Ryan Odom: Famous Winston-Salemites

Winston-Salem is one of the greatest small cities in the world. Famous Winston-Salemites will feature some accomplished people that lived in Winston-Salem and now have moved on to do great things. All of the questions will be about their time in the Twin City.

Ryan Odom quickly became a household name across the country this March as he led the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) to the biggest upsetryan3 in NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament history. The Retrievers became the first sixteenth seed to defeat a number one seed when they upset the University of Virginia 74-54 on March 15th in Charlotte.


The victory quickly placed Odom on the map nationally as one of the top basketball coaches in the country. Though his national prominence happened rapidly, Odom comes from a well-known basketball family and a lot of his basketball background came from his time growing up in Winston.

ryan4Odom first moved to Winston in 1976 when his father, Dave Odom, was an assistant for Wake Forest. After attending pre-school at First Christian, his family moved to Greenville, NC and then Charlottesville, VA while his dad was an assistant at East Carolina and Virginia. In 1989, the Odom’s moved back to Winston for his dad to become the head coach for the Demon Deacons.

While his dad was building Wake into a national powerhouse, Odom was making a name for himself as a guard for the R.J. Reynolds Demons. He played three years for Coach Howard West, before heading to Hampden Sydney where he served as a team captain and finished his career as the NCAA DIII program’s all-time three-point leader.

Odom spent time as an assistant at UNC-Charlotte, Virginia Tech, American, UNC-Asheville, and Furman from 1997-2015. In 2015, he was hired for his first head coaching ryan5job at Lenoir-Rhyne in Hickory, after being an interim head coach at UNCC the previous season. Odom led Lenoir-Rhyne to the NCAA DII Regional Finals for the first time ever.

He was hired at UMBC the following year (2016) and quickly turned the program around. The team won the 2018 America East Conference championship, which earned them a NCAA Tournament automatic bid and the chance for their historic win over UVA. Odom was quickly awarded by UMBC when ryan7he agreed in principle to contract amendments. The Retrievers and Odom were also honored in Annapolis by the Governor of Maryland.

Odom and his wife, Lucia, have two kids, Connor (16) and Owen (11). You can read a remarkable story about the family’s and Connor’s battle and success dealing with OCD by clicking here. His parents recently moved back to Winston, after Dave retired from coaching, and they live in Buena Vista.
Below Odom answers questions about his time in Winston-Salem:

Winston-Salem Questions

Where did you live in Winston?
I lived right off Country Club on Fairfax. I still consider Winston and Charlottesville home.


Who were some of your favorite teachers?
I loved both principals at RJR, Mr. Deaton and Mr. Elrod. I got a little bit of both worlds with those two. I had a great coach in Howard West, and a great mentor in my assistant coach, Mike Muse. Mrs. Deal was another favorite teacher of mine.

ryan9What are some of your favorite restaurants in Winston?
The Halfway House at Forsyth Country Club. I loved to go to the Soda Shop at Reynolda Village for a hot dog and orangeade. The Village Tavern was another favorite and BLL Rotisserie is a favorite of my parents.

Would you ever consider moving back to Winston? 
Yes, definitely. I love Winston. It has always been great to my family. It is a great spot.

Where is your favorite place to go in the NC mountains?
I loved Asheville when I coached there. My wife went to school at Appalachian State. We still love to go to Boone and to Blowing Rock.

What about your favorite NC beaches?
Our family goes to Emerald Isle. We also love spending time at Wrightsville and Figure Eight.

If you could get one right now, which would you choose: Krispy Kreme doughnut, Moravian sugar cake, or Bojangles biscuit?
I would get in trouble if I didn’t say a Krispy Kreme doughnut. I have a friend from up North that swears by Dunkin Doughnuts. We definitely take the title on that one though.

Did you ever go to Ziggy’s? If so, what was your favorite band to see there?
Absolutely. I used to love seeing Jackopierce there. My friend, John Kenneth Moser, and I used to go there to see them. It actually was named after a former Wake Forest ryan10basketball player, John ‘Ziggy’ Ziglinski.

