TownTalk: Soul City: Race, Equality And The Lost Dream Of An American Utopia

Thomas Healy was born in 1969, the same year that Floyd McKissick launched Soul City, his dream to build a new town in Warren County that would boast 50,000 residents and pump life into a historically poor area of North Carolina.

Healy, although born and raised in North Carolina, only learned about Soul City when he was a reporter in the 1990’s at The News & Observer in Raleigh, he told Bill Harris and Mark Pace on Thursday’s Town Talk.

And now, the Seton Hall law professor has written a book about the spot where McKissick had envisioned Black people living, working and thriving. But Soul City: Race, Equality, and the Lost Dream of an American Utopia also looks examines misperceptions surrounding Soul City.

One glaring misperception is that McKissick wanted to build an all-Black city an hour north of Durham, Healy said. Then, with the backdrop of protests in Ferguson, Missouri, Healy decided to take a closer look at the story of Soul City and “to tell people about this history and, to some extent, set the record straight.”

McKissick, a Democrat, had some unlikely allies when he was trying to build Soul City, from James Holshouser, the Republican elected governor in 1972 all the way to the White House and Richard Nixon. Although initially skeptical and hostile, Healy noted, the nay-sayers realized what Soul City could do, they were on board.

But not Jesse Helms, newly elected senator from North Carolina. “Helms was hostile to Soul City from the very beginning,” Healy said. Ironically, The News & Observer, no friend of Helms ordinarily, “sort of tag-teamed with Jesse Helms in a way” in opposition to Soul City.

That combined opposition of the newpaper and Helms “was really devastating” for Soul City. Healy opined that if one or the other had not been such vocal opponents, then maybe Soul City would have had a fighting chance at survival.

Unlike suburban areas that grew up around urban areas as bedroom communities, Soul City was plopped in the middle of a rural county with little industry nearby. McKissick was trying to build a city of 50,000 people in a county that had a total population of 16,000 – he would have to clear the land, pave the roads, bring in electricity and then build homes, parks, amenities that would attract residents. And then there would need to be jobs.

It was a classic chicken-egg theory – which would come first, jobs or the city? Industry would demand a skilled workforce to draw from, and residents would have to have a way to make their livelihood in order to relocate, Healy said.

It was a strategic, yet pragmatic move that McKissick made in the summer of 1972 to switch political parties. He became a Republican and supported Nixon. Healy said he felt like this was insurance that would assure Soul City would get the federal dollars from HUD to become a reality.

Soul City got the money, but it wasn’t enough, Healy said. And that type of idealistic thought doesn’t exist today. “It was a super ambitious, audacious project,” Healy said. “If you proposed something like this now, I think people would look at you like you were crazy.”

McKissick did not see his dream come to full reality. He died in 1991, after Soul City had closed. But Healy said he felt McKissick would be heartbroken today to see that spot in Warren County where his dream began.

For complete details and audio click play.


S-Line Rail Corridor

S-Line Rail Corridor Meeting to Address Future Opportunities for Local Area

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Please join the S-Line (rail corridor) Stakeholder Committee for a virtual meeting on Thursday, December 10, 2020, from 1 – 2 p.m. to hear from transit-oriented development and land-use planning experts. You will learn how the local area can plan for current and future opportunities along the S-Line.

Meeting agenda:

1 – 1:05 p.m.: Welcome and Opening Remarks, Mayor Mann of Sanford, Mayor Jones of Wake Forest, Co-Chairs of the S-Line Stakeholder Committee

1:05 – 1:20 p.m.: S-Line Update, NCDOT Deputy Secretary Julie White and Rail Director Jason Orthner

1:20 – 1:40 p.m.: Using Rail to Create Place and Economic Value: NC Case Studies, Terry Shook, Shook Kelley

1:40 – 1:50 p.m.: Tailoring Land Use and Economic Development Opportunities for S-Line Communities, Jeff Bandini, Urban Land Institute

1:50 – 2 p.m.: Next Steps and Closing, Julie White, NCDOT

To register for the virtual meeting, please click here.

For more information on plans for the S-Line, click here.

Warren Co COVID Testing

Warren Co. Health Dept. to Offer COVID Drive-Thru Testing

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The Warren County Health Department will hold a COVID-19 drive-thru testing event on Thursday, December 10, 2020, from 2:30 until 5:30 p.m.

No appointments are necessary. Please bring your ID and insurance card if you have one. There are no co-pays or out-of-pocket costs.

The Warren County Health Department is located at 544 West Ridgeway Street in Warrenton, NC. For more information, call (252) 517-9090 or (252) 257-1185.

4-H Logo

Warren Co. 4-H Seeks Volunteers for Restorative Justice Initiative

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-Information courtesy the Warren County Cooperative Extension Center

The Warren County 4-H W.A.Y. program has added a new “Sentencing Circle” component to serve youth ages 6 – 18.

Sentencing Circle is a restorative justice initiative. It aims to recognize the needs of victims, secure the participation of the community and identify the rehabilitative needs of the offender. Unlike many other restorative initiatives, it is part of and replaces sentencing in the formal justice system.

