Writer and musician. Emery & McKnight Duo, Cleaver Smith Swenson & McKnight Band. www.itsthemusic.com Recent compositions and songs: "Ninth Street Rag" for clarinet, "In the…
"Misty" with Johnny Mathis:
"And a thousand violins begin to play..."
Oh, to be one of those thousand fiddlers! Yes, folks, as baseball season approaches, any violinist who plays for Johnny Mathis can truly say: "I am batting a thousand."
I was listening to Johnny Mathis even before I had to decide between going to Carolina and Duke in the 1960s. Thanks to Johnny, all shades of blue look good in matters of the heart, mind and spirit.
Bartok would probably enjoy visiting Ninth Street and Brightleaf Square for some--er, bar talk. He'd probably find time to write a seventh quartet for the Ciompi Quartet, whose players sure know how to make Bartok talk.
And "Dukie Bela" would need some excused absences to visit Asheville, where the real Bela Bartok spent the last months of his life receiving medical treatment in the 1940s.
But clearly, no matter who your favorite "modern composer" happens to be, the Duke New Music Ensemble is blazing a trail toward harmonic happiness in the 21st Century, and both its creative accomplishments and technical musicality are impressive. Beethoven is bound to roll over and tell Tchaikovsky this news!
David P. McKnight
Buckeyes in the Bull City
No wonder the Wright Brothers headed down from Dayton to Kitty Hawk instead of Durham more than a century ago. They must have figured that at Kitty Hawk out on the Outer Banks, they would have a better chance of getting off the ground long enough to make it into the record books.
It must have been fun for the many Duke students and alumni from Ohio to see the mighty Buckeyes come to play an exciting intersectional game in Cameron Indoor Stadium. After all, Ohio has had a great year--the presidential candidates made a big fuss over the state in their efforts to paint Ohio red or blue, the football Buckeyes are having a spectacular season, and the basketball Buckeyes have enjoyed a stellar run, all the way up to halftime of last night's game.
We had a cool housemate in Duke's Lancaster House from Zanesville, Ohio, "back in the day," and so the OSU-Duke game's zany ending was especially fitting.
Even Gen. U.S. Grant, a native of Ohio, was given a sparkling portrayal in the new "Lincoln" movie, but Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who once served as an assistant to "The General"--Coach Bob Knight--showed once again that he can engineer a timely maneuver or two from the bench in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
I just hope the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Cincinnati Enquirer were represented on press row along with the Columbus Dispatch so that Ohio newspaper readers could get some news about something besides political campaigns.
As for the back-to-back match-ups between the Blue Devils and the Buckeyes last year and this year, it is simply a fine example of a favorite policy of President William McKinley of Canton, Ohio: reciprocity. Here's hoping that with the Maryland Terrapins joining the Big However-Many Conference, the Terps will soon experience "life on the other side" by being paired up against a familiar ACC team in future intersectional hoops competition.
David P. McKnight
Corrections: McKnight Post
Apologies for the typos in my original post as I have been working on one of those 30-minute public computers at N.C. State where, as in the sport of basketball, you can find yourself trying to write out a "buzzer beater" before the clock winds down to zero!
So here are some corrections to the previous comment:
"Many thanks to Kirk Ross and Independent Weekly..."
"A highly qualified black woman candidate for lieutenant governor, Linda Coleman..."
"So I came into Mecklenburg County having won every precinct in Iredell, Lincoln and Yadkin counties, including 65 per cent of the vote in Lincoln and Yadkin and 70 per cent in Iredell before coming to find out that a large portion of the precincts in Mecklenburg (Charlotte) did not even report full returns for Congress. We're still trying to find out those vote totals in that election."
And now this additional comment:
There was a rush to split up Mecklenburg County into two or more sections as part of redistrcting following the 1990 census. Though Republican Party legislators have taken this off-balance district boundary-drawing one step further in recent years, it was originally the idea of the Democratic Party to draw up congressional and legislative districts in the first place. For a while, this seemed to work out pretty well politically as many new minority members were elected to Congress, mostly of course from the Democratic Party but in due time, some from the Republican Party as well.