What was your favorite game at Wake Forest when your dad was the coach?
It was when we beat Duke at the Joel. Duke and Grant Hill tried to run the same long pass play they ran against Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament, but it didn’t work. I think it was the first signature win for my dad at Wake.

Garner Foods: Created in Winston

There are a lot of local difference-makers in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and a lot of Famous Winston-Salemites that have moved out of our great city to do extraordinary things in other places. Along with great people hailing from Winston, there are also a lot of businesses developed here. In Created in Winston, I will focus on these businesses and what Winston means to them.


When Thad Wilson (T.W.) and the Garner Family started making barbecue sauce in 1929 in Winston-Salem, they probably never would have imagined their family recipes would be such a hit. Eighty-seven years later, the Garner family is hoping to make more of an imprint on Winston-Salem as they move their corporate offices from 4045 Indiana Avenue to the heart of Downtown Winston at 614 Fourth St. in the second floor of the Nash-Bolick Building.
A rendering of the Nash-Bolick building
T.W. Garner Food Company might be most known for Texas Pete Hot Sauce, but Chief Operating Officer Heyward Garner wants people to know that “the company is working to reinvigorate our name in the community of Winston-Salem.” Garner said, “it is time to step-up to 2016 and maintain a fresh image, while being a part of the phenomenal revitalization of Downtown.” Their current operations are on Indiana Avenue and were originally part of the family farmland. 
It just so happens that the Nash-Bolick Building was built the same year that the Garner family started their company in 1929.  The building originated as a car dealership for the Nash Automobile Company. That same year, Wilson started T.W. Garner and employed several of his siblings and his parents, who are the great-grandparents of Heyward. The business started out of the Dixie Pig Barbecue stand on Liberty Street, where the Smith-Reynolds airport is today.

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In the 1930’s, the company moved to the Lawrence Hospital, which is currently the Rescue Mission. During that time they bulldozed their farm and built their original factory space on Indiana Avenue, which the company moved back to in 1942 (they have added on three times in the last sixty-plus years).
Photo courtesy of texaspete.com
When the family first started with barbecue sauce, hot sauce was not part of their vocabulary. Customers were asking for a hotter sauce and the family developed a hotter style sauce, which they named Texas Pete to differentiate it from their barbecue sauce. In the early years, they also made syrups, jams, jellies, and even Garner’s Hair Tonic. “I never saw the hair tonic, but I don’t think it is a joke,” said Heyward. 
Through the last nine decades, T.W. Garner has always been a family-run business. After Wilson, Heyward’s dad, Reg Garner, took over the company in 1994. He had control of the business until he passed away in 2009, and his sister Ann Riddle took over as Chief Executive. She is currently the only third generation Garner still actively working, while her cousins Hal Garner and Frank Sherrill, still are on the board.
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Photo courtesy of texaspete.com
There are currently several fourth generation family members working in the company. Heyward’s brother-in-law (married to Dorothea), Matt McCollum, is the Chief Financial Officer,  and their cousin, Glenn Garner is also a part of the administration.
A major part of the new image of the company is the move downtown and focusing on the brand-name, Garner Foods. “If you talk about only Texas Pete then you are only talking about half of our business,” said Heyward. “We want to let the area know about Garner Foods. Today if you walk around here, nobody knows about us. I am on a personal crusade to get our name out there.” The company also purchased Green Mountain Gringo out of Vermont in 2004, which makes salsas and tortilla strips.
Three years ago, T.W. Garner started the Texas Pete Culinary Arts Festival on Trade Street, and they are thrilled with its growth and the upcoming September festival. The company is also involved with the local Habitat for Humanity, Arts Council, and Second Harvest Food Bank. Heyward said, “our community involvement is understated. We have a lot of great stuff going on.”
The family hopes to be moved into the Nash-Bolick building within a month or two. The building will feature offices for the finance, accounting and executive staff; a war room, a board room, an outdoor patio, and a demo kitchen. The demo kitchen is an addition to the old building and will be used to bring in customers to sample the Garner Food products, and will also be visible to all on Fourth Street with a glass front. “It will give outsiders a peak behind the curtain, Willy Wonka style,” said Heyward. 
The move has been four years in the making. They looked at over twenty properties, and really focused on three of them before making their final decision. “We were sitting on top of each other on Indiana Avenue, but we had been doing that for years,” said Heyward. “I personally love that we get sunlight in all places since there is a cut-out in the middle of the new building.”
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Sam Garner (photo courtesy of texaspete.com)
Sixty-five employees in the operations department will remain in the Indiana Avenue facility and the company also employs fifteen sales staff that live and work in their territories. “This building is part of our effort to step up community relations. We want the community to be involved and know we have been here since 1929,” Garner reaffirmed. “This is also for our employees who all rock. We look forward to letting them walk to work and enjoy the Downtown restaurants.” 


