Pop and Clyde Ferguson honored in AT&T Heritage Calendar
Between the covers of a calendar, Clyde “Pop” Ferguson Sr. and Clyde Ferguson Jr. have joined 11 other North Carolina legends.
The Caldwell County residents were selected for inclusion in AT&T’s 2014 Heritage Calendar, a publication that highlights North Carolinians who have made significant contributions to African-American history in the state.
The Fergusons join the first black basketball player under Dean Smith at Chapel Hill, the state’s first black female prosecutor and an Olympian who ran the final 200 meters of the 4x400 with a snapped fibula – all featured in the 2014 calendar, among others.
Clyde Ferguson Jr. said it didn’t quite hit him when he got emails about the selection (actually, he almost missed those). It didn’t seem real when he got the phone call, either, or when he was interviewed by students at UNC’s School of Journalism who wrote the biographies featured in the calendar.
But when he and Pop walked into a reception with Willie Cooper (the basketball player), Judge Shirley Fulton (the prosecutor), Manteo Mitchell (the Olympian) and all the others, it became something solid.
“Before that, I took it as an honor,” Ferguson said. “But after getting there, I’m like, 'How did we get chosen? How did we get in here, because these other folks in here are real heroes.' I’m like – whoa, I look up to these people. What am I doing here?”
In the calendar, for the month of June (the month that the Pop Ferguson Blues Heritage Festival takes place), the Fergusons are hailed for making music that “mixes entertainment and education, helping to raise the cultural awareness of listeners.”
The calendar excerpt tells the story of Pop first hearing the blues outside a Caldwell County juke joint, giving passersby a nickel to play tunes from a jukebox inside so he could stand outside and listen – because his preacher father wouldn’t let him go inside. It tells about his time as a traveling musician, his time in the U.S. Army during World War II, and his induction into the Smithsonian Institute Hall.
It talks about Clyde’s time as a high school band director, and his work later on Roots Music in the Classroom, a program that teaches African-American history through the lens of blues music.
Each honoree was chosen based on nominations. The N.C. Heritage Calendar is produced by AT&T with various partners, including the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, which helped develop lesson plans based on the honorees.
“North Carolina’s history and heritage is so diverse,” said Clifton Metcalf, AT&T’s director of public affairs for North and South Carolina. “It has so many people that have really contributed, in such a tremendous way, to making North Carolina the state that we enjoy today. What this calendar does is tell the story of some of those individuals, some of them who are familiar and other folks who are more unsung heroes.”
The calendar aims for statewide appeal, reaching into communities beyond the state’s city centers, Metcalf said – and the Fergusons’ inclusion is part of that.
“We don’t want it to be Charlotte-centric or Raleigh-centric,” Metcalf said. “We want it to reflect all of North Carolina. The Fergusons being from Lenoir, that just adds to the statewide nature of the calendar.”