Betty Ray McCain to Be Honored with John T. Caldwell Award on October 5 in Wilson

Night of Celebration of Statewide Humanities Honors to Be Anchored By the Caldwell Lecture in the Humanities Delivered by Governor Jim Hunt

GREENSBORO, NC (September 26, 2012) – The trustees of the North Carolina Humanities Council, a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, will honor North Carolinian Betty Ray McCain as the recipient of the 2012 John Tyler Caldwell Award for the Humanities, October 5, 2012, at 7:00 p.m. at the Lauren Kennedy and Alan Campbell Theatre at Barton College in Wilson, NC. The event is free and open to the public. In addition, Governor James B. Hunt, Jr., will deliver the annual Caldwell Lecture in the Humanities.

In February 2012, Governor Jim Hunt told The Wilson Times, “the basis of Betty Ray McCain is her deep caring about people and working to help them be successful and all that they want to be….She’s willing to work her head off to help people.” This statement echoed an earlier description by H. G. Jones who referred to McCain as a “North Carolinian who loves her state and its people and who has dedicated a distinguished career to their interests.”

The John Tyler Caldwell Award for the Humanities, the North Carolina Humanities Council’s highest honor, pays tribute to North Carolinians who have strengthened the educational, cultural, and civic life of North Carolinians through the humanities. In receiving this award, McCain is recognized as the 2012 Caldwell Laureate and is honored for her deep caring and dedicated service to the citizens of North Carolina.

With intelligence, wit, grace, and good humor, McCain tirelessly celebrates North Carolina’s cultural heritage in its many forms. Perhaps best known as the Secretary of Cultural Resources, she was appointed to this position in 1993 by Governor Jim Hunt and served in this capacity until 2001. During her tenure as Secretary, McCain was instrumental in the building of the current North Carolina Museum of History; in securing additional land for the North Carolina Art Museum; in securing major funding for the building of Meymandi Concert Hall, home of the North Carolina Symphony; and in securing major funding for the excavation of the Queen Anne’s Revenge. In addition, she helped to create and coordinate the cultural component of the Israel/North Carolina Exchange, the most comprehensive exploration at that time of Israeli culture outside of Israel.

Active in political work, she became the first woman to chair the North Carolina Democratic Party. As such, she became a primary advocate for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in North Carolina and a proponent of recruiting women to run for political office. She also served several terms on the Democratic National Committee.

McCain has served North Carolina in many roles, including as a four-term member of the UNC Board of Governors and as an advocate for numerous cultural groups such as the North Carolina Symphony and the North Carolina Museum of Art. She has chaired of the Board of Trustees of UNC-TV and the Board of Visitors of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and is a member of the board of WilMed Hospital Foundation. Currently she sits on the Board of Directors of the First Colony Foundation, most recently celebrated for its work with the British Museum in uncovering a map of the possible destination of North Carolina’s famed Lost Colony.

McCain is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, among them the UNC General Alumni Association Distinguished Service Medal, the Design Guild Award from the NCSU College of Design, and the Distinguished Citizen of the Year Award from the Wilson Chamber of Commerce. In 2006, McCain was awarded the North Caroliniana Award from the North Caroliniana Society and is the 2009 recipient of the North Carolina Award, the highest civilian award bestowed by the state for public service. In addition, she is a 2010 inductee into the North Carolina Women’s Hall of Fame. McCain is also a member of the Faison and the Duplin County Halls of Fame. She holds honorary degrees from UNC Wilmington, UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC Greensboro, Wake Forest University, and Barton College.

Past Caldwell Laureates include William C. Friday, Anne Firor Scott, Benjamin Eagles Fountain, Jr., Emily Herring Wilson, Walt Wolfram, Marsha White Warren, and Fred Chappell.

In addition the council will award the Harlan Joel Gradin Award for Excellence in the Public Humanities to the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center for public programs “Workboats of Core Sound” and “Raising the Story of Menhaden Fishing.” Angela Kelly of Spartanburg, SC will be awarded the 2012 Linda Flowers Literary Award.


The North Carolina Humanities Council is a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Humanities Council serves as an advocate for lifelong learning and thoughtful dialogue about all facets of human life. It facilitates the exploration and celebration of the many voices and stories of North Carolina’s cultures and heritage. In addition to grants and publications, the Council offers the Road Scholars speakers bureau; the Let’s Talk About It library discussion series; the 2010 traveling exhibition Museum on Main Street, in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution and rural communities statewide; and the Teachers Institute, a professional development program for the state’s public school teachers. To learn more about the North Carolina Humanities Council, visit

Kristen E. Jeffers

Public Affairs Officer

North Carolina Humanities Council

122 N. Elm St., Suite 601

Greensboro, NC  27401

(336) 334-5704