Do you know somebody that goes out of their way in Winston-Salem to be extra nice and helpful? If so read my Winston Giveback: Unsung Heroes post to see how to nominate this person by September 15, 2016. Click here for nomination


Jill Wagner: Famous Winston-Salemites

Winston-Salem is one of the greatest small cities in the world. Famous Winston-Salemites will feature some accomplished people that lived in Winston-Salem and now have moved on to do great things. All of the questions will be about their time in the Twin City.

Jill Wagner was born in Winston-Salem in 1979 at Forsyth Hospital and lived here her entire childhood. After she graduated Cum Laude from North Carolina State (business major and marketing minor) in 2001, she made the decision to move to Los Angeles to pursue modeling, and instead a very successful acting career followed. She is known for her “All-American charm and magnetic sense of humor.”


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“Acting found me, I wasn’t looking for it,” said Wagner. “I had no previous training in college or high school and it wasn’t something I was familiar with. I went out to L.A. more to experience a different ‘world,’ so to speak.”

Wagner caught a break soon after she arrived in California and was hired on the MTV hit series, Punk’d with Ashton Kutcher. She has also been a regular on MTV’s Teen Wolf and Spike’s Blade: The Series. Wagner earned the nickname, “The Mercury Girl,” for her television ads for Ford Motor Company’s Mercury. She also starred in Junebug, which was filmed here in Winston, in Splinter, and appeared in episodes of Bones and Monk.


Wagner had a long stint as the host of ABC’s hit show, Wipeout. Currently, she is the host of Handcrafted America, which comes on Friday nights at 9:00. Wagner will star with Jason Momoa in the upcoming movie, Braven, and an upcoming Christmas Hallmark film, Christmas Cookies. 

Her modeling work includes graduating from the Barbizon Modeling school, where she was awarded as “Miss Barbizon.” She has been featured in magazines like FHM and Stuff, and she has been named as one of the 100 most attractive women several times by Maxim.

She grew up with her dad, David Wagner, her brother Brandon, and her grandmother. Her dad is a former Marine and owned Wagner Tire Company off of Waughtown Street. She went to Wallburg Elementary School and Ledford High School in Davidson County.

Along with her acting, Wagner also does a lot of charitable work for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. She loves to regularly visit home and was very recently engaged.

Learn about her favorite things about her hometown, Winston-Salem, below:

Winston-Salem Questions:

When you are away from NC, what do you miss the most?
I miss my family … I miss just being able to get in the car and see my Grandma in ten minutes. I miss walking around in my dad’s backyard, throwing the ball to his Newfoundland, Elvis. I miss all of the simple things.


What are your favorite local Winston-Salem restaurants?
Village Tavern, Olive Garden, and Cagney’s

If you were on a stranded island and could just have one breakfast for the rest of your life, which Winston-Salem treat would you choose: Moravian sugar cake, a Bojangles biscuit, or a Krispy Kreme doughnut?
Krispy Kreme forever!!!

Jill Wagner mug

If you were to move back to the area, where do you think you would want to live?
Funny you should ask, as I am currently looking to do just that. Not sure of the area yet, but I am into old historical houses. I’m on the hunt!

