Anne Elizabeth Bowden McCrary

(25 October 1926 – 7 November 2011)

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Herbarium (NCU) has cataloged approximately 120 vascular plant specimens and two bryophyte specimens collected by Anne McCrary.  Most were collected in New Hanover County, North Carolina where she spent most of her life.  Without doubt more will be found as we continue to catalog our collection of plants at , , and

She collected many plants with Harry E. Ahles, co-author of Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas (1968), and with fellow graduate student at Carolina, George P. Sawyer, Jr.

Other herbaria which curate specimens collected by McCrary include Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CM), College of William & Mary (WILLI), Delta State University (DSC), George Mason University (GMUF), Georgia Southern University (GAS), Illinois Natural History Survey (ILLS), J. F. Bell Museum of Natural History (MIN), Louisiana State University (LSU), James F. Matthews Center for Biodiversity Studies (UNCC), Murray State University (MUR), University of Mississippi (MISS), University of South Carolina, Columbia (USCH), University of South Florida (USF), University of Southern Mississippi (USMS), University of the South (UOS), and Valdosta State University (VSC).

Dr. Anne McCrary at her desk at University of North Carolina at Wilmington
photograph courtesy of Anne McCrary Sullivan

Dr. Joseph R. Pawlik, Frank Hawkins Kenan Distinguished Professor of Marine Biology at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington Center for Marine Science, remembers Dr. McCrary as “an all-around naturalist.”  He “inherited” her invertebrate collections in 1991 upon her retirement from UNC-W.  He has incorporated them into the teaching collection for Invertebrate Zoology.7

Anne McCrary, undated
Photograph courtesy of Anne McCrary Sullivan

Anne Bowden McCrary, the daughter of James Owen Bowden (1875-1938) and Dovie Ellen Phelps Bowden (1902-1980), was born on 25 October, 1926 in Wilmington, North Carolina.1, 8  The 1930 US Census lists James Bowden’s occupation as “Broker, Shell Fish.”  “It was he who, in role as seafood merchant, took her into the sound and taught her to love that world,” says Anne’s daughter.  “He died when she was eleven, but his impact was lasting.”11  Anne attended North Carolina Women’s College (the forerunner of University of North Carolina at Greensboro), but left after just one year to marry Marcellus Everett McCrary, Jr. (b. 1923), a watchmaker in Wilmington.1,2, 8

After their two children started primary school, Anne returned to school at Wilmington College (a two-year institution and  forerunner of University of North Carolina at Wilmington), and graduated in 1956.1  Marcellus McCrary died of undetermined, natural causes at the age of 35 on 9 September, 1958, leaving Anne a widow with two children, daughter Anne and son M. Everett McCrary III (1949-2016).1, 2  “Anne’s mother, Dovie Ellen Phelps Bowden, was a nurse, and her salary helped make it possible for Anne to go back to school when Anne was widowed,” remembers Anne’s daughter.11  The family moved to Chapel Hill, and Anne entered the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  She earned three degrees from Carolina and was inducted into the Alpha of North Carolina Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa on December 5, 1961.5   For her Masters and Doctoral degrees she studied with Dr. Charles E. Jenner in the Zoology Department at UNC-Chapel Hill.9  The title of her Masters thesis was “The effect of photoperiod, temperature, and food on diapausing and developing larvae of Toxorhynchites rutilus (Coquillett)”* and that of her Doctoral dissertation was “The seasonal distribution of zooplankton in Wrightsville Sound.” (* Toxorhynchites is the largest known species of mosquito.  The adult insect does not consume blood, but instead subsists on plant sap, fruit juices, and nectar.  Toxorhynchites larvae are aquatic and prey on other aquatic animals including the larvae of blood-sucking mosquito species.(10))

Dr. McCrary returned to Wilmington in 1969 to teach in the Biology Department of the newly formed University of North Carolina at Wilmington.  She earned several honors from the University including the Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching (1984) and Alumnus of the Year (1986).  McCrary retired from UNC-Wilmington in 1990.1

