North Carolina Humanities Council awards Bland Simpson with highest honor

Bland Simpson (photo by Dan Sears)
Bland Simpson (photo by Dan Sears)

The North Carolina Humanities Council’s Board of Trustees has selected Bland Simpson as the recipient of the 2017 John Tyler Caldwell Award for the Humanities, the Council’s most prestigious honor. The award recognizes Simpson for his lifelong achievements as a professor, author, musician, and environmentalist and for his work as a public humanities advocate across North Carolina.

The Caldwell Award ceremony and reception will be held on October 27, 2017 at the UNC Friday Conference Center in Chapel Hill. This event is free and open to the public; a RSVP registration is required due to space limitations.

Simpson began his teaching career over 30 years ago, working for the Creative Writing department at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. During his tenure he served as the department’s director from 2002-2008 and is now Kenan Distinguished Professor of English & Creative Writing, a recognition reserved for exceptional faculty members.

Simpson’s well-researched novels and creative non-fiction have given readers a captivating look into North Carolina’s history, cultures and environments. With special attention to Carolina’s coastal geography, his works include “Heart of the Country, A Novel of Southern Music”, The Great Dismal, A Carolinian’s Swamp Memoir”, “Into the Sound Country: A Carolinian’s Coastal Plain”, and most recently, “Little Rivers & Waterway Tales:  A Carolinian’s Eastern Streams”, with photography by Ann Cary Simpson, his wife.

Simpson has also been guest and host on UNC-TV programs including “Our State” and “Exploring North Carolina,” and is the long-standing pianist for the Tony Award-winning string-band, The Red Clay Ramblers. He is a board member of the North Carolina Coastal Federation, an officer of the North Caroliniana Society, and the recipient of dozens of awards including the 2005 North Carolina Award in Fine Arts and now the North Carolina Humanities Council’s 2017 John Tyler Caldwell Award for the Humanities.

Tom Earnhardt, writer, producer and host of UNC-TV’s “Exploring North Carolina,” will deliver the annual Caldwell Lecture in the Humanities during the ceremony, titled “The Humanities and Nature: An Intimate Relationship.” Earnhardt is an attorney with experience in the field and as an Environmental Law professor at North Carolina Central University School of Law. He has authored several works including “Crossroads of the Natural World” and is an avid conservationist of North Carolina’s natural and cultural resources.

The 2017 Caldwell ceremony is supported by The Friday Center, the National Humanities Center, Our State Magazine, The UNC-Chapel Hill College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English and Comparative Literature, and Creative Writing Program, the North Carolina Writers Network and Thomas S. Kenan III.

About the John Tyler Caldwell Award for the Humanities

With the John Tyler Caldwell Award for the Humanities, the North Carolina Humanities Council recognizes those exceptional individuals who, throughout their lives and careers, have strengthened the educational, cultural, and civic life of North Carolinians. Inaugurated in 1990, the award is named for the late Dr. John Tyler Caldwell, former chancellor of North Carolina State University and founding member of the North Carolina Humanities Council. Caldwell believed that public education in the humanities was essential to good citizenship in a pluralistic society. Past Caldwell Laureates include William C Friday, Marsha White Warren, Congressman David Price, Betty Ray McCain, Harvey Gantt, and Charlie Rose.

About the North Carolina Humanities Council

The North Carolina Humanities Council is a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Through its public humanities programs and grants, the Council facilitates the exploration and celebration of North Carolina’s many cultures and heritage. Since 1972, the Council has served as an advocate for lifelong learning and thoughtful dialogue about our shared human experience. The Council is governed by a 23-member board of trustees. To learn more about the North Carolina Humanities Council, visit