It is just that in the past several voting cycles, this off-balance districts (for lack of a more accurate mathematical description) have become so pronounced geometrically that the Republican Party is just about assured of winning a majority of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives if they can just "be competitive" and, to use another sports term, "stay close." As we have seen in this year's national congressional elections, Republicans don't even need to win most of the votes for Congress to enjoy a majority in the House in each new session. All they need is to "win in their own home districts." that is, the many congressional districts which now have been drawn up specifically to elect Republicans by placing a disproportionate share of minority Districts in separate districts.
So all those good liberal folks who wanted to do away with all that "bad" grassroots 20th Century progress in North Carolina and "go back to the good old days of the 19th Century" can see just how things have worked out in 2012 as far as the Tar Heel State is concerned: a Republican General Assembly, a Republican majority on the N.C. Supreme Court, a Republican victory for the GOP presidential campaign in this state, a Republican lieutenant governor and a new Republican governor in the big house on Blount Street in Raleigh.
It''s a good thing Pat McCrory is such an affable, personable and charming guy with the best gubernatorial grin since Jim Holshouser, for this may be about the only conforting gesture Democrats may encounter in Raleigh in the next two years!
David P. McKnight
Democrats Created These Off-Balanced Districts
Many thanks to InKirk Ross and Independent Weekly for bringing attention to this very important subject. Indeed, I saw one report [and I would like further confirmation on this and would welcome any comments or corrections from Independent readers) that in these recently concluded 2012 national elections for Congress that, according to this one account at least, more ballots were cast for all Democratic candidates for the U.S. House of Represenatives (from all the states and congressional districts) than for Republican House candidates, but because of the configurations of individual congressional districts, the Republican Party will enjoy a majority in the House in the next session of Congress beginning in January 2013.
So Democratic Party activists will have to choose between assurances for minority representation in Congress to reliance on majority rule for establishing the majority party in the House of Representatives.
And in North Carolina, despite giving the Obama re-election campaign top priority for organizational efforts and news media coverage, the President's campaign was unable to carry the state, the Democratic gubernatorial campaign of Walter Dalton fell by the wayside, and a highly qualified blakc female candidate for lieutenant governor, Linda Coleman, missed being elected as the new highest-ranking Democrat by the narrowest of margins--one tenth of 1 per cent according to state election returns.
I first encountered these uneven Democratic voting trends as a candidate for Congress in the 1988 N.C. primary in North Carolina's 9th District, which at that time included Mecklenburg, Iredell and Lincoln counties and a section of Yadkin County. That year the presidential primary was held in a separate election on a different date. Michael Dukakis, Jesse Jackson and Al Gore were all running for President in North Carolina in 1988, and rather than "hiding from the presidential campaign" as some state Democratic hopefuls were accustomed to doing back then, I volunteered that all three candidates--Dukakis, Jackson and Gore--would have made fine Presidents. So I came into Mecklenburg County having won every precinct in Iredell, Lincoln and Yadkin counties, including 65 per cent of the vote in Lincoln and Yadkin and 70 per cent in Iredell, before coming to find out that a large portion of precincts in Meckllenburg (Charlotte) did not even report returns for Congress. We're still trying to find out that vote totals in that election.
So it's time for the Democratic Party to get back to one-person, one-vote rules in keeping with the Voting Rights Act.
David P. McKnight
High School Memories of JFK
Moe to Larese, Larese back to Moe, Moe drives in to the basket, but he dishes back to Larese for the open layup! The excitement of watching these two North Carolina basketball players play in the Charlotte Coliseum during the JFK era, both New Yorkers under Coach Frank McGuire, "the Smiling Irishman," who had come to Chapel Hill from St. John's in the 1950s to help Carolina compete with Everett Case's N.C. State Wolfpack--definitely reached the level where youngsters among us would want to "be" these and other ACC players.
