David Stick, Living Legend of the Outer Banks, Dies at 89

David Stick ’41 loved the Outer Banks and spent most of his life writing about the area and working to preserve it. Stick, 89, died May 24 in Kill Devil Hills.

As a child, he moved with his family from New Jersey to the Outer Banks. Immediately, Stick was fascinated by the legends that surrounded the coastal area. He enrolled at UNC in 1937 and left college to serve in the Marine Corps as a combat correspondent in WWII. Working as a journalist, he was lured home to the Outer Banks to stay. He began amassing a collection of materials about the area – he said it was the second largest collection in the state – and he became deeply involved in governance of the area, serving on numerous committees and commissions. The quiet area was growing rapidly and becoming a tourist attraction but lacked services to support that growth. Stick was a vocal advocate for conservation and protection of the environment.

To support his family, Stick became a real estate broker – the first on the Outer Banks – had a shop selling only locally made items and had a rare-book store. All the time, he was writing and collecting materials.

His Graveyard of the Atlantic was published by UNC Press in 1952 and went into several printings. The Press published his Outer Banks of North Carolina, 1584-1958  six years later. Stick then selected and edited an anthology of writings, An Outer Banks Reader, again for UNC Press. In all, he wrote 13 books about the Outer Banks.

Stick said he didn’t think he ever passed a history course in school, finding it dull. He approached his writing of history differently: “I feel it’s possible to present history in written form so that it is at the same time completely factual and as interesting to the average reader as a novel, short story or movie,” Stick said in an extensive article in The News & Observer as he was writing his history of the area.

He donated his collection of North Carolina history to the state. Its contents formed the basis of the Outer Banks History Center, which opened in 1989. Stick said it gave him great satisfaction to know that researchers came from many places to make use of his materials.

He established the nonprofit Outer Banks Community Foundation, which awards grants to local worthwhile causes.

His writings and his advocacy did not go unnoticed.

He was recognized by UNC with a Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1982. When he received the call from then-Chancellor Chris Fordham ’47, he said, “You must be mistaken. I only attended UNC for one year.” No mistake. He also served on three library development groups at Carolina and was on the UNC Board of Visitors. Early in his career, he ran the journalism workshops at UNC for several years.

Recognition for Stick’s commitment to the Outer Banks includes, in Southern Shores, the David Stick Municipal Building in honor of his work in establishing the town and serving as its first mayor. The history center unveiled a formal portrait of him in 2003. He was named the Outer Banks’ first “Living Legend” in 2007.

At UNC, he was active in Delta Kappa Epsilon, on the staff of The Daily Tar Heel and in the Philanthropic Society.

– Sally Walters

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