says Zebulon is popular baby name says Zebulon is one of its 14 “hottest” baby names

aspecht@newsobserver.comJuly 29, 2012 

Zebulon B. Vance

  • Famous Zebulons Zebulon Baird Vance (1830-1894) Former U.S. senator and governor of North Carolina 1862-1865 and 1877-1879. Considered one of the most influential Southern leaders of the Civil War era. Zebulon Montgomery Pike Jr. (1779-1813) U.S. Army captain and explorer for whom Pikes Peak in Colorado is named. Led the expedition through the southern portion of the Louisiana Purchase. Zebulon Reed Brockway (1828–1920) Penologist known as the “father of prison reform” who ushered in the parole system and the idea that prisoners should be rehabilitated – not just be punished for their crimes. Zebulon Tyler Walton played by Will Geer (1902-1978) Fictional wise-crackin’, moonshine sippin’ grandpa in “The Waltons” television show, which aired from 1972 to 1981.

— First, a Jewish tribe. Later, a Tar Heel town. Now, a trending baby name?

That’s right, Zebulon – home to more than 4,000 and a minor league baseball team – is one of the 14 “hottest” baby names of the year, according to, an online database for such information.

“We measure interest in baby names by tracking the number of views on each of our 50,000 baby name pages,” said Pam Satran, co-founder of the website and author of 10 books on baby names.

Last year, the Zebulon page had been viewed 420 times by June. By the same time this year, it was viewed 2,128 times, Satran said.

The jump comes as a surprise to Satran, as the name has reached the Social Security Administration’s list of top 1,000 a total of four years – 1891, 1978, 1979 and 1980. It peaked in 1978 as the 776th most popular baby name that year.

“Likely because of Grandpa Zebulon on ‘The Waltons,’ ” Satran said, referring to the 1970s television show.

Zebulon isn’t the only eastern Wake town to make the list of popular baby names. The name Wendell peaked at 114th most popular in 1940 – the year Republican candidate Wendell Lewis Willkie lost the Presidential election to Franklin D. Roosevelt. The name has not made the top 1,000 most popular names since then.

Since 1980, Zebulon hasn’t had much play either. Only 25 boys in the U.S. were named Zebulon in 2011, according to the Social Security Administration. The government’s list of most popular U.S. names in 2012 won’t come out until May 2013.

But Satran says her website could indicate Zebulon’s resurgence, and she has a theory on its cause.

“Parents these days are drilling deeper into the genre of Biblical baby names,” she said.

Zebulon, according to the Old Testament, was the sixth son of Jacob and Leah.

“And the name Jacob really took off in the late ’60s and early ’70s,” Satran said. It became one of America’s top 100 most popular names in 1974 and has stayed there ever since.

So now, roughly 40 years after thousands of Jacobs were born, those men “perhaps want to continue the Biblical parallel by naming their child Zebulon,” she said.

It’s unclear whether those interested in the name are from North Carolina – home to a town named after Zebulon B. Vance, former U.S. senator, House representative and governor of this state during the Civil War. Satran says there’s no way of knowing whether the people viewing her website are from this eastern Wake County town.

But local historian Jenny Privette wouldn’t be surprised if Zebulonites were padding their hometown pride.

After all, “when the town was first recognized in 1907, the first boy born was named Zebulon: Zebulon Whitley Chamblee,” she said.

Specht: 919-829-4826

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