What is your favorite place to go in Winston?
My Grandma’s house.


What is your favorite North Carolina Beach? Place in the mountains?
Hilton Head and Boone.

Did you ever go to Ziggy’s?
I can’t remember who I saw there, but I got stuck in the middle of the mosh-pit and decided to never go back after that! Haha!

Where all did you have jobs in the area growing up?
My first job was as a sales associate at Abercrombie and Fitch.

Do you have any highlights so far this season on Handcrafted America?
My highlights so far for season two have been making a kayak and getting to take it out on the water, and meeting an Artisan that made her own yarn from sheep’s wool. Obviously, I love playing with the animals, throughout the day… Lots of great things happening this season…. I am trying not to break anything in my guest’s workshops this season!!!!



Wanda Starke: Local Winston-Salem Difference Makers

In addition to celebrating Winston-Salem natives that have moved on to do significant things outside of Winston, this blog will also celebrate local people who make a difference currently in Winston-Salem. 

Wanda Starke is currently the evening anchor (number 1 rated 6 pm show) and a producer of a series of specials for the Piedmont Triad’s NBC WXII news station.


Starke said, “one of the many things I love about Winston-Salem is the warmth of the people—that sense of community.  It’s felt like home since day one.”

Starke lived in eight different cities before arriving in Winston-Salem:  Newport News, Richmond, Washington, Augusta, Norfolk, Greensboro, Los Angeles and Buffalo.  “I liked all of them, except Buffalo,” said Starke. “I got used to the snow, but the lack of sunshine was intolerable.”

“Working as a reporter in Los Angeles was a dream come true.  It was a thrill covering big-city news.   I also liked the cultural offerings—theatre and jazz in particular. However, I found the traffic and smog somewhat annoying and many of the people a bit self-absorbed.”




She grew up in Eastern Virginia and graduated from the University of Richmond with a B.A. in journalism and speech communication. She also went to Howard University Graduate School.

Starke joined the WXII staff in 1994. She also produces a weekly segment called, “A Place to Call Home,” which profiles children waiting to be adopted. The issue is personal to Starke, since she was adopted as a child.

Wanda-Cameron Food Drive.Still001

Starke received two Emmy nominations. One nomination came for a documentary, “To Kenya with Love,”  where she followed the work of the Amani Children’s Foundation, helping abandoned babies in East Africa. She has received awards that include The President’s Award for Volunteer Service from President Barack Obama, The Maya Angelou Women Who Lead Excellence Award Honoring Women in Media from UNCF and the Anna Quindlen Award for Excellence in Journalism on Behalf of Children and Families from the Child Welfare League of America.

Winston-Salem Questions:

What charity/volunteer organizations are you still active with?
I am on the boards of the Children’s Home Society of North Carolina and the North Carolina Black Repertory Company.  I volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters- Forsyth County and I’m a member of the Women’s Fund of Winston-Salem.


How has the Children’s Home  Society grown during your time working on the board? Why is it so special to you?
The Children’s Home Society of North Carolina has grown to include a number of new services: post adoption, parenting education, teen pregnancy prevention and family finding. The one thing that is virtually unchanged is the number of children in foster care.  There are about 10,000 children in the system — 3,000 of them legally cleared for adoption. CHS is near and dear to my heart because I was adopted as a young child.

Do you have two or three interviews you have done with WXII that hold a special place in your heart?
That’s a tough question…I’ve done so many. Every interview I did with Dr. Maya Angelou holds a special place in my heart. She was a mentor and I learned something new with each visit. She had such immense wisdom. I felt privileged every time I was in her presence.

