Roland Giduz remembered

Former Chapel Hill journalist and elected official Roland Giduz died this weekend at age 83. He lived much of Chapel Hill's history for the past half-century, including playing a part in the battle over integration.  In the 1964 he supported white business owners who wanted to keep things separate, and in 1969 he ran against Howard Lee for Mayor. But in 2008, he said he was "appalled" to have supported segregation.

For someone his age, he was very open to trying new things, especially new media. He founded and ran a local newspaper called "The Chapel Hill News Leader" (published in Carrboro) in the 1950's.  He reported for most of the print publications in the area at one point or another (including covering the Chapel Hill Town Council - while he was a member of it!).  And more recently, he hosted a show on The People's Channel, had his own blog (to post his opinion columns), and even participated here on OP occasionally. Although I didn't usually agree with his opinions, I always appreciated that he shared them so freely.

What did you appreciate about Roland Giduz?



Other than seeing him around town, hearing him on the radio, reading his writings, I didn't know Roland personally.  But I did meet him once -- in December 2007 on the Amtrak Santa Train (from Raleigh to Greensboro and back with Santa and Mrs Claus -- a very fun morning with the kids).  Roland was up and down the aisle of the train singing Christmas carols and playing a banjo.  It took a minute to sink in with me who this was, but he was having a ton of fun with it and everybody really enjoyed it.  For a guy who could be very serious about issues in our town, he was very fun too!

 I bet it was a ukelele, actually, or that was what he was known for.  Roland was irrepressibly upbeat.  I haven't read the obituaries yet, so I appologize if any of this is redundant.Apart from a few years in WWII and a few years in grad school, I think Roland lived in Chapel Hill his whole life.  He was no longer a daily journalist when I knew him, but he wrote occassional columns for the newspaper and was frequently to be heard on WCHL.  Perhaps once a year, Roland would call me about some matter and he would often reach my voicemail, beginning his message with a thoroughly resounding "HELLO MARK CHILTON!"Roland was also a dedicated cyclist in his later years and rode from his home on Tenney Circle to the Carrboro Farmers Market many, many times - I know I saw him there on his bike as recently as a year or two ago - over 80 years of age at the time!  He had a special bike that didn't require bending his knees very deeply.  And I believe that as recently as 5 or so years ago, Roland rode his bicycle - you won't believe me - from Boone to Chapel Hill; he was 75 or so at the time.Roland was also very active in both the Historical Society and the Preservation Society.  I think he founded one or perhaps both groups.  Last year, I am told, the Historical Society had a lecture on the past, present, and future of jounalism to which Roland was naturally invited, but he had to decline the invitation, as he told the Society President, because he had been so unwell that he had not been outside his own home for a month or more.  Nevertheless, the Historical Society meeting went on without him.  About five minutes into the program however, the door of the meeting room slowly creaked open and Roland came creeping in.  The meeting came to a stand still as the crowd spontaneously rose to its feet and gave him a standing ovation, while he was escorted to a seat of honor at the front of the room.Roland Giduz wrote a book many years ago, full of old tales of Chapel Hill and UNC.  The title of the book was the punchline of a joke.  The story went that two fellows were talking on a street corner in Chapel Hill and one said that he wished every crazy fool who lives in Chapel Hill would drop dead.  The other replied: "Well, who's gonna cover 'em up?"  Well, Roland.  The good news is that there are still some crazy fools left.  And we won't ever forget you.

I knew Roland within a short time of my arrival in Chapel Hill in the early 60's. He was always fun to be around and he wore his love for Chapel Hill, his native home, on his sleeve. I knew him at Toastmasters where he constantly displayed his leadership and speaking skills. I never heard him mention or play his uke. Amazing, since I've played the same instrument since I was 7 years old in the mid 40's. He helped organized CH's first Barbershop Chorus but didn't think himself good enough to be a member. His vote as a CH Alderman not to end discrimination in Chapel Hill public accommodations was a huge and wrenching disappointment. It stayed with him the rest of his life, as he acknowledged and regretted. He always wanted to be a bridge between the CH business community and the rising progressives, while making his living from business advertising in his various consumer oriented publications. He wanted to be mayor to serve all of CH, especially to represent the political practicality of those who had lived in CH their whole life.Roland was never bitter or defensive over his defeats. He put in his two cents when he could and usually with humour and modesty.He knew I had not voted for him yet he always treated me as a pal.The honor and tribute of his friends and sons gives us well notice. He served his country, community, University and family that he dearly loved.

