News: Columnists

Feb. 08, 2014 @ 06:45 PM

Baumgartner Vaughan: Former mayor turned on the light

In 1930s small town Alabama, Horace Johnson’s parents lit their back yard with electric lights – something new back then -- so all the African-American kids had somewhere to play. I told you about Johnson’s background last week, and today I’ll share where that foundation led – to the mayor’s office in Hillsborough.


Feb. 07, 2014 @ 02:28 PM

A baby with ambition

He sits on the runner rug in the dog trot.

He’s taking a breather next to the windowed door that leads to the back stoop of our house in Watts-Hillandale.
It’s been a long trip of about 30 feet from the crib in the bedroom into the hall that leads to the kitchen.
John Michael – now 8 months old – is crawling.

Feb. 02, 2014 @ 05:41 PM

You can bet on it

OK, let me tell you who’s going to win the Super Bowl.

I’m able to do this because I have spent a great deal of time analyzing the two teams, measuring their run-to-pass ratio, checking out their blocking schemes and finding out if anyone on the defense is nicknamed Elmer.
The key to the game will be which team moves out of the 3-4 defense and into the 4-3 and thus can complete the subtraction without going into the minus numbers and screwing up the calculators on their phones. That team will then have more defenders in the box, fewer people at the movies for the 7 o’clock show and can be home before dinner.

Feb. 01, 2014 @ 04:22 PM

His Grandma Mattie survived slavery

The life of Horace Johnson has come as full circle as any life could. In 1850, his grandmother was born into slavery. In 1969, Johnson picketed and boycotted and was a major player in the civil rights movement in Hillsborough. Twenty years after that, he became mayor.

Feb. 03, 2014 @ 04:42 PM

Saying so long to Bubba

The ram on the lam is out of the slam.

But the future, although brighter for Bubba now that he’s no longer attacking his own reflection in shiny Durham neighborhood cars or chewing shrubs, remains uncertain.

On Friday morning, bidders gathered on Dave Artigues’ farm in Rougemont to get a look at the celebrity sheep.

Jan. 26, 2014 @ 04:46 PM

Neil Offen: Have an opinion?

Please join the conversation by adding your comments and telling us what you really think about what you just read. While sharing your thoughts, please remember to refrain from intelligent, thoughtful, reasoned discourse and revel in the fact that you are anonymous and no one will ever figure out who you are unless you use your real initials and leave your real zip code.  

Jan. 25, 2014 @ 03:14 PM

The work, then the magic of music

Sitting in on a rehearsal of the Durham Symphony Orchestra recently, I wondered how many of them were reliving a scene from their teen years. Rooms where musicians rehearse are functional, not fancy. The rehearsal room at the Durham Arts Council wasn’t too different than a high school band room. Nor should it have been. Chairs that stack. Lockers for instruments. Instrument cases – suitcases of the arts – resting by chairs. Musicians leaning over to each other during breaks, exchanging words and occasional laughter. 

Jan. 24, 2014 @ 04:47 PM

Breathing easier thanks to doctors

It’s not that I hate doctors. Most of them seem like perfectly fine people.
But I’m almost certain you’d never hear me utter anything like what my wife told the dental receptionist over the phone the other day:
“Wes would love to see you at 11.”
“Love” isn’t a word I splurge on teeth cleanings.

Jan. 19, 2014 @ 06:54 PM

Just a few questions

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Jan. 18, 2014 @ 04:06 PM

First black firefighters bonded for life

There were 10 of them. Ten men who broke the color barrier in the Durham Fire Department. Three are still living, and of those, two have been ill. George Washington King, who turns 78 next month, is spry and easily takes the stairs. Thirty-five years of being a firefighter kept him in shape. King called me last week after my column urging those who are veterans of the civil rights movement to share their stories. He came to the newsroom and we talked for a few hours about his career at the DFD, one he said that had its rocky times but was very rewarding.


Jan. 17, 2014 @ 03:30 PM

Worrying about the storms we can’t track

I was almost finished building the new toy box for John Michael last Saturday when our smartphones buzzed about a tornado warning in Durham.

Soon, we found out that – although it’s not a comfortable fit for all involved – it’s possible to cram two adults, a baby and a nervous Great Pyrenees into our downstairs guest bathroom.

Jan. 13, 2014 @ 11:36 AM

And now for some breaking news

My wife, participating in a long-standing family tradition, recently broke her wrist ice skating. Which leads, of course, to the inevitable and understandable question, what kind of long-standing family tradition includes fractures? Aren’t most long-standing family traditions just supposed to include cuts, bruises, root canals or the occasional trip to the emergency room?

Jan. 11, 2014 @ 04:54 PM

Tell civil rights stories now

For more than decade, we have heard that World War II veterans were dying at a rate of 1,000 a day. During that time, I have taken every opportunity, for this newspaper and others, to record their stories and share them with you. I’ll continue to do so.


Jan. 10, 2014 @ 05:46 PM

Welcome to the nerd club

Fifteen years ago, I told my editor at The St. Petersburg Times that I was working on a new side project -- an online role-playing game.

He smiled, laughed and said, “Wow, you really are a geek.”

Jan. 05, 2014 @ 05:10 PM

There’s an app for that

Since we don’t like to do anything by ourselves anymore, there are now apps for almost everything.
(By the way, for those of you who are not technologically conversant, apps are short for my friend Marty Appel, who invented the Macintosh and also was an early adopter of the Granny Smith.)