David Lauderdale

Political debate over barbecue wafts on

The South has come a long way, with next year's Democratic National Convention coming to Charlotte.

But the moment it was announced, a Carolina squabble as old as fire erupted. It was barbecue. First Lady Michelle Obama started it when she said:

"Charlotte is a city marked by its Southern charm, warm hospitality, and an 'up by the bootstraps' mentality that has propelled the city forward as one of the fastest-growing in the South. Vibrant, diverse and full of opportunity, the Queen City is home to innovative, hardworking folks with big hearts and open minds.

"And of course, great barbecue."

That shout-out to great barbecue was news to us. Charlotte is known for old Southern staples like NASCAR, Billy Graham and trucking. Nationally, it's a leader in banking and energy. It has sleek skyscrapers, a neat downtown and great restaurants. But as Southern humorist Roy Blount Jr. might put it, Charlotte knows as much about barbecue as a hog knows about God's plan of salvation.

Quickly, the convention story turned to more important, and boring, debates. Why would they choose a right-to-work state? Why wouldn't they go to a vital swing state?

I suggest Michelle Obama take a day trip to her Lowcountry roots in Georgetown. Her appearance would be a huge boost to the Gullah culture from which she descends. And then it would be just a skip over to Scott's Variety Store and Bar-B-Q in Hemingway, where butterflied whole hogs are cooked all night over oak, hickory and sometimes pecan wood. Now that's "great barbecue," and she could be a heroine for sharing this joy of life with the microwave crowd in Charlotte.

We'll get her all the barbecue she wants, but I can't help but hurt for two great Carolinians who didn't live to savor the day the Democrats bring the "big tent" to town.

Island Packet co-founder Jonathan Daniels -- aide to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, biographer of Harry Truman and a Democratic National Committee member -- would've crowed on the front page of his Raleigh News and Observer.

And Charlotte's Harry Golden, who published, wrote and edited The Carolina Israelite, could put it in perspective. We'll have to let one of his old tidbits about a grand Charlotte gathering do. It is recorded in his book, "For 2 Cent Plain," with foreward by his friend Carl Sandburg:

"When Titus completed the Roman Colosseum, five thousand animals were killed as part of the dedication activities. This act was followed by five hundred pairs of gladiators fighting each other to the death.

"When Charlotte dedicated its six-million-dollar coliseum in 1956, Billy Graham, the evangelist, just made a speech.

"We have come a long way."