Crews Inn owner Alton Ballance grew up on Ocracoke next door to the Inn. His mother and father were both born and raised on the island, and his ancestors on both sides of the family stretch back to the 1700s. Alton graduated from Ocracoke School, attended the University of North Carolina at Asheville, and then received a degree in English Education from UNC-Chapel Hill. After teaching for two years in Hillsborough, NC, Alton returned home to teach English and journalism at the island’s K-12 school, where he also served as assistant principal.
He served as Ocracoke’s representative on the Hyde County Board of Commissioners between 1984 and 1992, and six years on the NC Coastal Resources Commission between 1996 and 2002. In 1989 he purchased Crews Inn from his brother Kenny Ballance and David Murrill and Rodney Smith. Alton’s first book Ocracokers, a history of the island and its people, was published by the UNC Press in 1989. All proceeds from the book are donated to Ocracoke School to purchase elementary literature books.
In January, 2003, Alton stopped teaching at Ocracoke School to join the staff of the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching, whose mission is to advance teaching as an art and profession. The Center’s main focus is a year-round series of seminars in the arts, humanities, sciences, technology, communication, and health and fitness for pre-K to twelfth-grade North Carolina public school teachers. In addition to a main campus in the mountains of North Carolina, NCCAT has an eastern campus at Ocracoke in the former Coast Guard Station.