So my friend Deno Economou, who had come to Charlotte's Garinger High School from Piedmont Junior High whereas I had gone from Eastway Junior High to the sophomore class at Garinger, could be the perfect "York Larese" to my "Doug Moe." Never mind that we were riding the bench of Garinger's JV team in the early weeks of that 1963-64 season, we could still be "Moe and Larese" of Tar Heel fame.
Once when we had been summoned into a game, we were shocked to find ourselves as the recipients of "turnover" leaving us in the unchallenged position of leading a 2-0 "fast break" to an uncontested rim. I wanted to make sure Deno got the last pass from me because I didn't dare want to miss an open layup with no defender! Oh, I would love to drive into the lane if there were one or two opposing players guarding me because then if for some reason I missed the shot, maybe people would understand. But miss an uncontested layup in front of the whole crowd? For sure, I would let my good friend Deno Economou do the honors. I took a pass from him as I headed toward the right side of the basket. Then came the brilliant idea for a "Doug Moe move"--dish the ball back to "York Larese" at the last moment and let him make the open shot.
But I lost control of the ball, didn't get the pass made to Deno, didn't get a shot off and wound up fumbling it over the end line at the end of a 2-0 fast break! Can you imagine if Bob Knight had been my coach: "You know, you should consider becoming a visual artist--maybe acrylics, pen-and-ink drawings, maybe paint--or how about becoming a sculptor? Because what you did out there was a work of art. But if you want to play for this team, don't treat the basketball like a hot potato!"
Then, in the midst of this jovial Chaucerian journey, came that fateful day of Friday, November 22, 1963. I would be going to basketball practice as usual that afternoon, but first I had to go to my Driver's Ed class, and by then I had reached "the driving stage" in which I took the wheel while my instructor maintained his guiding position in "the shotgun seat," equipped of course with backup operational equipment in case I failed to "keep it in the road," as they say nowadays.
I was driving and doing fine. Weeks later I would have my license and would be listening to R&B songs by The Impressions and rock ballads by The Beatles on the car radio of our family sedan. But that early afternoon of November 22, I was driving the "instructional car," and why the radio was even on, I can neither remember nor imagine. But the shocking news came over the radio while I was driving: President Kennedy had been wounded in a motorcade in Dallas.
I wanted to pull over to the side of the road and let my instructor take the wheel. He seemed puzzled that I would want to do that. Couldn't he understand what I was feeling and would he not certainly agree on the spot that I should not have to continue driving if, upon hearing this tragic news report, I did not feel I was up to the task?
And we had been driving the car on Shamrock Drive near Garinger High School. Shamrock! Then moments later we were hearing on the radio that our inspiring, beloved Irish-American President had been felled by shots in Dallas.
Times were different then as no "counseling for students" was immediately available at school. Maybe it wasn't such a bad idea that we were continue our normal routine for that last part of the school day. Somehow I muddled my way to basketball practice. I wondered why I shouldn't go home right away. I could turn on one of our Charlotte television stations, WBTV or maybe WSOC-TV, and follow the newscasts covering that national emergency crisis. Our house was on a little street in Charlotte's Midwood neighborhood named for President Harry Truman--Truman Road--and our neighborhood "Truman Democratic Club" had put up signs for JFK and LBJ during the 1960 campaign. It was almost like a make-believe three-way ticket: Kennedy-Johnson-Truman even though Harry Truman had retired from the presidency back in 1953 and was home enjoying life as "a private citizen" out in Independence, Mo.
My father, C.A. McKnight, editor of The Charlotte Observer, had covered the 1960 Democratic convention in Los Angeles, and we had held our own mock convention in the garage of my house. Cam McRae, who lived two houses up the street on Truman Road, had been awarded the position of "Vice President" in our imaginary Truman Democratic organization. But we should have made Cammy "President" because his mother was named Rose and was just as joyful and outgoing as Rose Kennedy herself. There was one opportunity we missed to associate ourselves more closely with the new JFK Democratic team from Hyannis Port, Mass.!
