North Carolina Humanities Council Awards Bland Simpson with Highest Honor

Bland Simpson photo credit Anna Routh Barzin

CHARLOTTE, NC (August 4, 2017) – The North Carolina Humanities Council’s Board of Trustees has selected Bland Simpson as the recipient of the 2017 John Tyler Caldwell Award for the Humanities, the Council’s most prestigious public humanities honor. The award recognizes Simpson for his lifelong achievements as a professor, author, musician, and environmentalist and for his work as a public humanities advocate across North Carolina. The Caldwell Award ceremony and reception will be held on October 27, 2017 at the UNC Friday Conference Center in Chapel Hill. This event is free and open to the public; a RSVP is required due to space limitations.

Tom Earnhardt, producer, writer and host of UNC-TV’s “Exploring North Carolina,” will deliver the annual Caldwell Lecture in the Humanities during the ceremony titled "The Humanities and Nature: An Intimate Relationship." Earnhardt is a practiced attorney with experience in the field and as an Environmental Law professor at North Carolina Central University School of Law. He has authored several works including “Crossroads of the Natural World” and is an avid conservationist of North Carolina’s natural and cultural resources.

2017 Caldwell Laureate, Bland Simpson, began his teaching career over 30 years ago, working for the Creative Writing department at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Over his tenure he served as the department’s director from 2002-2008 and is now Kenan Professor of English & Creative Writing, a recognition reserved for exceptionally distinguished faculty members. As an author, his well-researched novels and creative non-fiction, have given readers across the county a captivating look into North Carolina’s history, cultures and environments. With special attention to Carolina’s coastal geography, Simpson’s published works include “Heart of the Country, A Novel of Southern Music”, The Great Dismal, A Carolinian's Swamp Memoir”, “Into the Sound Country: A Carolinian's Coastal Plain”, and most recently, Little Rivers & Waterway Tales:  A Carolinian's Eastern Streams”, with photography by Ann Cary Simpson, his wife. Simpson has also been educating audiences over the last 15 years as a guest and host on UNC-TV programs, including several episodes of “Our State” and “Exploring North Carolina.”

In addition to his successful career as an educator and humanist, Simpson has been the pianist for the Tony Award-winning string-band, The Red Clay Ramblers since 1986. The internationally acclaimed group’s music was the focus of a 2002 ballet entitled Ramblin' Suite” and was also featured in Carolina Jamboree,” performed by the Carolina Ballet in the mid 2000’s. Simpson has collaborated on, or contributed to, several musicals such as “Diamond Studs,” “King Mackerel &The Blues Are Running,” and “Kudzu”. 

Simpson is a long time board member of the North Carolina Coastal Federation, an officer of the North Caroliniana Society, and the recipient of dozens of awards including the 2005 North Carolina Award in Fine Arts, the R. Hunt Parker Award for Significant Contributions to the Literature of North Carolina from the N.C. Literary & Historical Association ,the UNC Chapel Hill’s Tanner Faculty Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, and now the North Carolina Humanities Council’s 2017 John Tyler Caldwell Award for the Humanities.

Support for the 2017 Caldwell Ceremony comes from The Friday Center, The National Humanities Center, The UNC-Chapel Hill College of Arts and Sciences, Our State magazine, North Carolina Writers Network, Department of English and Comparative Literature and the Creative Writing Program.


Photo credit, Anna Routh Barzin

About the John Tyler Caldwell Award for the Humanities

The John Tyler Caldwell Award for the Humanities, the North Carolina Humanities Council’s highest honor, has been presented annually since its inauguration in 1990. Named for its first recipient, the late Dr. John Caldwell, former chancellor of North Carolina State University from 1959-1975 and a founding member of the North Carolina Humanities Council, the award pays tribute to exceptional individuals who throughout their lives and careers have strengthened the educational, cultural, and civic life of North Carolinians. Past Caldwell Laureates include William C Friday, Marsha White Warren, Congressman David Price, Betty Ray McCain, Harvey Gantt, and Charlie Rose.

About the North Carolina Humanities Council

The North Carolina Humanities Council is a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The North Carolina Humanities Council advocates for lifelong learning and thoughtful dialogue about all facets of human life, and facilitates the exploration and celebration of the many voices and stories comprising North Carolina’s culture and heritage. In addition to grants, the Council offers the Road Scholars speakers bureau; the Let’s Talk About It library discussion series; and the traveling exhibition Museum on Main Street in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution and rural communities statewide. To learn more about the North Carolina Humanities Council, visit