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Some impressive writers honed their craft in Wake Forest over the years. A number were students at the college who became novelists, editors, researchers and screenwriters; others were town residents striving to keep the growing community smart, safe and well-informed. Approximately forty of these bright literary lights are featured in the museum’s new Literary Exhibit in the Nancy Cullom Harris Auditorium.
One of the most interesting display shelves uses rare, first edition books to contrast the writing of Thomas Dixon, Jr. (WFC 1883) with Wilbur Joseph Cash (WFC 1922). Dixon’s seminal work, The Clansman, served as the basis for the early motion picture, Birth of a Nation, and unleashed a torrent of racism the author himself could never have imagined. Conversely, Cash’s influential 1941 volume, The Mind of the South, takes on Southern superstition and prejudice. It is still considered among the best intellectual works on the American South, and is still in print.
More familiar to many visitors is the section on Peggy Allen, the well-known Wake Weekly editor and reporter who spent more than half a century covering the town’s news. Teamed with husband Bob Allen, Peggy was inducted into the North Carolina Journalism Hall of Fame in 2006, one year after her death. This was the first time a couple was inducted together, and the award honored a woman who began as a novice and grew into a seasoned, respected and influential journalist.
Another Wake Forest College graduate, George W. Braswell, Jr., brings international affairs to the fore, as he is honored for his writings on world religions. Braswell taught at the University of Teheran from 1968 to 1974, and has been a professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of numerous books, with a special focus on Islam, and is considered one of the country’s leading experts in his field.
Perhaps the most visually interesting artifact is the typewriter donated by the family of Laurence T. Stallings, Jr. A 1916 graduate of WFC, Stallings’s painful World War I experiences provided focus for many of his literary efforts. He composed successful novels and screenplays on this typewriter. His pipe is also included, as is a photograph of the author wearing the hat he gave Clark Gable as part of his costume in the film Mogambo.
Other literary notables in the display include acclaimed poet and National Book Award winner A.R. Ammons (WFC 1949), Raleigh native and author of Dance Band from Deacontown, “Red” Pope, Sr. (WFC 1953), former Esquire editor Harold T.P. Hayes (WFC 1948), and lifelong regional journalist Ray Wyche (WFC 1950).