Dick Gordon

Host, "The Story"

Before coming to North Carolina Public Radio to host The Story, Dick Gordon was host of The Connection, a daily national call-in talk show produced in Boston, from 2001 to 2005.  Gordon is well-known in the profession as an experienced, seasoned journalist with an extensive background in both international and domestic reporting. He was a war correspondent and back-up host for the CBC's This Morning, a national current affairs radio program.  An award winning journalist, he has also served as a Parliamentary reporter, Moscow correspondent and South Asia correspondent for both radio and television. 

In his career Gordon has covered the conflicts in Bosnia, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Indonesia and Sri Lanka as well as the unrest in South Africa, Mozambique, Pakistan, India and the Middle East.  He has received two Gabriel Awards, two National Journalism Awards and has been nominated twice for the ACTRA Award for excellence in reporting. He is a graduate of Queens University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada and the Kent School, Kent, Connecticut.

Ways to Connect

Nate Phelps, son of Westboro Barptist Church founder Fred Phelps
Nate Phelps

The pastor of the much-reviled Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps, has died at age 84. Phelps' message became synonymous with hatred. The pastor and his family made it a point to carry signs at funerals saying, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” They showed up to events with signs that read, “God Hates Fags.”

Nate Phelps is the sixth of Fred’s 13 children. He describes his father as verbally and physically abusive. When he was 18, Nate ran away from home and from religion.

In recent years Nate found himself publicly squaring off with his father and siblings to reverse their legacy of intolerance. He lives in Calgary, Canada, where he has become a public speaker who champions LGBT rights and raises awareness about the connection between extreme religion and child abuse. He is currently writing a book about his life and is the subject of an upcoming documentary. He spoke with Dick Gordon in 2012. The story, "Son of a Bigot," was featured on Salon.com.

Listen to Nate Phelps' conversation with Dick Gordon from 2012:

Here are some highlights of the conversation:

What was your childhood like?

Photo: Mohammed, Mais and little Lamees wait in the airport in Amman to come to the U.S.
Ahmed Fadaam

In the last show of WUNC's The Story, we check in with guests who came on the program at moments when their lives were in transition.

When Deyanira Chavez was first on the show, she’d come to the United States from Mexico, undocumented, and was about to begin studying architecture in college.  Today, after much difficulty, we find her back in Mexico.

Dick Gordon, host of the The Story
Indaia Whitcombe

Friday is the last day for The Story on WUNC.  The program's host, Dick Gordon, is leaving the station after eight years with the nationally distributed show.  He spoke with Morning Edition's Eric Hodge one last time Friday morning.

ERIC HODGE: Good morning Dick.

DICK GORDON: Hi, Eric.

HODGE: So, why the move, Mr. Gordon?

Photo: Sheikh Jarrah
Grassroots Jerusalem

Mohammed El Kurd grew up in the East Jerusalem house where his family has lived for more than 50 years. In 2009, a group of Israeli settlers moved into a building on the property, claiming it as their own. Host Dick Gordon speaks to Mohammed and to a settler, Yaakov Fauci, to explore their relationship to the soil they share.

Also in this show: Playing the trumpet helped Jack Tueller get through a rough childhood, get through World War II – and meet his wife.

Illustration: 'Lady Madonna' single cover
Capitol Records

When Michael Humphrey was growing up, he would sometimes hear his father telling strangers a story about how the Beatles stole a song he wrote. People would almost always be confused and bewildered – and Michael would wish he weren’t there. “It didn’t matter to me whether it was true or not. It was just embarrassing that something so outrageous was being said,” he remembers. In this conversation, Humphrey tells host Dick Gordon how he eventually looked into his father’s claim that the Beatles stole the composition for “Lady Madonna.” Humphrey interviewed his father, and set out to find sheet music and anyone close to Paul McCartney who would speak to him.

Photo: Nate Kalichman and Paula Givan
Paula Givan

Nate Kalichman was 90 and Paula Givan was 67 when they got married. Sit with them and it seems like their love is brand new and like they’ve been married for years. In this 2012 conversation with host Dick Gordon, they share their stories of finding love late in life and making plans.

Also in this show: Tending Monet’s Garden, and Judy Garland’s flight attendant on a cross-country flight.

Bailey Karpa

Over the past 20 years, the U.S. Department of Education has reported a steady decline in the numbers of students who drop out of school before graduating. It says the rate dropped from 12 percent in 1990 to 7 percent in 2011.

