UNCP geographer published 3rd edition of Robeson geography


Dr. Tom Ross recently published the third edition of “One Land, Three Peoples: A Geography of Robeson County, North Carolina.”

Tom RossIt is a unique work, Dr. Ross said.

“County histories are common, but county geographies are as rare as hen’s teeth,” he said. “This is a unique county.”

It is also a county that is changing rapidly as the third edition of the county’s profile documents.

“One of the most notable changes is the decline in manufacturing,” Dr. Ross said. “It’s surprising that the county’s population has grown as much as it has. The growth is substantial from about 105,179 in 1990 to 123,339 in 2000.”

Dr. Ross predicts the county’s population will easily surpass 150,000 by 2020. Because the Hispanic population is growing fastest, this question looms over the discussion of population changes in Robeson.

“The Hispanic population is the fastest growing cohort by far,” he said. “I think the census is undercounting them by one-half.”

With almost 6,000 Hispanics counted in the 2000 census in Robeson County, the obvious question is why is the title still “One Land, Three People?”

“Glad you asked,” Dr. Ross said. “When I wrote the first edition, there were three races, and there are still three races in Robeson.”

Dr. Ross notes that Hispanics are a cultural group (“actually several groups,” he said) not a distinct race, and 2,461 Hispanics in Robeson County selected “white” as their race, 437 selected “American Indian” and 146 listed themselves as “black.”

Dr. Ross teaches geography at UNC Pembroke and is well known for his work with Carolina bays, those unique oval shaped depressions in the region’s landscape. He has also written a text on the geography of American Indians in North Carolina.

The third edition is twice the size of previous editions. Several UNCP faculty members and other local experts contributed to the 184-page book, and U.S. Congressman Mike McIntyre of Lumberton, N.C., wrote the foreword.

“This is a completely revised and greatly expanded version of the book, made possible by the inclusion of chapters by University and local authorities in their respective fields,” Dr. Ross said.

“The inclusion of such a wide variety of specialization most certainly makes this volume far superior to its predecessors,” he said.

Chapters and contributors include:

  • “Groundwater and Hydrology” was written by Dr. Martin Farley, professor of geology at UNCP. Dr. Farley also co-authored with Dr. Ross the chapter on soils, topography and surface drainage.
  • A chapter on the “Lumber River and the Lumber River State Park” was co-authored by Dr. Andy Ash, a UNCP biology professor, and Dickson McLean, Jr., a leading conservationist from Lumberton.
  • “Climate” was written by Dr. Dennis Edgell, a UNCP geography professor. He also provided much cartographic assistance.
  • “Transportation” was co-authored by Drs. Steve Marson and Rasby Powell, both social work professors at UNCP.
  • “Human Service Agencies” was co-authored by Dr. Marson and UNCP social work Professor Frederick Stephens.
  • “Health and Health Care” was written by nursing Professor Cherrie Beasley.
  • “Education” was written by Dr. Warren Baker, a UNCP education professor.
  • “County Libraries” was written by Robert F. Fisher, director of the Robeson County Public Library.
  • “Arts, Cultural, Historical and Recreational Sites” was co-authored by UNCP art Prof. Paul Van Zandt, H. A. "Sandy" McKinnon, a local historian, and Dr. Ross.
  • “Science and Technology” was written by physics Professor Dr. Jose D'Arruda. It is a new chapter in the third edition.

Dr. Ross wrote chapters on “Vegetation Cover,” “Population,” “Housing,” “Economic Activities” and “Political Geography.”
The book includes more than 70 maps and illustrations plus several photographs.

“Numerous changes have swept the county since the predecessor to this volume was printed in 1981,” Dr. Ross said. “The purpose of this totally revised and expanded volume is to document those changes.”

“Although not exhaustive, this book does provide information, under a single cover, on selected topics that are deemed useful to those who seek a general understanding of the county’s geography,” he said.

A West Virginia native, Dr. Ross joined UNCP’s faculty in 1969, and lived in Robeson County for many years before moving to Southern Pines, N.C. In Robeson, he found a good life and a stimulating landscape, he said.

“I have concerns when people come here from outside and criticize our county without offering constructive ideas of their own,” he said.

Dr. Ross has added to his stockpile of useful and constructive knowledge about Robeson County. He is pleased with the product, but won’t promise a fourth edition.

“The next edition would come out in 2015,” he said. “I’ll be a little older then.”

“One Land, Three Peoples” may be ordered through any bookstore, including the UNCP Bookstore. It is also available from the publisher at: karo1942@alltel.net.