One in a series.
When Joe Bourne is inducted into the Twin County Hall of Fame Thursday night, the retired Tarboro attorney will tell everyone, “People give me more credit that I deserve.”
For the first time in five years, the induction ceremony will be in Tarboro at Edgecombe Community College’s Mobley Atrium and Keihin Auditorium. Eight individuals will be honored, including Bourne, who was born and raised in Tarboro.
“I was raised in a little house on St. David Street, the son of Mary Alston and Henry Clark Bourne,” recalled Bourne, 83.
His grandfather gave the speech when the Civil War monument was dedicated on the Town Common in 1904. His grandmother Mariah Toole Clark Bourne was president of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Bourne graduated from Tarboro High School in 1942 and attended N.C. State University for a year before joining the U.S. Marine Corps in the middle of World War II.
He watched the bloody battle for Peleliu from a ship.
“We could see the fighting,” he said, “but they kept us in reserve.”
At Okinawa, he got ashore the second day.
“I unloaded ammo (as a member of MAG-33),” he said. “Very uneventful.”
At the Kadena air base, Cpl. Bourne was in charge of the ammo dump.
“I thought we were going to Japan,” he said, “but we came home in time for Christmas (in 1945).”
He spent the remainder of his enlistment at MCAS, Cherry Point.
Bourne worked on the family farm in the Kingsboro area for almost two years, worked in a sawmill, ran a country store and had fun riding a motorcycle.
“I think my mother worried about me,” he said. “I was wild. She fixed it for me to go to Alaska and work with the Episcopal Bishop there, Bill Gordon.”
After a summer working in Alaska, Bourne went to the University of North Carolina. When the term finished, he and three buddies climbed into Bourne’s 1949 Ford and drove nonstop to Alaska.
He dug sewer ditches for the state road commission and worked in a sawmill.
“I came home and finished at UNC,” he said.
Bourne also met and married Edith Winslow of Raleigh. They raised two sons, Bill, now a teacher at Phillips Middle School who lives in Tarboro; and Joe Jr., a senior editor at National Geographic who lives in Wilmington.
After Bourne graduated from UNC law school in 1956, he practiced law with his father. When his father died, Bourne had a law firm that included John Harper, Hyman Philips and Jimmie Keel at various times.
In 1988, Bourne had a heart bypass and went back to looking after the farm.
He also took time to found the Edgecombe County Forestry Club, was a charter member of the Edgecombe Beekeeper Association and led the drive for the Edgecombe County Livestock Arena.
He is an active volunteer with Golden K Kiwanis Club, Heritage Hospital, 4-H, Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross, the North Carolina Wildlife Commission, Keep America Beautiful and is a mentor member at Stocks Elementary School.
In 2003, the Tarboro Edgecombe Chamber of Commerce honored the tireless volunteer when he was named the Citizen of the Year.
Bourne always supported the Boy Scouts and in 2004 received the Tarboro-Edgecombe County Boy Scouts Friends of Scouting Distinguished Citizen Award.
He’s best known these days for helping raise $80,000 for the Veterans Memorial on the Town Common where the first Monday of each month a fallen veteran is honored with the raising of a flag.
He also led the campaign to build a museum to honor the veterans of Edgecombe County.
His objective these days is to see the 89-year-old Colonial Theater on Main Street restored to its former glory. He bought it in 2005 and gave it to the Veterans Museum.
“It’s my dream, I guess,” he said. “I feel like a classic theater for special events, plays, music events would attract people from out of town.”
By next year, Bourne hopes to see a military-themed mural painted on its south wall.
“He’s probably one of the most persistent people I have ever known,” said Calvin Anderson, chairman of the museum’s board of directors, a post Bourne held for two years.
“He makes sure things get done. He’s very dedicated and always looking for something to do to help.”
Joe Spiers, who like Bourne and Anderson has served as chairman of the museum’s board, agreed.
“He’s very community-orientated,” Spiers said. “Once he gets on to something, he really sticks to it. His drive is what a community needs. He keeps on pressing and things happen.”
Bourne said, “For all the veterans and all who have helped with the memorial and the museum, they deserve a lot of credit, too.”
Tarboro man one of eight to be inducted into Twin County Hall of Fame
One in a series.
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