Julian Price: The man and his park

By Amy Renfranz (dearnaturalist@gmail.com)



Article Published: Jun. 27, 2013 | Modified: Jun. 27, 2013
Julian Price: The man and his park

Julian Price Park Lake

Photo by Jeff Eason



Who in the High Country has not spent an afternoon picnicking by the river at Price Park?

I think we all have gone for a few walks around the lake. And watched the stars from a comfortable blanket on the shore.

And yet, I would guess that many of us have not spent too much time thinking about the man: Julian Price. His is a story of the American Dream.

Although the park bears his name, he was never able to enjoy it himself.

Julian Price was the president of Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Company of Greensboro. He was one of the South’s foremost financiers, whose vision and drive brought unforeseen commerce to the region.

During Price’s time at Jefferson Standard from 1919 to1946, assets increased from $9,703,000 to $174,000,000.

W.T. Grant, former chairman of Business Men’s Assurance, once said, “Julian Price possessed the greatest combination of keen judgment, boundless energy, personal magnetism, courage and self-confidence. To be with him was to be inspired to greater undertakings and achievements.”

Certainly, this man who was born in 1867 into modest means overcame many obstacles in order to become such a success story.

During Price’s early years, his family owned a country store out of Meherrin, Va. The young Julian walked three miles to a one-room, one-teacher school.

At 18, he went to work for the railroad, earning himself one dollar a day.

The railroad eventually took him to Greensboro, where, after a few business endeavors, he recognized the need for life insurance protection for the South and its people.

He was not only a champion of life insurance, but also of many various enterprises throughout the state. He once loaned $200,000 to Carteret County when financial difficulties threatened to end its educational system.

Price’s generosity was known throughout the South. It is even said that he once gave the very shoes off his feet to a homeless man and then went home in his socks to get another pair.

His employees at Jefferson Standard delighted in this kindness, when in the 1930s Price purchased 4,200 acres of clear-cut, mountain land in Blowing Rock as a company retreat place.

However, Price would not see the completion of his mountain vision.

On Oct. 26, 1946, Price set out from Greensboro to Blowing Rock to oversee the work he had started in construction of a dam to form a large mountain lake (now Price Lake).

The 78-year-old businessman and philanthropist was killed instantly when his car ran off the highway in North Wilkesboro. The three other occupants of the car suffered injuries not considered serious.

The Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Company and Price’s son and daughter cooperated in the dedication of Price’s mountain property to the Blue Ridge Parkway. It would become a vacation place, not just for the employees of Jefferson Standard, but for all people who wish to visit the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Amy Renfranz is a North Carolina certified environmental educator, certified interpretive guide and a Yellowstone Association Institute certified naturalist. Have a question? Email Amy at (dearnaturalist@gmail.com) or visit Dear Naturalist’s Facebook page.

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