TownTalk: History Of Middleburg

Middleburg may not fit the modern definition of a “planned community,” but following its incorporation in October 1875, it did enjoy some of the same amenities that today’s planned communities have: schools, stores, restaurants and homes.

Mark Pace, local historian and North Carolina Room specialist at Oxford’s Thornton Library, said the Hawkins and Yancey families planned Middleburg, which got its name because it was the midpoint between Raleigh and Gaston, the two terminals for the Raleigh & Gaston Railroad.

“Like so many other communities around here, it didn’t exist until the railroad came through,” Pace said on TownTalk’s tri-weekly history show with Bill Harris.

Patriarch Philemon Hawkins, lived from 1717 to 1801.

One son of Philemon Hawkins III was John Davis Hawkins, who lived in Gillburg near the site of the prison camp. He served for 51 years as a trustee for UNC. His brother, William, was the 17th governor of North Carolina.

It was John Davis Hawkins, Pace said, who was “the mover and shaker who got the first railroad to come through.” They put up the money for the railroad, and Pace said any member of the Hawkins family could ride for free.

The Hawkins family lived at Pleasant Hill, which still stands today. And there is a family cemetery located there.

Sarah Hawkins Jordan was a Black woman born at Pleasant Hill. She was a midwife for 75 years, Pace said, and is said to have helped deliver 2,000 babies. Her husband, John Clark Jordan, was a successful farmer in the area, and she was an assistant to physician Joseph Warren Hawkins.

“She was noted for her medicinal abilities,” Pace said. When their son was stricken with blood poisoning, the hospital physicians said he would likely die. Not willing to accept that as an option, “she used her old-timey recipes and came up with a concoction – wild berries and such – and he recovered,” Pace said.

Those familiar surnames – Hawkins, Yancey, Henderson, just to name a few – seem to pop up frequently when delving into area history and genealogy, but do you know the connection between Middleburg and Shearon Harris nuclear power plant?

  1. Shearon Harris was the son of a Baptist preacher from Middleburg. He became president of Carolina Power & Light, and Pace said “he was a big fan of nuclear power.” The power plant was named for Harris when it opened in 1987.

Then there’s Albert A. Anderson, who operated a private academy in Middleburg in the early 1880’s. But he became interested in medicine, became a doctor and in the early 1910’s director of Dix Hospital. He preferred the use of occupational therapy over drugs to treat the mental health issues of the patients there.


TownTalk: Preparing For Medicare Open Enrollment

Open Enrollment for Medicare begins next week – a time for people to evaluate their plans and coverage and to make changes if needed. Insurance can be complicated, but Lisa Barker said the state’s SHIIP counselors can help Medicare beneficiaries make sense of the different plans that are available.

SHIIP – Seniors Health Insurance Information Program – is a consumer information division that operates under the N.C. Department of Insurance. Barker is SHIIP’s Northeast regional manager. The open enrollment period runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7.

There are SHIIP coordinating sites in each of the 100 counties across the state, she said. “We are not insurance agents and we don’t sell insurance,” Barker told John C. Rose on Wednesday’s TownTalk.

Rather, SHIIP counselors assist people who do receive Medicare with questions they may have, whether it’s Medicare, Medicare Part B, supplements or understanding long-term care insurance.

“We provide a non-biased comparison for those shopping” for new plans or who just want to make sure they’re getting the best coverage at the best price, Barker said.

With 2.3 million Medicare beneficiaries in the state, Barker said it’s important to understand that it’s important to review plans and coverage each year. Here is a list of phone numbers for coordinating sites in the four-county area:

  • Vance County – 252.430.0257
  • Granville County – 919.693.1930
  • Warren County – 252.257-3111
  • Franklin County – 919.496.1131

By sitting down with a SHIIP counselor, Barker said individuals can review their current medications and physicians to make sure they don’t need to switch to a different plan.

“Medicare beneficiaries can compare all the plans and determine if they want to switch for the new year,” she explained.

“We can assist enrolling them in a new plan,” Barker continued. “Even if they’re happy with their current plan, it’s just a good idea to come in and talk – just so you know your money is being spent in the best way possible.”

Changes must be made by Dec. 7 to guarantee coverage continues without interruption on Jan. 1, 2023.

“Medicare plans and prices change, N.C. Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey said. “It is important for Medicare beneficiaries to take advantage of the Open Enrollment period by contacting local SHIIP counselors to save money, improve your coverage or both.”

Make sure you contact your local SHIIP counselor before deciding about coverage because you may be able to receive more affordable and better Medicare health and/or drug plan options in your area. For example, even if you are satisfied with your current Medicare Advantage or Part D plan, there may be another plan in your area that covers your health care and/or drugs at a better price.