To help make the program a success, we are recruiting youth and adults to become volunteers to serve. Training will be provided!

If interested, please contact Tawanica Bullock, 4-H W.A.Y. Program Assistant, or Crystal M. Smith, 4-H W.A.Y. Program Manager,, (252) 257-3640.

Read more at 

Please RSVP by November 30, 2020.

NC Coop Extension

Register Now: ‘Backyard Ag’ Online Series for New Farmers

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-Information courtesy Paul McKenzie, Agricultural Extension Agent, NC Cooperative Extension

Living on a small farm is a dream shared by many, but the reality can be overwhelming. Those new to farming face the daunting tasks of building infrastructure, figuring out what to grow, negotiating tax and regulatory issues, estimating costs and much more.

Fortunately, N.C. Cooperative Extension has a seven-part online class that will put you on the path to success. This class series, called Backyard Ag: Taking it to the Next Level, is brought to you by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Centers of Person, Granville, Vance and Warren counties.

Class participants will learn about options for small acreages, government assistance programs, business planning, marketing, equipment basics and much more.

The series will begin on Wednesday, December 2, 2020, at 1 p.m. The class will continue on alternate Wednesdays through February 24, 2021. Each class will be held on the Zoom video conference platform, which can be accessed from any internet-connected computer, tablet or smartphone.

Presenters will include local Ag Extension Agents, as well as representatives from other ag-related agencies. Registration is required and can be completed online at

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One Additional Death Reported; Increase in Spread of COVID-19 in Warren County

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-Press Release, Warren County Government

Warren County public health officials reported the latest fatality due to COVID-19 yesterday. The fatality was a 75-year-old resident. This brings the COVID-related death toll in the county to eight individuals.

At the time of this press release, the Warren County Health Department reports 558 positive cases of COVID-19 with 466 recovered cases and two individuals in the hospital. The Health Department is following 88 active cases as of 5 p.m. on November 17.

“Like other counties within the region and across the state, Warren County continues to see increases in new cases,” stated Dr. Margaret Brake, health director. “The percent of positive tests has increased from 2.5% in mid-September to 7.3%.”

On November 17, NC Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) launched the COVID-19 County Alert System to inform counties of their level of transmission of COVID-19 statewide. The system uses three metrics (case rate, percent of tests that are positive and hospital impact on a county) to place counties into three tiers: Yellow- Significant Community Spread; Orange-Substantial Community Spread: Red-Critical Community Spread.

According to NC DHHS officials, the system will update during the second week of the month.

Warren County is in the Orange Tier for the period of November 1, 2020 – November 14, 2020. Counties in the Orange Tier must have had at least 21 new cases in 14 days and also meet one of the following metrics: 8-10% positive cases or has a moderate impact on county hospital(s).

Warren County has 299 new cases per 100,000 population within the two-week period. This equals to 29.9 new cases per 10,000 people. Warren County cases have a moderate hospital impact. Brake shared that since Warren County does not have a hospital, the Warren County score for this metric is based on where the highest percentage of the county’s inpatient hospital admissions occurred.

The state has created a menu of actions that counties can take to slow the spread of COVID by individuals, businesses, and community organizations and public officials.

For county residents, some recommendations include wearing a mask at all times when you are not at home and maintaining physical distance from people who do not live with you; limiting the mixing of people who do not live in your household; avoiding settings where people congregate and large gatherings/celebrations; adhering to the no more than 10 people indoors for events.

Individuals who are at high risk for developing serious illness should consider staying home as much as possible and only going out for work, medical appointments or other business.

Other recommendations are that community and religious organizations should avoid any in-person indoor meetings, events, worship services, or other gatherings above the indoor mass gathering limit of 10 people.

For individuals who are caregivers, please take care to wear a mask and wash your hands when checking in on elderly parents or family members so that you do not spread the virus to them. If you are sick, please have someone else to check on your loved one.

All businesses are strongly encouraged to implement teleworking if feasible and cancel any non-essential travel. Businesses can also share messages about the importance of wearing a mask and practicing the 3Ws; post signs about the 3Ws at entrances in accordance with the executive order; provide face coverings to employees and patrons and support employees to stay home when they are sick.

Anyone who is sick or thinks he/she may have been exposed to COVID-19 should get tested for COVID-19.

For more information, please contact Public Health Director Dr. Margaret Brake at (252) 257-1185.

Henderson Christmas Parade

Majority of Local Christmas Parades Canceled; Oxford’s Still A Go


The Vance County Arts Council has announced that the Downtown Henderson Drive-Thru Christmas Parade originally scheduled for Saturday, December 5, 2020, has been canceled.

Likewise, the Town of Warrenton has also canceled its annual parade.

The Town of Louisburg has also announced that the Louisburg Christmas Parade originally scheduled for Sunday, December 6 has been canceled “due to COVID-19 concerns and the inability for the public and participants to social distance.”

As of the time of this posting, Oxford still plans to hold a “Reverse” Drive-Thru Christmas Parade on Friday, December 4.

