UNCG Campus Weekly

Campus Weekly is published each Wednesday when classes are in session. In the summer, it is published biweekly.

UNCG alumni fly high, in wake of Lindbergh’s visit

Portrait photo of Charles Lindbergh standing with his Spirit of St. Louis planeCharles Lindbergh had circled low over the UNCG campus in his Spirit of St. Louis. And now the campus community was waiting for his motorcade to pass through.

It was midday on Oct. 14, 1927. The biggest celebrity of the decade had touched down at Greensboro’s new airport, as part of a tour promoting aviation and air mail. He was due to speak to thousands at Greensboro’s new War Memorial Stadium – and he proceeded through the UNCG campus as he entered the city.

At the time, Walker Avenue cut through the campus, passing under a bridge on College Avenue. Reportedly, students, faculty and staff lined Walker all the way from Shaw Residence Hall to the Brown Music Building at Tate Street. The Oct. 13 student newspaper noted they planned to group themselves by classes by 11:45 a.m., to properly greet the procession. The students were asked to wear white or light dresses and be sure to have a white handkerchief to wave.

At noon, the famous pilot’s motorcade appeared on the horizon. “Suddenly the sputtering of motor-cycles was heard, mounted police came into view, and then the long-awaited Lindy, seated in a high-powered car and accompanied by Governor McLean and Mayor Jeffress,” said the Oct. 20 Carolinian. “To the wildly cheering mob of girls he merely gave a military salute as he passed. Swiftly he was driven by, much to the disappointment of the spectators and amateur photographers who would have preferred a much slower rate of speed so they could take in all the details. However, the girls got the thrill of their lives when the slender blonde hero with his unsmiling visage was whisked by.”

His “drive through” visit – and low flights over the campus in his Spirit of St. Louis – stirred a lot of excitement. Even the alumni around the state caught the Lindy fever.

For example, when the Caldwell County alumni association celebrated Founders Day that month in Lenoir, said the November 1927 Alumnae News, “(t)he program given centered around an airplane flight in ‘The Spirit of.N.C.C.W.’”

The university at that time was called North Carolina College for Women.

Northampton County’s alumni took it even further on Oct. 20. “Carrying out the airplane idea, the tables were grouped so as to suggest an airship; and suspended from the ceiling in the middle of the room hung a small yellow plane, the ‘Spirit of N.C.C.W.’ … Place cards, decorated with a miniature plane, lay at each plate, and yellow aviator helmets, inscribed with N.C.C.W., were worn by all the alumnae present,” the magazine said. Pitt County specifically noted their alumni wore their school-pride aviator caps during their meal. The Randolph County alumni secretary reported about her county’s alumni, “You would have thought us a company of aviators for sure from the yellow helmets, bearing the insignia N.C.C.W., each of us wore!” They sang college songs between each course of the meal. “Following the meal, in true aviator style, we boarded the ‘Spirit of N.C.C.W.’ and soared among the clouds!”

It was a serious part of the evening, with an aviator theme. From that birds-eye view, the alumni considered the proud past and promising future of the college – now known as UNCG. The school faced challenges, but there was so much promise. The solo flyer, bravely striving to achieve what had never been done before, served as an inspiration.

By Mike Harris

May 31, 1927, photo courtesy Library of Congress. http://loc.gov/pictures/resource/cph.3a23920/
Sources: The November 1927 Alumnae News; The Carolinian issues of October 1927; Smithsonian Magazine November 2013; Daily News of the week of Oct. 14.
See Part 1 of this report at https://uc.uncg.edu/prod/cweekly/2015/06/09/lindbergh/