ROCKY MOUNT — Three people with Edgecombe County ties were among the Twin County Hall of Fame's 10-member Class of 2012 — Willie Howell Fuller, Lee Rawling Hall and Frank Byrd Weaver.
The honorees were recognized Thursday night during the annual induction ceremony and banquet in the Business Center at Nash Community College.
Fuller, who died Jan. 2, 1995, was honored posthumously. His first cousin, Lois Reddrick of Greenville, accepted the honor on behalf of Fuller's daughter, who did not attend.
Willie Howell Fuller was born in 1919 and was 22-years-old when World War II began. He had graduated from Tarboro Colored High School in 1937 and attended Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. While at Tuskegee, Fuller joined the training for pilots and became one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen. He served as a second lieutenant from 1942 to 1947 as part of the 99th Fighter Squadron European Theater and flew 76 combat missions. He received an Air Medal with Oak Leaf. After the war, Fuller and his wife made their home in Georgia and Florida where he became district executive for the South Florida Council of Boy Scouts.
"It was a great honor for him to have been nominated in the Twin County Hall of Fame," Reddrick said. "With his film coming out and Veterans Day, it was very timely."
Hall made his name when he became the superintendent of Edgecombe County Schools in 1968. During his tenure as superintendent, he consolidated several county schools to establish the integrated high schools of North Edgecombe and SouthWest Edgecombe. The athletic complex at North Edgecombe was named the Lee R. Hall Complex in 1993 upon his retirement. The SouthWest Edgecombe High School athletic complex is also is named in honor of Hall. After retiring, Hall continued being active in the community by joining several civic clubs. For several years he played a vital part in building houses for Habitat For Humanity in Edgecombe County.
His work didn't go unnoticed. He was well-represented at the ceremony by his family, co-workers, former employees and members of the Kiwanis Club.
"It means that I'm so pleased to have so many wonderful friends, board members, family members — no one gets up there on their own," he said. "They are guided and pushed up there by other people. "When I looked out and saw so many wonderful people, I felt so absolutely blessed."
Weaver was born in Edgecombe County. After graduating from Fayetteville State Teachers College in 1948, he began his educational career as a teacher in Warren County. In 1950, he returned to Edgecombe County as the principal of Providence Rosenwald School. He then organized and served as principal of Roberson School from 1951-56, and then Willow Grove from 1956-62. He earned a doctorate of education from Penn State and a Doctor of Divinity Degree from Shaw University. His outstanding work with elementary education led to him becoming the State Supervisor of Elementary Education for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. Weaver then became an administrator in the community college system and wrote several guidebooks on adult education. He went on to become assistant superintendent of Durham City Schools. Weaver, who lives with his wife in Raleigh, said he was honored to be inducted.
"At 85 years old it means that I'm glad to be alive," Weaver said. "It's very exciting because I never dreamed of receiving such honor. Everything I did was such fun and pleasure … such an inspiration. I never thought that anyone was watching. I got the joy from doing it. It is a double blessing for someone to recognize you for it and have a special occasion to honor you."
Nash County inductees:
• Channing Hilliard Fries Jr. served 12 years as assistant superintendent for Nash County schools and in 1961 he became the superintendent of the system. He led the system through both integration and the consolidation of the Nash County School System, which led to the creation of Northern and Southern Nash High Schools. Fries died in 2007 at the age of 92.
• Book author Jack Kerouac, who wrote about life and composed his most famous work, “On the Road,” in Rocky Mount. Kerouac is considered to be the father of the Beat Generation, a new style of writing that appeared in the 1950s. Kerouac died in 1969.
• Josephine E. Newell earned a chemical engineering degree at the age of 16 from University of South Carolina. She began her practice in Bailey in 1951 and treated patients for the next 23 years. Dr. Newell was involved in numerous state health care projects. She is one of the founders of the County Doctor’s Museum in Bailey and a published author.
• Joseph Leonard Rawls Jr. became chairman and president of a new restaurant operation in Rocky Mount, Hardee’s Food Systems in 1961. When he left the company in 1975, there were more than 900 Hardee’s across the southeast. Rawls also was founder of Canton Station restaurants, known as Management Affiliates. He died of a heart attack in 1982 at the age of 51.
• James Edward “Butch” Robbins joined the U.S. Army in 1967. In 1968, while deployed to fight in Vietnam, he stepped on a mine and lost both legs and an arm. He returned to North Carolina to the farm life he knew well. Later, he became an auctioneer and then owned his own auction firm. Robbins wrote “So You Think Times are Tough!” and became a motivational speaker, encouraging others to succeed as he has.
• Arthur Lynwood Tyler joined Henry Belk in 1931 and together they opened the Belk-Tyler Store in Rocky Mount, the first of 14 stores in the chain that would eventually employee hundreds and serve the southeast as one of the leading retail clothing stores of the region. Tyler died in 1978.
• Itimous “Tim” Thaddeus Valentine Jr. served in the N.C. House from 1955 to 1960 and was then elected as a U. S. Congressman for six terms from 1982 to 1994. During his services in Congress, Valentine was chairman of the Subcommittee on Technology, Environment, and Aviation.
The goal of the Twin County Hall of Fame is to preserve and celebrate the diverse history of Edgecombe and Nash Counties and to honor citizens who have made broad and lasting contributions to the betterment of the community or who have brought recognition to the community through their accomplishments.
Paintings are drawn of each inductee by Tarboro artist Susan Fecho. Replicas of the paintings are given to the honorees or their families.