N.C. Highway Historical Marker to Recognize Preservationist/Humorist

Edmund Harding

He was appointed North Carolina’s “Ambassador of Goodwill” by Gov. R.  Gregg Cherry in 1949 and was so recognized by seven governors. The Washington, N.C. native also was a preservationist and instrumental in establishing Historic Bath State Historic Site. Humorist and preservationist Edmund Harding will be recognized with a N.C. Highway Historical Marker to be dedicated Wednesday, July 10, 1 p.m., at West Main Street at South Washington Street in Washington.

The son of the rector at Washington’s St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Harding did not attend college and was educated at Trinity School in Chocowinity. He became a salesman, first of mules, then shoes and finally fertilizer and insurance. In 1920 he helped organize the Washington Rotary Club and served as district governor, 1936-37. This duty set him on a speaking circuit over the region where he accepted money for expenses. The experience made him realize that groups would pay him more.

Harden quit his sales job in 1940 and hit the road, in time travelling to the 50 states and beyond, sharing his homespun philosophy. Equipped with a bowtie, bald pate, and hang-glider ears, Harding made quite the impression. He is said to have packed as many as 30 jokes in a 45-minute presentation, many based on his native Beaufort County, neighbors and early jobs.

For Bath’s 250th anniversary, Harding wrote a play, “Queen Anne’s Bell,” crafting for himself a leading role. Gov. Luther Hodges had a cameo as Gov. Charles Eden and Sen. Sam Ervin also had a part. The legislature in 1955 created the Historic Bath Commission and Harding was elected chairman. The Palmer Marsh House and the Bonner House were renovated and a visitor center built in the 1960s. The town of Washington declared May 6, 1966, Edmund Harding Day. He also received awards from Rotary International and the Society of Antiquities.

There will be a reception following the marker dedication. For additional information on the dedication, or for additional information on the Highway Historical Marker Program call (919) 814-6620.

The N.C. Highway Historical Marker Program is within the Office of Archives and History and administered by the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. The Highway Marker Program is collaboration between the N.C. Departments of Natural and Cultural Resources and Transportation.

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