Watauga County Historical Society Announces Constance Stallings as Next WCHS Hall of Fame Inductee

Constance Stallings reviews Stallings jewelry store records circa 1952. Image courtesy of Palmer Blair Collection, Digital Watauga Project.

As part of ongoing activities associated with the Boone 150 celebrations in 2022, marking the 150th anniversary of Boone’s official incorporation as a city on January 23, 1872, the Watauga County Historical Society (WCHS) has established the Watauga County Historical Society Hall of Fame. Throughout 2022, WCHS will appoint twelve individuals or groups, one per month, as members of the inaugural class of the WCHS Hall of Fame.

For the month of May 2022, the WCHS is delighted to announce that Constance McBride Shoun Stallings (1904-1982) has been named the next inductee of this inaugural class of the WCHS Hall of Fame. Born in Neva, Johnson County, Tennessee, to Minnie B. McBride Shoun and Andrew Henderson Shoun, Constance Stallings was the fourth of six children. Raised in Neva, she received her higher education through degrees earned at Carson-Newman College and Vanderbilt University. By the late 1920s, she was teaching science, history, social studies, and English at Cove Creek High School, where she also coached students in their drama productions and sponsored the Nature Study Club. Proof of her insatiable interest in history and culture, she ventured to Europe for ten weeks on a tour of eleven countries in 1938, a rare feat among her contemporaries, especially since a world war was beginning to break out on the continent. In 1940 she married Bernard William “BW” Stallings, owner of the Stallings jewelry store which was located for many decades on King Street next to the Appalachian Theater. Their first home together was the apartment above the jewelry store, which now houses the offices of the High Country Appalaches Theater. They operated the historic jewelry store together for more than three decades until Constance Stallings became the sole owner in 1971. She sold the business in 1973. The Stallings had two children: Bernard William Stallings, Jr. ( who was killed in a tragic car accident at age five) and Andrew Haywood “Andy” Stallings, who still lives in Boone.

After becoming a resident of Boone in 1940, Constance Stallings expanded her social and community roles. During and after World War II, she was active in the Order of the Eastern Star (a Masonic organization), served as president of the Watauga County branch of the North Carolina Good Health Association in 1946 and was president of the Worthwhile Woman’s Club. (WWC) from 1945. She was also active in the WWC Garden Club in 1946, beginning a long and much-loved vocation that would shape Boone’s landscape and history for decades to come. As a promoter of local flower shows through her membership in the Blue Ridge Garden Club, Stallings was second to none. The 1952 Boone Flower Show, for example, which Stallings co-chaired, received the purple ribbon for best in the country at the National Garden Club’s national convention. During her lifetime, she won countless awards for her lilies and daffodils, often judged flower shows around the country, and helped establish the Model Mile Freeway Beautification Program in Carolina. North. Garden enthusiasts across the state held Stallings in such high regard that they honored her with a lifetime membership in the North Carolina Garden Club in 1959 and the Palmgren Silver Pitcher as Director of the Year in 1960. She later received a lifetime membership in the National Council of State Garden Clubs.

Stallings was also active in the Boone Chamber of Commerce, and in 1951 she persuaded her chamber peers to recruit Kermit Hunter, a popular playwright of outdoor dramas such as Up to these hills, The Path of Tears, and honey in the rock— to write a new outdoor drama on the history of the High Country. Inspired by the success of Up to these hills in attracting tourists to Cherokee, North Carolina, Stallings argued that similar production in Boone would anchor the booming post-war tourist trade in the mountains, thus expanding the post-war economy of Boon. His predictions proved visionary and transformative for his community. Writing at the end of the 1952 season, Watauga Democratic editor Rob Rivers credited Stallings for the concept and proclaimed that HornThe beginnings of “will be something of a landmark, a place to ‘come back to’ for years to come.” Stallings continued to remain active with the Southern Appalachian Historical Association (SAHA) in the decades that followed, serving in several officer positions, but his influence went beyond mere titles. In 1959, for example, when the Tatum cabin was added to Daniel Boone Park, SAHA turned to Stallings to deliver a lecture on the history of the cabin during the dedication ceremonies.

Prepare the city for the influx of tourists with the opening of horn to the west in 1952, Stallings also organized and promoted a “paint, clean and fix campaign” which culminated in a popular parade themed around a “cleaned up” Boone. Stallings continued to revisit the Boone Clean-Up theme in the decades to come, insisting that a cleaner, more attractive appearance for Boone would benefit everyone, business owners and residents. These initiatives sometimes created conflict for Stallings, who was also a strong advocate for the protection and preservation of old Boone trees; when some local residents demanded that these trees be trimmed or trimmed to “clean up” Boone’s appearance, Stallings pushed back, insisting that even diseased or dead trees should be replaced with mature saplings that could grow to the place of any felled tree. for generations to come.

Stallings was a major force in the 1958 push for a community recreation center at Daniel Boone Park, including a clubhouse, canteen, concession stand, swimming pool, playground, and memorial garden. When Stallings’ tireless campaign as chair of the park committee failed to bring the recreation center’s comprehensive plan to fruition, Stallings pivoted the following year to her successful advocacy for the creation of the Daniel Boone Botanical Garden on the same plot where the recreation center had been planned. . Designed with the explicit purpose of conserving native plants and shrubs, the Daniel Boone Botanical Garden was funded by the Garden Club of North Carolina with cooperation from SAHA, Appalachian State Teachers College, and Wildflower Preservation Society. She received the Maslin Award from the Garden Club of North Carolina in 1968 for her design and promotion of the Daniel Boone Botanical Garden.

Among the many other organizations Stallings was involved with were the Boone Business and Professional Women’s Club, the Rhododendron Book Club, the Boone Parent Teacher Association (PTA), the Appalachian High School Boosters Club, the Boone Planning Board, and the Boone Beautification Committee. She was also president of the Band Parents Association for two years. A devout Baptist, she has also been active in church leadership, teaching Sunday school at Boone First Baptist Church for more than ten years, serving as president of the Women’s Missionary Union and participating as a member of the church board, the Training Union, and the planning board of his church.

Stallings is perhaps best known, however, for her persistence. As another Boone luminary observed in private a few years ago, Constance Stallings did not accept failure. “He was someone you just didn’t say ‘no’ to,” this individual recalled. “She was always going to get what she wanted, one way or another. county-wide held in 1961, the people of Watauga County selected her for the county’s top “Woman of the Year” award, sponsored by the Boone Business and Professional Women’s Club.

The WCHS is delighted to honor Constance Stallings for her prodigious contributions to preserving the history and heritage of Watauga and Boone County, and for her inspiring and selfless lifelong commitment to bettering her community for all.

The WCHS Hall of Fame honors individuals, living or deceased, who have made significant and lasting contributions to the history and/or literature of Watauga County, including those whose efforts have been essential to the preservation of Watauga County history and/or literature. Recipients do not need to be residents of Watauga County. The WCHS is particularly interested in honoring people who meet the above criteria but who may have been overlooked in mainstream accounts of Watauga County history and literature, including women and people of color. Selections for this inaugural class were made from nominations submitted by members of WCHS’ Digital Watauga Project Committee (DWPC). From 2023, the WCHS will also consider applications from members of the public, which in turn will be assessed by the DWPC.

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