02/16/04 — Gene Price column -- A little history

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Gene Price column -- A little history

By Gene Price
Published in News on February 16, 2004 2:03 PM

It was in the depths of the Great Depression. Young James H. Askins had just come out of Clemson University with a brand new degree and dismal prospects for employment.

He accepted a job with a Timmonsville, S.C., casket manufacturer, doing whatever needed to be done and happy for the opportunity.

One day the owner of the company informed Jimmy that a funeral home way up in Goldsboro, N.C., had ordered a couple of coffins and he was to deliver them.

The funeral home operator also was in the grips of the depression. He informed the young "delivery man" that he didn't have the cash on hand or in the bank to pay for the caskets. But he assured Jimmy that as soon he could fill the coffins with clients, the money would be forthcoming.

Askins was understanding and sympathetic. He drove back to Timmonsville and related the circumstances to his boss. But the boss was far less sympathetic than his young protégé. He sternly instructed Askins to return to Goldsboro and not come back until he had either the cash money or the coffins.

By the time Jimmy arrived back in Goldsboro, the caskets were occupied, but the funeral home was, itself, waiting to be paid.

Low on energy and ideas and even lower on funds, Askins had to sleep in his truck. But as he slept there came a tap on the window.

"Are you all right, young man?" inquired the man beside his truck.

Askins' answer probably was "yes and no." He explained his dilemma to the stranger, who responded:

"My name is Ray Armstrong. I'm superintendent of Goldsboro Schools. I need an industrial arts teacher at the high school ..."

And that's how Jimmy Askins, who later became founder of his own successful plumbing business and a prominent member of the community, came to Goldsboro.