Community Organizations and Celebrations

After suffering through economic depression and world war, Pitt County residents, like other Americans, exhibited their patriotism and community pride in the 1950s through numerous public celebrations and festivals (both religious and secular). During a period of social and political homogeneity, many also joined a variety of local and national organizations, such as the Kiwanis and the Elks.


Prior to World War II, agricultural concerns dominated the economy of eastern North Carolina, and most people were connected in some way to farming. In the years after the war, however, the economy in eastern North Carolina changed rapidly. Agriculture, especially tobacco and cotton, remained important, but manufacturing also became vital to the local economy. Consequently, from 1949 to 1967, many eastern North Carolinians traded pitch-forks and shovels for hard-hats and time-cards. At the same time, Greenville remained a hub in the tobacco industry.


As the population of Pitt County grew in the post-war years, and as many local citizens moved away from agriculture, public education became more important. Several new schools opened in the area in the 1950s and 1960s. Moreover, the Brown v. Board decision in 1954 overturned school segregation, forcing an eventual change in the school districts. East Carolina Teachers College, later East Carolina University, experienced tremendous growth in the late 1940s and 1950s as many veterans took advantage of the GI Bill. Today, ECU is the third largest university in the state.

Medicine and Health Care

The quality of health-care improved nationally after WWII. In Pitt County, children and adults began to take advantage of new improvements in medicine. During the 1950s and 1960s, Pitt County emerged as the health-care center for all of eastern North Carolina, a position it still holds today.

Natural Disasters and the Environment

Geography and climate play a major role in the development of rural and urban environments, and the weather has always been a concern for the people of Pitt County. Spring tornadoes, summer droughts and heat-waves, fall hurricanes, and even the occasional winter snow-storm have periodically affected the region. Moreover, located along the Tar River, Greenville is particularly susceptible to flooding.

Politics and Government

The economic expansion, population growth, and urban development of the post-war era were accompanied by the expansion of the role of government in both Pitt County and Greenville. Road construction, commercial zoning and planning, and a larger budget all necessitated a more complex city and county government. Likewise, the elected city and county leaders became very important public figures, and elections became more hotly contested. Greenville even played a small role in the 1960 presidential campaign.

Social and Family Life

In the 1930s, Americans struggled through the Great Depression. In the 1940s, they sacrificed to defeat the Axis powers. But in the 1950s, Americans once again focused on their families. In Pitt County, citizens participated in a wide variety of social activities, from little league to girl scouts, to celebrate the nuclear family. At the same time, though, many of these activities reinforced traditional gender roles.

Urban Development

As the population increased in the post-war years, the city of Greenville expanded. The downtown area remained a shopping and commercial center in the 1950s, but Greenville began to expand outwards, as new suburban developments surrounded the central business district. In the 1960s and 1970s, Greenville would continue to grow, annexing smaller municipalities in Pitt County.

This project was partially supported with federal LSTA funds made possible through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources.