Musem sets History Talks lecture Saturday

Keith Strange Staff Reporter

September 13, 2013

The contributions of the matriarch of one of the South’s most wealthy and powerful families will be the topic when the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History hosts the first of two fall History Talks programs Saturday.

The event will get under way on the museum’s third floor at 2 p.m., and is free to the public, according to museum Executive Director Matt Edwards.

“For this first of two History Talks programs, we are very excited to have author Michelle Gillespie, a professor of history at Wake Forest University and the author of ‘Katharine and R.J. Reynolds; Partners of Fortune in the Making of the New South,’” Edwards said.

But the discussion will be about more than the contributions of the tobacco magnate and his family.

“There will be a unique connection to the area, since Katharine Reynolds was from Mount Airy,” Edwards said, noting that much of the research for the book was conducted at the Mount Airy museum.

“While she was working on the book, which has been out for about a year now, she worked in our archives and collections to help research the book,” he added.

Edwards said he is personally excited about the event.

“We’re ecstatic that we were finally able to coordinate our schedules and have her up here,” he said. “We’re expecting a really good turnout for the lecture, judging by the buzz it’s created in the community. We’re hearing people talk about the event quite a bit.”

According to the museum director, many people may not be aware that Katharine Reynolds was originally from Mount Airy.

“To have that connection to one of the most wealthy and powerful families in the South is a pretty interesting piece of our community’s history,” he said. “And I’m really excited to hear this myself, since I don’t really know that much about Katharine Reynolds and the connection to the area. I’m excited to learn a little more about the family’s connection to Mount Airy and the legacy she left in this community.”

Edwards said this year’s History Talks series has been cut to two events, held on the second Saturday in September and October.

“For the past several years, we’ve tried to do it in conjunction with the Autumn Leaves Festival, but it seemed a bit much for the public,” he said. “So this year we decided to cut it to two events in the fall series.

“The lecture series has been a regular feature at the museum for years, and has really become a go-to activity for history buffs in the area,” Edwards added. “Past speakers have included college professors like Gillespie, local historians and representatives from the North Carolina Humanities Council.”

There will be a limited number of Gillespie’s book for sale at the event, and while admission is free to the public, donations will be accepted, Edwards said.

Reach Keith Strange at or 719-1929.