Barker said she’s been involved in SHIIP in one way or another since 1998. She recalled an older couple who came to her a few years ago to review their plans. Plans had changed since they were initially enrolled in Medicaid, and their monthly premiums were going from $17 to $60.

Upon review of medications and copays, Barker said, the couple could continue with their current plan, but it would be much more expensive. Barker helped them find a new plan, which saved them more than $6,000 a year – and had lower copays.

“I tell this story often because, for them, it comes down to the cost of insurance versus food and electricity…the hugs from them and the relief on their face was priceless,” she added.

Making an appointment with a SHIIP counselor is one way to stay updated and educated on the changes in Medicare and the all the other pieces of the insurance puzzle.

But Barker cautioned individuals about sharing their personal information with others who claim to be working on your behalf, but who may really be trying to gain that personal information to be used in fraudulent ways.

“You want to make sure you’re protecting yourself,” she said. “If they’re asking you for too much personal identifying information,” be wary.

“The North Carolina Department of Insurance or SHIIP is never going to go door-to-door asking for information,” she said. Make sure you’re not giving out that information to someone who contacts you – whether by phone, personal visit, email, text or other written correspondence.

“If you have questions about something you received that is questionable, that’s a really good time to reach out to SHIIP, 855.408.1212.

Roughly $68 billion is lost each year to Medicare fraud.

Individuals also should regularly review their Medicare Summary Notices to verify that all charged listed are actually for the services that were provided by your healthcare professionals.  Ask questions if you think something looks suspicious.  It doesn’t hurt to question a charge.  Also, simple mistakes can happen.  When typing the number 10 someone could accidently hit the zero a second time and make the charge 100.  SHIIP can help individuals file a Medicare fraud claim.

Visit to learn more.


TownTalk: Local Author Michael Elliott To Hold Book Signing

Oxford native Mike Elliott has fond childhood memories of the Richard Thornton Library – it’s a place he frequented after school and he said it’s where he got to discover all kinds of wonderful music. Oh, yeah, books, too. But also albums. Stacks and stacks of record albums, he said.

Elliott returns to Thornton Library this Saturday, Oct. 8 to talk about his new book called “Have A Little Faith: The John Hiatt Story,” a biography of legendary singer-songwriter John Hiatt.

Elliott, a former staff member here at WIZS, told Bill Harris Tuesday that the library was a place “near and dear to my heart…where I got to discover all kinds of wonderful music.”

And from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, he’ll be reading from his own book, entertaining questions about it and signing books that will be available for sale. Now out in paperback, the hard cover was released in September 2021.

Hiatt may not be a household name to some, but his songs surely are recognizable. Artists from Bonnie Raitt to B.B. King have sung the lyrics he’s penned since he came onto the music scene in the early 1970’s. “He has written so many songs that people will know,” Elliott said. “So many people have done John Hiatt music.”

Interestingly enough, it was a “horrible” song that first caught Elliott’s attention. Although he didn’t like the lyrics he was listening to on one of those college stations in the mid-‘80’s, he was drawn to the voice singing it. Elliott said he remembered thinking “This song’s terrible, but I love that singer” with the bluesy voice.

Fast forward to another Hiatt song called “Slow Turning,” and it hit Elliott that both songs were performed by the same guy. On a subsequent visit to Henderson’s Nits, Nats, Etc. was where Elliott said he found “Bring The Family,” which he called “an amazing album…that made me a fan for life” of Hiatt’s music.

“He’s a brilliant lyricist,” Elliott continued, with an ability to take the mundane and create sweet perspectives on everyday life. Hiatt’s lyrics are quirky, but not maudlin, he said.

Hiatt turned 70 in August, Elliott said, and he had a chance to sit and chat in person after a recent performance at Carolina Theater in Durham. The initial interviews for the book had to be done over the phone because of COVID, but Elliott said he caught a show in Ft. Lauderdale and then “was thrilled to finally be able to meet in person.”

What’s next for Elliott?

In addition to the regular contributions to numerous online and print publications, Elliott said he’s narrowing down topics for his next book.

“I’ve got some irons in the fire,” he said, adding that the next book will more than likely be a biography, again with a music theme.

Learn more at




TownTalk: ‘Hungry Heroes’ Event Coming To Henderson Nov. 5

When it comes to barbecue and the obligatory banana pudding that accompanies it, Amanda Riggan knows not to underestimate folks in Vance County and the surrounding area. And when that barbecue and puddin’ is prepared to raise money to support a worthy cause, Riggan knows she can count on locals to be supportive.

