We had the honor recently of induction a new class of members to the Twin County Hall of Fame in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. It was an evening filled with respect and joy.
Let us introduce you to the new class:
Ann W. Bailey
Ann W. Bailey, possibly the first female business owner in
Nash County, has persevered and succeeded in challenging circumstances. At 92, she continues to be a pioneer and role model for her family, friends, and community.
At eight years old, after both her parents passed away, Mrs. Bailey was sent from her home in Nash County to the Oxford Orphanage. However, she always considered this area her home and returned after finishing her education at Atlantic Christian College.
In 1948, she and her husband, Clyde C. Bailey, Sr., co-founded Bailey’s Jewelry in downtown Rocky Mount where she worked while raising two children. After 15 years in business, Mr. Bailey died, making Mrs. Bailey, at 36, the sole owner and operator of the company. Mrs. Bailey, with her hardworking, never-give-up attitude, overcame many obstacles, obstacles which many thought would surely make her fail. To doubters, her response was simply, “They do not know this girl!” She worked at Bailey’s Jewelry six days a week and did the books on Sunday afternoons after church. Today, along with her children Clyde, Jr., and Cindy, Mrs. Bailey – also known as “Mama Ann” -has expanded Bailey’s to four locations in North Carolina over the course of almost seventy years.
Among her many accolades, Mrs. Bailey was honored in April 2017 with the “Triangle Business Journal’s Women in Business Award.” In true “Mama Ann” style, her two-minute, simple but powerful, acceptance speech received two standing ovations from a young, enthusiastic audience. She also was featured in “Our State Magazine” in December of 2014.
Finally, her Christian faith has always been important to her. She is a charter member of Edgemont Baptist Church and is a member of The Eastern Star.
Thomas A. Betts Jr.
Thomas A. Betts, Jr., was born in Rockingham County in 1941 but has lived in Rocky Mount since childhood. A graduate of East Carolina University, Tom returned to the area determined to make a difference. And, make a difference, he has. Hardly an endeavor or organization in our community has not been helped by Tom’s hard work and conscientious efforts to make Nash and Edgecombe Counties grow and prosper.
A successful businessman, Tom founded Betts Insurance and later became Senior Development Officer for RBC Centura. His business acumen acquired from 40 plus years in the property and liability insurance fields was shared on the boards of directors of the BioSignia Corporation, First Carolina Financial Services, and The Rocky Mount City Club. Tom has served and continues to serve on the boards of many major organizations.
As an early leader in the community, Tom took the lead for Nash Community College to establish an educational training facility to recruit Consolidated Diesel Company. Tom’s commitment and passion for North Carolina Wesleyan College made a direct impact on the sustainability and preservation of the college, earning him the prestigious Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award in 2007. Even the highway beside the college is named the Thomas A. Betts Parkway.
Tom represented the area on the North Carolina Transportation Board from 2003 to 2008, served as chairman of the Carolinas Gateway Partnership for eight years, and currently serves on the board of the Gateway Technology Center which has dedicated its building to his vision to bring educational opportunities to area residents and businesses.
The list continues. But, what sets Tom apart is that he did not stop with his first accomplishment. He continues to work on major projects that seek to make our community better. Tom is the embodiment of the man described by Theodore Roosevelt as the “Man in the Arena” … “who does strive to do the deeds; . . . who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Mr. Betts and his wife Mary Davis have two daughters, Farrar and Kathryn.
Anna Easter Brown
Anna Easter Brown, born on Easter Sunday of 1879, was a spokeswoman for educational literacy, preservation of Black History, women’s rights, and equal rights for African Americans.
In 1909, Ms. Brown graduated from Howard University in Washington, DC, at a time when only a third of one percent of African Americans attended college. In 1908, while attending college, she was one of nine founding members and first treasurer of the first African American sorority in the United States, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Sorority membership numbers more than 290,000 worldwide. She was later a charter member of the Chi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha in Rocky Mount and was a charter member of the Rocky Mount YWCA.
