The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC


November 7, 2012

Local Heros


TARBORO — What is a hero?   I suppose there could be a large number of descriptions, but mostly I think of it  as being someone is able to put their own life in danger in order to save someone else’s life.  Locally, here in Tarboro and Edgecombe County we have had a good number of such heroes.

I think it could go without saying that we have had a large number of heroes that emerged from every major war this nation has ever been involved in and it would almost take a rather large book to cover all those stories.

For this column I’m just going to write about two local heroes who had occasion to make the decision to risk their own lives in order to save the lives of others.  I knew one who is no longer with us, and I’ve known the other one that still lives here for many years.

First it was James “Rat” Boykin. I never knew how Rat got his nickname, but that’s what it was.  Boykin was 35 years old (a telephone engineer) when he saved Antonio Deya, 23, and helped save Paul E. Warren, 24, from drowning after their boat capsized in 16 feet of water in the Pamlico River.  Deya was a poor swimmer and needed immediate help to keep from drowning. Warren managed to obtain holds on the boat.

A cut on Deya’s forehead bled profusely.  Boykin recovered an empty gasoline can that had been in the boat for Deya to hold on to and keep him buoyant.  Still afraid Deya might drown Boykin towed him toward an island through waves of one to two feet.  Warren remained with the boat.  Boykin towed Deya for 45 minutes, suffering cramps and growing weariness all the way.

Of course, Deya became alarmed at Boykin’s increasingly tiring condition.  With Deya’s growing concern it became even more difficult for Boykin to tow him.  Finally about 650 feet from the island they came to three foot deep water and managed to wade to shore.  This was 1.5 hours after leaving the boat.

Boykin then swam another 1.5 miles to where there were several men in boats and with their help was to rescue Paul Warren.  James “Rat” Boykin was severely fatigued, badly sunburned, and had numerous welts from stinging nettles.  For Boykin’s heroic actions he was awarded the national Carnegie Medal of Heroism.

I have known Charles R. Dew, my late first wife’s cousin since 1957.  Charles was just 15 years old when he was confronted with the choice of risking his own life to save those of others.

Charles helped save Sue H. Braswell, 8, and Gary R. Moore, 9, from drowning at Atlantic Beach, N.C. on June 21, 1962.  Sue, a very poor swimmer, and Gary, who could not swim, were caught in a strong undercurrent while playing in the surf in the Atlantic Ocean and were swept into water beyond their depth.  As both were carried father from shore, they screamed for help.

Although somewhat tired from pleasure swimming, Charles swam 75 feet and reached Sue, 225 feet from shore, in water six feet deep between waves more than two feet high.  He supported Sue until her father reached them with a life ring.  Handing Sue to her father, Charles swam 15 feet farther from shore to where Gary was sinking in seven foot deep water.  Almost exhausted, Charles wrapped his arms and legs around the piling and told Gary to get on his back.  Barnacles on the piling inflicted multiple lacerations on Charles as the waves broke over them, but he maintained his hold.  Meanwhile Sue’s, by means of rope and an inflated raft dropped to them by men on the pier, Sue and her father were drawn to wadeable water.  Then Charles, with Gary still on his back was drawn to shore on the raft.

Bleeding from cuts caused by barnacles attached to the pier Dew was led away for first aid.  Soon after that the Braswell family, from Raleigh, was unable to find Charles Dew.  Dew was located the next day working in his father’s garage in Tarboro.  Later still, Dew was informed by Associated Press dispatch that he had been acclaimed a winner of the Carnegie Hero Medal and $500.

A very grateful father, George Braswell said, “If it hadn’t been for that boy, my little girl and the child from Greensboro would have drowned.”

So it seems there are times when individuals are placed in positions where they must place their own lives in danger in order to hopefully save someone else’s life.  It’s not a position one would ask for, or hope for, but it happens, and that’s when we need heroes to be there and to act.    James “Rat” Boykin and Charles R. Dew were placed in those positions and they acted and therefore lives were saved.  The families of those saved were naturally extremely grateful for what Boykin and Dew did, and all of us should also be glad that such men as these exist.

