Town Treasures

Town Treasures: James “Jim” and Florence Peacock

January 13, 2014 

James and Florence Peacock

James and Florence Peacock, 2013 Chapel Hill Historical Society "Town Treasures."

MICHAEL HOBBS

Chapel Hill’s vaunted cultural reputation is due in part to the Peacocks, who blend vocation and avocation to enrich the university and our community.

The couple first visited Chapel Hill in 1962, and moved here permanently in 1967, when Jim accepted a professorship in anthropology at UNC. The Peacocks raised three children here.

Their award-winning home on Boundary Street, built in 1991, is sited on one of W.C. Coker’s formal gardens. Its landscaping was influenced by photos from the North Carolina Collection and includes the remaining stone walls. The house received an Honor Award from the South Atlantic Region of the AIA in 1994.

In 1992, Jim was one of the faculty founders of The Center for the Study of the American South. The Center develops programming about and supports scholarship on the history, contemporary experience, diverse cultures, and global context of the South. Formed out of the Institute for Research in Social Science, the Center is now housed in the historic Love House and Hutchins Forum at 410 E. Franklin St. downtown. Jim also was integral in the creation of the UNC FedEx Global Education Center, which opened in 2007.

The Peacocks’ early memories of Chapel Hill involve two downtown icons: The Rathskeller and The Intimate Bookshop. Jim recalls coming over from Duke with his SAE fraternity brothers to eat at ‘The Rat’ and socialize. Florence’s first experience was stopping by the eatery while the couple was still dating to get a slice of the apple pie Jim raved about. Jim fondly recalls buying a Luther Bible at the Intimate, a volume he still treasures today.

One thing the couple appreciated then and now is town and gown relations, which are less tense in Chapel Hill than in the campus communities they experienced in the Northeast. Both note the interaction between the university folk and the community. Early on, Jim noticed Tar Heel insignia displayed all over town, creating a sense of solidarity, as he puts it, with the Tar Heels even among people who weren’t formally affiliated with UNC.

Florence continues to connect gown and town, serving as a director of TABLE, a nonprofit organization providing food for low-income grade-school students in the community. A trained vocalist, she taught singing for years and is a tireless patron of the performing and visual arts, including serving on the boards of Carolina Performing Arts and the N.C. Opera, among others.

“The attitudes in this community are terrific,” Florence says. “I would never have grown like this if I hadn’t been fortunate to live here.”

Jim agrees. “We are very lucky to live here, and I hope the Town can achieve some balance between preservation and progress.”

The Town Treasures program honors those 75 years and older who have made lasting contributions to Chapel Hill and the surrounding towns.

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