Hart, Kirk to receive North Carolina Award in Durham tonight

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 21, 2013

Two former Rowan County residents are among six people to receive the state’s highest civilian honor, the North Carolina Award, in a ceremony being held in Durham tonight.
Novelist John M.H. Hart Jr., author of “The King of Lies” and three other published novels, will receive the award for literature. Hart grew up in Salisbury and now lives in Keswick, Va.
Phil Kirk, a longtime public servant, will receive the award for public service. A native of Rowan County, he lives in Raleigh.
Gov. Pat McCrory will present the awards at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel and Convention Center.
Other 2013 honorees include Dr. Myron S. Cohen of Chapel Hill for science; John E. Cram of Asheville for fine arts; Dr. John Harding Lucas of Durham for public Service; and Dr. Walt Wolfram of Cary for Public Service.
The awards are administered by the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, which is headed by Susan Kluttz, former mayor of Salisbury.
“It is an honor to pay tribute to these remarkable individuals who have made North Carolina better by their extraordinary involvement in this state,” says Kluttz, secretary of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources. “Each has enriched the lives of our citizens and propelled North Carolina onto the national and world stages.”
A former attorney, Hart landed on The New York Times best-seller list with his first published effort, “The King of Lies” (2006). With the release of his second book, “Down River” (2007), and his third, “The Last Child” (2009), Hart continued to appear on best-seller lists and became the only author to ever win consecutive Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America.
Salisbury and Rowan County provided inspiration for Hart’s early books. In his fourth effort, “Iron House” (2011), action alternated between the criminal underworld of New York City and the Tar Heel state.
Hart’s novels can be found in 70 countries, having been translated into 30 different languages.
His other honors include the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award, the Barry Award and the fiction prize from the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance. Davidson College, his alma mater and where he serves on the board of visitors, presented him with a distinguished alumnus award earlier this year. The University of South Carolina recently awarded him an honorary doctorate during graduation ceremonies.
Kirk has dedicated his life to education and economic development, serving along the way as a member of the N.C. Senate; as chief of staff to two governors and a U.S. House member; and as the secretary of the N.C. Department of Human Resources (now the N. C. Department of Health and Human Services) during two different administrations.
He lent his time and experience to more than 30 boards and commissions during both Democratic and Republican administrations, and his influence has been felt all across the state.
The sustained contributions by Kirk came with his dual appointments as director of the North Carolina Council for Business and Industry (now the North Carolina Chamber) and as chairman of the State Board of Education. The roles permitted him to pursue two objectives, ones he views as mutually dependent — advancing business and raising educational standards.
A Catawba College alumnus and former trustee, Kirk was the college’s vice president of external relations from July 2006 through April 2009.
Kirk’s honors include an honorary doctorate from Catawba, the I.E. Ready Award from the community college system, the Holderness-Weaver Award for public service from UNC-Greensboro and the Boy Scouts Citizen of the Year Award.
Created by the General Assembly in 1961, the North Carolina Awards have been presented annually since 1964. The award recognizes significant contributions to the state and nation in the fields of fine arts, literature, public service and science.