05/09/05 — OPINION: Come back, Gearino!

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OPINION: Come back, Gearino!

By Gene Price
Published in News on May 9, 2005 1:45 PM

It didn’t take G.D. Gearino long to wear out his welcome in Goldsboro.

Gearino makes his living writing a column in the Raleigh News & Observer. He was in Goldsboro recently to speak at the Henry Belk lectures series sponsored by the Rotary Club.

Later he devoted a column to spoofing the star status of actress Anne Jeffreys and Holywood’s Honorary Mayor Johnny Grant. Both are Goldsboro products.

(Ms. Jeffreys starred in a number of movies, TV series and stage productions including 887 consecutive Broadway performances in Kiss Me Kate.)

Gearino also ridiculed Goldsboro “like almost all modest-sized cities” as having not produced “enough celebrities.”

Perhaps “celebrity” status is a matter of semantics. Or maybe Gearino’s assessment was akin to someone’s jogging through an art gallery wearing blinders and then writing a critical review of the paintings.

He needs to come back. Our folks don’t hold grudges. And we will forgive him for his cynical and rather snobbish put-down.

On his visit, we will show him a few historical markers. One reveals this was the birthplace of Kenneth Royall - our country’s last Secretary of War and first Secretary of the Army.

Another notes that Charles B. Aycock, whose vision as governor assured all the state’s children of a public education, was born in our county and practiced law in Goldsboro. The office still stands.

The auditorium of our library is named for Gertrude Weil, one of the great leaders in the Woman’s Suffrage movement. She and her family have had an enduring impact on our community and state. I had the great honor of being invited to speak as part of a Gertrude Weil Symposium at UNC-Chapel Hill several years ago.

Rear Admiral Ed Outlaw, the “instant ace” who shot down five Japanese Zeroes in a single dogfight, was proud to call Goldsboro home.

John Dortch “Booty” Lewis, who helped dig the tunnel for The Great Escape from Stalag Luft III and who himself escaped the German POW camp four times, grew up here and is buried at Willow Dale Cemetery.

Celebrity status? How about auctioneer Speed Riggs!

Many folks we would regard as “celebrities” are still with us. Our Clyde King managed the New York Yankees, the San Francisco Giants and the Atlanta Braves after his own fine career as a major league player. He has always maintained his home here.

Leora “Sam” Jones, who graduated from Southern Wayne High School, went on to become an international superstar in handball. She was named U.S. Team Handball Federation Athlete of the Year three times and led the U.S. team to victory in the Pan Am Games gold medal competition - and on to the Olympics.

A three-time Olympics participant, she was second high scorer - just one point behind the leader - in the 1988 Olympic games.

Hopefully, no member of Gearino family will ever suffer serious burns, but if so, no better treatment would be available than at the Burn Center at Chapel Hill.

The center exists because of the vision, the urging, the seed money - and the prayers - of our John Stackhouse.

Don’t look for Stackhouse as an ostentatious fellow with a stylishly coifed hairdo, tailored suit and expensive necktie. But should Gearino run into Stackhouse and need a pair of pliers, John would, for certain, have a pair in his hip pocket.

The story is that Stackhouse came to town on a motorcycle and climbed poles for Carolina Power and Light Co. before starting his own electrical contracting business.

Since Gearino is a newspaperman, he might be interested in learning that Gene Roberts began his journalism career in Goldsboro. While he started by “Rambling in Rural Wayne,” Gene became one of the most respected journalists of the past century. He retired as editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer and later as editor of The New York Times - with an impressive string of Pulitzer Prizes in his wake.

Just recently, another Goldsboro product, Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, was named commander of the combined forces of 20 coalition countries serving in Afghanistan.

The list could go on, but space here is limited. However, should G.D. Gearino care to come back we are confident that we can tell him of many more local people our folks consider worthy of celebrity status.

And he should be mindful that the magnitude of their accomplishments is not diminished simply because a rather obscure author in Raleigh doesn’t recognize their names.

But just to show G.D. Gearino we don’t hold grudges, if he’ll come for another visit, we’ll ask Al King, our fine mayor, to make him an honorary citizen.