Who is the father of Durham? Was it the man who gave the land and figured in the naming of the city, Bartlett Durham? Dr. Bartlett provided the land for Durham Station, the railroad station that put Durham on the map.
Was it Washington Duke or one of the other Dukes who built an industry here and funded a university?
Was it James E. Shepard, founder of what is now N.C. Central University? Durham has forefathers and modern fathers, doesn’t it?
What’s a father, anyway? A man who helps bring someone to life. A man who helps someone grow. A man who shepherds someone. Raises someone. Loves someone. Sometimes one father is all those things, and sometimes not. Sometimes it takes a lot of fathers to to father someone well. To father a city well.
This is Father’s Day weekend, a time when we think about fatherhood. Durham’s forefathers are names you hear pretty soon after learning a bit of Bull City history. The Dukes. Shepard. Julian S. Carr. Aaron M. Moore. John Merrick. W.G. Pearson. C.C. Spaulding. Floyd McKissick Sr.
And then those fathers of Durham who haven’t passed on, whose contributions are both past, present and future. Durham Mayor Bill Bell is a father of Durham. He’s helped rear this city. N.C. Sen. Floyd McKissick Jr., continuing his father’s legacy in Durham in his own way. N.C. Rep. H.M. “Mickey” Michaux. That’s not all, but those are some names of the men who are fathering Durham. Loving Durham, raising Durham, growing Durham, shepherding Durham.
It’s interesting, isn’t it, how “fathering” as verb is sometimes looked at as past tense, while “mothering” is present tense. I think that’s changed. Fathering is active, not past. And you don’t have to be someone’s direct parent to father them, or a place, or a community.
Some of Durham’s fathers are also parents to their own kids, but they also care about folks beyond their own families. Coaches are father figures. Watch the hugs between coaches and players at the college level. Watch the tears of men who care about the community and feel its losses as well as celebrate its wins.
There are many more fathers of Durham than who I’ve mentioned here. Thank you for your work, your love, your respect and your presence in this community.
Happy Father’s Day.