01/07/07 — Duplin educator Herring dies at age 90

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Duplin educator Herring dies at age 90

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on January 7, 2007 2:03 AM

Educators across North Carolina are mourning the loss of Dr. Dallas Herring, who died Friday morning, but none as much as those in his home county of Duplin.

"He is probably one of the greatest people Duplin County has ever known from the standpoint of his contributions to the people of Duplin County and to the education of Duplin County children," L.S. Guy said of his long-time friend. "He has been one of the stalwarts as far as education is concerned for Duplin County and throughout the state."

Born in Rose Hill in 1916, Herring, who died of natural causes at Pender Memorial Hospital at the age of 90, was elected mayor of the town while still in his early 20s. After serving in that position for a dozen years, Herring moved on to his life's focus -- education.

He first served on Duplin's Board of Education for five years and on the state's Board of Higher Education. Herring continued to focus on higher education while serving as chairman of the state Board of Education from 1957 to 1977.

Life-long friend Christine Williams, 91, said many people across the state will remember him as "the father of the community college system as we know it today."

"He wanted everyone to be able to get an education. He wanted children to improve their standard of living through education," Guy said.

Herring wanted every child to have the opportunity to get a higher education -- and many have thanks to his diligent work. About 800,000 students enroll annually into North Carolina's 58 community colleges.

"North Carolina would not have a community college system -- certainly it would not have one that embraces all the good things higher education represents -- if not for Dr. Herring," said H. Martin Lancaster, the N.C. community college system president.

Herring developed a community college system that first focused on industrial centers to teach students workforce skills. Over the years, community colleges expanded to provide a variety of courses in numerous fields.

"I don't think education ever had a better friend than Dr. Dallas Herring," long-time friend Sonny Sikes said.

In Duplin, friends and neighbors said they will remember the man who was always willing to sit down and have a conversation -- regardless of the time of day or his schedule.

"He never turned away a stranger. He never turned away anyone from his knowledge or his home," Sikes said.

And that knowledge and friendliness are what kept his door open, his friends said.

"Every time I went to see him (I was amazed). Every time I went to see him, someone was leaving. Usually when I was leaving, someone else was coming in," Mrs. Williams said.

And as much as people enjoyed his company, Mrs. Williams said Herring cherished it even more.

"The main thing he enjoyed in life was sitting down and talking to people," she said.

Many people visited his Rose Hill home to see his massive library, she said, or to look up some bit of history. Herring spent many years creating and updating a genealogy chart of most of Duplin County's families.

"It was amazing how much he knew about families around here that came from Europe or wherever else they came from," Mrs. Williams said. "He'd make you feel so good about your family."

For all of the work Herring contributed to North Carolina and his county, friends inducted him into the Duplin County Hall of Fame several years ago, fellow inductee Mrs. Williams said.

"He was the kind of person that would make you feel like a bosom friend. He would encourage you and help in any way he could," Mrs. Williams said.

But more than anything else, friends say he will be missed.

"This is a tremendous loss to the state -- especially to Duplin County," Guy said.

Herring graduated cum laude from Davidson College and held honorary degrees from Pfeiffer College, Davidson and N.C. State University.

A memorial service will be Monday at 2 p.m. at Mount Zion Presbyterian Church in Rose Hill.

Visitation will follow the service at the church and at other times at 215 E. Center St., Rose Hill.

A private burial will be held at Rose HillCemetery.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.