north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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Essay:
     Charles H. Mebane was the first experienced schoolteacher to serve as Superintendent of Public Instruction in North Carolina. He was born to William Milton and Margaret Jane Harden Mebane on October 27, 1862, in Guilford County. Mebane received a local education and then taught school in order to earn tuition for Catawba College, from which he graduated in 1892. For four years after graduation, he taught at his alma mater in Newton. In 1896 Mebane ran for Superintendent of Public Instruction on the Fusion ticket and was elected.

     Mebane was a tireless spokesman for improving standards for students and teachers in the educational system. Although he did not see many of his ideas come to fruition, he laid the foundation for the educational reforms that occurred under the administration of Governor Charles B. Aycock. His vision for the future of the state’s program has been studied by scholars and educators alike. In his biennial report for 1896 to 1898, Mebane wrote that he had not been involved in any political campaigns since his election, believing that “one of the most important things to be done in connection with our public educational work was to remove it as far as possible from partisan politics.”

     Charles Mebane became president of Catawba College after failing to be reelected in 1900. In 1904 he accepted the part-time position of superintendent of Catawba County schools, an appointment which allowed him time to attend law school at the University of North Carolina. He was licensed to practice law in 1906 and sat as a Catawba County judge. Always industrious, in 1903 Mebane purchased the Catawba County News and served as its editor. His paper later consolidated with the Newton Enterprise, becoming the News-Enterprise, which he edited until shortly before his death. He was also a trustee of the North Carolina College for Women for thirty years.

     Charles H. Mebane married Minnie Cochrane of Newton in 1894. They had six children. Mebane died on December 16, 1926 and was buried in Newton.


References:
Daniel J. Whitener, “The Republican Party and Public Education in North Carolina, 1867-1900,” North Carolina Historical Review (July 1960): 382-396
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, IV, 245-246—sketch by William S. Powell
Gary R. Freeze, The Catawbans: Crafters of a North Carolina County (1995)
Newton Observer-News-Enterprise, June 29, 1970
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north carolina highway historical marker program


Charles H. Mebane

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