Ms. Brown also earned her graduate degree in social studies from Columbia University. She was a North Carolina social studies teacher for more than 50 years, first at Bricks Junior College in Bricks, North Carolina, then Lincoln High School and then at Booker T. Washington High School in Rocky Mount. She was dedicated to advocacy for African Americans and contributed countless hours to actions that would foster their advancement. Ms. Brown annually displayed a black history exhibit and traveled around the country to show it to other communities. In 1951, her exhibition received national attention during its 25th anniversary and featured in “Opportunity,” a magazine published by the National Urban League. Her exhibits helped to expand the discussion of Black History not only at Booker T. Washington but in the Rocky Mount City Schools.
Ms. Brown served as an advisor to young people. She was an avid tennis player and taught the sport to many young people in the area. She was also active in the NAACP, North Carolina Teacher’s Association, American Red Cross, and the Tuberculosis drive. She served faithfully in several ministry positions at Holy Hope Episcopal Church on Ivy Street in Rocky Mount where she was a member for 30 years until her death in 1957.
James “Jim” Russell Dickens Sr.
Jim Dickens was born in Roanoke Rapids, NC, in 1929. He was the first in his mill-working family to attend college. He received a BS in Business at his beloved UNC-Chapel Hill in 1954. Before graduating, he served in the US Army from August 1951 to December 1953 attaining the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. He married Alice King Mullis Dickens in 1953 and they had three children and one grandchild. He began his career with National Cash Register Company in 1954. In 1968, he cofounded Printed Paper Products and founded Jim Dickens Business Forms in 1978 (later Jim Dickens Printing and Promotional Products, Inc.)
Mr. Dickens was passionate about education. He served on the UNC Board of Trustees and the UNC Alumni Board of Visitors. A hearty “Go Heels!” was never far from his lips. He served on the NC Wesleyan College Board of Trustees for 18 years and as trustee emeritus. He was chairman of the Bishops Club, the Board of Visitors and a member of the James M. Johnston Fellowship Program. In 2015 he received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award from Wesleyan.
Mr. Dickens served over 30 years on the Salvation Army Advisory Board and in leadership positions with the Chamber of Commerce, Merchants Association, United Way Board of Directors, Kiwanis Club, Breakfast Optimist Club, Northgreen Country Club, the local chapter of the American Cancer Society, East Carolina Council Boy Scouts of America, and the Twin County Education Foundation. He was on the boards of First Carolina State Bank, Centura Bank, Triangle East of North Carolina, Jobs for Progress, My Sister’s House, Cities in Schools, Nash Community College Foundation and the Advisory Board of the United Negro College
Fund. He helped form the Down East Radio Reading Service. He was proud to bring the ACC golf tournament to Rocky Mount in the 1980s and 1990s. It’s said if there was anything “good” going on, Mr. Dickens was involved.
His heroes ranged from university greats like Bill Friday and Dean Smith to the man collecting cans along the streets to make a living. Mr. Dickens was a humble man, but a hero to many.
Jim died in August 2017, but his legacy lives on as the initiator behind an anticipated first responders’ recognition banquet in 2018.
Meade Bridgers Horne
Meade Bridgers Horne was born in Durham, North Carolina, in 1940. Her father, a native of Tarboro and a Navy man, would bring Meade to Tarboro to visit. The family’s travels instilled a love of the arts and its history. Mrs. Horne attended high school at The Madeira School in McLean, VA, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Greek from Vassar College and a Master’s in Arts and Classics from Johns Hopkins University.
In her early career, Mrs. Horne was a researcher for a Byzantine scholar and later became a letter writer for United States President Lyndon B. Johnson. Following, Mrs. Horne would found Edgecombe ARTS and spent over two decades bringing various forms of culture to Edgecombe County through her work at the Arts Council. As director of the Arts Council, she created displays at the Blount Bridgers House Museum, sharing her family items to help tell the story of Edgecombe County. She also helped found the Great Tarboro Bazaar, an annual art show, and sale, and wrote “The Poet’s Palette,” a biography of local artist Hobson Pittman.
Mrs. Horne was instrumental in establishing the Happening on the Common, an arts and music event, now in its forty-fifth year. In a newspaper article, Mrs. Horne remarked, “Being the director [at the Blount Bridgers House] has given me a chance to utilize everything I’ve learned over the years. My mission is to help preserve and promote the cultural heritage of Edgecombe County. We’re rich and so many people don’t even realize it. Every day is like Christmas. I never know what’s going to happen.”
Mrs. Horne was a member of Preservation North Carolina, the Federation of North Carolina Historical Associations and was a founding member of the Phoenix Historical Society. She sang in the choir at Calvary Episcopal Church for over thirty years.
