PEEKING INTO THE PAST: Stanly County and the first Earth Day

Historian Lewis Bramlett sent in the following about the first Earth Day and how it was observed in Stanly County.

According to the National Geographic Society, Earth Day was founded to “raise awareness of the need to protect Earth’s natural resources for future generations.”

The first Earth Day was observed on April 22, 1970. Several Stanly County efforts were held as a part of this nationwide event.

Students in the ninth-grade civics class of the local junior high school in Albemarle recognized that automobiles were one of the biggest sources of pollution at this time.

They organized an effort on April 22 for any students who lived within a reasonable walking distance of the school to walk to school that day. In addition, they held a clean-up campaign whereby they worked to beautify the school building and grounds.

During the latter part of April, a speaker series was held on the campus of what was then known as Pfeiffer College. The speakers were prominent in fields related to pollution control and the environment. Robert Burd, deputy commissioner of the Federal Water Pollution Control Agency, spoke on April 17, Arthur Marshall, a marine biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, spoke on April 22, and Dr. J.T. Middleton, a commissioner of the Nation Air Pollution Control Administration, spoke on April 28.

The Student Council at Albemarle Senior High School arranged a series of speakers on April 22. This all-day event, known as Environmental Awareness Day, included speaker sessions throughout the day. The different speakers explained many of the world’s challenges with pollution and shared some solutions to solve them.

One last effort involved the senior high class of Ridgecrest Presbyterian Church. The students reached out to an environmental group in Chapel Hill that provided them with literature about environmental issues of the time. During the weeks that followed, the students visited Sunday school classes at nearby churches to make other students aware of all the issues.