Monday, July 11, 2016

Aycock Brown

Aycock Brown (1904-1984), native of Happy Valley, NC (about 80 miles NE of Asheville, NC), budding journalist and small time bootlegger, came to Ocracoke in the late 1920s, fell in love with islander Esther Styron, and spent the rest of his life promoting the Outer Banks.

 In May, Lorraine Eaton of The Virginian-Pilot wrote an informative tribute to Aycock Brown: "An Outer Banks legend: How one man turned obscure barrier beaches into an international tourist destination" (

Eaton relates how "a sport fishing guide and motel owner on Ocracoke Island [Capt. Bill Gaskill of the Pamlico Inn] offered Aycock a free vacation if he came down to promote the island." That was all it took!

In addition to writing numerous articles about Ocracoke and the Outer Banks, Aycock was a prolific photographer, and founded a small newspaper, The Ocracoke Beacon. The Outer Banks History Center has posted 20 of Aycock's iconic photos on line. Titled "Ocracoke in the 1940s and 19..." they can be viewed here:

The History Center includes this information about Aycock Brown:

"Aycock Brown (1904-1984) was a publicist in Beaufort, North Carolina prior to moving to Ocracoke Island where he landed a job promoting the Pamlico Inn. He met and married an island native, Esther Styron.

"Brown served as a civilian intelligence agent on Ocracoke during the war. He had the unenviable task of identifying bodies of torpedoed ships and interviewing survivors.

"After the war Brown continued as a publicist, photographer and reporter along the coast. He was the first director of the Dare County Tourist Bureau, a position he held for a quarter century."

Tellingly, in his later years Aycock questioned his own promotion of the Outer Banks. Eaton writes that "shortly before his death in 1984, Aycock confided to historian David Stick that he was 'worried about what he had done.'”

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is an article about one of the early July 4th Parades written by Alice Rondthaler in 1953. It is accompanied by vintage photos.You can read the Newsletter here:   


  1. Anonymous9:09 AM

    A/this version of the article about Mr Brown was based on a Masters thesis-- I would love to see the citations and footnotes. The "fact" he "attended" classes at Columbia but was a terrible speller and " after college"...
    did he Graduate with a degree and if so, was it in photojournalism? What writer would say no to an assignment/vacation/junket on an island. This guy was a public relations agent pure and simple -- public relations and publicity stunts was his forte pure and simple. There is a difference between journalism reporting, public relations and Advertising professions. Back when this spin doctor operated he Cast his (mis)Spell via salt water, fresh fish and sand and sunshine or his case of moonshine LOL

  2. Anonymous8:23 AM

    Did Mr Brown popularize the OBX moniker? Or was it a play on his abibilty to misspell words?

    1. I don't think Aycock had anything to do with the OBX moniker.