So who was it who tied himself to a tree on Wendover Road to try to save the tree?
The local political chatterers may have heard activist Stan Campbell say a few weeks ago, on Mayor Pat's weekly radio show on WBT, that Don Reid had tied himself to a tree on Wendover Road. Apparently the mayor picked up that misinformation and repeated it Sunday.
Reid, for you newcomers, was a popular at-large City Council member, a conservative Republican who liked (and likes) to accuse fellow GOPers who don't meet his standard of conservatism of being RINOs (Republicans In Name Only). He still holds a weekly breakfast for the faithful on Thursdays. Here's Reid's e-mail to Hizzoner, which he shared with multiple others:
I did not protest when Stan Campbell, on your show a couple of weeks ago, stated that I tied myself to a tree on Wendover Road. Now I hear you repeated this charge on your Sunday radio show. For the record, I never tied myself or anyone else to a tree on Wendover Road. I don’t know whether you and Stan are lying or just have false information, but in either event, you’re wrong and I hope you will correct the record and apologize.
Well, SOMEONE tied himself to a tree. In a city whose history of extravagant environmental activism is roughly as robust as New York's habit of courteous small talk on rush-hour subways, the Wendover protest looms large in local memory.
So who was it who tied himself to that Wendover Road tree? I happen to know.
In 1977, the city was widening Wendover and wanted to cut down all those giant willow oak trees. Neighbors erupted in furious protest. Eventually they convinced the city to back off. A few trees were cut but many were spared.
Don Reid was active in the protest. But it was his co-chair, Jim Cochran, who lived on Wendover, who tied himself to the tree. Jim's son, Webb, who was about 10, also tied himself to a tree. Here's the photo that ran in the Observer in 1977:
I knew this because I found the photo above in our old files in 2003, and wrote a column then about Charlotte's relative lack of robust activist protest. (Yes, there is some. But not nearly as much as you find in some other cities.)
Don/Mary, Don't mean to start rumors, but my memory says that Jim tied wife Robin to the tree. Tom
Sorry, Tom. I ran into the Cochrans, who now live uptown, Tuesday night. Both got a good laugh. They said it's Robin who's always been the activist. Indeed, she’s still at it. She was eloquent in defense of Spirit Square at a recent county commissioners' meeting.