John M. Mebane, Jr.
A Question Southerners Understand
The first time I participated in Rush as an initiated member of my Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority at the University of Kentucky, I didn’t understand a question that was asked about a girl going through the process.”Who is her Daddy?” I came to know that it is not a snooty question when asking about someone’s father, rather it is an attempt to place that person within a family and in a location, connecting them to their history and story. To this day, Southerners continue to tell their stories by answering this question.
When you ask John Mebane who his father was, you catch hold of a thread that is woven into an intricate tapestry. Follow the thread far enough and you will reach, Joel Battle. (1779-1829) John carries within himself the history of the Battle family and their many contributions to the Rocky Mount Mills, the city of Rocky Mount, the state of North Carolina and beyond. John’s own story includes the 32 years he worked at the Mills starting at age 16. There are chapters in his tale that include becoming president and chief executive officer until the Mills closing.
Here is a familiar portrait of Thomas H. Battle (1860-1936) – John’s grandfather. I am struck by the similarities in how they look.
I will be writing more about John’s family, their past accomplishments and contributions to the life and times of Rocky Mount, about the Mills and Mill Village. When you listen to John speak of these things, it is like holding a fine leather-bound book printed on vellum pages with marbled end papers; a rare and priceless volume that contains a story of great value.