system in North Carolina are real property, motor vehicles and personal property (inventories and household personal property are exempt). Estimated at 10.5% of income, North Carolina's state and local tax burden percentage ranks 23rd highest nationally (taxpayers pay an average of $3,526 per-capita), just below the national average of 10.6%. North Carolina ranks 40th in the Tax Foundation's State Business Tax Climate Index with neighboring states ranked as follows: Tennessee (18th), Georgia (19th), South Carolina (26th) and Virginia (13th).
Amtrak operates The Palmetto with service from New York to Florence to Savannah Georgia, as well as Silver Star from New York to Florence to Tampa via Raleigh, Cary, Southern Pines and Hamlet N.C., and Silver Meteor from New York to Florence to Miami via Rocky Mount N.C and Fayetteville N.C. The state subsidizes both the Piedmont and Carolinian intercity rail serving the Research Triangle. Amtrak has announced a third subsidized train that will run between Raleigh and Charlotte. This train will run midday to complement the Piedmont and Carolinian and include stops in Greensboro, Burlington, and High Point. There is also the Crescent which runs from New York to Atlanta during the early morning before dawn.
Several cities are served by mass transit systems.
The Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) operates a historical trolley line and 76 bus and shuttle routes serving Charlotte and its satellite cities. In 2007 it opened the LYNX light rail line connecting Charlotte with suburban Pineville. There are future plans to expand LYNX Light Rail as well as implementation of Commuter Rail and Streetcar.
Raleigh is serviced by the Capital Area Transit (CAT). CAT also operates a historical trolley line giving tours of the historic areas of Downtown Raleigh and other areas of interest in the Capital City. It operates 31 bus routes and a downtown circulator called the R-Line which services the entertainment and shopping areas of Downtown Raleigh. N.C. State University within the City of Raleigh operates its own bus line named the Wolfline to provide service to the university's students and employees.
The Fayetteville Area System of Transit (FAST) serves the city with ten bus routes and two shuttle routes.
The Triangle Transit Authority operates buses that serve the Triangle region and connect to municipal bus systems in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill; recent efforts to build a light rail from downtown Raleigh to downtown Durham failed as TTA's projected ridership did not meet federal standards.
Greensboro is serviced by the Greensboro Transit Authority (GTA), which operates 14 bus routes. Additionally, the Higher Education Area Transit (HEAT) system provides service to students who attend the following institutions: Bennett College, Elon University School of Law, Greensboro College, Guilford College, Guilford Technical Community College, North Carolina A&T State University, and University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The HEAT service provides transportation between campuses and various other destinations, including downtown Greensboro.
Winston-Salem Transit Authority (WSTA) operates 30 bus routes around the city of Winston-Salem; additionally, WSTA recently completed construction of a central downtown mult-modal transportation center with 16 covered bus bays adjacent to a large enclosed lobby/waiting area. There are future plans being discussed for a $52 million streetcar system connecting Piedmont Triad Research Park/Downtown with Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.
Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation (PART) is the Triad's 10-county regional organization with the goal of enhancing all forms of transportation through regional cooperation. PART Express Bus provides express shuttle service to each major Triad city from Piedmont Triad International Airport, while Connections Express connects the Triad to Duke and UNC Medical Centers. PART is also administering and developing several rail service studies that include both commuter and intercity rail.
Wilmington's Wave Transit operates six bus lines within the city as well as five shuttles to nearby areas and a downtown trolley.
In July 2008, Western Piedmont Regional Transit Authority began serving Burke, Caldwell, Catawba and Alexander counties in the region just west of Charlotte.
Jacksonville recently began a trial bus system called the LOOP, which runs two routes through the city and nearby Camp Lejeune. But this loop has yet to be made permanent.
The North Carolina Highway System consists of a vast network of Interstate highways, U.S. routes, and state routes. North Carolina has the largest state maintained highway network in the United States, with 77,400 miles of roadway. Major highways include:
North Carolina has a large number of statewide elected executive officials.
The Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Commissioner of Agriculture, Commissioner of Insurance, Commissioner of Labor, Superintendent of Public Instruction, State Treasurer, and State Auditor form a ten-member North Carolina Council of State. Ten other executive department heads appointed by the governor form the North Carolina Cabinet. The state's current governor is Democrat Bev Perdue, the first woman to serve as governor of the state.