But a stark figure remains: On average, about one million students leave every year before graduation.

In this special program, American Graduate: Crossing the Stage, host Dick Gordon looks at ways – some innovative and some traditional – that educators are trying to keep students in school and help them succeed in the careers they choose.

Photo: Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist
All Eyes Media

About eight years ago, long-time musicians and partners Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler moved from their native Cincinnati to an 1830s brick farm house in rural Ohio. The latest album their band Over the Rhine put out is inspired by the place they live, and is a love letter and an ode to the joy of home. They speak with host Dick Gordon about the place they call “Nowhere Farm” and their album “Meet Me At The Edge Of The World.”

Photo: A child in a camp for Syrian refugees
Deb Barry

Deb Barry of Save The Children has been working in one of the refugee camps for Syrians, in Erbil, Iraq. She says the smallest things, like an ink pen and notebook, bring a small measure of normalcy to children’s’ lives.

Terry Tempest Williams

Western writer Terry Tempest Williams was given a gift by her mother as she was dying: her journals - three shelves of them. When she sat down to read them, she found that they were all blank. Terry Tempest Williams has spent 25 years sorting out the message her mother meant to give her.

Also in this show: Photographer Charlotte Dumas likes to photograph working animals, and spent time at night in the stables of Arlington National Cemetery.

Photo: A woman at the March on Washington
David Johnson/ Library of Congress

By the morning of Aug. 28, 1963, Naomi Moore, Jurgen Ahler, David Johnson and Gunny Gundrum had traveled to the heart of Washington D.C. – some from across town, others from across the country – for an event that none of them would forget.

Illustration: Whale
WikiPaintings

When Lynne Cox was 17 years old, she'd already broken several world records for long-distance swimming. She'd crossed the English Channel twice and always trained. One morning, she was swimming in the ocean off Seal Beach, Calif., before the sun was up.  Suddenly, she realized a baby whale was following her. She couldn't swim back to shore because he'd follow her and run aground, so she stayed in the water with him for hours and hours, hoping his mother would come back for him. Cox tells guest host Phoebe Judge the story of Grayson.

Photo: A topographer at work with an alidade and plane table.
U.S. Geological Survey Photographic Library

What's a centroid? It is a hypothetical calculation of the exact center of the U.S. population. It involves the U.S. Census and has changed over the country's 220 years, sometimes falling in a town and at other times settling in the middle of rural country. Orion Magazine writer Jeremy Miller explores the centroid and finds that its movement has matched the country's westward expansion and development.

Photo: Amsterdam, 1937. Children sit in a sandbox, including Anne Frank  and Barbara Rodbell.
Barbara Rodbell

In 1933, when Nazi power was surging, Barbara Rodbell's family left Germany for Amsterdam. There, in the Jewish community, Barbara and her sister became good friends with Anne Frank and her family. The Nazis began to round up Jews in Amsterdam and at age 17, Barbara chose to hide in plain sight - to pass as a non-Jew. She took off her yellow star and obtained false identification papers. She connected with a group of resistance activists, and this is how she survived.

Illustration: Man meditating in an office
thedigitaldetox.org

At 23, Levi Felix was the vice president of a startup in California, making a good salary, but he was working around the clock, not eating well, and sleeping with his cell phone under his pillow. Then, one day he felt weak and checked himself into the hospital.

When his doctors ordered him to slow down, he set off on what would become three years of around-the-globe traveling and completely disconnecting from technology.

In this conversation, Felix tells host Dick Gordon what he learned about disconnecting and how he brought it back to the U.S. through what he calls Digital Detox, a summer camp and retreat for anyone who wants to get away from her gadgets.

Hear the full conversation at The Story's website. Also in this show: Ed Rosenthal went for what he thought would be a short hike in the Mojave Desert, then wound up lost; and Margareta Claesson and her husband, noted physiologist Knut Schmidt-Nielsen, studied the camel and found the key to its survival is in its nose.

Photo: George Krimsky in Moscow
Krimsky Family

George Krimsky had been living in Moscow for a few months when he met the grandson of an infamous dictator: Josef Stalin. Krimsky, an American correspondent with the Associated Press, quickly sensed he had a major story in front of him.