Since our dad had been a career newspaperman, my brother and I reveled in those Kennedy press conferences with all that friendly banter going on between reporters and the President even in the midst of serious White House statements on the leading issues of the early '60s. We also mimicked favorite national broadcasters such as Chet Huntley and David Brinkley of NBC, but when it came to imitating the North Carolinian Brinkley, I couldn't compete with my older brother's superb phrasing and cadence. Another famous broadcaster from North Carolina, Charles Kuralt, had been recruited by my father to come to work for The Charlotte News or The Charlotte Observer, but that great staffer for UNC's Daily Tar Heel decided to take a chance on radio and television broadcasting.
All this passion for politics and journalism, suddenly tempered with the shock of the news from Texas, was in my mind and heart as I numbingly went through layups at basketball practice at Garinger High School in Charlotte that afternoon. I had worn glasses through my previous playing seasons at Eastway, but on this day, I didn't have a safety strap for the frames, and as I took the ball to the basket, they fell, crashing to the floor. I retrieved them and saw that one of the two lenses had been shattered. There would now be no getting around it--this would have to be it for practice for me for that day, and I was given permission to walk home, from Shamrock Drive to Truman Road.
Watching television with only one good glasses lens until a new pair was ready, I reflected on the most vivid scenes of those four days: the happy arrival of the presidential party in sunny Dallas, the bulletin of the President's death read on CBS News by Walter Cronkite, the swearing in of Vice President Johnson as John Kennedy's constitutional successor, the arrival of Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, the entrance of U.S. leaders and foreign dignitaries in the Capitol Rotunda during the lying-in-state, the funeral procession with JFK's casket led by Black Jack the horse, the readings and prayers by Cardinal Cushing, the final ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery and the lighting of the Eternal Frame.
Life went on at Garinger High School. November 22nd would be my last day of basketball as I took leave from the team and gave more time to sports writing for our school newspaper as it seemed that in my case, as much as I loved playing, "ask what you can do for your country" meant getting more involved in journalism. My former teammate Deno Economou, who would go to Davidson and Duke Law School en route to a distinguished career as a lawyer and a judge in Florida, joined me for yet another student adventure at Garinger: running for student body president, "friendly competition" at its best. We both addressed the students in the gym where we had played basketball, and I learned early on how a smart-alecky joke can backfire sometimes as I tried a nifty greeting: "Teachers, students and sophomores..." In a close race, Deno won, and soon I was relieved because he was much better prepared to master "Robert's Rules of Order," whereas I was now free to compete for the biggest prize of all: Sports Editor of The Garinger Rambler.
I started an "Around the League" column with some notes on what the other schools in the league were doing, but several classmates expressed the view that we should stick to reporting exclusively on the Garinger Wildcats. Maybe I tried this because I had been a Vanderbilt Commodores fan in the first grade in Nashville, Tenn., and our faded blue Garinger Wildcats jerseys offered a stirring likeness to college basketball's legendary Kentucky Wildcats, Vandy's fellow SEC member, so it was fitting to "see what the other schools were doing."
In 1978, running as a rookie candidate in North Carolina's Democratic U.S. Senate primary, I would stop in the Pitt County community of Black Jack, and in my mind and heart, I recalled the vivid image of Black Jack the horse. In 1980 I would have six months to play music in Boston, and once again I felt the spirit of "The New Frontier," evident even in the applause after violin selections played in the "T" stations of Boston's transit system. I would play in Texas too on many trips to Fort Worth, Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio and experience for myself the excitement of the Lone Star way of life, hearing on many occasion just how much Texans really did love JFK and respect the Kennedy presidential legacy. As for me, I thought Lyndon Johnson was a great Vice President for Kennedy and one history volume i always wanted to write would have focused on LBJ's vice presidential tenure from 1961-1963 as so many slights have been made again his impressive record of service as Veep and his personal devotion to the Kennedy team's success at home and abroad, his occasional difference with Kennedy staff and Cabinet members notwithstanding.
