01/17/07 — John Henry Wooten Sr., first black chairman of county commission, dies

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John Henry Wooten Sr., first black chairman of county commission, dies

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on January 17, 2007 1:50 PM

John Henry Wooten Sr., the first black chairman of the Wayne County Board of Commissioners, died Monday. He was 82.

Wooten was a teacher and principal in the Goldsboro City School System for many years. He was first elected to the Board of Commissioners in 1986 and served three terms.

He was remembered today as a dedicated public servant, whose gentlemanly demeanor belied a deep determination to improve his home county.

Commissioner Atlas Price described Wooten as "an outstanding leader," and "a family man, a church man and a community man."

Commissioner Andy Anderson said Wooten was "always a gentleman. He always tried to work with everyone for the betterment of Wayne County."

Will Sullivan, who was county manager while Wooten was on the board, said Wooten was a steady force on the board.

"He was one of the nicest people I ever worked for," Sullivan said. "He was just a good person."

Wooten was a graduate of the Goldsboro school and earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from North Carolina A&T. He was one of two educators from North Carolina chosen by President Lyndon B. Johnson to serve on the White House Commission for Education.

Wooten served in the Army during World War II and remained a member of the Army Reserves for several years. He taught science in the city schools before becoming principal of Dillard High School. After the city and county schools merged, he became an assistant superintendent.

Funeral services will be Thursday at 11 a.m. at First African Baptist Church, where he was a lifelong member. He served his church in a variety of capacities, including Sunday School teacher and chairman of the board of deacons.

Wooten was a member of several education fraternities, the C.S. Brown Lodge, the state Association of Educators and was a member of the board of directors of Wayne Memorial Hospital, the Salvation Army Advisory Board and was the first chairman of the Goldsboro Redevelopment Commission.

He served on the board of trustees of North Carolina A&T University and was national president of the university's alumni association.

Wooten was named outstanding county commissioner by the Neuse River Council of Governments and received the Dr. S.B. McPheaters Award for outstanding contributions to the county Mental Health Association.

He is survived by his wife, Ernestine, a son, John Jr., daughters Nancy Wooten Coor and Shannon Whitted Simmons, a granddaughter and two great-granddaughters.