(Bob Harper is a Tarboro resident who writes a column of general interest.)

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    On July 28, 911 was called because my husband had a bad headache. I was transferred to communications in Edgecombe County, where I spoke to a female operator. I informed her I needed Rescue because my husband had a bad headache and gave her our address and telephone number.

    September 26, 2013


    To the Editor:
    Sheriff Knight’s “guys” may have worked hard on the case concerning Melvin Ray Fox, but did they really? Probably not for the sheriff, but for someone else behind the scenes. Not condoning Mr. Fox for his crime, because he should be punished, but not necessarily in the manner of leaving behind his wife as well as his 3-, 5- 7- and 13-year-old children.

    September 10, 2013


    Concerning the Tarboro High 2013 Vikings football team: They have heart and desire. That was shown Friday night versus Washington. Just like last year’s state championship game, we got behind against a very good team. The Vikings didn’t quit even though they had several injuries throughout the game.  Right up to the last minute we had a chance  but, things didn’t go our way.

    September 5, 2013


    To the Editor:
    It appears Mr. (Garland) Shepheard is shaking up things in our fair city according to a recent Daily Southerner article. Hurrah for him. This citizen, for one, believes the status quo needs a little shake up.
    I don’t know if Mr. Shepheard is disrespectful with his words and/or
    actions at council meetings or not. I don’t attend them any longer. It isn’t that I don’t care that some residents may suggest.

    September 4, 2013


    To the Editor:
    Having just recently read the front page article in The Daily Southerner regarding Councilman Shepheard’s issues with the Tarboro town manager, I was left with more questions than answers.
    The article states that  Mr. Shepheard’s reasons for not voting in favor of extending the town manager’s contract had to do with “deplorable conditions of three town facilities, Thornton’s hiring practices and giving the council what he said was false information.” That’s it.  That’s all the information we were given.

    September 2, 2013


    To the Editor:
    So who are you Mr. Allen Dennie Jr.? I have never heard of you. I have tried to find your voter registration on the North Carolina State Board of Elections website and I can't find it.
    Somebody said that you have an impressive resume. I say and ?
    But what I find interesting is the following. Mr. Dennie the current Sheriff is the following: "The sheriff of any county should be a person who has a personal interest in the citizens that work live and visit their county,"

    August 18, 2013


    To the Editor:
    I am glad that opinions are being expressed regarding my actions at the Town Council meetings,  both by Mr. Walker and Mr. Wooten.
    It is my intention to expose the concerns expressed to me by the taxpayers of Tarboro, and when I find something that causes Tarboro not to be the Town we can all be proud of, I will speak up. I was told by people in Ward 8 when I ran for this office not to be like the rest of the Council and I expressed that to the members. The problems that exist in Tarboro should not have to be aired in public or at the Town Council Meetings and there should not be any discord.

    August 18, 2013


    To the Editor:
    I am writing out of concern about disc golf. We as a town need to consider projects that have been given to (parks and recreation director) Cheryl Gay before this disc golf came along — like a walking trail at Clark Park, repairing the bathrooms, making sure the playground equipment is up-to-date and finding out what happen to the lights on the baseball field before we find money for disc golf. The town needs to consider what we been discussing in these last couple of meetings about recreation. I would love to see the Clark Park baseball field turned into a kickball field, which is a sport that everybody knows how to play, before you consider disc golf.
    Greg Higgs,

    August 15, 2013


    To the Editor:
    Monday night at the Town Council meeting (Aug. 12, 2013), I witnessed some the most disruptive,vitriolic and asinine behavior that I’ve ever seen, in the person of (Ward 8) councilman Garland Shepheard.  For several months, his behavior has grown progressively worse and it seems to embolden him to waste my time, the time of the other council members and the time of other citizens who care enough about Tarboro to attend council meetings.

    August 15, 2013

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