JPG Wanda and Dr Angelou.jpg

I would say two children I interviewed for “A Place to Call Home” are among my most memorable. One was a young man named Shamor. We followed him through middle school, high school and college where he was finally adopted. He graduated from UNCG and then went to London to get a masters degree. Before he left the US, he tracked down his birth mother. She had lost custody of her children because of drug use, but was now clean and sober. Shamor was the only child who forgave her and wanted to reconnect.  It was an emotional reunion. Shamor estimated he had about a hundred foster care placements before he was finally adopted. Despite his experiences, he is one of the most positive and talented people I have ever met—truly inspiring. Another memorable kid we profiled was so polite and sweet. He was 8 years old and had this almost angelic presence.  At one point I asked him what he wanted to be when he grows up.  He told me he wanted to be a child psychologist so he could “help children like me who have been sexually abused.” I had interviewed hundreds of children in foster care and heard many horror stories, but this was the first time a child had actually shared that information. I was immediately overwhelmed with sadness and had to leave the room.

Are there any events (natural disasters, celebrities, crimes, etc.) that you have covered over your two decades at WXII that stand out? 
I would say my most memorable natural disaster was Hurricane Irene in 2011.  My husband and I were actually on vacation at Atlantic Beach when we were forced to evacuate.  We drove to New Bern where we stayed with his sister and rode out the storm.  There was a lot of wind, but the rain was relentless.  I filed reports during the storm, not knowing the worst was still to come.  The next day we were stunned when we went to check on my mother-in-law’s house.  Her street looked like a river.  Her home was flooded.
I’ve interviewed hundreds of celebrities –many of them through appearances with the National Black Theatre Festival and the Piedmont Wind Symphony.  My favorites include Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Phylicia Rashad,  Dr. Phil,  Itzhak Perlman, Rhiannon Giddens, Ben Folds, Nathan East, Hattie Winston,  Rain Pryor, S. Epatha Merkerson, Richard Roundtree, Art Linkletter, Jerry Mathers,  America, Three Dog Night, Al Jarreau, Andre Braugher and Yaphet Kotto.  I’ve also had the privilege of interviewing Barack Obama when he was running for President and later Vice President Joe Biden.
Traveling to Kenya to cover the work of the Amani Children’s Foundation and its efforts to help abandoned babies ranks as one of my most rewarding experiences as a reporter.


Which Winston-Salem neighborhoods have you lived in?
When I first moved to Winston-Salem, I lived downtown.  I now live in the Northwest part of town.

What is one retail store you wish that came to Winston that we don’t currently have? What about a restaurant that we don’t have?
Lord & Taylor might be nice.  I definitely wish we had a Cheesecake Factory.

What are your top three favorite Winston-Salem restaurants? 
That’s another tough question.  I LOVE to eat out and my list of favorites is long: Sweet Potatoes, Milner’s, River Birch, Mozelle’s, Fratellis, Bonefish and Forsyth Seafood.


If you were on a stranded island and could just have one breakfast for the rest of your life, which would you choose: Moravian sugar cake, a Bojangles biscuit, or a Krispy Kreme doughnut?
I love them all, but I’m really sensitive to sugar, so I guess I would pick a Bojangles biscuit.

What is your favorite North Carolina Beach?
Atlantic Beach

Where is your favorite place in the mountains of North Carolina?

Brunch with Mary and Jump, Little Children

Last week, I met up with Matthew Bivins, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist of Jump, Little Children, for breakfast at Mary’s Gourmet Diner. We were joined by the diner’s owner, Mary Haglund, for much of the meal, and I was able to sit back and enjoy as Matt and Mary talked about Winston over my delicious meal of Eggs Benedict. I had already done blogs on Jump, Little Children (blog link) and Mary (blog link) previously, so it was great to reconnect with them for brunch.

Mary and Matt had a lot in common, which included their love of the Lighthouse Restaurant and a former Winston mainstay restaurant, The Rainbow Cafe. They both spent time working at The Rainbow along with other Jump band members, Jay Clifford and Ward Williams, and Mary remembers hearing Jump perform on the back porch when the band was just starting out. Matt grew up right up the street from the restaurant on Second Street, and his cousin was married to the former owner of the restaurant.

Matt and Mary also spoke a lot about The Lighthouse and its founder Nick Doumas, who passed away in October in an ATV accident. I grew up going weekly to The Lighthouse, since it was just a rock’s throw away from my West End house, so I was really interested in this portion. Mary worked at the Lighthouse for a long time, and she remembers waiting on my parents when my mom was pregnant with me. Matt’s dad, John Bivins, was good friends with Nick and they would go on hunting trips together. John also designed the sign that still hangs up outside the restaurant.