The North Carolina General Assembly is the state legislature. Like all other states except for Nebraska, the legislature is bicameral, consisting of the 120-member North Carolina House of Representatives and the 50-member North Carolina Senate. Both the state House and the state Senate currently have Democratic majorities. The lieutenant governor is the ex officio president of the state Senate. The Senate also elects its own president pro tempore and the House elects its speaker.
The state court system is led by the Supreme Court of North Carolina, the state supreme court, which consists of seven justices. The North Carolina Court of Appeals is the state's intermediate appellate court and consists of fifteen judges who rule in rotating panels of three. Together, the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals constitute the appellate division of the court system.
The trial division includes the Superior Court and the District Court. The Superior Court is the state trial court of general jurisdiction; all felony criminal cases, civil cases involving an amount in controversy in excess of $10,000, and appeals from the District Court are tried (de novo review) in Superior Court. A jury of 12 hears the criminal cases.
The District Court is a court of limited jurisdiction. It has original jurisdiction over handles family law matters (divorce, child custody, child support); civil claims involving less than $10,000; criminal cases involving misdemeanors and lesser infractions; and juvenile cases involving children under the age of 16 who are delinquent and children under the age of 18 who are undisciplined, dependent, neglected, or abused. Magistrates of the District Court may accept guilty pleas for minor misdemeanors, accept guilty pleas for traffic violations, and accept waivers of trial for worthless check and other charges. In civil cases, the magistrate is authorized to try small claims involving up to $5,000 including landlord-tenant and eviction cases. Magistrates also perform civil marriages. District Court conduct only bench trials, with no jury.
The state constitution governs the structure and function of the North Carolina government. It is the highest legal document for the state and subjugates North Carolina law. Like all state constitutions in the United States, this constitution is subject to federal judicial review. Any provision of the state constitution can be nullified if it conflicts with federal law and the United States Constitution.
North Carolina has had three constitutions:
North Carolina currently has 13 congressional districts, which, when combined with its two U.S. Senate seats, gives the state 15 electoral votes. In the 111th Congress, the state is represented by eight Democratic and five Republican members of congress, plus one Republican and one Democratic Senator.
North Carolina is politically dominated by the Democratic and Republican political parties. Since the 19th century, third parties, such as the Green Party and Libertarian Party, have had difficulty making inroads in state politics. They have both run candidates for office with neither party's winning a state office. After engaging in a lawsuit with the state over ballot access, the Libertarian Party qualified to be on the ballot after submitting more than 70,000 petition signatures
Historically, North Carolina was politically divided between the eastern and western parts of the state. Before the Civil War, the eastern half of North Carolina supported the Democratic Party, primarily because the region contained most of the state's planter slaveholders who profited from large cash crops. Yeomen farmers in the western Piedmont and mountains were not slaveholders and tended to support the Whig party, seen as more moderate on slavery and more supportive of business interests.
Following the Civil War, Republicans, including newly enfranchised freedmen, controlled the state government during Reconstruction. When federal troops were removed in the national compromise of 1877, the Democratic Party gained control of the state government, partly through white paramilitary groups conducting a campaign of violence against African-Americans to discourage them from voting, especially in the Piedmont counties. Despite that, the number of African-American officeholders peaked in the 1880s as they were elected to local offices in African-American-majority districts.
Hard pressed poor cotton farmers created the Populist Party to challenge the establishment. Conditions turned much worse in the Panic of 1893, as cotton prices fell. In North Carolina, largely-black Republican Party formed a fusion ticket with the largely-white Populist, giving them control of the state legislature in 1894. In 1896 the Republican-Populist alliance took control of the governorship and many state offices. In response, many white Democrats began efforts to reduce voter rolls and turnout. During the late 1890s, conservative Democrats began to pass legislation to restrict voter registration and reduce voting by African-Americans and poor whites.
With the first step accomplished in 1896 by making registration more complicated and reducing African-American voter turnout, in 1898 the state's Democratic Party regained control of the state government. Contemporary observers described the election as a "contest unquestionably accompanied by violence, intimidation and fraud - to what extent we do not know - in the securing of a majority of 60,000 for the new arrangement". Using the slogan, "White Supremacy", and backed by influential newspapers such as the Raleigh News and Observer under publisher Josephus Daniels, the Democrats ousted the Populist-Republican majority. By 1900 new laws imposed poll taxes (voters had to pay a $1 tax, but not non-voters), residency requirements, and literacy tests. Initially the grandfather clause was used to exempt illiterate whites from the literacy test, but many were gradually disfranchised as well. By these efforts, by 1904 white Democratic legislators had completely eliminated African-American voter turnout in North Carolina. Disfranchisement lasted until it was ended by the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.