The 1980 presidential primary between Sen. Ted Kennedy and President Jimmy Carter was an especially tough choice for me personally as I had always been for the Kennedys but had thoroughly enjoyed running for U.S. senator when Carter was President. The VIPs got to meet Jimmy Carter but I got to shake hands with Billy Carter. As it turned out, I couldn't vote either way because I had just moved to Boston in the summer of 1980 and was not yet eligible to vote in the Massachusetts primary. But the same dilemma had been posed in the spring of 1968 when Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was challenging first, LBJ, then after Johnson declined to run for re-election, Sen. Hubert Humphrey, among my earliest political heroes going back to the days of Adlai Stevenson and Harry Truman. But that's what makes politics so exciting and so full of potential for contributing new ideas to the American political landscape--the new and sometimes recurring choices of candidates and campaigns in local, state and national politics.
In 1990 I would get the opportunity to run unopposed for the Democratic nomination for Congress back home in Charlotte, making my "headquarters" our family house on Truman Road. I wanted to give every resident of Truman Road a copy of David McCullough's "Truman" biography but then realized this might constitute a violation of campaign finance laws. I answered without any waffling or posturing the inevitable question on health care preferences from the political desk of The Charlotte Observer: I favor Ted Kennedy's national health insurance plan! Then I learned that the press is not always so liberal and that it can be just as tough on liberals as conservatives, so the thing for people to do is choose their guiding philosophical principles and try to live by them as practical considerations permit. Meanwhile, the reporters should be more like research scientists and literary critics: seek out the facts, contrast and compare, report in a clear and comprehensive manner so that others can proceed to "the analysis stories" and editorial essays.
As the years went by, I would find the continuing involvement in politics and public affairs by succeeding generations of the Kennedy family to be encouraging and inspiring and the work of the JFK Library in Boston to be of the highest historic statesmanship while still offering Americans practical chronological ground-level guides to understanding and appreciating the challenges and accomplishments of the presidency of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. But the actions of some of the supposed political and academic "guardians" of the Kennedy legacy would come across to me as an unending series of outright bewildering and exasperating obstacles to seeking on one small scale to live by and expand upon the promise and potential of "The New Frontier," for at so many turns along the trail, especially in and around the Research Triangle region and the three "Research Triangle Universities"--North Carolina, Duke and N.C. State--it would seem too often that whether in the journalism or political science communities, whether up there at Harvard or in one of the Democratic Party organizations of Massachusetts, New York and the Northeast, someone would appear to be forever "vetoing" this or that preferred course of personal or occupational activity here in North Carolina, in my case in the fields of journalism, politics, academics and the performing arts.
Somebody from somewhere else always seems to have a different idea of how North Carolina people and institutions should fare in the currents of Democratic Party politics and under the guidelines of the U.S. and U.S. constitutions. What do they want us to be, more liberal or more conservative? "Study up" or "hang out?" Get involved or remain detached? Encourage each younger generation or tell them to "get a life?" At least one faculty member at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard knows we mean well from Garinger High School in Charlotte to the State Capital in Raleigh--for Professor Marvin Kalb of the Kennedy School, a former foreign correspondent for CBS, was the guest at one of our Garinger High School "convocations" back in the mid-1960s, and I got to ask him about his writings on Russia and China because I was on the panel, just like Mike Barnacle on MSNBC's "Morning Joe!"
In the fall of this year, the Ciompi Quartet would play Joseph Haydn's F Major String Quartet in the Nelson Music Room on the East Campus of Duke, the one giving classical framework to a famous Austrian anthem in the second movement of the quartet. Cellist Fred Raimi, in his program notes, would explain to the Nelson Music Room audience that the subject of that hymn and that quartet had been of considerable chagrin and regret on the part of many because the music was embraced by the Nazi regime in the 1930s and '40s. I wanted to tell Fred, but haven't been able to yet, a different view of the meaning of that beautiful music by Haydn, who was born in 1732, the same year as George Washington: I first learned that Haydn melody as a student violinist because it is our Garinger High School anthem. Sometimes you have to have something to hang on to, and this music associated in our minds with that promising start at the high school off Shamrock Drive in Charlotte is a thrill to remember.