The two spent most of the brunch talking about their love of Winston-Salem. Mary is a transport here from Gary, Indiana, while Matt grew up here and now lives in Chicago. They agreed how special of a place it is here in Winston, especially how the city focuses on the arts. Matt spoke about his desire to potentially move back to the area and Mary tried her hardest to encourage him.


Jump, Little Children is going back on tour in April, and Mary plans to go see them in Chapel Hill at Cat’s Cradle (click here for tickets). I was lucky enough to be surprised by my wife with tickets to the Highwater Festival in Charleston in April. So I will get to see Jump play with some of my favorite bands like The Avett Brothers, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, The Shins, and Shovels & Rope.

In 2017, I will be Uberring throughout Winston and writing about it. Each month, I will collect donations for different Winston organizations. For the month of January, all of the donations will go to The Forsyth County Humane Society. Lookout for me on the road, and on your Uber app!


Laurel Holloman-Notable North Carolinian

Writing about famous Winston-Salemites and local difference makers has been a great experience. Now I am ready to expand the blog to the great state of North Carolina to talk to some North Carolinians who have gone on to do extraordinary things. Notable North Carolinians will focus on these individuals favorite parts of the Tar Heel State.


Laurel Holloman (website) grew up in Greenville, NC and attended school in Raleigh and Chapel Hill, before going on to become a very successful actress and artist. Her most notable roles include a six-year stint starring with Jennifer Beals on Showtime’s The L Word and in the hit movie, Boogie Nights.

Holloman went to St. Peter’s Catholic School in Greenville, and then to EB Aycock for middle school, and Rose for high school for a year. She finished high school at St. Mary’s boarding school to in Raleigh. “I liked boarding school and wanted to go even though it was a tougher school,” said Holloman. “I thrived there and it made college seem easier.”



She went on to study at UNC-Chapel Hill, where she took an improv class during her freshman year. She took summer school at UCLA, and through those two classes she realized she wanted to pursue acting.

She also got into art during her time at UNC. “I took a sculpture class and made an A and the art teacher said, ‘you really think out of the box,’ maybe consider switching your major,” said Holloman. She was very focused on acting, and art was more on the back burner.


Holloman started painting more when she moved to California.  She painted to keep herself “sane” when she wasn’t acting.  “Painting made me feel more in control,” said Holloman. “Acting is all about getting hired to be creative and painting is basically having complete control of your creativity everyday.”

She has starred in several additional shows and movies (full list), and her art is now featured all over the world. She is known for her “vibrant use of color and large scale pieces,” which often capture “stirring emotions with movement in three dimensional effect.” She has an upcoming exhibit at the Museum Jan van der Togt coming this summer.


Holloman currently lives in Los Angeles with her two daughters, Nala and Lola. Below she answers questions about her favorite things about North Carolina:

North Carolina Questions:

Do you still have family in NC? 
Yes, both my parents and my two brothers and many cousins!!

Do your two children get to visit North Carolina very often? 
About once a year.  I love the beaches there and I love Asheville, NC.  It is a really great state.

Do you prefer Eastern NC barbecue or Western NC barbecue? 


Do you have a favorite museum in North Carolina?
Yes, the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh.

What is your favorite beach of North Carolina?
Cape Hatteras because it is so natural still and untouched. I have gone every summer as a child and I  really love Ocracoke Island (I have camped there), and Beaufort. Oriental is another favorite, which is really sleepy, but fun.  I took my kids to Oriental last summer and they loved it. We went fishing and wake boarding. We caught a puppy drum and a local restaurant cooked it for us. We caught a Red Drum but he was huge so we put him back.


What about a favorite place in the mountains of NC? 
I love Asheville for the friendly people and the food. One of my  best friends just got married there.

