Thompson lauded for slavery apology

It's been a tough year for ousted Wachovia CEO Ken Thompson. But at least he gets good treatment in a new book by the Wall Street Journal's Douglas Blackmon.

“Slavery by Another Name” details how companies and landholders in the South “leased” African American prisoners to work in their farms, mills and factories long after the Civil War.

Wachovia makes the book because it contrasts with other companies that have ignored historical ties to slavery. In 2005, prompted by a Chicago City Council ordinance, the bank disclosed that two predecessor banks owned or held as collateral 691 slaves before the Civil War.

The book says Thompson, described as an “enlightened white southerner,” was initially uncomfortable about digging into the bank's history but eventually found the exercise “cathartic.”

“I was overwhelmed by the emotional impact our apology had … for African American employees,” Thompson says in the book.

Racing around the South

Drag racing is a little like bankruptcy court – they both can get you into financial trouble. So says David Weich, the clerk of Charlotte's U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

In his spare time, Weich trades his tie for a helmet and fires up Tweet Revenge, a bright yellow 1961 Ford Falcon with an angry-looking Tweety Bird decal.

Weich, 54, has been drag racing since he was 16. Now he travels across the Southeast and as far as Oklahoma for Pro Tree Racers Association events.

Tweet Revenge – named for the feeling he gets when his Ford leaves a GM in the dust – has topped 150 miles per hour in 8.8 seconds, he says.

You can find out more at Weich's Web site:

Fast food department

While we're at the drag strip … Anyone who thinks a day at the races means settling for burgers, dogs and fries hasn't met “The Racing Chef.”

Along with hotshot drivers, Nicky Morse will be at Bruton Smith's fancy new drag strip next week for the NHRA Carolina Nationals. Morse is in his seventh season as the chef for Jeg Coughlin Jr.'s team. Coughlin is a four-time NHRA champ, and Morse has hosted “The Racing Chef” on Time Warner On Demand.

Morse churns out French and Italian food for 20-30 people – twice a day, from February to November, at dragways across the U.S. Let's just hope Jeg doesn't nibble on pasta while zooming 200 mph.

The Next Big Thing is – us?

Looking for the next hot uptown redevelopment site? Keep your eye on the Observer building and its 9 acres around Tryon, Church and Stonewall streets.

Publisher Ann Caulkins said the company, belt tightening in the tough economy, is evaluating the site for potential sale. “We should know something between now and the end of the year,” she said.

The tax value of the property is about $28.7 million. Of course, the price will depend on how badly a developer wants it. Donald Trump was willing to pay about $20 million for 2.5 acres directly across Tryon.

staff reports

Coming Sunday in On The Boss's Mind: Does Johnson & Wales campus prez Art Gallagher have a favorite meal at foodie heaven?