The Xpress investigative series Cruel Summer: The Attack on Camp Summerlane tells a little-known story. See these online resources to learn more.
The short, hard history of Camp Summerlane
Tomm Friend was snoozing in his cabin when gunfire and the whoosh of flames pierced the night quiet. “I was awakened by a blast,” Friend remembers 45 years later. That summer, the 15-year-old was attending a camp on the outskirts of Rosman, N.C., a small mountain town about a dozen miles southwest of Brevard.
Dressing quickly, Friend bolted into the dark. “I ran down in the direction of the blast, and a woman dropped out of a tree with a machete, right in front of me,” he recalls. Recognizing her as a camp counselor, a relieved Friend blurted out that they knew each other—that he was with the camp, not the mob that was assaulting it.
“She was basically hiding in a tree, protecting children. She had a machete because she didn’t have a gun,” Friend explains; the camp’s few firearms were in other hands. “Then she told me to be careful and climbed back into the tree.”
The camper pressed on, as shouts and gunshots split the hum and gurgle of crickets and streams. Down a hill, in the cove near the camp’s entrance, Friend came upon a surreal scene: A small lake was on fire, the flames wafting across the water.
The attack on Camp Summerlane was under way.
When Jon Elliston’s investigative series, Cruel Summer: The Attack on Camp Summerlane, was published in 2008, Xpress posted 14 key documents from the camp, the N.C. governor’s office and law-enforcement agencies, which are posted below. Our July 2010 followup story, Back to Summerlane, added new records to the collection, which are interspersed below and marked […]
In a Dec. 30, 1969, memo, President Richard Nixon instructed White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman to “follow up with Billy Graham in his work with Negro ministers across the country. He feels this is our best chance to make inroads into the Negro community. I am inclined to agree with him.” Click here […]
Paying their respects: Billy Graham speaks at the opening of his library in Charlotte earlier this year. Three former presidents — George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton — were there to speak of their admiration for him. Photo By Cecil Bothwell In the weeks after John F. Kennedy won one of the closest […]
There is a happy land, far, far away … Come to that happy land, come, come away. “There is a Happy Land,” 1838 hymn by Andrew Young High above the tiny Henderson County town of Tuxedo, on a knoll where every step is cushioned by a thick growth of turkey-foot fern, Ed Bell stops in […]