By 1900 North Carolina joined the "Solid Democratic South", with the blacks still members of the Republican Party but powerless in state and local affairs. However, some counties in North Carolina's western Piedmont and Appalachian Mountains continued to vote Republican, continuing a tradition that dated from their yeoman culture and opposition to secession before the Civil War. In 1952, aided by the presidential candidacy of popular war hero Dwight Eisenhower, the Republicans were successful in electing a U.S. Congressman, Charles R. Jonas.
In the mid-20th century Republicans began to attract white voters in North Carolina and other Southern states. This was after passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 under Democratic President Lyndon Johnson, which extended Federal protection and enforcement of civil rights for all American citizens. Because the Democratic Party had supported civil rights at the national level, most African-American voters (just under 25% of North Carolina's population in the 1960 census) initially aligned with the Democrats when they regained their franchise. In 1972, aided by the landslide re-election of Richard Nixon, Republicans in North Carolina elected their first governor and U.S. senator of the twentieth century.
Senator Jesse Helms played a major role in renewing the Republican Party and turning North Carolina into a two-party state. Under his banner, many conservative white Democrats in the central and eastern parts of North Carolina began to vote Republican, at least in national elections. In part, this was due to dissatisfaction with the national Democratic Party's stance on issues of civil rights and racial integration. In later decades, conservatives rallied to Republicans over social issues such as prayer in school, gun rights, abortion rights, and gay rights.
Except for regional son Jimmy Carter's election in 1976, North Carolina voted Republican in every presidential election from 1968 to 2004. At the state level, however, the Democrats still control most of the elected offices. President George W. Bush carried North Carolina with 56% of the vote in 2004, but in 2008 Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama narrowly defeated Republican candidate John McCain in North Carolina; he was the first Democratic presidential nominee to win the state in 32 years. The Democratic Party's strength is increasingly centered in densely-populated urban counties such as Mecklenburg, Wake, Durham, and Guilford, where the bulk of the state's population growth has occurred. The Republicans maintain a strong presence in many of North Carolina's rural and small-town counties, which have become heavily Republican. The suburban areas around the state's larger cities usually hold the balance of power and can vote both ways, and in 2008 trended towards the Democratic Party. State and local elections have become highly competitive compared to the previous one-party decades of the 20th century. For example, eastern North Carolina routinely elects Republican sheriffs and county commissioners, a shift that did not happen until the 1980s. Currently, each party holds a U.S. Senate seat. Democrats hold the governorship, majorities in both houses of the state legislature, state supreme court, and an eight to five majority of U.S. House seats from the state.
Two Presidents of the United States were born and raised in North Carolina, but both men began their political careers in neighboring Tennessee, and were elected President from that state. The two men were James K. Polk and Andrew Johnson. A third U.S. President, Andrew Jackson, may also have been born in North Carolina. However, as he was born almost precisely on the state line with South Carolina, both states claim him as a native son, and historians have debated for decades over the precise site of Jackson's birthplace. On the grounds of the old state capitol in Raleigh is a statue dedicated to the Presidents who were born in the state; Jackson is included in the statue. Jackson himself stated that he was born in what later became South Carolina, but at the time of his birth, the line between the states had not been surveyed.
North Carolina remains a control state. This is probably due to the state's strongly conservative Protestant heritage. One of the state's counties - Graham, which is located in a rural area - remains "dry" (the sale of alcoholic beverages is illegal). However, the remaining 99 North Carolina counties allow the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages, as is the case in most of the United States. Even in rural areas, the opposition to selling and drinking alcoholic beverages is declining, as the decreasing number of "dry" counties indicates.
In 2005, following substantial political maneuvering, the state legislature voted to implement a state lottery, thus altering North Carolina's reputation as the "anti-lottery" state, where owning a lottery ticket from another state was once a felony. By 2005, every state surrounding North Carolina had a lottery in operation. The North Carolina Education Lottery began selling tickets on March 31, 2006. The lottery has had unexpectedly low sales since its inception.
