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Jack Claiborne papers

Identifier: MS0377

Scope and Contents

The Jack Claiborne collection contains a wide assortment of materials accumulated over his career that spanned 54 years. The collection is divided into 23 series (arranged alphabetically), many of which are divided into subseries. Claiborne was a newspaper journalist, editor, writer, historian, and public speaker, whose main area of experience and expertise was the social, economic and business history of Charlotte, North Carolina. The collection spans from 1941 to 2006, though most of the materials date from 1953 to around 2000.


  • Creation: 1941 - 2006


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Biographical / Historical

Jack Claiborne was born in Newell, North Carolina, near the present site of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, in 1931. His father died in 1936 and it was then that the family moved to Charlotte. Jack received his education in the Charlotte public school system. At the age of fourteen, Jack entered a contest to write a sports story, sponsored by the Charlotte News. Jack won that contest, whose prize was the opportunity to go on a ten-day road trip along with a professional baseball team and write an article each of the ten days, which the Charlotte News published (One of his opponents in this contest was Charles Kuralt, who later earned fame for his trans-America journalism in human interest stories.). Claiborne continued writing sports stories through his years in high school and college, though for the Charlotte Observer. Claiborne graduated from Central High School and from there he went on to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he earned a BA in English in 1957. During his college years, he also wrote for the University News Bureau—the campus news agency. In 1953, Claiborne left Chapel Hill to enter the Army, and he spent most of that time working as the editor of the Fort Jackson Journal in South Carolina. After completing his enlistment in 1955, he returned to Chapel Hill, and continued to write sports stories for the Observer. In 1957 he covered the UNC basketball team—a season in which it was undefeated and went on to win the national championship.

Following graduation he returned to the Observer full-time to write sports stories. A year later he took a leave of absence to enter graduate school at the University of Chicago. While in Chicago, Claiborne not only matriculated through journalism school, but he also worked full-time for the Chicago Daily News, where he wrote about night clubs and late-night entertainment in the Chicago area. Following his graduation, he returned to work again for the Observer, broadening his areas of expertise to include journalism in business, education, politics and government. In 1963, the Observer appointed him to become its correspondent in Washington, D.C., where he worked until 1965. When he returned to Charlotte he was promoted to fill the position of chief copy editor, Carolinas editor and city editor. In 1970 he became associate editor and began writing a series of editorials each Saturday entitled “This Time and Place.” This column was Claiborne’s venue for discussing local issues contextualized in relation to Charlotte’s history. He also wrote the Charlotte Observer, Its Time and Place, 1869-1986—a comprehensive book on the history of this newspaper. Once published, Claiborne received critical acclaim and several awards in literature and journalism for this work. Claiborne remained with the Observer until 1990, when he resigned to take a new position as Vice President and Assistant to the Chairman at Park Communications, in Ithaca, New York. Park Communications was a large media conglomerate that owned (at the time) nine television stations, almost two dozen radio stations, and 107 newspapers in twenty-two states, including North Carolina. Claiborne remained with Park until it was sold in 1994. Even before his return to Charlotte in the fall of 1994, he applied for a position with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte to be its Director of Public Relations. He was appointed to this position and was promoted to the position of Associate Vice Chancellor for University Relations in 1998. In addition to managing all official communications within the university, he was UNC Charlotte’s chief spokesman for communications to off-campus sources. Also, he served as the chancellor’s speech writer. Claiborne retired from UNCC at the end of 2000, though he periodically returned to campus to do part-time work. His retirement party was in 2001.

In addition to his work as a newspaper journalist and editor, Claiborne wrote a number of books. These were Jack Claiborne's Charlotte; The Charlotte Observer: Its Time and Place, 1869-1986; Unto the Least of These: A Centennial History of Alexander Children's Center; Discovering North Carolina: A Tar Heel Reader; and The Crown of the Queen City: A History of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. He also won several prestigious awards, including North Carolina Press Association’s award for sports-writing, education reporting, news-writing, feature writing and editorial writing His former roles in leadership include chair of the North Carolina Humanities Council, chair of the North Carolina Editorial Writers Conference and director of the Charlotte chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. Over the years, Claiborne developed a popular reputation and was frequently asked to be the guest speaker at many different functions and special occasions in and around Charlotte. One of the more voluminous series within this collection is one that contains drafts of his speeches. [Sources: Jack Claiborne Collection, 1941-2006, Mss 377, UNC-Charlotte Library; North Carolina Journalism Hall of Fame website, (accessed on June 8, 2010).]


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Language of Materials



The collection contains papers produced by Jack Claiborne over the course of his career in journalism and media communications, beginning in 1941 and spanning until his retirement as the Associate Vice Chancellor of Public Relations at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2000 (a few items come after that date). The collection also includes many of the speeches he delivered at public events, editorials he wrote while working for the Charlotte Observer, and research notes and drafts of some of the books he wrote.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Acquired from Jack Claiborne, in March of 2007.

Related Materials

Eugene Payne Collection, Mss 8. Caldwell and Gilreath Family , MS330. Caldwell and Davidson Family, MS208.

Jack Claiborne papers
Finding aid compiler: Robert A. McInnes
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Manuscript Collections, J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections and University Archives, UNC Charlotte Repository

Atkins Library, UNC Charlotte
9201 University City Blvd
Charlotte NC 28223 United States

About this Site

Finding aids are guides to archival collections, including manuscripts, university records, and oral history collections. These guides help you find physical collections which can be viewed in the Dalton Reading Room on the 10th floor of Atkins Library. A small number of finding aids link to digital content online. Please contact us to learn more or to schedule an appointment:

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