In this “reverse” parade to be held downtown, floats, dancers and cars are stationary and spaced apart. Spectators can drive-through and enjoy from the safety of their vehicles. Candy will not be distributed.

The Oxford parade line up will start at 5 p.m., with the parade beginning at 6 p.m.

The public is reminded that plans change quickly with new COVID updates released daily. Please check WIZS and the respective organization’s webpage and social media sites for updates on holiday events.

Warren County Logo

Warren County Donates Equipment for VIPER Tower Improvements

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-Press Release, Warren County Government

Warren County completed the final task in its latest partnership with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol (NCSHP) and the Warren County Firemen’s Association- the donation and handoff of approximately $174,000 of equipment to make public safety improvements to the VIPER towers (owned and maintained by NCSHP) in Warren County.

Currently, only Warren County EMS and the Sheriff’s Office have the equipment to communicate on the VIPER network. With the county’s support to fund grant writing assistance, the Warren County Firemen’s Association applied for and received a $702,900 federal grant – matched by $66,900 from Warren County in FY 20 – to purchase updated radio equipment for all volunteer fire departments to communicate on this network. The equipment on the VIPER towers still needs to be upgraded in order for these radios to work.

“This partnership with NCSHP is another level of growth in emergency services infrastructure for Warren County citizens,” stated Warren County Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Tare Davis. “This much-needed advancement of new-age communication allows our fire departments to have what is necessary to keep us safe and respond to our county’s needs.”

The funding for the equipment was included in the FY 21 budget in fire protection. The county was required by NCSHP to purchase this equipment in order for these improvements to be made; by donating the equipment to NCSHP, the equipment will be maintained and upgraded by the state moving forward.

“Warren County has chosen a prudent course for designing a reliable interoperability communication system among all public safety agencies within Warren County by partnering into the state-owned VIPER system,” stated Dennis Paschall, Director of Warren County Emergency Services. “This phase will bring VIPER interoperability into volunteer fire departments that is a critical component in having VIPER capabilities within all the public safety agencies for natural and manmade responses.”

“As a county commissioner and fire commissioner, I’m grateful we have entered into this commitment for our brave men and women of our fire departments who volunteer every day,” Davis said.

For more information, contact the Warren County Manager’s Office at (252) 257-3115.

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Warren Co. Economic Development Conducting First Existing Business Survey

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-Press Release, Warren County Government

Warren County Economic Development is conducting its first existing industries survey now through December 31, 2020. The goals of the survey are to learn more about the businesses currently operating in the county, as well as assess some of their operational and growth needs.

“One of our goals this year is to be more strategic about our business retention actions and start to develop a more formalized business retention and existing industry expansion program in Warren County,” said Charla Duncan, Economic Development Director. “We know that our small businesses are the backbone of this county’s economic development, and keeping them in the county and also encouraging their growth is a vital part of what this office does.”

In order to understand more about those businesses and their needs, data must be collected to make strategic decisions in the department, but also to make sure the county is aware of who is open for business.

“We do not have a database of existing businesses that tracks the level of detail we are hoping to use to develop a strategy that can evolve as our community changes and grows,” said Duncan. “This survey won’t be a singularly perfect instrument for that, but it’s an important piece of the foundation of strategic growth.”

The business survey can be completed by visiting the Warren County EDC website at (under the County Info section).

Each business that completes the survey will be entered into a drawing to receive one of three prizes: up to $450 in advertising & marketing funds with The Warren Record and/or Lake Gaston Gazette-Observer or with The Warrenist, or three hours of business coaching with Tabletop Media Group.

For more information, contact the Warren County Economic Development office at (252) 257-3114 or by emailing Charla Duncan at


Resurfacing Projects Awarded for Vance, Franklin and Warren Counties

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-Press Release, N.C. Department of Transportation

Thanks to five new contracts awarded by the N.C. Department of Transportation, totaling more than $17 million, nearly 120 miles of area roadway will be resurfaced.

  • Under a $3.5 million contract, Carolina Sunrock of Raleigh will mill and resurface pavement and improve shoulders along 17.7 miles of state-maintained roads throughout Durham County.
  • Under a $2.8 million contract, Carolina Sunrock will mill and resurface pavement and improve shoulders along 29.7 miles of state-maintained roads throughout Franklin County.
  • Under a $3.8 million contract, Carolina Sunrock will mill and resurface pavement and improve shoulders along 29.4 miles of state-maintained roads throughout Vance and Warren counties.
  • Under a $3 million contract, Carolina Sunrock will mill and resurface pavement and improve shoulders along 11.6 miles of state-maintained roads throughout western Wake County.
  • Under a $4.1 million contract, Fred Smith Company of Raleigh will mill and resurface pavement and improve shoulders along 30.4 miles of state-maintained roads throughout southern Wake County.

This work can start as soon as March 15, 2021, with most of the projects completed before the unofficial end of the paving season in mid-November, and all roads done by the end of July 2022.

For real-time travel information, visit or follow NCDOT on social media.