FOR THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
To the Editor:
Bobby Whitehead moved back to his native Tarboro about the same time that I became the director of the county’s arts council. He loved all the arts, having spent a number of years in the big city of Atlanta where he was a teacher and was owner of a floral shop. He retired here to help care for an aging aunt along with his cousin Faye Smith, whom I also had known for many years.
Bob, new in town, visited the community college, and learned from Eric Greene, artistic director at Keihin Auditorium that there was a gallery and museum at the Blount-Bridgers House, and on his first visit, we became fast friends.
Each time Bob would visit the gallery, he brought a visiting friend to show off what he considered a real treasure right here in his native home town. On other visits, Bob brought young people with a purpose in mind to show them opportunities that would broaden them, and consequently, providing the arts council with some strapping volunteers. There was one year that he persuaded me to keep the facility open late so that the college roundup visitors could see the exhibits. I was happy to accommodate Bob.
Bob and I both discovered we had cancer about the same time and would talk at length about all the things we needed to finish before our time ‘is up.’ But, he was a very positive person so when you asked how he was doing, he always said “I feel tolerable well.” I’m not the only person who recalled hearing him say that.
Bob was mighty helpful at the gallery during the time he spent here in Tarboro. Not only did he help me and round up help for my staff at the gallery, but twice the Arts Council featured exhibits of the African-American art works and artifacts he had collected in his travels. He wanted to share his collection and together we curated exhibits with particular themes that showed his lifelong passion for blues and jazz music and the musicians he had personally met; another exhibit featured the faces of almost all his family members that he had commissioned an Atlanta artist to paint. He also had portraits of significant mentors in higher learning that were probably what inspired him to found the annual College Roundup.
I really feel fortunate that Bob paid that visit to the gallery. It gave us both good friendship and something to learn from one another. I’m sure I will not forget my friend Bob Whitehead.
retired executive director Edgecombe Arts