Elementary and secondary public schools are overseen by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. The North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction is the secretary of the North Carolina State Board of Education, but the board, rather than the superintendent, holds most of the legal authority for making public education policy. In 2009, the board's chairman also became the "chief executive officer" for the state's school system. North Carolina has 115 public school systems, each of which is overseen by a local school board. A county may have one or more systems within it. The largest school systems in North Carolina are the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Wake County Public School System, Guilford County Schools, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, and Cumberland County Schools. In total there are 2,338 public schools in the state, including 93 charter schools.
In 1795, North Carolina opened the first public university in the United States—the University of North Carolina (currently named the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). More than 200 years later, the University of North Carolina system encompasses 17 public universities including UNC-Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, East Carolina University, Western Carolina University, UNC Charlotte, UNC Greensboro, UNC Pembroke, UNC Wilmington and Appalachian State University. The system also supports several well-known historically African-American colleges and universities such as North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina Central University, Winston-Salem State University, Elizabeth City State University, and Fayetteville State University. Along with its public universities, North Carolina has 58 public community colleges in its community college system.
The state is also a center in American motorsports, with more than 80% of NASCAR racing teams and related industries located in the Piedmont region. The largest race track in North Carolina is Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord where the Sprint Cup Series holds three major races each year. The NASCAR Hall of Fame, located in Charlotte, is due to open in 2010. Many of NASCAR's most famous driver dynasties, the Pettys, Earnhardts, Allisons, Jarretts and Waltrips all live within an hour of Charlotte.
In off-road motocycle racing, the Grand National Cross Country series makes two stops in North Carolina, Morganton and Yadkinville; the only other state to host two GNCC events is Ohio. For sport amateurs, the state holds the State Games of North Carolina each year.
Despite having over nine million people, North Carolina's population being spread out over three major metropolitan areas precluded attracting any major professional sports league teams until 1974, when the New York Stars of the World Football League was relocated to Charlotte in the middle of the season and renamed the Charlotte Hornets (although the team was referred to as the Charlotte Stars for the first game in Charlotte). The National Football League (NFL) is represented by the Carolina Panthers, who began play in 1995, and call Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium home. In 2004, the NBA returned to the state with the Charlotte Bobcats who play their home games in Time Warner Cable Arena. The Carolina RailHawks are a men's professional soccer team in the United Soccer Leagues, and their home field is the WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary. The American Indoor Football Association (AIFA) is represented by the Fayetteville Guard who plays at Crown Coliseum. North Carolina was home to the Charlotte Rage and the Carolina Cobras of the Arena Football League.
Prior to that, the Carolina Cougars of the American Basketball Association played in various North Carolina cites (playing in the ABA for five seasons, ending in the spring of 1974). Old Charlotte Bobcats coach Larry Brown started his coaching career as head coach of the Cougars.
The first successful major professional sports team to be created in North Carolina were the Charlotte Hornets of the National Basketball Association (NBA), which began play in the 1988–89 season. The state remains without a Major League Baseball franchise despite numerous efforts to attract a team (including the 2006 push to relocate the Florida Marlins to Charlotte).
On June 19, 2006, the Carolina Hurricanes, a National Hockey League (NHL) franchise based in Raleigh, won the Stanley Cup. The Hurricanes, who call the RBC Center home, are the first major professional sports team from North Carolina to win their sport's highest championship. The team moved to the state in 1996 and played their games at the Greensboro Coliseum for their first 2 seasons in North Carolina before moving to their current home at the Entertainment and Sports Arena (later named the RBC Center) in Raleigh.
North Carolina is a state known for minor league sports, notably the setting of the 1987 comedy Bull Durham about the Durham Bulls of the Carolina League. The state boasts over 30 minor league baseball teams in six different minor leagues, including the Triple-A International League teams in Charlotte and Durham. There are a number of indoor football, indoor soccer, minor league basketball, and minor league ice hockey teams throughout the state. North Carolina has become a top golf destination for players across the nation, notably in Pinehurst, and the community of Southern Pines of Moore County which is home to over 50 golf courses, as well as the coastal corridor between historic Wilmington, North Carolina and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with over 110 golf courses.
From the 1930s to the early 1990s, the Mid Atlantic Championship Wrestling professional wrestling promotion, under the Crockett family, operated almost entirely out of Charlotte. Mid Atlantic was a long-time member of the National Wrestling Alliance and many of their top stars appeared on national television on NWA and later WCW events. Many retired or still-current wrestlers live in the Charlotte/Lake Norman area, including Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, Matt and Jeff Hardy, Stan Lane, Shannon Moore and R-Truth Also, the chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment, Vincent K. McMahon was born in Pinehurst, attended East Carolina University, and was married in New Bern.
