The Hugh Torance House and Store is pleased to announce the addition of three new board members: Michael D. Connor, Randolph Lewis, and Ron Potts. "We're very excited to welcome their experience and talents to further our historic preservation goals as well as help drive our new HEARTS initiative," said Bill Russell, president of the HTHS Board.
An historic landmark in Huntersville, NC, the Hugh Torance House and Store is one of the few surviving 18th century buildings in the region and the oldest standing store in North Carolina. Along with the neighboring 1831 Greek Revival house, Cedar Grove, it is the setting for a new monthly series of community events reimagining historic preservation's role within the community. The name HEARTS, an acronym for History, Ecology, Arts, Reunion, Trails, and Store, encapsulates this Lake Norman-based non-profit's vision of sharing a wide range of meaningful and local connections from prehistoric times through modern day. HEARTS weaves history with ecology and the integration of art, music, and performances; utilizing the historic store for refreshments and sundries. For more information, visit www.hughtorancehouseandstore.org.
Presenting the newest HTHS Board Members:
Michael D. Connor
Michael D. Connor is a retired Professor of Theatre Arts at Livingstone College, Professional Actor, Playwright and Director. Mr. Connor has written plays about issues including domestic violence, homelessness, teenage pregnancy and diabetes. His play about diabetes, Project D, was read at the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He has also written a chronological history of HBCUs entitled, “Where Do We Go from Here?”.
A Charlotte, N.C., native, Mr. Connor graduated from West Charlotte Senior High in 1969. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre and English from Shaw University and a Master’s Degree in Theatre and Drama from Indiana University, with a Thesis. He also studied Radio, TV and Motion Pictures at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Mr. Connor has worked on Broadway while studying playwriting at the Negro Ensemble Company. He has worked in Hollywood and written a play about legendary screen actress Bette Davis, for whom he served as a personal assistant. He has also taught and performed in Japan.
As an actor, Mr. Connor has appeared in General Hospital, The Color Purple, Homeland, and Hunger Games. Locally he has appeared in Pearl Cleage’s Flyin’ West, with the Davidson Community Players through the courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association, and The Trip to Bountiful at Central Piedmont Community College. Other theatrical credits include his original one-man show of seven historical Negro Orators, Reflections from the Past. He has been seen at Lee Street Theatre performing a play about the homeless to generate revenue for the Rowan Helping Ministries and has also performed and directed at the Warehouse Performing Arts Center (WPAC) in Cornelius, North Carolina.
Mr. Connor is a member of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists One-Union. He is a member of the National Association of Black Storytellers, Livingstone Writer’s Club, Mecklenburg Historical Association (Northern Branch), African-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS), Black Theatre Network (BTN) and an active member of the Unity in Community (a diverse, socially conscious group of community members in North Mecklenburg County). He teaches Sunday school at Hunters Chapel Methodist Church, the church where his great grandfather was a founding member, on John Connor Road named after his grandfather, in Cornelius, North Carolina. In 2021 he was inducted into the United Negro College Fund’s Hall of Fame.
Randolph Lewis is an educator, musician, potter, and preservationist living in Cornelius, NC. He graduated in 1991 from Davidson College with a Bachelor of Arts in English.
He is a co-founder of Pioneer Springs Community School, a tuition-free, nature-based public charter school in the Croft National Register Historic District. Mr. Lewis currently serves as Director of Campus Development, overseeing landscaping, infrastructure, campus broadband, low ropes course features, and repairs and maintenance of campus buildings, including two historic landmarks; both rehabilitated and repurposed for classroom use. Mr. Lewis also takes an active role in teaching, as Pioneer Springs’ ceramics teacher and facilitating hands-on design and building projects with middle and high school students. In the school’s early years, he also served as its general music teacher.
Prior to Pioneer Springs, he taught ceramics classes for teens and adults at the Community Arts Project while teaching youth summer camps at the Cornelius Arts Center. In his personal ceramic work, Mr. Lewis specializes in Bonsai containers. Two of his works are featured in the bonsai collection of the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville, North Carolina. As a guitar player, Randolph performs regularly throughout the Charlotte region with the Mike Strauss Band.
Mr. Lewis and his wife, Abigail Jennings, have been extensively involved in historic preservation in the Lake Norman region for more than twenty years. Their first historic restoration was the Mt. Zion Methodist Church Parsonage c.1897, a Mecklenburg County landmark in Cornelius. They are currently restoring two National Register properties, the William Speight McClean Davidson home c.1865 known as Ingleside, and the James Torrance home c.1831 known as Cedar Grove, both in Huntersville. Mr. Lewis has previously served on the Town of Cornelius Historic Preservation Commission and Architectural Review Board.
Ronald Lee Potts was born and raised in the Smithville Community of Cornelius. He attended segregated schools here in Mecklenburg County graduating from Torrence-Lytle High School in 1965, graduated from Fisk University in Nashville in 1969. After college, he served in the US Army in Vietnam. He spent most of his career as an Employee Benefits specialist which took him to several places he called home – Omaha, NE, Los Angeles, CA , Houston, TX, and West Palm Beach, Fl . He returned to Cornelius in 1997 to help his widowed father, Wilson Potts. His father operated a white-only barber shop in Cornelius starting in the early 1950’s and later moved to its current location on Catawba Ave in 1960. It was peacefully integrated in 1972, and in 2021 received a historic landmark designation from Mecklenburg County Historic Landmarks Commission. Mr. Pott’s father and mother were activists when Smithville was outside Cornelius’s Town boundaries, helping to obtain many services for the community. He feels his passion for community came from them. Mr. Potts is retired and now serves as the treasurer for the Smithville Community Coalition.