Born to a Chapel Hill merchant, Julian Shakespeare Carr (1845-1924) returned after service in Company K of the Third North Carolina Cavalry (Confederate) to a hometown in decline. At the same time, nearby Durham offered opportunity. In 1870 Carr joined two partners there in manufacture of Bull Durham Smoking Tobacco. Owing to Carr’s marketing skills, the brand became internationally famous and Durham was touted as the “Town Renowned World Around.” Tobacco was only the first of his successful businesses, which also included banking and textiles. In 1909 Carr bought the Thomas Lloyd Mill outside Chapel Hill. Four years later the community around the mill was renamed Carrboro in his honor.
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A host of individuals benefited from Carr’s generosity. Among them was Charlie Soong, for whom Carr provided a home and an education and whose family in time played a key role in modern Chinese history. Josephus Daniels received from Carr the capital that allowed him to enter the newspaper business in Raleigh. Carr donated sixty acres for the establishment of Trinity College in Durham and, at the University of North Carolina, a dormitory was built in 1900 with his money and bearing his name. Only in politics was Carr less than a success, his runs for the governorship and the U.S. Senate stymied by his refusal to play hardball. That notwithstanding, Carr, shortly after his death, was described as “the most universally popular man who ever lived in the state,” excepting only Zebulon Baird Vance, formerly governor and U.S. senator.
Carr, as much an eccentric as an innovator, always had a flair for publicity, pomp, and ceremony. Often called General Carr, the title was strictly honorary. The nineteen-year-old soldier had been little more than “company mascot.” Only fifty years later did Carr receive the rank of general, one conferred upon him by the United Confederate Veterans of America. In 1921 he was promoted to commander-in-chief of the organization. Resplendent in his “magnificently tailored uniform emblazoned with stars and braid and embellished with a scarlet sash of silk,” he looked every bit the part and played it to the hilt. Following the death of his wife Nannie in 1915, Carr was courted heavily and signed notes to female admirers as “Your Sweetheart General.”
Mena Webb, Jule Carr: General without an Army (1987)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, I (1979), 330-331–sketch by Louise L. Queen
Samuel A. Ashe, ed., Biographical History of North Carolina, II, 51-59
C. Sylvester Green, ed., General Julian S. Carr, Greathearted Citizen: Addresses and Addenda of Centennial Observance of His Birth, Durham, North Carolina, October 12, 1945 (1946)
Julian S. Carr, photo from the New York Public Library