Retired photographer George Denmark, Jr. had taken photos almost all of his life in Kinston. He grew up in his grandfather’s photography studio that was located in downtown Kinston. His skills earned him a position as staff photographer at the Free Press for years.

Boxes of memories later where Denmark had photographed everything from accidents to life events, his negatives have found a home at Lenoir Community College’s Heritage Place.

The match made in heaven came about when history enthusiast Bill Rowland became concerned about how to preserve Denmark’s negatives.

Rowland met Denmark in 1961 when the two of them were photographing the recovery of the CSS Neuse and the two struck up a friendship over time. Rowland had always been interested in history, especially the Civil War.
After a stint in the Navy during WWII, Rowland attended East Carolina University in 1950, where he met Lloyd “Pee Wee” Whitfield, a fellow student from Kinston. It was from Whitfield that he learned about the CSS Neuse.

From there, the rest is history. Rowland took up the charge of documenting the four-year process of excavating and moving the CSS Neuse. He compiled data, took photos, recorded his observations, and even did a bit of digging himself.

Denmark, a Korean War veteran, also photographed the excavation of the CSS Neuse while he was the staff photographer at the Free Press. “From time to time, the editor would send me down to take some photos of what they were doing,” he said.

“George had captured so many images over the years,” Rowland said. “I was concerned over what would happen with all his negatives. I was particularly interested in seeing his photos from 1961 to 1966. There were approximately 54 pounds of these negatives. It’s part of history.”

Rowland contacted Denmark in hopes of finding anything related to the CSS Neuse. “I can’t count the hours I have spent on viewing them.”

Denmark who retired in the 70s from the Free Press operated his own studio, Coble-Denmark. He also taught photography at LCC.  “I’d tell my students there are two things you need to learn. One is to see the light, look where it is coming from and second, composition.”

After closing his studio, he and his wife Annie, moved to Cedar Point carrying with them boxes of negatives.
Denmark, now 84, said he wanted to find a place to house his negatives where people could access and enjoy them and perhaps do research. Rowland, now 85, has spent hours doing research at Heritage Place on LCC’s campus said it was a perfect fit. Denmark donated the negatives to the LCC Foundation.

“We are excited to have Mr. Denmark’s collection,” LCC Institutional Advancement Director Jeanne Kennedy said. “We are in the process of organizing and categorizing the negatives so the public will be able to view them. It is a part of valuable history and we are glad to be a part of it.”

Denmark said when the Free Press editor sent him to photograph the CSS Neuse October 28, 1961 he did not realize the impact it would have. “I’ve taken photos from the cradle to the grave,” he said. “I’m glad they have found a home and are part of the LCC collection.”
George Denmark, Jr.

Pictured left to right are George Denmark, LCC Director of Institutional Advancement Jeanne Kennedy, and Bill Rowland.

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