Eric Church, trailblazing politicians receiving NC top award

Two history-making Black politicians and country music star Eric Church were among the six latest recipients of North Carolina’s highest civilian honor announced Thursday.

On Nov. 15, Gov. Roy Cooper will present the North Carolina Awards, which were created over 60 years ago to recognize significant contributions to the state and the country in several fields.

Church, a native of Granite Falls, has received many Grammy nominations. Some of his top singles include “Drink in My Hand” and “Springsteen.” He’s also has won multiple awards from the Academy of Country Music and the County Music Association, including 2020 CMA Entertainer of the Year.

Other new recipients include U.S. Rep. Eva Clayton of Warren County, who was the first African American woman to represent North Carolina in Congress when she took office in 1992. She was also the state’s first Black representative since 1901.

Former lawmaker Mickey Michaux of Durham is also being recognized. He served in the state legislature for more than 45 years, almost all of that time in the House, where he served as the chief budget writer in the late 2000s. He was appointed a U.S. attorney in 1977 — becoming the first African American in such role in the South since Reconstruction, according to the state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

Other recipients are Dr. Priya S. Kishnani, a professor and researcher at the Duke University School of Medicine; Stanley Riggs, a longtime East Carolina University marine geologist and expert on the coast and climate change; and journalist David Zucchino, a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill. Zucchino received a Pulitzer Prize in 2021 for his book on the 1898 overthrow of Wilmington’s government by White supremacists.

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