Riggan is the founder of Hungry Heroes, and she and her team of volunteers will be at the Vance County Rescue Squad on Saturday, Nov. 5 with their grills fired up and serving spoons dishing up sides – including her mom’s cold banana puddin’ – to feed all first responders, military personnel and veterans.

She told John C. Rose Monday that she and her team have fed a couple of thousand people at a single event, and she is planning to serve between 500 and 800 next month between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. at the rescue squad facility on Maynard Road.

“Hopefully we sell out,” Riggan said. “I just can’t wait to see everyone…I’m so excited for the community and for (my) family members to be involved and to serve.” Riggan’s parents are both from Henderson.

Veterans, military personnel and first responders eat for free, she said, but the public is invited to come and join in the fun. “For a $10 donation, plates are available to the public,” she said.

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There will be other activities for families to enjoy, including a bouncy house for the kids and plenty of items that will be raffled.

Riggan said planning is underway and she’s looking forward to being back in Henderson, but what she’s really excited about is paying tribute to the area’s first responders and to honor them for the work they do.

“It’s really cool to see the heroes behind the badge, it’s humbling to know they sacrifice their safety for us every day.”

Hungry Heroes got its start in 2018 when Riggan was trying to figure out a way to help her community deal with a tragic incident that left one law enforcement officer dead and three others wounded.

She said she got her answer after prayerfully considering her response: “Feed them,” she said.

So she did.

With a healthy boost by social media outlets, she and her pulled pork barbecue plates began showing up at events in Texas, Utah and Florida, among other places across the nation.

“Some events aren’t fun and aren’t planned,” Riggan said. One example: She and her father hopped a plane last year to feed first responders on the scene at the condominium collapse in Surfside, FL.

Riggan most recently was in Henderson to stock the refrigerators at local law enforcement agency break rooms and she has begun a “Campus Heroes” program that brings weekly hot lunches to school resource officers who don’t leave their posts while students are in school.

“We stop by and give them a hot meal as a thank you,” she said.

Visit to learn more.

TownTalk: Lakeland Cultural Arts Center Livens up Littleton

Littleton, situated on the Warren-Halifax county line, has long been known to those travel there to enjoy second homes or to vacation on nearby Lake Gaston. But Lakeland Cultural Arts Center, looking especially spiffy after a recent renovation, is looking to attract more people to visit, shop and enjoy this little corner of the world.

Lakeland’s Executive Director Peter Holloway and Artistic Director John DuVall agree that, while the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult to have shows, it allowed for a renovation that is nothing short of spectacular. Holloway said the pandemic afforded them the opportunity to do more planning, which resulted in more of a multipurpose facility. There’s a smaller performance space in the rear of the arts center, which gets a lot of use from students at Littleton Academy, right next door.

Lakeland Cultural Arts Center first opened in 1978, but a recent gala to celebrate the completed renovation served to mark its reopening.

Littleton native Ed Fitts and wife Deb have played a significant role in revitalizing the town of 520. “They’ve injected so much life and enthusiasm into the town,” Holloway told WIZS’s Bill Harris on Thursday’s TownTalk.

The center is actually attached to the former high school, but a brand-new lobby and art gallery provides a cohesive look to the facility.

“It’s kind of mind-blowing that it’s sitting in a town like Littleton,” Holloway said of the center, which boasts a 300-seat auditorium where patrons can enjoy concerts, stage productions and even watching films.

DuVall said volunteers drive much of the work that is done, both on stage and behind the stage.

“We need volunteers every day,” Holloway agreed.

DuVall said in his role as artistic director, he seeks to offer a well-rounded season with a variety of programming. He seeks to balance the familiar with other performances that people may not be as familiar with.

“Tuesdays With Morrie” is scheduled for two performances tonight and Saturday afternoon. The play is based on Mitch Albom’s bestseller of the same name.

Then the new hit movie “Elvis” will be shown at 7 p.m. on Oct. 8. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Visit to see the full schedule of events or phone 252.586.3124.

“We’re working really hard to choose folks who’ve got an educational component,”

Holloway explained.

There often is a matinee performance that gives students the chance to experience the arts live, he added.

On Oct. 28, Mike Wiley will perform “Breach of Peace,” based on true accounts of the Freedom Rides in the early days of the civil rights movement.

The Neil Simon classic “Odd Couple” comes to the main stage in November and then pianist Robin Spielberg will perform in early December. Later that month, Holloway said the familiar “A Christmas Carol” will take the stage, but it will have a unique twist. With a nod to the radio plays of the 1940’s, a small group of actors will perform a radio play of the Dickens classic, complete with the Foley artist, whose job is to create the play’s sound effects.