On 17 April 1993 the Anne B. McCrary Park was dedicated in her honor.  The ca 25 acre Park is located at 4000 Randall Parkway in Wilmington, North Carolina.  Her daughter, Anne McCrary Sullivan, is an educator and poet who was strongly influenced by her mother’s love of nature and science.6

(L-R) B. Kenyata Sullivan (grandson), Anne B. McCrary, Anne McCrary Sullivan (daughter)
photograph date unknown

Anne E. Bowden McCrary died on 7 November 2011 at age 85 and her ashes were scattered in Wrightsville Sound and on the Big Island of Hawaii.  Her monument is on the family plot in Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington, New Hanover County, North Carolina.8, 11

Anne McCrary’s gravestone

Notes from a Marine Biologist’s Daughter

My mother loves the salty mud of estuaries,
has no need of charts to know what time
low tide will come.  She lives
by an arithmetic of moon,
calculates emergences of mud,

waits for all that crawls there, lays eggs,
buries itself in the shallow edges
of streamlets and pools.  She digs
for Chaetopterus, yellow and orange
worms that look like lace.

She leads me where Renilla bloom
purple and white colonial lives,
where brittle stars, like moss,
cling to stone.  She knows
where the sea horse wraps its tail
and the unseen lives of plankton.

My mother walks and sinks into an ooze,
centuries of organisms ground
to pasty darkness.  The sun
burns at her shoulders
in its slow passage across the sky.
Light waves like pincers
in her mud-dark hair.

— Anne McCrary Sullivan6

Sullivan, Anne and Anne Bowden McCrary.  2002.  Mudflat:  The aesthetics of a marine biologist’s engagement with her work.  Curriculum Inquiry 32(3):  357-365.
McCrary, Anne Bowden.  1969.  The seasonal distribution of zooplankton in Wrightsville Sound.  Ph.D. Thesis, Zoology Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
McCrary, Anne Bowden.  1965.  The effect of photoperiod, temperature, and food on diapausing and developing larvae of Toxorhynchites rutilus (Coquillett).  M.A. Thesis, Zoology Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

1.  Steelman, Ben.  November 8, 2011.  Wilmington naturalist McCrary leaves local legacy.  StarNews Online.  accessed 12 February 2019.
2.  North Carolina State Board of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics.  North Carolina Death Certificates.  Microfilm S123.  Rolls 19-242, 280, 313-682, 1040-1297.  North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, North Carolina.  North Carolina State Archives; Raleigh, North Carolina; North Carolina Death Certificates.  North Carolina, Death Certificates, 1909-1976 [database on-line].  Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2007.
3.  Find A Grave.  Memorial ID 192647778.  accessed on 12 February 2019.
4.  United States of America, Bureau of the Census.  Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930.  Washington, D.C.:  National Archives and Records Administration, 1930.  T626,2,667 rolls.  Year:  1930; Census Place:  Harnett, New Hanover, North Carolina; Page:  28A; Enumeration District:  0008; FHL microfilm:  2341443. 1930 United States Federal Census (database on-line].  Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2002.  Accessed on 12 February 2019.
5.  Personal communication, Jason Clemmons, Chapter Executive Assistant, Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha of North Carolina Chapter, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Email to McCormick, 13 Feb 2019.
6.  Sullivan, Anne McCrary.  2002.   Notes from a Marine Biologists’ Daughter:  On the Art and Science of Attention.  Harvard Educational Review 70(2). accessed on 14 February 2019.
7.  Personal communication.  Joseph R. Pawlik to McCormick email 14 Feb. 2019.
8.  Find A Grave Memorial ID 80129321.  accessed on 14 February 2019.
9.  Personal communication.  Sara Maeve Whisnant, Reading Room Supervisor & Reference Associate, Wilson Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Email to McCormick 14 February 2019.
10.  “Toxorhynchites”  Wikipedia.  Accessed on 15 February 2019.
11.  Personal communication, Anne McCrary Sullivan to McCormick, email 6 March 2019.

Information compiled by Carol Ann McCormick, Curator NCU, with assistance from Sara Maeve Whisnant, Reading Room Supervisor & Reference Associate, Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill and Nicole Wallace, Alumni Records, UNC-Chapel Hill.  Special thanks to Anne McCrary Sullivan