What exactly is a Tarheel?
Someone who attended the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill? Ha! Uhm, well, kindof. But not entirely.
While UNC-Chapel Hill is a fine institution, nearly as good as NC State, and certainly better than Duke (which is also an excellent school) the term "Tarheel" actually applies to all citizens of this state, perhaps the finest single patch of territory on the face of God's green earth.
This storied nickname originated during the War of Northern Aggression, and according to a 1912 newspaper, the term was first heard in Virginia between 1862 and 1863. According to the article:
"The designation was applied in jest to North Carolina about the camp-fires, following the custom of naming the soldiers from several states after the most distinctive product of that state. At the time, tar was perhaps North Carolina's best known product, and by a very easy change, the troops from this state were called 'Tar Heels'. In a like manner, troops from the lower portion of South Carolina were called 'Rice Birds.' It was a very common remark about the camp-fires for one soldier to shout to another as a third approached: 'Look and see if he's got any tar on his heels!'. The North Carolina soldiers accepted the name in good graces, declaring that like tar they held fast to whatever ground they stood, 'stuck' to what they began, and left their marks wherever they went…"
Lenoir News, 4/12/1912 (NC)
So the next time you tell someone that you are a Tarheel, and they ask if you attended UNC, just smile and tell this little ditty. They'll be more educated, and you won't necessarily be insulted. And one more thing, just remember that the only good thing to ever come out of Chapel Hill was Highway 54 to Raleigh !
Have fun, preserve your heritage, and pass the knowledge along. HOME