03/14/04 — NAACP honors pioneers in Wayne County

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NAACP honors pioneers in Wayne County

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 14, 2004 2:08 AM

The Goldsboro-Wayne branch of the NAACP recognized seven pioneers in the community Saturday night at Greenleaf Vision of Faith Community Center.

The event was also a celebration of the NAACP's 95th anniversary. An estimated 200 people attended.

Honored were the Rev. Sherman Best, Elwood Croom, Rachel Fox, Samuel Jackson, Fremont Mayor Devone Jones, Willette Starke and Dr. O.R. Stovall Jr.

Best grew up in Goldsboro and graduated from Dillard High School, then entered military service. He is a master builder and developer, as well as a contractor. He owns Shermans' and SEB Construction companies and is credited with five housing development neighborhoods and building numerous homes.

Best was the first elected black county commissioner in Wayne County. He is also an ordained minister and has a television ministry.

Croom also graduated from Dillard and worked at Cherry Hospital from 1962 until 1964, when he was drafted into the Army. He was the first black firefighter in Goldsboro, serving from 1966 until 1973, and was the first black to serve on the emergency rescue squad and the fire department promotional board.

He is currently employed at BellSouth as a public telephone technician and will retire on March 30.

Mrs. Fox began her education in a one-room schoolhouse in South Carolina and went on to be a teacher in several school systems before retiring from Southern Wayne High School.

She served as organizer and participant in efforts to establish a public park and other town services to the black community in Mount Olive and provided books and other reference materials to the black citizens there when they were denied membership at the public library.

Jackson is a business man, retiring a few years ago as a general contractor in Wayne County. He has been a church leader, and co-founded the Parkstown Better Young Men and Women's Club in 1945. He was also one of the organizers of the former Parkstown Christmas parades.

He received the state's top honor, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine Award, and in 1993 received a lifetime membership in the Goldsboro-Wayne Branch of the NAACP.

Jones graduated from Norwayne High School and went on to start his own business, Devone Jones Floor Covering, which he has owned and managed for the last 33 years. He has been vice chairman of the Democratic Party in Wayne County, was the first black to win a seat on the Fremont Board of Aldermen, and in 2003 was elected mayor of Fremont.

Mrs. Starke graduated from Dillard High School in 1930, was secretary at the school for 27 years and then Goldsboro Junior High School for almost three years. She was state-appointed to serve on the Wayne County Social Services Board for two consecutive terms and has been active in voter registration education and community development.

Stovall helped set up the NAACP chapter in Greenville in 1948 while practicing dentistry there. He served in the Army and set up a weekend practice in Goldsboro while still in the military. He set up his permanent practice here in 1953 and became active in the NAACP to get African Americans involved in politics and elected office.

He helped organize the Wayne County Democratic Black Caucus and served as its president for many years. He recently retired from his practice but remains active in politics, civic groups and his church.