ROBBINS, N.C. – With a textile mill closed and the furniture industry in decline, this sleepy, two-stoplight town in the sandhills of North Carolina could use a positive jolt. It came Tuesday when a local boy was tapped to be the Democratic candidate for vice president.
"Here in Robbins, we need someone who can bring us excitement," Mayor Mickey Brown said after John Kerry (search) chose Sen. John Edwards (search) as his running mate. "They're bringing hope back to us, and we need hope."
Robbins, population 1,200, is one of a string of small towns and villages along state Highway 705, also known as the Potters Highway for the local crafts. To the south is the golf resort of Pinehurst, where next year's U.S. Open tournament will be staged.
But Robbins is very much a part of small-town North Carolina. Signs hanging from lamp posts declare it "Hometown USA," railroad tracks cross Middleton Street at the center of town, and hog trucks rumble through regularly.
Born in Seneca, S.C., Edwards moved here as a child. The textile mill where his father worked has closed. Other jobs have been lost to the flight of traditional manufacturing jobs from the state.
"It makes us feel real proud, and his mother and I are real humble. He's worked hard all his life," Edwards' father, Wallace, said in front of the modern brick home where he and his wife, Bobbie, live on the outskirts of town. "He's the type of person America needs in government because he doesn't have any agenda for himself."
Before North Carolina voters elected Edwards to the U.S. Senate in 1998 and he began his run for president, the town's most famous native was astronaut Charles E. Brady Jr., who went to space aboard the shuttle Columbia in 1996. A downtown mural salutes Brady.
Resident Anna Mae Wallace said that although Edwards became wealthy as a trial lawyer, he remains rooted in Robbins.
"He grew up around here and we all know him. Everybody knows everybody," Wallace said. "If you're rich to start with, you don't know nothing about the poor. But if you're poor to start with and get rich, you know all about it."