Historian solves NC's past with passion, curiosity
Posted November 7, 2014
It's one thing to study the past, and it is yet another to make discoveries that re-write the accepted story.
Kevin Duffus has been called the Indiana Jones of North Carolina history. The North Carolina Society of Historians recently named him the top historian of the year.
"I have an insatiable desire and interest in getting the story straight," he says."
For that moment, you are the only person in the world who knows this piece of information, and it's really exciting."
Duffus lives for that feeling, working outside the usual research structure.
"I don't have the support of a major university," he says.
"I do this entirely because I love it. And not because it's particularly rewarding financially."
Duffus rewrote the history of World War II off the Carolina coast where more than 1,700 people died in German U-Boat attacks.
And his research into Blackbeard the Pirate proved that members of his inner circle not only were not hanged in Williamsburg as history had reported, but instead returned to live in North Carolina.
Duffus's biggest coup was solving the 140-year mystery of a missing lighthouse lens from Cape Hatteras.
"It is the most historic lighthouse artifact in America," he said.
He learned that many Southern lighthouse lenses were secretly hidden in the State Capitol during the Civil War only to be discovered by Union troops.
"When they came in here, they were just stunned because there were stacks and stacks of lighthouse lenses," Duffus said.
He loves to share his work with the young, whom he encourages to never stop learning.
"My message to school children is that if you are looking for pirate treasure, for example, you are going to find it in your library. And when you do, it's a great feeling," he said.