North Carolina has become a hot bed for professional bull riding (PBR). It is the home of the 1995 PRCA World Champion Bull Rider Jerome Davis. It is also home to several professional stock contractors and bull owners including Thomas Teague of Teague Bucking Bulls. The Golden Belt Buckle state champion for 2009–2010 is Brad Ballew out of Asheville, North Carolina. The Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association SEBRA headquarters are located in Archdale.
Although North Carolina did not have a major-league professional sports franchise until the 1980s, the state has long been known as a hotbed of college basketball. Since the formation of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in 1953, the conference's North Carolina member schools have excelled in conference play. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), Duke University, and North Carolina State University are all located within 25 miles (40 km) of one another, creating fierce rivalries. Wake Forest University, another ACC member, is located less than 100 miles (160 km) to the west of these schools in Winston-Salem. UNC has won five NCAA national championships in basketball: 1957, 1982, 1993, 2005, and 2009. Duke has won four NCAA championships: 1991, 1992, 2001 and 2010. NC State has won two: 1974 and 1983. The Duke-UNC basketball rivalry has been called one of the best rivalries in sports and the two schools are often contenders for the national title. In addition to the ACC schools, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte went to the NCAA's Final Four in 1977, and Davidson College near Charlotte went to the NCAA's "Elite Eight" in 1968, 1969, and 2008.
North Carolina schools have also won multiple NCAA Division II basketball national championships. In 1967, Winston-Salem State University, led by future NBA star Earl Monroe and coached by the legendary Clarence "Big House" Gaines, was the first school in the state to win the Division II championship. In 1989, North Carolina Central University brought the title to the state a second time; winning the championship game by 27 points, which remains the largest margin of victory in its history. And in 2007, Barton College in Wilson returned the title to the state a third time.
Although basketball remains the dominant college sport in North Carolina, several schools have also enjoyed success in football and other sports. Wake Forest University has also enjoyed substantial success in football; in 2007 they won the ACC football championship and participated in the 2007 Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. This was the first major bowl berth for a North Carolina–based ACC team since Duke defeated Arkansas in the 1961 Cotton Bowl Classic. East Carolina University also enjoys much success in football. Located in Greenville the Pirates have won both the 2008 and 2009 Conference USA Football Championship and have large passionate fan base. The East Carolina Pirates were the first back-to-back C-USA champions since divisional play was started in 2005. The Pirates played in the Auto Zone Liberty Bowl for a second consecutive year on January 2, 2010. Elon University made 4 trips to the NAIA National Championship in football game winning back to back championships in 1980 and 1981. Lenoir-Rhyne University won the 1960 NAIA National Championship in football. Appalachian State University, Elon University, Western Carolina University and North Carolina A&T State University have all made trips to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision championship playoffs. Western Carolina University has made one trip to this championship game, while Appalachian State University became the first school to win the championship three years in a row from 2005 to 2007. University of North Carolina at Greensboro has won five NCAA Division III soccer national championships: 1982, 1983, 1985, 1986 and 1987.
Due to geography, rich history, and growing industry, North Carolina provides a large range of recreational activities from swimming at the beach to skiing in the mountains. North Carolina offers fall colors, freshwater and saltwater fishing, hunting, birdwatching, agritourism, ATV trails, ballooning, rock climbing, biking, hiking, skiing, boating and sailing, camping, canoeing, caving (spelunking), gardens, and arboretums. North Carolina has theme parks, aquariums, zoos, museums, historic sites, lighthouses, elegant theaters, concert halls, and fine dining.
North Carolinians enjoy outdoor recreation utilizing numerous local bike paths, 34 state parks, and 14 national parks which are the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Cape Lookout National Seashore, Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site at Flat Rock, Croatan National Forest in Eastern North Carolina, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site at Manteo, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro, Moores Creek National Battlefield near Currie, the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, Old Salem National Historic Site in Winston-Salem, the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, Uwharrie National Forest.
North Carolina is known particularly for its tradition of old-time music, and many recordings were made in the early 20th century by folk song collector Bascom Lamar Lunsford. Musicians such as the North Carolina Ramblers helped solidify the sound of country music in the late 1920s, while the influential bluegrass musician Doc Watson also came from North Carolina. Both North and South Carolina are a hotbed for traditional rural blues, especially the style known as the Piedmont blues. Contemporary Jazz musician LeRoi Moore, now deceased, of the Dave Matthews Band was born in Durham, North Carolina.