What are your top three all-time restaurants in North Carolina?
Crooks Corner in Chapel  Hill  (I was a waitress there in college!!).  Fearrington House is another favorite for something special.  My dad loves ON THE SQUARE in Tarboro, NC and is a regular there, where he drives over from Greenville and it is really a special place for wine and food. I also like any oyster bar anywhere!! I love oysters and  grew up eating them because we had a second home on the Pamlico Sound and it had an oyster bed. Most people don’t know that they are a really healthy and a nutrient dense food.  I love Parker’s BBQ. Okay, I have to stop!


What do you miss most about living in North Carolina?
I miss the friendly people and how time slows down a bit. I love the beaches in the summer because the Pacific in California is so cold to me, and I miss the Atlantic Ocean. I also had a horse there, so I miss riding through the woods on a cold day!
I would say I miss North Carolina more than than ever now that I am raising kids. I remember wanting so badly in college to get out and get to NY or LA, but now that I live a very busy urban life, I appreciate what my North Carolina childhood offered. It offered me such an appreciation of nature and also the appreciation of family. My dad worked in apparel (and real estate investments), and he had summers off so we spent time at our house on the Pamlico Sound. We were free to run around and catch snakes, catch crabs from a crab pot, go skiing or tubing, and play with all with any of the kids nearby. There was no such thing as a scheduled play-date, we just walked over and played with nearby kids.
We all learned to drive cars or trucks on country roads at an early age. My brothers  and I could drive the two boats we had once we were old enough.  We also mostly ate what we caught. If we were in Greenville, we were at my brothers baseball games…… always  as a family.
As I got older, the summers were filled with horse shows. I showed North Carolina Hunter Jumper and Eastern Hunter Association.   My mom learned how to pull a double horse trailer for all of this.
This is what I miss the most as I raise kids that sit in LA traffic and have phones and iPads and scheduled play-dates and sleepovers.  I live near the beach in Los Angeles now, and I am very lucky in that regard, but I still live in a very large city. I miss the small town feeling  the most, and the friendly people that come with it.

Do you have a favorite concert you saw growing up in North Carolina? 
I dated a musician all through college so there were a lot! He took me to Neil Young, and I remember seeing Joe Satriani at the Rialto in Raleigh. I basically watched The Connells and Superchunk on a regular bases because most of the bands knew each other.  Frank, my college sweetheart played in Mary on the Dash. Chapel Hill was a big music scene at the time and full of lots of creative people. It was a fun time. I also went to  see Echo and the  Bunnymen at Duke and remember that being a really great concert. I think I wrote a paper on “The Killing Moon,” one of their songs. I really loved Chapel Hill and the  professors  I had. I credit that time in my life as a big creative exploration.

If you could only have one for the rest of your life, which would you prefer: a Bojangles biscuit or a Krispy Kreme doughnut? 
I’m a savory girl, so a Bojangles biscuit with ham.


What about sweet NC iced tea or Cheerwine? 
I’m addicted to iced tea, but I don’t like it sweet. I think I did when I was about nine though.

Did you grow up a UNC fan? Who are your favorite UNC athletes of all time? 
Yes I did!!! I would say Michael Jordan and of course Mia Hamm for soccer. They are examples of amazing athletes.

John Hart-Notable North Carolinians

Writing about famous Winston-Salemites and local difference makers has been a great experience. Now I am ready to expand to the great state of North Carolina to talk to some North Carolinians who have gone on to do extraordinary things. Notable North Carolinians will focus on these individuals favorite parts of the Tar Heel State.

John Hart (website) is releasing his fifth novel, Redemption Road, this week and is starting a nationwide book tour in Greensboro at Barnes & Noble on May 3rd at 7:00. Hart is the only author in history to win the Edgar Award for consecutive novels. Along with being an award winning, brilliant author, Hart is also a North Carolinian who has lived in Salisbury, Durham, and Greensboro. All five of his novels have taken place in North Carolina.