A few years ago, I invited Roland to speak to a group of military retirees and he talked about his time in service and returning from WWII to Chapel Hill to continue his education.  Of course, this, in his opinion, is when Chapel Hill really changed from the town where he grew up.  He said that the returning vets and their families - and their VA GI Bill education dollars allowed many to get an education and later buy homes something they might otherwise not have been able to do.  He particularly enjoyed recounting stories about the married student housing and all of the babies that were born, not to mention all of the clothes lines filled with diapers on a daily basis.At the end of his remarks, he inducted me into his "Society of the Sons of Bitche," as the "Grand Exalted Biggest."  His membership was declining so his honorary designations were a way to keep the memory of what his unit did alive!  Bitche is located near the German border on the Orne, about 19 mi south of Landstuhl, Germany. Roland's Unit, the 100th Division, gained fame because on March 16, 1945, they broke through the Maginot Line in the Bitche area and liberated the town, which had been occupied by German troops.The next March, he invited me and some others to his home to toast his fallen comrades .  He was proud of his unit, his fellow soldiers, and that he was a private at the beginning and a private at the end, signifying that he remained unnoticed (and "unshot") the entire war.His"big hole" story (and the title of his 1985 book, Who's Gonna Cover 'Em Up?) is credited to Jimmy Pickard and was set at the massive excavations for NC Memorial Hospital in the 60s.  Pickard, so the story goes, asked a friend what they were digging for.  He was told the hole was to bury all of the "damn fools" in Chapel Hill.  Pickard pondered that for a while and then quipped, well, who's gonna cover 'em up?That Roland had a sense of humor goes without saying, and the facts didn't always stop him if he needed to make the story a better one.  As for his votes as an Alderman, he said that he lived with his regrets every day and the people who matter to him had forgiven him; that's what really mattered to him.

Thanks for clarifying the story I was trying to remember re: Who's gonna cover em up.  It's a good bit more tasteful in its correct form - and it sounds a lot more like something Roland would relate.


Just like Mark C, Giduz called me once a more per year (for the last decade or more) at my office over at the General Assembly, sometimes to ask me to research a historical issue (which I gladly did), to answer some legal issue (which I did), or ocassionally to shoot the breeze or talk about Amtrak.Lots of people referred to him as "Foo", not sure whether this was a nickname he liked or did not.Back in 1975 when I ran for Mayor I was down at the Chapel Hill Weekly placing an ad when Giduz came in to place an ad for Jimmy Wallace's Mayoral campaign.  This was mid afternoon on a weekday.  Publisher Orville Campbell was there, and after Giduz left, I asked Campbell whether he thought it was appropriate for Giduz, a University employee, to be down placing political ads while on state time. Giduz at the time also wrote a column for the CHW. Orville got mad and said "Foo Giduz will be writing columns for the Chapel Hill Weekly long after you leave Chapel Hill." I can't remember whether Campbell's boast turned out to be true or not.

Roland was one of The Peoples Channel's longest running producers. He's probably one of the first people that really struck me when I started this position in 2004. He had the most amazing energy around him! Shortly after I arrived, the channel started to phase out its analog editing systems. Roland had been editing deck to deck with a simple titler for years and he had a system down for producing two shows a month.

Well, when we stopped using those machines and upgraded to iMovie for basic editing, Roland was at first a little upset. But, after a little pushing, he decided to learn how to use the Mac. We must have spent days working with him, and every time we taught him something new, he would take meticulous notes. Finally, he seemed to master it…for the most part…I always use Roland as an example that anyone can learn how to make a TV show. Despite getting up to speed on the new technology, he decided to stop producing new programs about 2 year ago.

He would always leave the station with the same goodbye: Keep the good times rolling! Last summer, he graciously donated his entire video archive to TPC. We started airing some of his programs on a show we called, Keep on Rollin’, which airs Mondays at 6pm, and Tuesdays at 6am and Noon. This coming Wednesday, TPC will dedicate much of the day to airing Roland’s programs and taped events that celebrated his work in the community. TPC will also open its doors this Friday from 2-9pm to record their memories of Roland on video or via phone. The taped memories will be added to the archive and will also air this coming Wednesday.

Give us a call if you would like to share a story about Roland with the community or just stop on by between 2-9pm.

Warm regards,
Chad Johnston – Executive Director
The Peoples Channel

I had the pleasure of seeing him from time to time at the Village Companies.

He made sure the wall of employee photos was up-to-date.


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