The Triangle area has long been a well-known center for folk, rock, metal, and punk. James Taylor grew up around Chapel Hill and his 1968 song "Carolina in My Mind" has been called an unofficial anthem for the state.
Also coming from Chapel Hill is the band Squirrel Nut Zippers, who played a big part in the 1990s swing revival.
A nationally-famous cuisine from North Carolina is pork barbecue. However, there are strong regional differences and rivalries over the sauces and method of preparation used in making the barbecue. The common trend across Western North Carolina is the use of Premium Grade Boston Butt, which is high in vitamins B1, B2, niacin (B3), B6, and selenium. Western North Carolina pork barbecue uses a tomato-based sauce, and only the pork shoulder (dark meat) is used. Western North Carolina barbecue is commonly referred to as Lexington barbecue after the Piedmont Triad town of Lexington, home of the Lexington Barbecue Festival which attracts over 100,000 visitors each October.
Eastern North Carolina pork barbecue uses a vinegar and red pepper based sauce and the "whole hog" is cooked, thus using both white and dark meat.
Krispy Kreme, a popular chain of doughnut stores, was started in North Carolina; the company's headquarters are in Winston-Salem. Winston Salem is also the birthplace of R.J. Reynolds tobacco. R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJR), founded by R. J. Reynolds in 1874, is the second-largest tobacco company in the U.S. (behind Altria Group). RJR is an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Reynolds American Inc. which in turn is 42% owned by British American Tobacco. Pepsi-Cola was first produced in 1890 in New Bern. A regional soft drink, Cheerwine, was created and is still based in the city of Salisbury. Despite its name, the hot sauce Texas Pete was created in North Carolina; its headquarters are also in Winston-Salem. The Hardees fast-food chain was started in Rocky Mount. Another fast-food chain, Bojangles', was started in Charlotte, and has its corporate headquarters there. A popular North Carolina restaurant chain is Golden Corral. Started in 1973, the chain was founded in Fayetteville, with headquarters located in Raleigh. Popular pickle brand Mount Olive Pickle Company was founded in Mount Olive in 1926. Cook Out, a popular fast food chain featuring burgers, hot dogs, and milkshakes in a wide variety of flavors, was founded in Greensboro in 1989 and operates exclusively in North Carolina.
Over the last decade, North Carolina has become a cultural epicenter and haven for internationally prized winning wine (Noni Bacca), internationally prized cheeses (Ashe County), international hub for truffles (Garland Truffles), and beer making as tobacco land has been converted to grape orchards while state laws regulating alcohol content in beer allowed a jump in ABV from 6% to 15%. The Yadkin Valley in particular has become a popular place for grape production while the city of Asheville recently won the recognition of being named 'Beer City USA.' Asheville boasts the largest breweries per capita of any city in the United States. Popular brands of beer in NC include Highland Brewing, Weeping Radish Brewery, Big Boss Brewing, Foothills Brewing and Carolina Brewing Company. As of March 27, 2010 North Carolina hosts a Noni Bacca winery which earned the coveted Finger Lakes International Wine Competition.
Several ships have been named for the state. Most famous is the USS North Carolina, a World War II battleship. The ship served in several battles against the forces of Imperial Japan in the Pacific theater during the war. Now decommissioned, it is part of the USS North Carolina Battleship Memorial in Wilmington. Another USS North Carolina, a nuclear attack submarine, was commissioned in Wilmington, North Carolina on May 3, 2008.
According to former Governor Mike Easley, North Carolina is the "most military friendly state in the nation." Fort Bragg, near Fayetteville, is the largest and most comprehensive military base in the United States and is the headquarters of the XVIII Airborne Corps, 82nd Airborne Division, and the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. Serving as the airwing for Fort Bragg is Pope Air Force Base also located near Fayetteville. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune which, when combined with nearby bases Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point, MCAS New River, Camp Geiger, Camp Johnson, Stone Bay and Courthouse Bay, makes up the largest concentration of Marines and sailors in the world. MCAS Cherry Point is home of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. Located in Goldsboro, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base is home of the 4th Fighter Wing and 916th Air Refueling Wing. One of the busiest air stations in the United States Coast Guard is located at the Coast Guard Air Station in Elizabeth City. Also stationed in North Carolina is the Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point in Southport.