By Grayson Butler, Intern, Digital Watauga Project
The mountains of North Carolina possess a certain charm and appeal that has called to farmer, politician, student, sightseer, and thrill seeker alike. However, the state of North Carolina is more than just a tourist destination. Historically, North Carolina has proven important during presidential election years. While the state voted Republican in every election from 1968 until 2004, from 1932 until 1968, North Carolina possessed a strong Democratic hold that politicians took advantage of. In the 1952 presidential election, for example, North Carolina was one of only nine states to vote in favor of the Democratic Party. Despite the failure of the Adlai Stevenson-Estes Kefauver ticket in the 1952 election, Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver hoped to spread his Democratic influence to the surrounding southern states while running for president again four years later. Once again, though, despite Kefauver’s strong showing in the primaries, the party relegated Kefauver to second fiddle behind Stevenson. In August 1956, one week after the Democratic National Convention, an “overtired” Senator Kefauver and his wife Nancy retired to Blowing Rock, North Carolina, for a vacation before returning to the campaign trail. These images from the Palmer Blair Collection, which will officially join the Digital Watauga Project online next week, document Kefauver’s visit.
Born July 26, 1903, Kefauver served as a Democrat in the US House of Representatives from Tennessee from 1939 to 1949. Following his election to the US Senate in 1948, Kefauver was perhaps best known for his involvement in the United States Senate Special Committee to Investigate Crime in Interstate Commerce, otherwise known as the Kefauver Committee. Under Kefauver’s leadership, the committee was established May 3, 1950, and remained active for a total of fifteen months. In that time, the committee held hearings in fourteen states concerning drug trafficking, prostitution, burglary, murder, and other forms of organized crime that were being hidden by corrupt politicians, judges, and police officers. As many of the hearings were televised, the American public was able to catch a glimpse of organized crime in the nation, while the hearings elevated Kefauver’s status as a man set on defending the people of the United States. Indeed, by early 1951, Kefauver’s work uncovering local, state, and national organized crime syndicates was familiar to some 72% of Americans. Despite his loss of the Democratic presidential nomination in both 1952 and 1956, Kefauver was still well known and well liked by the general populace, and the party saw his presence on the ticket as critical to winning southern states in the general election. Following the two unsuccessful Stevenson-Kefauver campaigns in 1952 and 1956, Kefauver would remain a member of the United States Senate until his death in 1963.
During his 1956 trip to Blowing Rock, Kefauver was accompanied by his wife Nancy, whom he referred to as his “secret weapon” due to her charming nature. Born near Glasgow, Scotland, Nancy met Estes when she was visiting her aunt in Chattanooga, Tennessee, after studying art in Paris. Due to Nancy Kefauver’s talent and passion for the arts, President John F. Kennedy appointed her the first director of the Art in Embassies Program in 1963, a position of global acclaim in which she flourished until her death in 1967. As a couple, the Kefauvers exerted lasting impact not only on the state of Tennessee, but national and global relationships.
While in North Carolina, Estes and Nancy stayed at Mayview Manor, the “Queen of Blowing Rock Hotels,” where they were well received. Mayview Manor was a grand hotel of 138 rooms that was built in Blowing Rock in 1921, catering to patrons until the hotel shut down in 1966. The building then stood vacant until 1978, when it was demolished to make space for housing developments. Advertised as “In the heart of America’s Alps,” Mayview Manor served as a picturesque getaway for those seeking to escape city life for a vacation in luxury and opulence. Situated on the edge of the John’s River Gorge, the hotel offered stunning views of the surrounding mountains while providing a picture of sophistication inside. Striving to make “every guest feel that they are the most important guest in the hotel,” Mayview Manor exemplified excellence and top service. The magnitude of Mayview Manor’s property allowed it to host a number of annual meetings and gatherings, from conventions of the North Carolina and South Carolina Cotton Men to road shows by sharpshooter Annie Oakley. The ample space, stunning views, and location relatively close to their home meant Mayview Manor was also an ideal vacation spot for Senator and Mrs. Kefauver following the grueling months of the primaries and the national convention. Rest and recreation were fleeting, though. Met with a slew of manor employees, North Carolina politicians, reporters, and photographers, the Kefauver family shook hands, took pictures, and attended parties while they reveled in the beauty of the North Carolina mountains.
