The Roanoker - May/June 2020 - 20

the gist

WHEN NELSON HARRIS was considering his
next local history project, he knew he wanted a
change from his 13 previous books. This work would
dig deeper and cast wider than titles like: " Downtown
Roanoke, " " Greater Raleigh Court, " " Images of
Rail: Norfolk & Western Railway " and " Aviation in
Roanoke. "
So he reached out to Roanoke's director of libraries,
Shelia Umberger. She looked to the Roanoke Public
Library Foundation to provide funds to publish the
book. She also lent Harris a microfilm reader and gave
him access to the library system's historical collection
at the Virginia Room, where Nelson proceeded to
read every copy of The Roanoke Times from January
1, 1940 to January 1, 1950.
None of them imagined the book would grow
to 652 pages, with two appendices and some 300
archival photos. Or that it would take six years to
complete.

A Wide-Angle Look at One
of Roanoke's Big Decades
Local historian moves region's story forward in a
comprehensive new book.

20

MAY/JUNE 2020

In early March, The Roanoke Valley in the 1940s
was published by The History Press. For now, it's on
sale only at rplfstore.org and Roanoke's city branch
libraries. Later in the summer, it will be available from
local and online booksellers.
" It's a bit of a tome, " Harris says with a chuckle.
It's also a comprehensive look at a decade in
Roanoke that had never been extensively researched.
Historian Raymond Barnes wrote the book on
Roanoke's past. But it was published in 1968 and
does not include events after 1940. Harris aims to
move Roanoke's story forward.
For the Roanoke Valley, the 1940s was a decade of
progress and vision, an era in which the foundation
was laid for the region's future, Harris explains.
The 1940s saw the creation of Carvins Cove
Reservoir as Roanoke's primary water supply, the
expansion of the airport from a local landing strip
to a regional transportation hub, the invention of

TheRoanoker.com

COURTESY OF NELSON HARRIS

" The basic thrust is to provide
information, but because of
the breadth of coverage of the
decade, I think people will find
it not a dry reference work. It's
filled with so many anecdotes,
I think readers will really find
it interesting. " -NELSON HARRIS


http://www.rplfstore.org http://www.TheRoanoker.com

The Roanoker - May/June 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Roanoker - May/June 2020

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