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Chapel Hill, NC 27599-6210
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|For immediate use||April 28, 1999 -- No. 300|
Local angles: Greensboro, Hillsborough,
New Bern, Raleigh, Salisbury
Doughton establishes scholarship honoring North Carolinas first printer
By MARY ANNE RHYNE
UNC-CH School of Journalism and Mass Communication
CHAPEL HILL -- North Carolina in 1749 was mostly a collection of individuals and families scattered on farms so isolated there were no visible neighbors. Without large towns, there was little use for a library, and there was no easy way to circulate a newspaper.
There wasnt even a printing press in the state, making North Carolina one of the last of the 13 original colonies without one.
Finally the General Assembly in New Bern, then the unofficial capital, agreed it needed someone to take the messy handwritten laws and compile them into neatly printed books that could be sent to magistrates who enforced the law.
James Davis of Virginia was hired as state printer on June 24, 1749. But Davis brought more than his printing press to North Carolina: He brought journalism and published the states first newspaper.
Now, 250 years later, a descendent of his has established a tribute to him in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Virginia Pou Doughton of Raleigh, a seventh-generation descendant of Davis, has given $40,000 to establish the James Davis Scholarship. The annual award will go to a North Carolina native, preferably someone with a demonstrated commitment to the study of state history. The first scholarship will be awarded in spring 2000.
"I was always interested in James Davis, and it was very apparent he was being written out of North Carolina history, said Doughton, author of two history books.
Now, said school dean Dr. Richard Cole, an outstanding student will be honored in Davis name annually. "With her generous gift, Mrs. Doughton will make Davis a permanent part of our scholarship program," he said.
In August 1751, Davis published the first North Carolina newspaper, The North Carolina Gazette. The weekly was published until 1761. Several years later, Davis began a second newspaper, The North Carolina Magazine: or Universal Intelligencer. Foreign news dominated the paper. Ads were mostly merchants lists of goods, legal notices and notices seeking runaway slaves.
The publication title returned to The North Carolina Gazette in 1768 and finally ceased publication in 1778, when his son, Thomas, his primary helper, went to fight in the Revolutionary War. The newspaper lasted longer than any other early paper 10 years.
Davis, born Oct. 21, 1721, also printed currency, legislative journals and session laws. He printed at least 100 titles during the 33 years he served as public printer. Although most of the titles were official government books, he published the first nonlegal book written by a North Carolinian and published in the state, Clement Halls "A Collection of Many Christian Experiences."
He served in the General Assembly as a representative and was elected to the Council of State. Before he died in 1785, Davis also served as county sheriff, justice of the peace and commissioner of the Port of New Bern. Davis also was selected to open the states first post office in 1755.
Davis son, Thomas, became state printer in 1782. He also started his own newspaper in 1785 in Hillsborough, The North Carolina Gazette.
Doughton graduated from Carolina in 1945 with a major in physical education and a minor in history. She has spent years researching Davis and other family members. Another favorite topic of research has been the North Carolina coast, where her family has spent summers since the 1880s.
She has published two history books -- "The Atlantic Hotel in Beaufort, North Carolina" and "Tales of the Atlantic Hotel 1880-1933." She continues to research history and genealogy, and she recently obtained permission to erect a tombstone for Davis at Christ Church in New Bern. She has gathered some information firsthand through her work over the years in political campaigns and various government offices.
Doughton was married to the late J. Horton Doughton and the late Walter Teich. She has two children.
Another seventh-generation descendant of James Davis, William Snider, is a member of the N.C. Journalism Hall of Fame. He was editor of both the Greensboro Daily News and The Record from 1965-82. He previously was associate editor of the Daily News for 14 years.
Snider also is a past president of the N.C. Press Association and a former reporter for the Salisbury Evening Post. He was graduated from the school.
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School of Journalism and Mass Communication contact: Dr. Richard Cole, 962-1204