“To prevent the demise of our democracy, we must participate in it.”
Asheville City Council chambers were as packed as they’ve been in quite awhile as development teams, UNC Asheville staff, Boy Scouts and advocates of clean energy and civil liberties all filled City Hall for tonight’s meeting. (Photo by Max Cooper)
At Asheville City Council’s Oct. 22 meeting, two major items come up for a vote: a civil liberties resolution and the 209-unit proposed RAD Lofts project.
The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina released its annual legislative report card Sept. 5, giving Buncombe County’s delegation vastly different scores.
The N.C. Department of Revenue just lost a battle with retail giant Amazon and local intervenors over disclosure of purchasing records.
Parking on downtown Asheville’s southside could become much easier in the near future. While County Commissioners were approving plans for a 650-space parking deck on county-owned land along Coxe Avenue at their Sept. 16 meeting, City Council members gave an informal OK to a proposed mixed-use development on Biltmore Avenue that would add an additional 437 hourly and monthly spaces.
Dave Alexander, a 23-year-old cub reporter for the Asheville Times, went to work early the morning of July 12, 1963. His editors greeted him at 6:30 a.m. with an urgent tip: Something big was going down around Rosman, a town near Brevard.
The remote, sparsely populated place didn’t typically make much news, but this day would prove an exception. The state Highway Patrol had called to alert the paper that a chaotic clash was going on at the newly opened Camp Summerlane, a few miles outside Rosman. “So I jumped into my little Volkswagen, and away I went,” Alexander remembers.
Summerlane was a little more than an hour’s drive from Asheville. About 8 a.m., the reporter reached the outskirts of the camp, where he found law-enforcement officers standing watch around the perimeter. Parking his car, he walked toward them and started to ask, “What’s going on?”
Robin Ludwig’s first experiences in the South were something close to magical. The 14-year-old New Yorker started summer vacation at the brand-new Camp Summerlane in the first week of July 1963.
To get there, he’d hopped on a bus that joined a caravan of campers from up north who were headed for Western North Carolina. The first day of the trip, “We drove and drove, and somewhere in Virginia, we pulled over to the side of the road in this incredible grove of giant pine trees,” Ludwig recalls. “There were fireflies everywhere, and we just spread out our sleeping bags and camped out. When we woke up in the morning, we found out we were in the middle of a boysenberry thicket, so we got to eat boysenberries for breakfast. We were all little teenagers from heavy, urban places … and suddenly, we were turned into nature.”
That sense of wonder continued as the caravan reached Camp Summerlane, a 165-acre retreat a few miles outside Rosman, a mountain town southwest of Brevard. “It was someplace else,” he says. “We figured we were in the middle of a bluegrass song.” Along with the rest of the 50-some campers, Ludwig planned to stay for the remainder of the summer.
In April 1963, seven Camp Summerlane staff members journeyed to Western North Carolina from assorted points around the country. “The dogwoods were just starting to bloom,” one of them remembers, and at first, springtime in the mountains seemed to offer a welcoming setting for the new camp.
Granted, there was much work to be done to prepare the facility—an inactive summer camp about 15 miles southwest of Brevard, near the tiny town of Rosman. Fifty-some children, along with 10 or so additional adult staffers, would be arriving in July.
And while they would need the usual amenities for a summer of hiking, swimming, roasting marshmallows and such, Summerlane was also preparing to implement an unusual social experiment: At this camp, children and adults would be given an equal say in determining most camp rules and activities. There was also a social-service component, as some of the older campers would be doing outreach work with migrant laborers. And even as civil-rights battles flared around the South that summer, children of all races were invited to attend.
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 […]
Civil liberties award goes to legal team that freed Glen Chapman
The Asheville Police Department’s new online Police Blotter, which publicizes prostitution arrests, has come under fire from the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina. The Raleigh-based group challenged the practice in a March 6 letter to Assistant City Attorney Curt Euler. “With regard to the posting of arrestees’ names and photos on the police […]
The Asheville Police Department has launched a new online police blotter where they will post the photos of individuals arrested on prostitution charges. The photos, names, charges and cities of residence of individuals arrested for prostitution (including the “johns,” as they are called) will be displayed on the site and on the Asheville Channel’s Bulletin […]
The 27th Martin Luther King, Jr. Annual Prayer Breakfast will fill the Grand Ballroom of the Grove Park Inn on Saturday, Jan. 19, with music, a special award presentation and a keynote address by Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick of Detroit. The popular breakfast, sponsored by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Association of Asheville & Buncombe County, […]
A group of citizen activists say they’ve had enough and are poised to establish a police-oversight board—whether or not the city approves. Eyes on the police: Community activist Gene Hampton will announce the formation of a review board and Copwatch program. Photo By Jonathan Welch At press time, Citizens Awareness Asheville was planning a Nov. […]
In response to several recent controversial incidents involving free speech, protests and law enforcement, the local chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union, along with some 20 other groups, are sponsoring a forum on “How to Exercise Your Right to Dissent.” “We’ve had a rash of incidents lately, from the Sheriff’s deputy arresting the Kuhns […]
The Aug. 15 arrest of Jonas Phillips on charges of obstructing a sidewalk has local activists up in arms. Phillips was taken into custody after displaying a 5-by-1-foot sign reading “IMPEACH BUSH/CHENEY” on the Haywood Road/Interstate 240 overpass. Freeway blogging: Jonas Phillips holds another sign on the Flint Street overpass, several days after his arrest. […]
A diverse group of citizens, concerned about several recent incidents involving law enforcement and activists, has decided to push for a citizens’ review board on the Asheville Police Department, as well as increased pressure on city, county and state officials to protect civil rights and more of a citizen presence at demonstrations throughout the city. […]
The July 25 arrest of a West Asheville couple for desecrating the flag has sparked a storm of controversy, including doubts about the constitutionality of the rarely enforced state statute. The Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the handling of the matter, and Sheriff Van Duncan has expressed regrets about the incident, telling Mountain Xpress […]