Those "JFK Days" were all too short for our class--less than three months of our sophomore year from September into the Thanksgiving season of November 1963. But all the cherished memories, including those intellectually engaging presidential press conferences--"Well, let me answer the second part of your question first"--have kept their steady glow through nearly half a century.
And seeing the joy and excitement of Triangle college students traipsing along Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, Ninth Street in Durham and Franklin Street in Chapel Hill as they shape their plans for the week to come and the year to follow, you get the idea that the shadow of sorrow seemingly cast into such a pining and uncertain foreground in November 1963 has been miraculously transformed into a beacon of light and discovery bright enough to illuminate a path of forward progress for a new century of the American Experiment.
David Proctor McKnight
Three Cheers for the Madisons!
Yes, let us raise a beer mug in a toast to James and Dolley Madison for their principled support of an American "homeland" beer-brewing craft. This is the bicentennial of James Madison's re-election as President in 1812, and Dolley Payne Madison was born right here in North Carolina in Guilford County.
Madison (1751-1836) was President from 1809-1817, and First Lady Dolley Madison had already acquired much experience in official diplomatic hosting as an assisting contributor to the presidency of Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809), whose beloved wife Martha had died long before he assumed the awesome responsibilities of the Chief Magistry of our Republic.
Jefferson had succeeded Dr. Benjamin Franklin as Minister to France in 1986 and thus was absent from the Federal Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia, tending to his official diplomatic duties in the Land of Voltaire, Moliere, Pascal and Rousseau. But Madison kept his Virginia friend and colleague informed of developments in Philadelphia, sending him a copy of the final draft of the U.S. Constitution, which one can read in the schoalrly histories of that inspiring formative era in the American historical experience, often involving timely and strategic pauses in the deliberations over the content of the new federal plan of government, as it was often reported that the delegates to the convention "adjourned to a nearby tavern."
We can salute those early beer taverns in the City of Brotherly Love
for their atmosphere of fellowship and mutual self-respect as these pauses for appropriate refreshments and "fortifications" no doubt imbued the convention delegates with the resolve and fortitude to bring their great task to its ultimate fruition, the serious shortcomings in the commitment of liberty for all Americans notwithstanding.
Meanwhile, in Paris, Thomas Jefferson, who probably knew more about wine than beer, wrote back to Madison about his reaction to the new Federal Constitution, which was to be submiited to the original 13 states for their ratification. There was much in the new plan that he liked, and some things that he did not like, Jefferson wrote to Madison in his letter of December 20, 1787, and that among these were "the absence of a bill of rights, to which the people of every nation are entitled and which no just government should rest on inference."
So it fell upon our defender of American beer-brewing aspirations, James Madison, a veritable Mozart of constitutional thinking, to usher through Congress in 1789 the first ten amendments to the Constitution known soon thereafter as the Bill of Rights. And Madison accomplished this in his new capacity as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from our northern neighboring Commonwealth of Virginia, which will send not one but two of its football teams--Virginia Tech University and the Unversity of Virginia--to Chapel Hill and Durham this weekend to engage in proper collegiate football with our own North Carolina Tar Heels and Duke Blue Devils.
James Madison was blessed with "a long and happy life" in the Reynolds Price tradition and lived until the summer of 1836 when some American pioneers in their new role as "Texicans" sought to establish Texas as an independent republic, quoting Madisonian and Jeffersonian constitutional principles all the way to the Brazos River.
So here's to James Madison, schooled at Gunston Hall, the future College of New Jersey and Princeton, and knowledgeable about the historic experiences of every Old World nation which had tried its hand at a veritable plethora of moderls of republican democracy, and in an intellectual appreciation of the unique promise of the American republic, saw fit to throw the considerable weight of his political acumen and savoir-faire behind the great cause of American beer, "from sea to shining sea."
David Proctor McKnight
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