All-America City: How Salisbury won in 1961

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Big celebrations followed after the city of Salisbury learned in March 1962 that it had been named an All-America City for 1961.

As Salisbury seeks that designation again, it might help to look back. A brochure printed to commemorate the 1961 honor included the presentation Dr. Frank Efird, then pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church, made to the Awards Jury. Here are excerpts:

I speak for Salisbury, North Carolina, where we speak with an accent, but where the accent is on progress. It hasn’t always been that way.

Salisbury got her charter in 1753. After an auspicious start which made her one of the more prominent cities in North Carolina, she lost her place and settled down to a drowsy, comfortable, self-satisfied existence, wanting no changes and no new ideas, a “sleepy town down South.” …

Then, in October 1960, the city was stunned with the announcement that the railroad shops were closing. What hurt was not only the economic but the psychological effect because the shops, which had at one time employed over 1,500 people, were a symbol of Salisbury’s industrial activity.

The crisis question arose: “Would this kill Salisbury, or stimulate her to wake up and put an accent on progress?”

Spurred to action

Here is what happened. Community organizations, notably the Chamber of Commerce, the Merchants’ Association, the Sales Executives Club and the Junior Chamber of Commerce were spurred to action.

First, they trained and sent speakers to the community groups to get suggestions to improve Salisbury, and they got 2,300 of them.

Second, scores were stimulated to help plan a well-balanced program of action, emphasizing progress on a broad front, not only in industry but progress in government, education, transportation, health and welfare, recreation and beautification.

Third, the aroused community organizations went after more membership to lead the program. For instance, the Chamber of Commerce doubled its membership and tripled its budget. The Merchants’ Association increased its membership 60 percent and doubled its budget. Big and little people pitched in to push the city forward.

Fourth, city government cooperated with and was stimulated by the voluntary organizations to accentuate progress on all fronts.

Industrial progress

Industrial progress got a real accent. In a one hour meeting, scores of citizens raised $220,000 to build and lease industrial plants for new industries. Diligent effort has brought four healthy industries into our city during the past year and we are confident others are coming.

We are building a new industrial school to train workers. Salisburians voted a $500,000 bond issue by a 12-to-1 majority to build it.

Education forward

In education Salisbury moved forward. For many years, Catawba College, a four-year liberal arts institution, has been in our community. Several times in the past, our city had tried to raise sizable sums for Catawba, but the campaigns fell flat. In 1961 hundreds of citizens pledged $621,000 for a new college auditorium in a three-weeks campaign. This was the largest amount raised by voluntary contributions in our history.

The city school system echoed the accent on progress. During the past year, school administrators and teachers worked like Trojans to make Salisbury one of the first cities in the state to have its entire elementary school system fully accredited. …

Balanced progress

Salisbury’s progress has not been so much a big spurt or reform in one area, but balanced, sustained, cooperative progress on many fronts, in which all can find a place and all can benefit. This has made a good city into a better city, a dormant city into a dynamic city, a discouraged city into a confident city.

The new Salisbury has new plants and new plans, but what is more important she was a new spirit.

We hope you remember now only what Salisbury has done, but how far she had to come to do it, and how many helped her.

Our Southern accent has become an accent on progress.