Mrs. Horne has two children: Alix Coolidge and Thomas Horne.
John T. Minges
John Thomas Minges was a successful businessman and Mayor of Rocky Mount (1964-1973) who helped transform the area from primarily agricultural to diverse manufacturing. His
efforts resulted in Rocky Mount receiving an All-America City Award in 1969.
Mr. Minges was a member of a large and prominent family in Eastern North Carolina that owned the Minges Bottling Company and the Pepsi Cola Plant of Rocky Mount. Upon election,
Mayor Minges began an aggressive and successful industrial recruitment campaign. When the large railroad shops of the Atlantic Coastline closed in 1969, the city redoubled its efforts to recruit jobs to the area. Nash and Edgecombe Community College was started during this time to provide training and educational opportunities. It took a team effort of an able city staff, the city council and county commissioners to bring Schlage
Lock from San Francisco, Abbott (now Pfizer) from Chicago, Texfi, Burlington Mills, Ilco Unican and Rocky Mount Instruments among others to create a robust economic base. To attract these firms, the city’s limited and aging infrastructure needed to be enlarged. The Tar River Reservoir was constructed, the wastewater treatment plant, the Tar River water plant and the area’s electrical system were all upgraded with funds from local bond issues that Mr. Minges helped to pass.
In 1968, when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Mr. Minges brought diverse leaders together to hold prayer sessions throughout the community to promote understanding and cooperation. Strongly civic-minded, he was president of the Rocky Mount Chamber of Commerce and a member of several civic organizations, including the Civitan and Rotary clubs. The Minges family was a strong advocate for N. C. Wesleyan College, providing timely funds that later helped build the Minges Auditorium in the Dunn Center. He was a lifelong member of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, a member of the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International and often volunteered with the FGBF prison ministry at Caledonia Prison.
Mr. Minges and his wife, June Wharton Minges, had five children. Mr. Minges died in 2002.
John LeRoy “Lee” Parker Jr.
John LeRoy “Lee” Parker, Jr. attended Rocky Mount schools, and with the efforts of some very dedicated teachers, graduated from Rocky Mount Senior High in 1954. With a Bachelor’s degree from Georgia Tech, Dr. Parker began his mark in aerospace engineering, earned his master’s and doctorate degrees from North Carolina State. Dr. Parker holds nine patents, most while working at AT&T Bell Laboratories. These patents range from manufacturing processes to the design of high-speed electro-optic interconnection designs. He presented and published over 150 papers in industry magazines and journals focused on communication electronics such as the “Proceedings of The Institute of Printed Circuit Board Design and Fabrication.” He served on the Electronics Realization Committee sponsored by the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences supported by the U.S. Department of Commerce. He received the Technical Paper of the Year Award at the 1996 General Meeting of the IPC and many other industrial awards.
In 2013 Dr. Parker was honored to be inducted into the N. C. State University Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Hall of Fame for his brilliant career in and contributions to the science of Mechanical Aerospace Engineering. He is also a Fellow of the NCSU Chancellor’s Circle. His expertise in electronics has had a far-reaching impact on us all. The computers in your home, the cell phone in your pocket are good examples of some of his work. Optical cables that transport intercontinental data and voice communications are another example. As the owner of JLP Consultants, he has lectured and consulted throughout North America, Asia and Europe on technical issues concerning the electronic industry.
He has been a lifelong contributor to his community. Rotary International presented him with a Paul Harris Fellow Award in 2010 for his contributions towards the eradication of polio. Habitat for Humanity and numerous animal welfare groups are a few of the organizations he avidly supports.
Dr. Parker has three children, one of whom resides in Rocky Mount.
Forest Pittman, Jr.
Mr. Forest Pittman, Jr., was the son of Forest Pittman, Sr., and Florence Wells Pittman, the youngest of their seven children. He was born July 22, 1929, in rural Edgecombe County, and resided in the area all of his life.
Mr. Pittman attended Willow Grove and Bricks Schools. He was unable to complete his high school education because he had to work on the farm. It did not stop him from achieving his goals in life. After farming for many years, he gained employment at Merita Bakery in Rocky Mount, NC.