“It’s a very endearing, fun, and exciting performance – a great way to see an old classic,” Holloway said.




TownTalk: DMV Commissioner Goodwin Discusses REAL ID

The REAL ID looks like any other state-issued driver license, but that gold star emblem in the upper corner is what makes it different from a regular driver license. Beginning in May of next year, having a license in your wallet with a REAL ID enhancement could save you time at the airport or if you need to gain access to a military base, federal courthouse or federal prison, according to N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Wayne Goodwin.

Goodwin spoke with John C. Rose on Wednesday’s TownTalk to discuss details of the REAL ID.

The REAL ID is a way “to verify cardholders’ identities and lawful presence in the United States,” Goodwin explained.

There are specific supporting documents that individuals must provide to initially obtain a REAL ID, but drivers or others who already are in the DMV system may find the process less complicated than someone applying for the first time, he added.

Applicants must apply in person at their local DMV office; the initial process cannot be completed online because the documents must be scanned and stored in the DMV system.

Following is a list of documents needed to apply for a REAL ID:

  • One document that states your full name, proving identity and date of birth;
  • One document that states your full name and full Social Security Number to confirm SSN;
  • Two documents that contain your current physical address to prove residency;
  • Non-U.S. citizens must provide one document that states their full name proving legal presence/lawful status;
  • If applicable, one or more documents that verify any name changes

Although May 3, 2023 has been designated as the date that enforcement of the 2005 REAL ID Act will begin, Goodwin said “it’s not really a deadline, per se, but that’s when federal authorities will begin enforcing it.” He added those with REAL IDs can “visit efficiently” facilities such as nuclear power plants, military bases, federal courthouses and federal prisons.

Domestic airline travelers can show a current passport along with their driver license in lieu of carrying a REAL ID; Goodwin said it is not necessary to have the special ID to vote or to apply for, or receive, any federal benefits.

“It’s a special type of identification issued by each state that is a product of our need as a country to protect ourselves from a national security standpoint after 9/11,”  Goodwin explained.

Goodwin recently completed the process of obtaining his own REAL ID, and said any of the 117 DMV agencies across the state can help individuals do the same.

Visit to learn more about NC REAL ID, the necessary documents and the process for obtaining a REAL ID.

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TownTalk: Hispanic Heritage Festival Postponed To Oct. 8

Add the second annual Hispanic Heritage Festival to the growing list of event postponements created by the threat of Hurricane Ian. But fear not, organizers have arranged for the festival to take place on Saturday, Oct. 8 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the area near the police department and library on Breckenridge Street. Melissa Elliott, Henderson City Council member and president of Gang Free, Inc. said the stage is set to provide the community with the sights, sounds and flavors of different Hispanic/Latino cultures – just a week later than planned.

“We’re grateful that everyone has agreed to participate” even though the date had to change to accommodate the predicted rainy weather.

The local Arts Council is sponsoring some of the entertainment scheduled, Elliott told John C. Rose Wednesday. There will be dancers performing traditional dances from Colombia and Mexico, she said, and numerous area restaurants will be providing food.

The event is free to the public. “We’re going to go out and have some fun,” she said, adding that it’s important to continue the momentum from last year’s festival and “celebrate everyone that lives, works and plays in our community.”

The popular electric bull will be back for anyone adventurous enough to climb aboard and then try to hang on, and there will be face-painting and other tamer activities to participate in, she added.

Mayor Eddie Ellington is scheduled to issue a city proclamation observing Sept. 15 – Oct. 15 as Hispanic Heritage Month. The festival falls right in the middle of this national observance, which satisfies Elliott’s quest for diversity and educating and empowering everyone in the community.





TownTalk: Carolyn Thompson NC Court Of Appeals Candidate

-The following is part of WIZS’s continuing coverage of candidates on the Nov. 8 ballot.

As a candidate for a seat on the NC Court of Appeals, Carolyn Thompson said it is her considerable experience as a trial attorney and as a district court judge that will serve her well if she is elected in the November 8 elections.

Thompson has 26 years’ experience as an attorney and judge, and she has advocated for victims of domestic violence and abuse during that time. She began practicing law in Vance County in 1996 and was a district court judge serving Vance, Granville, Warren and Franklin counties from 2009 to 2018. In 2018, Gov. Roy Cooper appointed Thompson to fill the unexpired term of a retiring Superior Court judge. She was defeated in her bid for the judgeship later in 2018, and now has set her sights on a statewide race.

