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Lena Ritter Papers

Identifier: SC-MS-361

Scope and Contents

This collection contains the work of North Carolina shell fisher turned environmental activist, Lena Ritter. It covers her career with the North Carolina Coastal Federation, where she served on the board of directors and was its president from 1987-1990, especially focused on her community and legal efforts to preserve Permuda Island in Onslow County and the educational sessions she gave to school children and on local and national TV shows. Content also includes documents related to her 1986 Nancy Susan Reynolds Award for her conservation efforts in saving Permuda Island, as well as additional achievements and various media coverage. Materials include correspondence, legal documents, publications, newspaper articles and clippings, photographs, artifacts, and VHS tapes.


  • Creation: 1962-2009
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1983-1995


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2019 University of North Carolina at Wilmington, all rights reserved (subject to exceptions). Certain items in this collections were conveyed to UNCW without the accompanying copyright. Where the donor did not convey copyright to UNCW, copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Biographical Note

Fisherman turned environmental activitist Lena Ritter was born on November 4, 1935 and raised in Onslow County, North Carolina. She was a fisherman in the family tradition, who had been fishing off the coast in Stump Sound for three generations. In 1983, she and her husband, Graham, joined with the newly formed North Carolina Coastal Federation to protect Stump Sound's barrier island, Permuda Island, from development. After bringing suit to Onslow County and the developers, Ritter and the Coastal Federation won their challenge in 1987, when the island became a protected coastal reserve.

In 1986, she was honored with one of the first Nancy Susan Reynolds Awards of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation for her advocacy for North Carolina's environment and wildlife. Following the success of the Permuda Island case, Ritter continued to spend her life fighting for the protection of North Carolina's coastal areas, including preserving public access of the Morris Landing boat dock and surrounding acreage on Stump Sound, which was purchased by the Coastal Federation. In 2013, she was presented with the Coastal Federation's Lifetime Achievement Award. Ritter passed away from cancer on September 19, 2016.


4.3 Linear Feet (Contains 2 document boxes, 1 VHS tape box, 2 oversize boxes, and 1 oversize folder in a multiple MS box)

Language of Materials


Acquisition Information

This collection was donated by Lena Ritter in July 2009.

Processing Information

This collection was originally processed by Gavin Nelson in Summer 2019. It was reprocessed for research purposes by Nicole Yatsonsky in Fall 2021.

Lena Ritter Papers
Nicole Yatsonsky
2021 September 09
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Randall Library Special Collections Repository