The grandson, Josef Alliluyev, told Krimsky that his mother had defected to the United States in 1967, and that he wanted to join her. In order to do that, the grandson said, he would need Krimsky’s help to send and receive letters from his mother.

Photo: Ricky Macklin
The Working World

Two former workers from the bankrupt Republic Windows and Doors factory, Armando Robles and Ricky Macklin, talk with host Dick Gordon about what has happened since they held a lock-in in 2008. In May this year, with help from labor organizations in Chicago and a loan from The Working World, they were able to “fire the boss” and start an employee-owned factory, New Era Windows Cooperative. “We used to always say that owners need workers, but workers don’t necessarily need owners,” Macklin says.

Book cover: 'Hope After Faith'
Perseus Books

Jerry DeWitt spent most of his life working as an evangelical preacher in Louisiana. Then, two years ago, something happened.

He got a phone call from one of his parishioners asking him to pray for her seriously injured brother.  DeWitt realized that he had no proof that praying was going to do anything to save this man and it was unfair to get the sister’s hopes up. He couldn’t do it.

DeWitt left the church and is now an atheist.  The transition has not been easy.  He has been ostracized from his community and his family, but says that he could no longer spend his life doubting the very existence of something that he was leading others to believe.

Hear the full conversation at The Story's website. Also in this show: how a group of students and professionals created a human-pedaled helicopter that can rise higher than 10 feet and hover for more than a minute.

Painting: Untitled by Zdislav Beksinski
WikiPaintings

For the past two weeks, thousands of California inmates in solitary confinement have been protesting conditions in security housing units with a hunger strike.  Among the demands: that a photograph be allowed in the cell, and that counseling and more nutritious food be provided.

Photo: Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk
U.S. Department of Defense

Dale Zelko and Zoltan Dani had no reason to ever meet. But in 1999, Zelko, a NATO pilot, was flying an F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighter over Serbia. And Dani, a colonel with the Yugoslav Army, shot down Zelko’s stealth bomber, becoming a national hero for defending his country.

That was their first meeting. As Zelko parachuted to the ground, he thought about the man who'd hit him.

"I imagined standing next to the Serbian surface-to-air missile officer who shot me down," Zelko says. "I imagined standing next to him at a café, and I imagined saying to him, 'Really, really, really nice shot, but you're not going to get me.'"

Photo: Daniel Bellow pictured with his father Saul in 1969
Michael Mauney/Time & Life Pictures

Greg Bellow grew up in the shadow of a famous father, Nobel Prize winning writer Saul Bellow.  For most of their time together the relationship was contentious and their views often clashed, but Greg Bellow says that after his father’s death in 2005, he began to understand how conflicted his father had become as an older man, and he began to appreciate the toll writing had taken on his father’s life.

Jedediah Purdy
Travis Drove

Jedediah Purdy, a law professor at Duke University, is one of more than 700 people who have been arrested in a series of political rallies in Raleigh, N.C., called Moral Mondays.

In this conversation, he tells host Dick Gordon that he didn’t expect to find himself among the singing, chanting protesters. But, he says, North Carolina NAACP president William Barber's blend of religious and constitutional language moved him to come forward and be arrested in an act of civil disobedience against his state’s Republican legislature.

Photo: Kathleen Flenniken at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation
Alexander Flenniken

Poet Kathleen Flenniken grew up near the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in eastern Washington state. At the height of the Cold War, people in her town believed they were helping protect America - and that they were safe, too.

But Flenniken says that when a family friend who worked at the site died from radiation exposure, she realized she had to reexamine her past. She tells host Dick Gordon her book of poetry "Plume" is an attempt to make sense of the pride and betrayal she feels when it comes to her childhood in the center of the atomic age.

Photo: Wolves on Isle Royale
Wolves and Moose of Isle Royale

For 55 years, scientists on Isle Royale in Michigan’s Lake Superior have been tracking the relationship between wolves and moose. But this year, for the first time in decades, no wolf pups were born on Isle Royale - jeopardizing both the study and the fate of the island’s pack.

Photo: Grafitti in Cairo
Courtesy Soraya Morayef

Egypt’s walls are filled with stenciled images and art. The graffiti there is haunting and powerful. So much so that Egyptian journalist Soraya Morayef has been photographing the walls and charting the role of graffiti in the political discourse. Morayef has a blog called “Suzee in the City.” Her blog documents her exploration of the graffiti in Cairo - both the art and the artists.

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