Shot by Palmer Blair, a Boone photographer who was active between 1946 and his death in a plane crash in 1957, these few images of the Kefauvers at Mayview Manor are just a small glimpse into the forthcoming Palmer Blair Collection. Consisting of thousands of negatives, the collection will be uploaded to Digital Watauga in stages, as portions of the collection are catalogued, scanned, and appropriately described. Any given photographs in the collection serve as a starting point for research into Watauga County’s fascinating and often influential history, and they provide a comprehensive picture of how Watauga County has flourished and grown. Stay tuned for future announcements about the new and exciting Palmer Blair Collection, coming soon.
 “1932 Presidential General Election Results,” uselectionatlas, http://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/national.php?year=1932, “1968 Presidential General Election Results,” uselectionatlas, http://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/national.php?year=1968
 “1952 Presidential General Election Results,” uselectionatlas, http://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/national.php?year=1952
 “‘Overtired’ Veep Candidate Rests with Wife at Blowing Rock, N.C.,” Kingsport Times (TN), August 23, 1956, Newspapers.com (by subscription).
 Theodore Brown, Jr., and Robert B. Allen, “Remembering Estes Kefauver,” Populist, http://www.populist.com/96.10.kefauver.html
 “Kefauver Committee,” Digitalhistory, http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtID=2&psid=3421
 United States Senate, “Special Committee on Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce,” Senate, http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/investigations/Kefauver.htm
 D. Bruce Shine, “Loss of Senator Estes Kefauver 50 Years Ago Still Felt Today,” Kingsport-Times News (Kingsport, TN) August 20, 2013, http://www.tnca.org/2013/08/20/loss-of-senator-estes-kefauver-50-years-ago-still-felt-today/
 “Kefauver, Carey Estes,” Bioguide.congress, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=k000044
 Kay Baker Gaston, “Nancy Kefauver, Ambassador of the Arts,” Timesfreepress, June 5, 2016, http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/opinion/columns/story/2016/jun/05/baker-gaston-nancy-kefauver-ambassador-arts/369015/
 Jeff Eason, “A Mayview Manor Mystery,” Wataugademocrat, July 30, 2015. http://www.wataugademocrat.com/blowingrocket/a-mayview-manor-mystery/article_dad31618-1114-5271-bfe8-3d6965f6aad0.html
 Richmond Times-Dispatch, (Richmond, VA), May 30, 1922. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045389/1922-05-30/ed-1/seq-9/#date1=1789&index=0&rows=20&words=MANOR+MAYVIEW&searchType=basic&sequence=0&state=&date2=1922&proxtext=mayview+manor&y=0&x=0&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1
 “Four Sites Marked for Historical Significance,” Wataugademocrat, March 16, 2012, http://www.wataugademocrat.com/blowingrocket/news/four-sites-marked-for-historical-significance/article_343d5a41-3440-5f07-b124-4331d4a93b6a.html
 Oral History Interview with David R. Hayworth, February 6, 1997. Interview I-0099. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
 Watauga Democrat, (Boone, NC), March 13, 1924. http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn82007642/1924-03-13/ed-1/seq-1/#date1=&sort=date&date2=&searchType=advanced&sequence=0&index=4&proxdistance=5&rows=20&words=Manor+Mayview&phrasetext=mayview+manor&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1; “Annie Oakley’s Love of North Carolina.” Annieoakley.July 20, 2012. http://annieoakley.org/2012/07/20/annie-oakleys-love-for-north-carolina/.