Thompson is running for Seat 8 on the 15-member court of appeals. Judges sit in panels of three judges each, she told John C. Rose on Tuesday’s TownTalk. “If you’re not getting a fair trial or feel like the court didn’t apply the law correctly,” she explained, the case would get sent to the court of appeals for a ruling.

The appeals court sets precedents for lower courts, “courts I’ve already presided over,” Thompson noted.

She said she is the only candidate with prior judicial and trial experience.

Judges are charged with being impartial, and although Thompson is running on the Democratic ticket, she said party affiliation has no bearing on her role as a judge. “I am on the ballot with a party affiliation because that’s the current law,” she said.

“At no point have I ever asked a crying mother…grieving the loss of a child…or families who are broken because of a marital dispute…so – what’s your party affiliation?” she said.

“When you come before me,” Thompson added, “I will deal with you straight up.”

Thompson, a licensed and ordained minister, said she is committed to running a clean campaign, focusing on what she can bring to the job with “no disparaging remarks because we are all officers of the court.”

She is involved with Families Living Violence Free and shares her knowledge and experiences working with domestic violence victims and survivors of sexual assault and abuse. She said it is important for the community to understand “what domestic violence is, what it looks like and…what the law says about it,” Thompson said.

She said in the thousands of clients she has represented or had in her courtroom as a judge, there have been many heart-wrenching stories that stay with her today. But not all the memories are bad, Thompson said. She recalled the note she received from a young person now in military service who says “thank you” for caring all those years ago when life had been unkind. Or the victim of domestic violence who said Thompson “gave me a second look when no one else did.”

It’s good memories like those that balance out the bad, Thompson said.

Early voting begins Oct. 20. The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 8.

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Oxford’s CultureFEST Postponed; New Date Set For May 2023

This Saturday’s CultureFEST in downtown Oxford has been rescheduled, thanks to the likelihood that the area will be dealing with the remnants of Hurricane Ian, now poised to hit Florida’s Gulf Coast tomorrow.

Two of the event organizers  – Oxford Mayor Jackie Sergent and Ajulo Othow – were on TownTalk Monday to spread the word about the event, which was going to mark its second year of being held in the parking lot at Littlejohn Street.

Sergent contacted WIZS News Tuesday morning to share the news of the postponement.

“We have made the difficult decision to cancel and postpone until next May,” Sergent said.

With weather forecasts predicting that North Carolina will be hit with heavy rains from the storm, it was a case of better safe than sorry.

TownTalk: Tyler Fleming’s Junior Shadowing Project

Whether you know Tyler Fleming from school, swim meets, or First United Methodist Church, one thing’s for certain: The 17-year-old certainly is a wonderful ambassador for an age group that sometimes gets a bad rap.

Tyler, a junior at Kerr-Vance Academy, is smack in the middle of a three-day program called “junior shadowing,” which pairs students with different businesses in the community so they can learn a little bit of what goes on behind the scenes.

Wednesday was Tyler’s first day right here at WIZS, and today, on Day 2, he found himself in front of the microphone on TownTalk. He and John C. Rose talked about high schoolers’ busy schedules, his sports interests and the perks of attending a small school and living in a small community.

Whether it was watching car races and imitating the commentators as a 6-year-old or helping his church create videos during the COVID-19 pandemic, media and communications have held Tyler’s interest for much of his life. And when it came time for him to choose where he wanted to do his junior shadowing, he chose WIZS because “it’s a place where I could explore the world of radio and communications through digital media.”

There are just more than a dozen students in KVA’s junior class, and Tyler said “the goal is that each and every person in the class will do the shadowing.” The community agencies that partner with the junior shadowing project have been very receptive to having high school students come and see how their businesses operate.

“You can get out in the community (in a spot) where you have an interest and you can try things,” he said. “Being able to get somewhere (that) you can at least try it out – that directs us toward our future.”

The junior shadowing program gives students a chance to learn about something new, but it also can help them discern whether their interest in a particular field is something they wish to pursue.

As for Tyler’s experience, he said being a part of a small station has given him a chance for some hands-on learning from seasoned staff. He said time “to learn the small things” that keep a radio station like WIZS on the air – “like planning ahead and thinking about what you’ll be doing over the next few days…planning and dedication -it’s been really nice to have those insights,” Tyler noted.

Planning ahead and dedication are valuable commodities in everyday life as well, he observed. And he no doubt has to call both into play as he balances his academics with extracurriculars. He recently joined the KV cross country team as a way to cross-train for swimming, which he said he took up when he was about 7.

“It’s been a great sport not only to stay physically active, but leading me to other things like lifeguarding,” Tyler said. Swimming competitively keeps him aware of the other swimmers’ capabilities and keeps him hungry to be his best.

Listen to the complete interview at