The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Laurel Foundation - Our Times...Their Times

By Jim Waters © 1987

Issue: May, 1987

Over the past few months you've no doubt read of the formation of The Laurel Foundation; and of our dream for further preserving the memories of yesterday's Blue Ridge.

What The Mountain Laurel does in print, we will be doing with video tape in the form of documentaries for television broadcast. The foundation will do this and more. The lives of the people who have been a part of the Blue Ridge Mountains for generations cannot be reduced to mere video tape or a piece of newsprint. Rather, our vision is to create a living celebration in our time of their time. To provide a means of "handing down" memories and oral histories so that generations to come can know this remarkable generation as we do.

As the newest member of the Laurel family I feel it only fair to tell you who I am and why I have chosen to commit my life to fulfilling the goals of The Laurel Foundation.

I'm 39 years old and was born in Washington, D.C. As the son of a Coast Guard Captain I've lived in many parts of the United States. In 1972 I received a B.S. Degree in Cinema from Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina. In 1970 I served as a student intern with Columbia Pictures in Hollywood, California and worked on both the Beverly Hillbillies and The Interns.

From those experiences I decided my first love was in photojournalism. Following college I moved to Belfast, Northern Ireland to work as a photojournalist for a religious publication; an experience that forced me to view firsthand, life lived in the midst of terrorism. Several near death escapes during two sniper attacks, an ambush that killed a close friend I was driving with and living through three bombings, the third of which resulted in minor injuries to me, convinced me to continue my career in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Since August of 1973 I have worked as a photojournalist with WFMY TV news. An event that was to change my life forever occurred on November 3, 1979. While covering an Anti Klan rally in Greensboro, I filmed the now infamous Klan/Nazi killings of five demonstrators and wounding of eight others. From this incident arose a greater awareness of the quality of human life and a desire to focus my creative abilities toward that end. As a result, over the past few years I have become known for my special features on mountain life and the natural beauty to be found in the Blue Ridge.

There was a time when I found happiness in covering The White House, now however, I'm happiest when sitting around the old wood stove at Miss. Addie's [Wood] Mayberry Trading Post, or in watching a sunrise from a Blue Ridge summit. In exploring these mountains I have discovered the true heart of America, the values that made us the envy of the world, and the strengths that make us such a caring nation. To fulfill the dream of a lifetime I have decided to take a sixty percent pay cut, end my career as a television photojournalist and begin what I feel is a vocation of the highest calling; to help in my own small way to preserve the memories of yesterday's Blue Ridge Mountains.

Friends have asked any number of questions concerning my choice to join The Laurel Foundation, the biggest of which is money and career advancement. My answer is, how can you put a price on a dream...on life! Together with my friends here in the Blue Ridge and our supporters who have placed their trust in us, I feel we can create something that will stand the test of time.

This will not be an easy task, but that which is easy is often worth very little. The documentaries we hope to produce will allow people all over America to experience life in the Blue Ridge Mountains and to share in the memories of those who are quickly fading into the past. Their times will become a part of our times through the work of The Laurel Foundation...won't you join us!

Contributions may be mailed to:
The Laurel Foundation
Route 1
Meadows of Dan, VA 24120.