Hart was born in Durham and moved to Salisbury and Rowan County when he was seven in 1972. He attended Woodberry Forest in Virginia for high school, before heading back to North Carolina to attend Davidson for college. His two sisters followed their grandmother’s, Mary Hart, high school path at Salem Academy. Hart spent a year in France during his undergraduate studies, where he learned French (his mom was a French teacher) and went on to major in the subject when returning from his time abroad.

After graduating from Davidson, Hart kicked around doing odd jobs and wrote his first novel, which was never published. He received a Masters in Accounting from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1993. He deferred from law school to go live in Juneau, Alaska with his sisters, before returning to attend the University of New Hampshire for law school. He spent four years in New Hampshire, and also wrote his second novel, which was also never published.

John and Katie
In 1997, Hart married Katie, who was also from Salisbury, on a mountaintop in Alaska. After two more years in New Hampshire, the two moved back to Salisbury in 1999, where he studied for the bar and passed it. He worked for a law firm in Salisbury for two and a half years before realizing he wanted to pursue his dream of writing full-time. “I had my first major case defending a child murderer, and the judge told me not to be squeamish, and I realized being a lawyer wasn’t right for me,” said Hart.

Hart spent eleven and a half months writing in a library in Salisbury, and finished his first published novel, The King of Lies. The novel was rejected several times after he finished. Hart and Katie moved to Greensboro, where he worked for Merrill Lynch. He went back to the novel with fresh eyes and revamped it and he found a publisher right away the second time. The publisher was so excited that they offered him a contract for a second novel. Fellow Southerner, Pat Conroy, said The King of Lies “moves and reads like a book on fire.”

He went on to write, Down River, The Last Child, and Iron House while living in Greensboro. Hart and Katie moved to Charlottesville in 2011. He wrote three hundred pages of another book while living in Virginia, before writing Redemption Road, which is getting rave reviews including Publisher’s Weekly calling it a must-read for 2016. 


Hart lives with Katie, their two daughters (high school and middle school), and their three dogs (Lab, Lhasa Apso, and a rescue dog). They have a farm a mile and a half from the house, where John takes the dogs to write in the morning. His farm overlooks a beautiful house that President John Monroe built in 1794. After lunch, he takes a nap and then works on editing with the help of Katie. He is currently working on his seventh novel, which is a follow-up on the characters from The Last Child.

North Carolina Questions:

Do you prefer Eastern NC barbecue or Western NC barbecue?
Eastern, definitely. I grew up in Salisbury/Lexington, which is a central hub for Eastern North Carolina barbecue.

Do you have a favorite museum in North Carolina?
I was on the board of The Children’s Museum in Greensboro, and I used to love taking my kids there when they were young.

What is your favorite beach of North Carolina?
We have a place near Wilmington at Figure Eight Island. I miss being able to get their frequently.

What about a favorite place in the mountains of NC?
My favorite place in the mountains is Roaring Gap in Alamance County. My grandparents built a place there in the 1920s, and we go there whenever we can. We are having a family reunion there this summer. I have a large family with two sisters, a half sister, three stepsisters and three stepbrothers.

What do you miss most about living in North Carolina?
One specific thing I miss is being able to go to the Green Valley Grill at the O.Henry Hotel whenever I want.

John and I met at the O’Henry in Greensboro.

Do you have a favorite concert you saw in North Carolina?
When I was a kid in 1981, I went and saw the Jimmy Buffet Coconut Telegraph tour in Raleigh.

If you could only have one for the rest of your life, which would you prefer: a Bojangles biscuit or a Krispy Kreme doughnut?
Bojangles, definitely. I love Krispy Kreme, and the second one ever was in Salisbury, but Bojangles.

What about sweet NC iced tea or Cheerwine?
Cheerwine, absolutely. It was born in Salisbury, and I knew the Peeler family really well. It was hard to grow up in Salisbury and not know somebody associated with Cheerwine or Food Lion.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
Patricia Cornwell graduated from Davidson ten years before I did, and she is a favorite. I loved anything science fiction as a kid. Pat Conroy was pretty influential, especially how he wrote about small towns and family. I live near John Grisham in Charlottesville, and we see each other frequently. He has always been purpose driven in his writing.