Mr. Pittman was an advocate for developing rural communities, and he worked diligently for the betterment of the Dunbar Community. He worked with different foundations to secure funds for a matching grant to restore a historic building, which is now the Dunbar Community Center. The Center was his passion and his second home. He served as President of the Dunbar Community Development Organization and founded a feeding center; he drove the van to transport senior citizens from Dunbar, Battleboro, Red Hill, and Leggett to the feeding center on a daily basis. He also served on the Board of Directors of Nash-Edgecombe Economic Development (NEED). Mr. Pittman was a member of the Edgecombe County Planning Board, Chairman of the Board of the Baker Funeral Home Burial League Association, and a former member of Baker Funeral Home Staff. He was a loyal member of Mount Lebanon Lodge #25, and a Trustee and faithful member of St. Matthews Baptist Church.
Mr. Pittman was a servant, and he received many awards for his service to the community, including the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Citizenship Award, the Hazel S. Parker Award for Outstanding Contributions to Edgecombe County, the Rocky Mount Citizen Award for Outstanding Achievement in Human Relations, and the Oustanding Leadership Award to Dunbar Community. He was also a finalist for the Carolina Panthers Community Quarterback Award.
He was married to the late Quenotha Hart Pittman, and they were the proud parents of eight children, 13 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren. Mr. Pittman passed away in 2014.
Henry Benton “Bo” Thorpe
Henry Benton Thorpe, Jr., known to most as “Bo” Thorpe was born in Rocky Mount in 1934. A graduate of Rocky Mount High School, he earned a degree from UNC-Chapel Hill, majoring in radio, television, and motion pictures. Mr. Thorpe entered the U. S. Army in 1959. In 1965, as a Captain and company commander in Ia Drang Valley, South Viet Nam, he led his unit gallantly throughout an attack by the North Vietnamese Army, an attack called the most savage one-day battle of the war. Although wounded himself, he ventured out to find pockets of his men separated from the main unit and led them back to their defensive position. On at least two occasions, he dragged seriously wounded soldiers back to safety. The book and movie, “We Were Soldiers Once … And Young,” detailed the events of this battle.
His actions led to being awarded the Silver Star, the nation’s third highest honor for valor. Among his other military honors and awards are the Bronze Star with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters and the “V” device for valor, Army Commendation Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters and “V” device for valor, Purple Heart, and others.
After a short career in public relations, Mr. Thorpe pulled together musicians and singers from Nashville, Tennessee, to form “Bo and Generation II.” In 1978, he presented to members of the Rocky Mount community the idea of bringing back the city’s rich history of music which had spawned artists such as Thelonious Monk and Kay Kyser. His first televised event was on TBS in 1978 where he played for the New Year’s Party celebration. He started with his signature introduction: “Hi, Folks, I’m Bo Thorpe from Rocky Mount, NC, and this is my band.” From 1980 to 2000, he played at five Presidential Inauguration Balls. Bo Thorpe and his Orchestra toured the United States and Canada, doing over 60 shows a year. He and the band also played for many years at the annual Spring German, previously called the June German.
The Thorpe family has been a part of the Rocky Mount community since the early 1900s, and although Mr. Thorpe traveled far and wide, Rocky Mount was home, and he was proud to be its ambassador. Mr. Thorpe died in 2001.
History is alive and well in Edgecombe and Nash counties.
The Induction Banquet would not have been possible without the incredible volunteers and sponsors.
Twin County Sponsor
Rocky Mount Family Medical Center
Tar River Sponsors
Barnhill Contracting Company
First Carolina Bank
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Boddie-Noell Enterprises, Inc.
Chris and Eric Miller
City of Rocky Mount
D.J. Rose & Son, Inc.
Daughtridge Sales Company, Inc.
Friends of Ann Bailey
Friends of Forest Pittman, Jr.
Friends of Jim Dickens, Sr.
Friends of John Minges
Friends of Lee Parker
Friends of Meade Bridgers Horne
Friends of Tom Betts
Helen Laughery/Norma Turnage
Mary K. Ruffin, Agency
Nash Community College
North Carolina Wesleyan College
Stacy Sumner and John Jesso
Wheeler & Woodlief
Skip Carney of
Carney & Company
City of Rocky Mount
Susan Fecho, Artist
Garry Hodges Photography
Nash Community College
Rocky Mount Jaycees
DeLeon Carter Foundation